Senator Tom Cotton joined me this morning:
HH: Joined by United States Senator Tom Cotton. Senator Cotton, good morning.
TC: Good morning, Hugh. It’s good to be with you.
HH: I’d like to begin by asking you if you will be voting to confirm Judge Kavanaugh to be the next justice of the Supreme Court.
TC: I will be voting, Hugh, with the majority of the U.S. Senate to make Judge Kavanaugh Justice Kavanaugh later this month.
HH: Have you heard any Republican indicate anything other than a positive vote?
TC: No, Hugh, I have not, either in their public statements or in our private conversations. And I have to say after Judge Kavanaugh’s stellar performance in the Judiciary Committee last week, I expect we’ll get not only 51 Republican votes, but some Democratic votes as well.
HH: All right, so it’s a done deal, in your view?
TC: I think it’s a done deal, Hugh. Now, it’s just a matter of the time running out. You know, the Judiciary Committee Democrats didn’t cover themselves in glory last week. They’re behaving kind of like the Washington Generals.
TC: And we know the outcome. We just don’t know what the show is going to look like. And it was quite a show that some of them put on.
HH: You know, the Steelers fans out there won’t know that the Washington Generals was the team that went up against the Harlem Globetrotters night after night. They never won, but they did put on a show. You’re right, and that was quite a show. It was actually kind of embarrassing to the Senate, wasn’t it?
TC: Well, Hugh, as I said, not everyone on the committee covered themselves in glory. Some did fine, but some, I think, were using that platform as a way to try to jump start their 2019 Democratic presidential primary campaign. I’m not sure that’s going to work so well for them now.
HH: Have you seen Senator Spartacus in the halls since the hearing?
TC: (laughing) I have not, Hugh. Look, you know, if he chooses to run for president, he’s at least saved President Trump the mental energy of having to come up with a nickname for him.
HH: That’s exactly right. All right, serious stuff. The Wall Street Journal – U.S. Holds Talks With UK-France On Possible Syria Strikes, John Bolton saying if they use chemical weapons again, the attacks that will follow will be much more severe than those in April, ’17 and April, ’18. Your comments, Senator Cotton?
TC: I think those talks are a prudent step forward given some indicators that have been in public meetings, Hugh, that Syria is preparing to perhaps use chemical weapons in Idlib in Northwest Syria, which is one of the last holdouts from Assad’s attempts to reconsolidate power. President Trump has cautioned Syria and Russia and Iran that any use of chemical weapons will be met with greater force than he showed in April of last year or in April of this year. And I would support such an action. We cannot allow chemical weapons to be used on any battlefield, but especially a battlefield in close proximity with American troops.
HH: Now I am just finished reading John Kerry’s memoir, Every Day Is Extra. You were on Page 505 in reference to your letter that you authored, and 45 other senators signed with you, about the JCPOA. Senator Kerry, Secretary Kerry writes, “I had served in the Senate for 28 years. It was irresponsible and reckless. I could only imagine what the response of the Republicans would have been if Democrats had ever done that to President Reagan during his negotiations with the Soviet Union.” He called it an attempt to undermine a sitting president in the middle of a negotiation, irresponsible and reckless. What’s your response, Tom Cotton?
TC: Well, Hugh, if that’s on Page 505 of John Kerry’s memoirs that you’re reading, you’re 505 pages ahead of me.
HH: Ha (laughing).
TC: And will long remain so. I would simply say, Hugh, that the letter that I and 46 other Republican senators released during those negotiations was 100% true. Any international agreement that’s not ratified by the Senate is susceptible to being overturned by the next president. I cautioned President Obama and the Democrats at the time. That’s exactly what has happened. If they had listened to me and they had used that Constitutional structure to try to get a better deal with Iran, then perhaps we wouldn’t be in this situation.
HH: And what do you think is going on inside the Islamic Republic today? Even after the $1.7 billion dollars, the freeing of the four hostages, the JCPOA has been blown away like dust as you told them it could be in that letter. What do you think is happening within the regime today?
TC: Economic collapse and societal instability. With the re-imposition of sanctions, the declining oil sales to countries around the world, and the new sanctions that are going to be coming, we’ve seen massive inflation with the Iranian currency. You’ve seen people struggling to buy basic food stuffs – bread, milk, eggs, chickens, so forth. And you see people who are willing to protest at peril to their own freedom and even their lives, not just those economic conditions, but the basic freedoms that the ayatollahs deprive them of.
HH: Last question, Senator Cotton. There’s a lot about the president in the new Woodward book. There was the anonymous story last week. You’ve dealt with him a lot. Have you seen any behavior of the sort that is often remarked upon as being chaotic and irresponsible out of the president when you’ve dealt with him?
TC: No, Hugh, I haven’t seen that kind of behavior. You know, that op-ed is really nothing more than the same kind of anonymous quotes you can read in the newspaper every single day by the president’s detractors just turned into a book-length op-ed. And the Woodward book, you know, when you rely on anonymous sources, you shouldn’t be surprised that anonymous sources used you as a conduit to settle grudges, or grind out grievances, or try to advance agendas.
HH: But your personal experience is that he’s, what, calm and collected?
TC: We have a good working relationship, and when we work together, I have not seen the person that’s described in that op-ed.
HH: Senator Tom Cotton, we’re going out with a little Harlem Globetrotters music for the Washington Generals that are your Democratic colleagues on the Judiciary Committee. Well said.
End of interview.