Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas sat down with Erick Erickson at the Resurgent Gathering in Atlanta this morning. They began the conversation by talking about Cotton’s new book, Sacred Duty: A Soldier’s Tour at Arlington National Cemetery. Between the silences in the gardens of stone, if you listen closely you can hear the whispered tales of heroism among the men and women at rest there, which Cotton relates as a man who himself served as a captain in the U.S. Army and saw combat in Afghanistan.
As the conversation turned to immigration, Cotton noted how Trump has a different approach than other GOP presidents, in that he’s very focused on enforcement and putting the issue front and center. That’s because there’s a genuine crisis at border, one that is different from years past. Traditionally, Cotton said, illegal immigrants came to America in the hopes of finding work. These days, however, so many people also show up because of lax laws that incentivize migration, promoting thousands to show up with kids because they just get waved through. Cotton added that President Trump has been making progress with Mexico and Guatemala using hard-nosed negotiation tactics, and has hope that these policies as they mature will help reduce the number of people trying to cross the border. He also hopes that Dems come to their senses and set aside politics to help.
Moving on to the Middle East: Cotton believes that Iran’s recent conduct—shooting down an American drone, hijacking ships passing through the Strait of Hormuz— warrants military retaliation. He noted that President Trump is practicing forbearance, the same as Ronald Reagan tried to do. Even Reagan, however, eventually had to sink half Iranian Navy in response to their provocations. Cotton did acknowledge that sanctions are biting hard, while not having any significant effect on the price of oil—which does give the United States the upper hand in the current situation. He does worry, though that if the current provocations continue that eventually an American life will be lost.
As to Iran’s nuclear program, Cotton understands that our European allies have an interest in allowing the Iranians to develop a civilian nuclear program. Toward that end, he also favors regular reviews to make sure that Iran remains in compliance with its obligations.
Changing the subject to Arkansas politics, Cotton cited that Arkansans remain committed to rebuilding the military and providing first-class medical care for veterans. They remain concerned about tariffs, but they also know that China has been very discriminatory against the kind of agricultural products grown in Arkansas, particularly rice. Because of that, his constituents generally support Trump’s efforts to open those markets to U.S. agriculture. As for small business, Cotton said that he’s been very happy that Congress has moved in the direction of regulatory repeal. He also complimented the White House policy of repealing two regs for every new one instituted.
Cotton also said that President Trump deserves credit for bringing elite attitudes around on China. He cited progress on trade relations with Mexico and Canada, which be believes have made trade practices more fair. Getting back to the subject of China, he mentioned how negotiating with them is very different from other countries. He said that one of the worst decisions made by the Clinton administration was to grant China most favored nation status, and that it was also a mistake for the George W. Bush administration to renew it. Cotton also thinks it was a bad idea granting China admission to the World Trade Organization. The hopes that the Chinese government would liberalize their economy and their political system, which was used as justification for that decision, simply haven’t materialized.
The conversation finished with Cotton speaking about why Arkansas is a great state for both tourism and business. He talked about the beautiful scenery and mountains, which are great for camping, hiking and four-wheeling. He also mentioned that northwest Arkansas is also one of the fastest growing economic areas in the country, filled with great people and great opportunities.