Senator Tom Cotton joined me this Am:
HH: Senator Tom Cotton is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, so I assume he knows that Ohio State will dominate this weekend’s game. Senator Cotton, welcome. You know, are you a Buckeye or a Wolverine this weekend?
TC: (laughing) Well, every weekend, I’m an Arkansas Razorback, Hugh. I will say, I have a soft spot in my heart for the game. 16 years ago this past weekend, the Saturday before Thanksgiving, my men and I had just gotten out of Iraq, and we’re sitting in a tent in Kuwait waiting for our plane back to the United States for three years. And that was the so-called game of the century when both teams went in 11-0 under Lloyd Carr and Jim Tressel.
TC: And I’m sure you’ll remember that was a narrow Ohio State victory.
HH: Big game. They’ve been talking a lot about it on Buckeye Talk, and this is the 11-0 and 11-0 meeting. Both of them could end up in the playoffs, but you’re going to, that was a diplomatic way of saying you’re not going to say Michigan or Ohio, Senator Cotton.
TC: (laughing) I wish Buckeye nation and Wolverine nation all the best. But I’ll be rooting for the Arkansas Razorbacks this weekend, as always, Hugh. We’ve got…
HH: That is the perfect lead-in. That’s how I approach the Republican race for president in 2024. And you have taken yourself out of that race, so it’s good to ask you. The RJC, Republican Jewish Coalition, met in Las Vegas, and we had our first runway event. And everybody showed. Former President Trump showed up by video, everyone else in person. So it’s off. The starter gun has started. What do you expect in terms of the number of people who will run? And what is your advice to talk show hosts who are being told by National Review this morning that we are “power brokers”, which is the first and I think the last time I’ll ever be referred to as such?
TC: (laughing) Well, I was not in attendance in Las Vegas at the Republican Jewish Coalition, but that’s a great organization. Mat Brooks has turned it into a real powerhouse, if you will, in Republican politics. And I commend them for having such an impressive lineup. Since I’m not a candidate, Hugh, I don’t intend to be a pundit or a strategist in this cycle. Like all Republicans, I’ll be watching the candidates and wishing them all very well. But I do think there’s a common set of ideas or themes that any Republican running for president is probably going to need to advance, and that our voters expect to hear. A lot of these are what I write about in Only The Strong: How To Restore The Sinews Of American Power after four years of Joe Biden’s tenure, really the third four-year term of Barack Obama’s presidency. So obviously, we need to significantly rebuild our military. We need to increase Defense spending substantially. We also need to refocus our military and get them back to the blocking and tackling of war fighting, being ready to fight tonight, not worrying about which pronouns are drill sergeants are using. American energy production needs urgent focus. We’re going to try to do some of that in the new Congress. It might be hard with Chuck Schumer still running the floor of the United States Senate, but America is the world’s fossil fuel superpower. We should be producing more of our oil and gas and coal not just for ourselves, but for the rest of the world. We also have to take control of our southern border. The crisis at our border didn’t just happen. It’s the result of Joe Biden’s bad policy choices. So the next Republican president can do a lot to reverse those choices as President Trump did in the final year of his presidency. We also need to make sure that we are restoring trust and faith in America’s credibility and strength abroad, especially as it relates to Communist China. So yeah, I wish all the potential candidates well, but I do think that our voters expect to hear their views on all those issues, and many more, of course, too.
HH: I hope they’re all carrying around this book, Only The Strong, because I do keep it handy, because it’s got the stats on rebuilding America’s Defense. Let me ask you, though, Senator. I have urged the RNC, and I think they will reelect Ronna McDaniel as their chairperson, their 168 people. I want them to get started early, if not with debates with everyone on a podium, them forums where four or five of them sit around and talk about how big should the Navy be, how many planes do we need, what kind of Defense budget do we need. Do you think the RNC ought to be early out of the gate, because those will generate audiences, and they would generate small dollar donors, and they would elevate the arguments that Republicans want to make among themselves, of course, but also more broadly what differentiates Republicans from Democrats. Do you want the RNC to get this thing going sooner or later?
TC: So I won’t recommend certain dates to them or the number of debates. I will say in presidential politics, debates are obviously very different than they are in any other race. You know, typically in a gubernatorial or a Senate campaign, you might have one or two debates, and it’s a relatively sleepy affair often on public television. But as we saw in 2016 and our primaries, and as we saw in 2020 in the Democrats primaries, the presidential debates matter a lot. This is where we test candidates on their knowledge of where they want to take their country, on their ability to respond under scrutiny and pressure. So I think it’s a good thing the debates started relatively early in 2016. I think they started around July or August, perhaps.
HH: That’s correct. Cleveland, July, Fox News.
TC: One other thing that I know that, and I know that Ronna McDaniel has been working this over the last few years, I think in our primary debates, we no longer should be giving microphones to Democrats in reporters’ clothing. I think most of your listeners will remember in 2012 when George Stephanopoulos, a former campaign operative for Bill Clinton, was obsessing endlessly about things like birth control in a Republican primary debate, an issue about which no Republican had spoken or had any plans to change the status quo. So I’d suggest that we need good, strong journalists, not conservative partisans, necessarily, although you have done well in debates, too, but people who have a reputation for fairness and will ask the kind of questions that Republican primary voters want to hear, not the kind of questions that Democratic operatives in Washington want to hear. You know, so someone like, say, a Bret Baier or Martha MacCallum, in that mode, not former Democratic operatives as do…
HH: Byron York, Henry Olsen, Mary Katharine Ham, Guy Benson, there is a long list of people who are neutral as to which Republican but could ask good questions.
TC: And so those are all good examples of center-right opinion journalists. There are plenty of good straight news reporters and news anchors, though, who could hold down the moderator chair. You could also maybe have debates that have a specific angle to them, like have someone such as Jennifer Griffin or Lucas Tomlinson if you wanted debates focused more on Defense policy and the world. So there’s a lot of great reporters and center-right opinion journalists out there who would be good moderators and questioners in our debates. We don’t need Democratic partisans that are wearing reporters’ clothes in those debates.
HH: Now speaking of Democratic partisans wearing reporters’ clothes, Sam Bankman-Fried, first of all, did you accept money from him?
TC: I did not, at least not to my knowledge. If he did, it didn’t go very far.
HH: All right. And I do not want people to refund it, because they actually, some candidates who took SBF money are giving that to charity. Don’t. A bankruptcy court is going to come claw that back from you. This morning, Reuters is reporting that Sam Bankman-Fried’s FTX, his parents and senior executives of the failed cryptocurrency exchange bought at least 19 properties worth $121 million in the Bahamas over the past two years, official property records show. All right, another, this is just a, this is a massive scandal run by Democrats for Democrats with an occasional contribution. Tom Emmer took $25,000 grand, I think, or $45,000 grand. He’ll give that to the bankruptcy court, whatever. What do you think? Why did this happen? Where were the regulators, Senator Cotton?
TC: Well, I think one of the main reasons it didn’t happen is that Sam Bankman-Fried was giving $40 million dollars to Democratic causes. Yeah, I mean, he may have given $5,000 or $10,000 thousand dollars here to this or that Republican, or the NRCC, but the vast amount of his money went to Democrats often in six or even seven-figure contributions. So the Democrats had a vested interest in holding him up as some kind of great millennial business leader. A second reason is, as we now know from his text messages and his direct messages, and sometimes just as open statements, that he was a patron saint of the so-called ESG movement, which is really just liberal politics dressed up as corporate governance. I have been cautioning investment firms and law firms and businesses not to go in for this ESG fraud, especially as it relates to oil and gas investing, because it could very well be a violation of antitrust laws, criminal antitrust laws, to say nothing of fiduciary duties that one has to shareholders. So Sam Bankman-Fried, as by his own admission, you know, kind of mouthed all the right platitudes, all the left-wing catechism, at the time he was building what increasingly seems like a Ponzi scheme. Now there’s a lot we don’t know, yet. News is still breaking fast, and unfortunately, it looks like it may get worse for the investing public and its customers as we learn more, but I think I’ve heard you call him, Hugh, the millennial Madoff…
TC: And I think that’s a well-put term.
HH: Yeah, well, he is. And there are a million people that he owes money to that aren’t going to get paid back, and I want this to be dived in deeply. I know there will be a criminal prosecution here. I suspect there will be a criminal prosecution, so you won’t want to get in the way of that. But as to your perch on Judiciary and Intel, do you expect SBF to be sitting in front of you and answering questions?
TC: At some point, Hugh, I’m sure he’s going to be in front of Congress. Remember, he’s been in front of Congress already. The Democrats invited him in a friendly, cordial setting. They even came to his defense against any criticism. Let’s just say I suspect it’ll be somewhat less friendly. Now Hugh, in the end, it might be in the House of Representatives with a Republican chairman if the Democrats don’t want to dig too deeply on what increasingly looks like a Ponzi scheme that in part helped feed the Democratic Party in the 2022 elections.
HH: A quick question about effective altruism, the movement in which he wrapped himself. I think it’s all kind of seminars and blue check elites. Why not give money to Salvation Army and Prison Fellowship and the people who do the good work? I mean, why do we need to invent a new way of helping the poor, Senator Cotton? We know who helps the poor. Just give them money.
TC: Yeah, Hugh, I’ve had a couple of the advocates of co-called effective altruism describe it to me. Again, it sounds like people trying to reinvent the wheel when there are plenty of good charities and churches out there doing great work for the poor here in America or for the unfortunate all around the world. I think in some cases, people, as worked with him, want to get their picture on the cover of Forbes magazine or be invited to the right left-wing non-profit galas or Democratic parties.
HH: So Senator, closing this down, in terms of the Herschel Walker campaign, does 50/50 matter on Senate Armed Services as opposed to 51-49? I’m telling people in Georgia they’ve got to vote for Herschel, because we need 50/50 on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Am I right?
TC: Yeah, there’s no doubt that it matters a lot, Hugh. At a 50/50 majority, or a 50/50 split on every committee, the Democrats can’t unilaterally send the most left-wing nominees to the Senate floor. It takes them much longer, and sometimes that has led to us defeating the worst nominees. Of course, when you get to the Senate floor, it only takes one Democrats to defect, because they realize how terrible a nominee would be once in office. Also, Democratic chairmen with a 51-49 majority can unilaterally issue subpoenas. For the last two years, they’ve had to have the cooperation of the Republican chairs. And of course, we’re just one vote away. If it’s 51-49, there could be a one or two vote Democratic majority in the Armed Services Committee. And let me give you just one example. I offered an amendment last year during, or earlier this year drafting our annual Defense legislation that would have prohibited payment of any one of these diversity consultant charlatans in the Department of Defense any more than an E-5 sergeant makes, an infantry team leader out on the tip of the spear. I don’t think these charlatans should be making more than that fire team leader. It failed by an evenly divided vote. But if Democrats have the majority, it’ll be that much harder to persuade one Democrat to come along with us on very sensible policies.
HH: I think you’re going to get more reasonable Democrats as the 2024 map approaches. Senator Tom Cotton, Happy Thanksgiving, and thank you for joining me.
End of interiview.