The New Yorker is running a piece by Jeffrey Toobin called “Is Tom Cotton the Future of Trumpism?” Toobin is a left-wing hatchet man. Ed Whelan has called foul on him several times, including here (for his treatment of Justice Scalia) and here (for his treatment of then-Judge Gorsuch). Adam White did so here.
Toobin’s treatment of Cotton is far from fair and balanced. Consider this ludicrous passage:
In describing his preferred approach to negotiations with Iran, Cotton said, “One thing I learned in the Army is that when your opponent is on his knees you drive him to the ground and choke him out.” In response, a questioner pointed out that killing a prisoner of war is not “American practice.” (It is, in fact, a war crime.)
Tom certainly wasn’t calling for the literal “choking out” of Ayatollah Khamenei and I’m quite sure he wasn’t talking about inflicting such treatment on prisoners of war in Iraq, either.
In his article Toobin compares Tom to the unemotional, analytical, literal-minded Mr. Spock of Star Trek. Yet, when it serves his purpose of making the Senator look bad, Toobin is the absurdly literal one.
During the time Tom was stationed near Washington, D.C., we got together once every month or two for drinks. The personality Toobin ascribes to Cotton isn’t the one I observed.
Toobin also blasts Cotton for the nature of his opposition to the lenient criminal sentencing reform legislation that made its way out the Senate Judiciary Committee in late 2015. Toobin writes:
Cotton took the public lead in making statements about the proposal which, as with his comments on Guantánamo, skirted the edge of demagoguery. “I don’t think any Republicans want legislation that is going to let out violent felons, which this bill would do,” Cotton said.
Toobin fails to show, or even make an argument, that this was close to demagoguery. Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, conceded that “yes, [the legislation] would release some violent offenders.”
Readers of Toobin’s piece will spot other instances of unfairness, but let’s focus now on the question the author raises. Is Tom Cotton the future of Trumpism?
It’s clear from Toobin’s discussion of Cotton’s foreign policy views that, although Toobin may missed the fact, Cotton is not a down-the-line Trumpist. I’ve long thought, and probably written somewhere on Power Line, that Tom might well be the one to synthesize Trumpism and traditional conservatism.
This view may be outdated, though, because Trump himself seems to be working on that synthesis — with Tom’s help on certain issues.
So yes, Tom Cotton may be the future of Trumpism, but not in the sense Toobin has in mind. Toobin has in mind the shallow notion that “to make that next leap [to the presidency], Cotton expresses the militarism, bellicosity, intolerance, and xenophobia of Donald Trump, but without the childish tweets.”
I have in mind that Cotton may help Trump shape Trumpism into a functional, more traditionally conservative but still nationalistic approach to governing, and then, after Trump exits, continue that process.