Ted Cruz and Tom Cotton are similar in several respects. Both attended top Ivy League colleges and graduated from Harvard Law School. Both are extremely intelligent. Both were elected to the U.S. Senate as darlings of many conservatives.
Neither was shy upon arrival. Both made their initial splash in committee hearings — Cruz when he took on Dianne Feinstein; Cotton when he said the Gitmo detainees can rot in hell.
Soon, both were attempting to lead Senate Republicans down controversial paths. Cruz advocated a position that helped produce a partial government shutdown. Cotton drafted a letter to Iran that appalled Democrats and left some Republicans displeased.
At this point, the similarity ends. Cruz’s stridency alienated his caucus. By contrast, Cotton’s letter obtained signatures from almost 90 percent of Republican members.
Why the difference? In a sense, we’re comparing apples — a quarrel about domestic policy that shut down the government — with oranges — a foreign policy dispute that produced tut-tutting.
Cotton’s personality might also be a factor. He’s very difficult to dislike on a personal level. Bob Corker, who was dismayed by the letter, said of Cotton, “Tom is a really nice person, and I know feels very strongly, especially about the issue of Iran, and that’s all I can say.”
I don’t know Cruz personally, but he does not seem to have struck most of his colleagues as “a really nice person.”
I wonder, though, whether after the letter Tom will be able to maintain his role as the good bomb-tosser — the anti-Cruz, so to speak. He’s now a major target of the left, of course, but that’s to his credit.
He’s also very much on the mainstream media’s radar. The MSM doesn’t seem to hate Cotton the way it hates Cruz, but I’m sure there are many reporters and pundits who would love to take him down. The National Journal recently ran a story called Tom Cotton: The new Ted Cruz.
The question is whether his caucus will continue to take cues from him. MSM approval matters much more than it should to some Republican Senators. And few Senators like to be embarrassed, as President Obama claims the signatories to Tom’s letter to Iran have been.
If the letter becomes a serious PR problem for Senate Republicans, Tom’s standing will suffer. If the flap over the letter turns out to be a one-week diversion, then his standing should be fine.
Tom will be okay with either outcome, I think.
Events presumably will overtake the Iran letter flap. If, as I expect, Obama negotiates a bad deal, the letter likely will be forgotten in the Republican uproar over it, in which Tom will play a major part.
If the negotiations end without a bad agreement, and especially if they miraculously produce a good one, Republicans will be pleased, and Tom can, perhaps, take some of the credit.