The competition is stiff, but clearly the latest prize winner for the most inane public comment is Sen. Tom Cotton, the newbie from Arkansas who is quickly endearing himself to Republican hard-liners everywhere with his extremism. There he was, appearing with Wolf Blitzer on CNN, when the conversation turned to the embarrassing legislative attempts in Indiana and his home state to justify discrimination against gays in the name of protecting religion. Protect against what, you might ask? It’s a fair question, but let’s not drift from Sen. Cotton’s shining moment.
“It’s important that we have a sense of perspective about our priorities,” he said huffily about the corporations and gay-rights supporters who rose up to beat back those who wanted to legalize their bigotry. “In Iran they hang you for the crime of being gay.”
Hmmm. Hadn’t thought of that, which either makes me someone without adequate perspective or someone who thinks that way of looking at the issue calls into question exactly how it was that Cotton made it through Harvard or whether the Ivy League is grossly overrated.
For the moment, let’s believe he was sincere and not just pandering to his big, hard-right fan club. It’s probably a stretch, but let’s assume that for now. Then let’s address his reason. Perhaps it’s the religious conservatives who need to get some “perspective” about the trials and tribulations they face here, because in some countries, Christians are executed. So lighten up, all those who feel there’s a need in the United States for religious-protection laws.
What we really could use is some protection from the irresponsible rhetoric that constantly barrages us. Sen. Cotton wasn’t the only one fouling the air. Old standby Michele Bachmann, out of Congress and obviously badly wanting to keep a high profile in far-out land, had this to say on Facebook about the very preliminary nuclear deal hammered out with Iran:
“With his Iran deal, Barack Obama is for the 300 million souls of the United States what Andreas Lubitz was for the 150 souls on the German Wings flight — a deranged pilot flying his entire nation into the rocks.”
Bachmann was never known for nuance, and she’s showing that she’s as heavy-handed as ever. But let’s face it, in today’s environment, excess equals success. Bachmann and the newcomer prove that point. As a matter of fact, maybe the two of them might want to join the growing list of GOP presidential candidates.
Bachmann’s done it before, and she’s probably interested in running again. (How’s that for understatement?) Cotton has some experience shortcomings. He’s only been in the Senate for a short time, and we all know how that can be an obstacle to getting elected president. Besides, he’s from Arkansas, and whoever heard of a president from Arkansas?
Then again, whoever heard of still another battle between a Clinton and a Bush? The idea is so absurd that nobody could ever take it seriously. The next thing you know, nearly 50 GOP U.S. senators might try to sabotage delicate negotiations over nuclear weapons by sending a letter to the other side, and, wait for it, the opposition Speaker of the House might go behind the president’s back and invite the prime minister of, say, Israel to speak before a joint meeting of Congress about his hostility toward any deal.
I know, I know, all of this is too ludicrous to be remotely possible. Or it should be. Sad to say, our majestic system of government that looks so good on paper has been seized by opportunists and those who try to outdo each other as they sing their looney tunes. Count on it getting worse. Instead of being inspired by our leaders, we’re embarrassed by them.
Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.