Senator Tom Cotton joined me on today:
HH: I’m joined now by United States senator, Tom Cotton. Senator Cotton, welcome. It’s great to have you.
TC: Hey, Hugh. Great to be back on with you.
HH: I want to read to you a statement that was put out a couple of hours ago by Governor Scott Walker ahead of President’s Xi Jinping’s state visit to the Unites States next month. Governor Scott Walker wrote, “Americans are struggling to cope with the fall in today’s markets driven in parts by China’s slowing economy and the fact they actively manipulate their economy. Rather honoring China’s president Xi Jinping with an official state visit next month, President Obama should focus on holding China accountable for its increasing attempts to undermine U.S. interests given China’s massive cyberattacks against America, its militarization of the South China Sea, continued state interference with its economy, and persistent persecution of Christians and humans rights activists. President Obama needs to cancel the state visit. There is serious work to be done rather than pomp and circumstance. We need to see some backbone from President Obama on U.S.- China relations” [end of statement]. What do you think of that, Senator Cotton?
TC: Hugh, I agree with what Governor Walker said. I’ve been mystified as to why President Obama invited Xi Jinping to the United States. China is an adversary in many ways as Governor Walker said in his statement. They continue to engage in cyberattacks against the United States. They’re building militarized islands out of whole cloth in the South China Sea. They’ve manipulated their currency to promote their own economy to the detriment of ours. They’re oppressing Christians at alarming new levels, and I think Governor Walker even mentioned the New York Times scoop from last week about undeclared Chinese agents in the United States trying to intimidate and harass Chinese Americans into returning to the mainland. So I think we should be inviting more of our allies and our would-be allies in the region to the United States for state visits. I was just in East Asia for ten days actually – South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan – and I went in part because so many countries in East and Southeast Asia are looking for more American leadership to stand up to the alarming and aggressive moves that China has been making in the region.
HH: Senator Cotton, I got a long list of potential questions to ask these Republican presidential candidates on September 16th at the CNN-Salem debate. One of them is whether or not they would encourage Japan or South Korea to go nuclear given that they’re now surrounded by nuclear states and an aggressive China. Did that come up in the course of your conversations with South Korean and Japanese leaders?
TC: We didn’t get all that specifically, Hugh, and frankly, I think both Japan and South Korea’s leadership would prefer not to see additional nuclear proliferation given the history of the region. But, the fact that North Korea already has nuclear weapons and they use that effectively as a deterrent to do thing like place land mines on the South Korea side of the border and blow the legs off South Korean soldiers – one of whom I’ve had the honor to meet last week – just foretells what would happen if Iran were to get nuclear weapons and the kind of risk that it would pose because North Korea is only bordered by three countries whereas Iran is at the crossroads of the world. So, for seventy years, the United States has been the leader in preventing a second nuclear age after we were compelled to use nuclear weapons to end World War II and to save hundreds of thousands of American lives. I fear the path we’re going down today is only going to make a second nuclear age more likely and the last thing the world needs is more countries who are less committed to the United States, less certain of the United States committment to them developing nuclear weapons of their own.
HH: Now Senator Cotton, let’s talk about the Iranian deal. The whip count does not look good to me. I’ve seen that Senator Schumer and Senator Menendez are your only Democratic colleagues who will vote against the Iranian deal, but doesn’t get you to sixty to get you past the filibuster. Are there enough votes to get to sixty so that the Senate can vote down this deal?
TC: Well first Hugh, I would say that [it’s] hard for me to imagine that the Democratic senators – even if they are in the end, in support of the deal – would actually filibuster such consequential vote. This is the most important vote mst of us will take in our time in the Senate or the U.S. House. So, I would be surprised if the Democrats do in fact, filibuster as opposed to simply voting what they think is best on the up or down vote at the end. Second, though, I’m not yet prepared to give up the ship on this. I think that there’s now twenty-seven or twenty-eight Democratic “yes” votes, so there’s still a mathematical possibility that we can get the two-thirds that we need to override the likely presidential veto and there’s several hot wars going on in the Middle East right now. You never know what’s going to happen in Syria, or Yemen, or in Iraq, that could influence the thinking of Senators and Congressmen. Likewise, we don’t know what’s going to come to light about this deal. Just last month, I discovered along with Mike Pompeo the secret side deals the IEDA had with Iran and the Associated Press reported last week that those side deals are going to allow Iran to inspect their own military facilities. So there’s still time in this debate – I hope – to garner the two-thirds support that we need under the very unusual procedure in place that requires us to get two-thirds to block the deal as opposed to the president getting two-thirds votes to ratify the deal.
HH: Senator Cotton, the idea that Iran gets to inspect their own nuclear facilities ought to be enough to bury this deeper than their nuclear facilities are themselves buried, but it doesn’t seem to have any impact whatsoever on Democratic senators. They are willing Iran to have nuclear weapons.
TC: One would think so (sighs). I can’t imagine ever allowing a mortal enemy to inspect their own nuclear facilities and declare themselves “A-OK” – kind of like NFL players taking their own drug tests and mailing them through Roger Goddel and suiting on the first weekend of the season. But your right that even since the Associated Press reported the terms of the secret side deal last week, but no Democratic senator has since come out.
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HH: So you were saying hopefully they will come forward, is there a test vote? Do you have a date yet when you think this vote’s gonna happen?
TC: I would expect it’s going to happen in the first week, ten-days when we return into session on September 8. I believe the deadline under the unusual procedures that we set in the Senate and the House set up earlier this year is September 17th or 18th. So this will be the first order of business when we return and Senator McConnell has said he wants this to be a lively and even attritional debate where the senators on the floor, listening to the argument of their colleagues in part because I can’t imagine what the advocates of thsi deal are going to say to respond to things like the secret side deals that let Iran inspect themselves.
HH: Now the second presidential debate which I’m participating in on September 16th – so we got a number of your colleagues scheduled to be on the stage, so I assume the vote will have occurred by then.
TC: Most likely, Hugh, I believe it will have.
HH: You know, that disappoints me. We will have had – the first debate didn’t talk about this Iran deal at all. I don’t see the country engaged and focused on this. Maybe Donald Trump will start talking about it and people will pay attention to it.
TC: Hugh, I was a little surprised at the first debate how little conversation there was about the Iran deal or just generally about the perilous state of the world – the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda still sworn to our destruction and China aggressively intimidating its neighbors and Russia still occupying a sovereign country in the heart of Europe. I can tell you in Arkansas, people are very much focused on these questions. I get more questions about national security than probably every other topic combined when I’m out in speeches or town halls.
HH: Well, I will bringing it up – I’m certain – at the next presidential debate. I want to know as well, this is a first in the history of the program, Senator, I’m going to have Senator Boozman on which will mark the first time I’ve ever had both senators from one state on in the same day and neither of them know a lick about football, so it’s really going to be an interesting day.
HH: Senator Tom Cotton–
TC: Well, we’re starting out at number eighteen and we’re going to take it down to number one soon.
HH: Yeah, I don’t think so. The Ohio State University – first time ever- unanimous choice for number one of the pre-season pull. Just wanted to point that out to you, Senator.