Who Is Tom Cotton? The Washington Post Explains

Today’s Washington Post includes brief profiles of several of the Republicans who won Senate seats yesterday, including one titled Who Is Tom Cotton? The reporter called me a few days ago while working on this piece, and asked about our early role in publicizing Tom’s letter to the New York Times, which first brought him to public attention. What he wrote about that incident is accurate:

In 2006, after the New York Times published a story on efforts to track terrorist financing, Cotton e-mailed a letter to the newspaper, critical of their decision to expose U.S. strategy. “You may think you have done a public service, but you have gravely endangered the lives of my soldiers and all other soldiers and innocent Iraqis here,” he wrote.

The Times did not run his letter, but Cotton gave a copy to the conservative Power Line blog, which published it. His letter went viral in conservative circles online, and readers were impressed with his resume as an Ivy League-educated Army lieutenant who practiced law with two firms in Washington. Some liberals questioned whether he was even real, according to Power Line’s John Hinderaker, a Minnesota attorney. “They couldn’t imagine there was someone who graduated from Harvard who’d enlist,” Hinderaker said.

I got the feeling that the reporter wanted to exaggerate our role in Tom’s accomplishments and thought I might be helpful in that regard. (I had the same sense with regard to the reporter from The Atlantic who interviewed me for a longer piece on Tom.) He asked how Cotton’s subsequent career would have been different if we hadn’t publicized his letter to the Times back in 2006. I replied that, given what we now know about Tom’s ability and drive, it would have made zero difference.

I think that is true; nevertheless, we are all proud to have played a part, however small, in advancing the career of one of our most promising public figures.


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