The junior Senator from Arkansas joined Hugh at the Heritage Foundation, and had lots to say about the reported spat between the Congress, the White House, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
HH: In studio with me, the new Senator from Arkansas, Senator Tom Cotton, first time I’ve seen you in person since your election, and the beautiful Mrs. Cotton with you. Congratulations to you both. It’s terrific.
TC: Thank you very much, Hugh, appreciate it.
HH: Well, I’ve got to go right to the news. This afternoon, Haaretz broke this story which has been picked up by the Times of Israel. The White House outrage over Prime Minister Netanyahu’s plan to speak before Congress has blown up. “We thought we’d seen everything,” The newspaper quotes an unnamed senior U.S. official as saying that Bibi managed to surprised even us. There are things you simply don’t do. He spat in our face publicly, and that’s no way to behave. Netanyahu ought to remember that President Obama has a year and a half left to his presidency, and that there will be a price. Senator Cotton, you’re on Armed Services. What do you make of that?
TC: Well, I mean, John Boehner is the Speaker of the House. He can invite anyone he wants to come speak to us. And Benjamin Netanyahu is the prime minister of the government of Israel, our strongest ally in the world, the only country in the region that truly reflects our Western democratic, capitalist values. And I would tell that senior administration official that he should remember that I and lots of other senators have many more years in office left than Barack Obama does.
HH: That’s very well put.
TC: And I would say the foundation of our relationship with Israel is not the President. It’s certainly not the State Department. Nor is it even the Congress, even though that’s where you see it expressed the most. It’s the American people. The Congress is so strongly supportive of Israel and the U.S.-Israel alliance because the American people are. And we are reflective of the American people’s strong support for Israel.
HH: Have you ever seen any instance of the White House, and it sounds like Secretary of State Kerry. We can’t say that. We don’t know that. I can’t confirm that. But have you ever seen anyone take on a sovereign head of state that way publicly in the last years that you’ve been in D.C. or around D.C. after coming back from the Army?
TC: No. The only other instance I may be able to remember was also about Benjamin Netanyahu, last October, when an unnamed administration official used a vulgar epithet to question his courage. This is a man, remember, who was a member of his country’s elite special operations forces, who was wounded in combat, whose family has paid the gravest price possible in the defense of freedom, coming from a President who was a community organizer with a bunch of staffers who have never served their country in uniform.
HH: It was, it’s, they really don’t like him, and they don’t really like Israel. At the same time, the President was threatening your body again should you move forward with sanctions on Iran. Now I read a lot on the plane today when I wasn’t bothering Barbara Fairchild. I sat next to the editor-in-chief emeritus of Bon Appetit, which was really kind of interesting to me since I’m not a foodie. But she did it for 20 years. It was fascinating. But I was reading up, and the Corker and the Graham approaches to Iran sanctions have me very confused. So I want you to take a moment to tell what do you think is going on there?
TC: Well, you’re certainly right that you know, in the State of the Union speech, the President threatened the United States Congress more than he threatened Iran, and that the position that the President’s taken on sanctions is simply illogical. He has said that our sanctions, which the Congress drug him kicking and screaming into years ago, is what brought Iran to the table. Any time you’re negotiating, you know, if he was a lawyer, you want the most leverage. So if we pass legislation that would impose new sanctions months from now if the talks break down, then that just gives the President more leverage to achieve a deal that he supposedly wants. I’m very skeptical that Ayatollah Khamenei wants them. But also, the deal is not just about sanctions. It is about Iran’s nuclear program and Iran’s position in the region and the world. The President says we’re getting all kinds of cooperation right now that we haven’t seen in years from Iran. Let’s just quickly review it. Iran is propping up Bashar al-Assad’s outlaw regime in Syria. An Iranian general was just discovered collaborating with Hezbollah in the Golan Heights ready to strike Israel with missiles, discovered by an Iraqi missile that killed him first.
HH: Yeah, Israeli missile.
TC: An Israeli missile. In Iraq, Iran is propping up Shiite militias, which are slow motion taking over a lot of the country on the guise of fighting Islamic State. In Yemen, you just had the Iranian-backed Shiite militant group, the Houthis, take over the capital and essentially depose the president.
HH: Had you had much experience with them? I didn’t, I just don’t know. Yemen is just like following the National League. I don’t care, so I don’t know.
TC: Yeah, no, it’s something I’ve followed pretty closely. You know, Iran just signed a defense pact with Russia. And Alberta Nisman, the prosecutor in Argentina who had been looking into the bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in 1994 mysteriously turned up dead the day before he was supposed to testify.
HH: You’re not buying the suicide argument?
TC: Well, I’m just saying, if you look at all these things, and this is the kind of cooperation we’re getting from Iran because of our forbearance on sanctions? Maybe we don’t want any more cooperation from Iran.
HH: The story today out of Saudi Arabia, the new king has said that oil is never going to go over $100 dollars a barrel again, meaning he’s going to keep up the production policy which is crippling the price of oil in an attempt to drive down the Iranian State.
End of transcript.