Sen. Cotton Wanted to Inflict Special Pain on the President

In the Donald Trump era, it can be hard for Republicans to get much attention from the public for doing/saying ugly malicious things. But Sen. Tom Cotton has risen to the challenge – thanks to some reporting from Frank Bruni.

For some context, let’s remember that Cotton is the senator who penned a letter last spring to the leaders of Iran suggesting that they shouldn’t trust the negotiations being conducted by our President and Sec. of State on their nuclear weapons. He danced as close to the line of treason as one can go without stepping over it.

The story Bruni tells doesn’t have the same kinds of global ramifications. But it does give us some idea of the disrespect Cotton harbors for President Obama. It is the story of Cassandra Butts – who knew Obama when they were both at Harvard Law School. She went on to a distinguished career in public service and was nominated by this President to be the Ambassador to the Bahamas in early 2014.

The nomination was initially blocked by Sen. Ted Cruz in an attempt to punish Obama for the Iran nuclear deal – and then by Cotton, along with nominees for ambassadorships to Sweden and Norway. I’ll let Bruni pick up the story from there.

Cotton eventually released the two other holds, but not the one on Butts. She told me that she once went to see him about it, and he explained that he knew that she was a close friend of Obama’s — the two first encountered each other on a line for financial-aid forms at Harvard Law School, where they were classmates — and that blocking her was a way to inflict special pain on the president.

Cotton’s spokeswoman did not dispute Butts’s characterization of that meeting, and stressed, in separate emails, that Cotton had enormous respect for her and her career.

On May 25th, Cassandra Butts died from acute leukemia (which had gone undiagnosed until just before she died), after waiting more than 820 days to be confirmed…all because Cotton wanted to “inflict special pain on the president.” It is hard to find words to capture how ugly and malicious that is. You will find no better example of a politician deep into the mire of playing political games rather than doing what is right for his country.

This story also sheds some light on Republican obstruction to President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. The question becomes: to what extent are they playing games that are designed to inflict special pain on the president? I am reminded of something Sen. Lindsay Graham said back in 2013, “Anytime you challenge the president, Obama, it’s good politics.” In other words, “we don’t give a damn what it means for the country or the nominee if it works for us politically.” That’s the Republican Party we’ve been dealing with for almost eight years now.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.