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Arkansas elects the youngest US Senator to enter the 214th Congress: Rep. Tom Cotton

Just prior to last night’s resounding GOP mid-term victories in the US Senate, the House and a host of gubernatorial contests, I had an opportunity to speak with Shoshana Bryen. She is the executive director of the Washington, DC – based Jewish Policy Center. We were preparing for last Sunday’s Lisa Benson Show, which had a midterm election theme of “Vote to Protect America and its Ally Israel”.  We talked about a wide range of issues.  In addition to Shoshana, we had as other guests on the show, Ken Timmerman, veteran Iran watcher and author of Dark Forces: The Truth About What Happened in Benghaziand Navy Seal veteran, Ben Smith.  Listen here to the discussion on the November 2, 2014 Lisa Benson Show.   

When I asked Bryen about emerging figures in the mid-term elections, she pointed to Rep. Tom Cotton (R-4th CD AK)  running a competitive  campaign against incumbent two-term  US Democrat Senator Mark Pryor. Pryor was the scion of a long serving Arkansas political dynasty.  His father David before him had served as both Governor and US Senator.

Cotton, I knew from reading a profile of him by retired Harvard Professor Ruth Wisse in The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) had a career that resonated. He was a highly educated double Harvard graduate who voluntarily served as an Infantry officer in the US Army during the Iraq-Afghanistan conflict.  Wisse’s WSJ op-ed   was an unabashed endorsement, Vote for Tom Cotton—and Redeem Harvard”.   So, I asked Bryen on last Sunday’s broadcast to talk about Cotton and another Army veteran Lt. Col.Joni Ernst of Iowa both running for the US Senate in their respective states.

 Cotton and Ernst won their respective Senate races last night. A colleague called last night from a cheering Iowa GOP celebration to give me the news about Ernst’s victory. Cotton trounced Pryor by running against “Obama’s failed policies”. He won by 16 percent. His campaign played up his Army service. Cotton, 37 years old, will enter the 314th Congress in January 2015 as its youngest member.

 Cotton is a sixth generation Arkansan from a cattle raising ranching family in the small community of Dardanelle, Arkansas. A graduate of both Harvard College and Law School, motivated by the events of 9/11, he rejected a JAG Commission. Instead, he volunteered   to go through OCS at Fort Benning and trained at both the Infantry and Ranger Schools.  Cotton served from 2005 to 2009. He had two tours, one in Iraq and a second in Afghanistan with the famed Screaming Eagles, the 101st Airborne, rising to the rank of Captain and received a Bronze Star for his combat actions. At 6’5″, he was selected as Platoon Leader at the Old Guard that provides the honor guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington Cemetery.

Watch this mini-documentary on Senator-elect Cotton:

Like Louisiana’s Republican governor, Bobby Jindal, he also is a McKinsey & Co. alumnus. Most importantly as a first term Congressman from the (4thCD- AK) he was assigned to House Foreign Affairs. During his Senate campaign he consistently strove to educate Arkansans about the dangers of isolationism.  He has also proved to be a good friend of Israel in Congress during his initial term in the US House of Representatives. The Emergency Committee for Israel (ECFI head, Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard,  said this about Cotton in a Washington Free Beacon report on their purchase of a spot ad for him, “We’re for a strong Israel and a strong America. So is Tom Cotton. He’ll be a great senator.”

Just before his Senate electoral victory, Cotton weighed in on the West Wing campaign against Israel and PM Netanyahu with a statement released on October 29th:

I’m appalled at recent media reports suggesting the Obama administration is seeking ‘détente’ with Iran, while unnamed administration officials disparage Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with vulgar ad hominem attacks.  I call upon President Obama to renounce these reports and disclose the names of these officials and fire them.  Iran remains our worst enemy and Israel our closest ally.  The Obama administration’s weak behavior will only embolden Iran to continue its headlong rush to nuclear weapons and terror campaigns against America and our allies, while destabilizing the region and further eroding our interests.

Finally, for the record, I must note that Prime Minister Netanyahu in his youth was a member of Israel’s elite special-operations forces, where he displayed great courage.  He and his family have made grave sacrifices in the fight against our common enemies.  On behalf of all Arkansans, I want to thank Mr. Netanyahu for his bravery and service.

I asked Bryen during the preparation for last Sunday’s show where Cotton might be assigned in the newly organized US Senate under the leadership of Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, the presumptive GOP Majority Leader in the 214th Congress in January 2015.  She thought that Cotton might end up on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  I told her that would be an historic antidote to the legendary Arkansas Democratic Senator William Fulbright who opposed the Viet Nam War during the era of President Johnson after voting for the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in August 1964.  Cotton’s Arkansas constituents realize the importance of US leadership on national security interests and support for Israel. That will stand him in good stead.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on the New English Review. The featured image of Senator elect Tom Cotton is courtesy of the New English Review.