Maybe I ought to stop complaining about Joni Ernst being the wave of the future of the GOP. It could be a lot, lot worse, per this angry, worried column from our friend Digby:

Newly elected Tom Cotton of Arkansas is one of the youngest members of the Senate, only 37 years old, a graduate of Harvard and Harvard Law and a veteran of both Afghanistan and Iraq. Widely considered to be a leading light on the right in foreign policy and national security, Cotton was naturally given a plum assignment on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Last week he made his debut on the national stage by posing a series of probing questions about Guantánamo to Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Brian McKeon that left many people in the country wondering whether Pee Wee Herman was guest lecturing the semester he studied logic at Harvard.

With a barely suppressed smirk on his handsome young face, Sen. Cotton asked,”How many recidivists are there at Guantánamo Bay right now?” Obviously the answer was none, since the recidivists he speaks of would be people who’ve been released from Guantánamo. Next he asked, “How many detainees at Guantánamo Bay are engaging in terrorism or anti-American incitement?” Pregnant pause. Then he answered his own question — “None, because they’re detained.” Oh Suhnap!

Digby captures Cotton’s signature air of smug self-righteous arrogance very well, and reminds us the man made his debut as a right-wing poster boy by threatening the New York Times with prosecution for reporting military secrets. At a very young age, he’s already paid all his dues and now can assume his hard-earned yet God-given role as a Christian bully-boy with no compunctions about saying of untried and tortured detainees that they should “rot in hell,” or barring that, at Gitmo.

[Y]ou can certainly see why he rose to such early fame in right-wing circles. That brand of swaggering authoritarianism is the red meat they need to keep their coalition together in these difficult times for the party.

Tom Cotton is Ted Cruz with a war record, Sarah Palin with a Harvard degree, Chris Christie with a Southern accent — a force to be reckoned with. He may sound like he’s speaking gibberish to you or to me when he asks why there were no prisoners in Guantánamo before the prison existed, but to the Republican base he’s speaking their language as clear as day and it will fit nicely on a bumper sticker: “Let ‘em rot.”

And it won’t be long until he’s running for president.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.