Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton joined me Wednesday morning:
HH: The colleague of my guest, Tom Cotton, former colleague John Campbell and I were talking about this visionary, Senator, just this week, evidently one of the great car men in the world, and it just tells you life is short, live it well.
TC: All right, can you hear me now?
HH: There we can. There you are now, Senator, good to have you. Senator, I want to begin by asking you, you were out at the Reagan Library with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Am I not correct about that?
TC: Yes, Hugh, I was at the Reagan Library. And just for your information, I did fly United back to Washington, D.C., and made it just fine, though I wasn’t very impressed when I landed Monday morning in your 45 minute story about your experiences with United. You and Tony Kornheiser show that the only reason to have a radio program is to share your customer service frustrations with the world.
HH: Grievances are important when you’re the vox populi. But I have to ask, you know, I was out in California when you and the Secretary of State were at the Reagan Library named for the man for whom I worked. What am I, you know, a potted plant? I didn’t get a call to go hear the Secretary of State and you talk about Iran?
TC: Well, we thought you were a swamp dweller in Washington, D.C. now.
HH: Honestly, but it was an important night, and on the heels of the Iranians trying to blow up Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich and hundreds of regime protesters, on the heel of the NBC News report that they are planning cyberattacks, why was that not covered more?
TC: No, Hugh, that was a very important night. Secretary Pompeo was speaking not only about the diplomatic economic military pressure we’re putting on the ayatollahs, but also what we can do to help be champions for the Iranian people who are probably the longest-suffering victims of the ayatollahs’ theocratic kleptocracy. You know, I think some of it, Hugh, is just being on the West Coast and being three hours behind the East Coast. You still have a lot of folks, though, in Washington, D.C. who are upset that the President made the right decision to withdraw from the disastrous Iran nuclear deal and therefore not crediting the administration with the very important steps we’re taking to protect our interests in the Persian Gulf and defend our allies, but also to speak out for the Iranian people and to put more pressure on the ayatollahs by highlighting their crimes against their own people.
HH: You know, it was so odd at the Aspen Security Forum, Senator Cotton, which was basically a wake for the JCPOA. One panel had four former Obama administration officials bemoaning the death of it. Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba from the United Arab Emirates and the founder and the head of the Arabian Foundation speaking out and saying, in fact, good thing to get out. And when Tony Blinken tried to tell everyone that John Kerry got our sailors out, the foundation spokesman stood up and said that was actually viewed in the region as weakness, and Iran would not dare do that today. Do you agree with that assessment?
TC: Yes, Hugh, of course. I remember that incident very well when Iran took about 10 of our sailors hostage, paraded them around on TV humiliating them and the United States in the process. And the Obama administration celebrated the fact that John Kerry had Javad Zarif’s cellphone number so they could call and chit chat for 24 hours. Of course, if they were fearful of the Obama administration and the United States, they wouldn’t have dared take those hostages in the first place. And I think Yousef’s point is the correct point, that in the region now, everyone sees the United States once again as the strong horse who would never tolerate that kind of hostage taking by Iran. That’s one reason why Iran hasn’t takes those hostages. It’s one reason why they no longer use small patrol craft to harass our ships in the Persian Gulf.
HH: Speaking of the strong horse, the NDAA is finished. Mike Gallagher told us last hour, he was faster than you in the 10k race in Washington, D.C., Mike Gallagher told us that we have authorized two carriers to be built at the same time. Is he correct? He is from Wisconsin. We have to doubt that. Is he correct? And does that significantly send a message to our industrial base that the Navy is back?
TC: Yes, Hugh, that’s right, and the Navy is getting back. You know, it’s been a long time since we’ve invested at much in our military as we will this year. And I think it’s a good example of leadership the United States has taken in the world to put more pressure and give more encouragement to our NATO partners and their leaders to deal with their parliaments and force through the kind of defense increases that we just have, and that we’re going to have next year as well. It’s also a good sign for all those folks who work in our shipbuilding industry that there’s going to be a steady flow of ships being made there. Those are good, high-paying jobs. They’re also very essential to our national security.
HH: Congressmen Gallagher thought it might be four years until these carriers hit the water for their trials. Is he about right there, about four years until we get up to 12 carrier groups?
TC: That’s about right, Hugh. You know, it can always slip a little bit to the right when you’re dealing with government contracting as we’ve seen with the Ford carrier itself, as we’ve seen with some aircraft. Obviously, we’d like to accelerate even more. But I hope it’s about four years and not much more than that.
HH: I hope one is the Clinton and the next is the W. That’s what I’d call them. Now let me ask you about Judge Kavanaugh. Your colleague, Cory Booker, has this to say at a fundraiser that was caught on tape about supporting Judge Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, cut number one:
Cory Booker: There is so much at stake here, this has nothing to do with politics. This has to do with who we are as moral beings. And so I want to call on everybody, I’m not here to tell the folk just what they should know. I’m here to call on folk to understand that in the moral moment, there is no, there is no neutral. In a moral moment, there’s no bystanders. You are either complicit in the evil, you are either contributing to a wrong, or you are fighting against it. There’s a saying from what Abraham faced in one of the Psalms that yea though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. We are walking through the valley of the shadow of death, but that doesn’t say though I sit in the valley of the shadow of death. It doesn’t say that I’m watching on the sidelines of the valley of the shadow of death. It said I am walking through the valley of the shadow of death. It says I am taking agency that I’m going to make it through this crisis. And so I am calling on everyone right now who understand what’s at stake, who understands who Kavanaugh is. My ancestors said if someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. He has shown us who he is.
HH: Now Senator, I know there are rules about speaking of your colleagues, but to suggest that Brett Kavanaugh, support for him is complicit in evil, and that the valley of death is these confirmation hearings, isn’t Senator Booker just breaking through every red line in rhetoric that we ought to observe? Brett Kavanaugh is a homeless meal serving, devout Catholic, longtime respected federal judge. This is nuts.
TC: Well, Hugh, Cory Booker obviously got a little carried away last night in his rhetoric. And sometimes, he can be extravagant in those moments. I think he knows better than to say political opponents are enemies. You know, we have enemies in places like North Korea and Iran. But when we are engaged in domestic political debates, heated though they may be, we don’t have enemies. We have opponents, we have rivals, what have you. And I know Cory pretty well. We just introduced a package of bills last week to help Americans save more for retirement. I would suspect that on reflection, he’d like to have that one back.
HH: I hope so, because you know, I don’t think of him as extravagant, as you put it nicely, very often. But that is so over the top. We don’t need that. Let me talk to you about the Cohen tapes. The President is bedeviled by this proceeding, and people cannot keep every different storyline straight. The Cohen tapes is now going to be conflated with the Strzok text, which is going to be conflated with the Mueller investigation, which is going to be conflated with the Helsinki. What is your advice to people about assessing the President at this moment in his presidency?
TC: Yeah, Hugh, I haven’t heard the tape, and I know that both parties have lawyers, so I’ll leave in their hands to resolve those matters. I would encourage all your listeners like I encourage Arkansans, although they don’t need that much encouragement, to just focus on what we’ve accomplished, and the impact it’s having on their lives, you know, a healthy, growing economy, streets that are becoming safer, America that’s more respected in the world because we are rebuilding our military. And that’s what most Arkansans do talk to me about. I can’t tell you the last time someone raised with me anything related to some of the swirling controversies you might see on CNN or MSNBC every day. For the most part, they’re just going about their lives trying to make a living, put food on the table, pay the mortgage, raise their kids right and contribute to their communities.
HH: 30 seconds, Senator, since you were with the Secretary of State, there was a story that North Korea has begun to dismantle a missile testing facility. Can you confirm that? And is that the sign that we’ve been waiting for that they’re really going to move forward here?
TC: Hugh, there are signs that North Korea is beginning to fulfill some of its very modest commitments, which are good signs. But again, they are modest commitments. We need to continue to keep the pressure on to make sure they fulfill their major fundamental commitment, which is denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.
HH: Senator Tom Cotton, always a pleasure, glad that United got you back and we didn’t lose a senator. That can happen if you’re flying on United, just be disappeared.
End of interview.