The Republican senator from Arkansas is supporting the presumptive Republican nominee for president.
Normally, this would be an unsurprising statement. But, as you’re no doubt aware by now, this is not a normal election. The senator is Tom Cotton, who is something of an exotic creature in Congress these days: a Republican hawk who, like his colleague John McCain, has immersed himself in international affairs and advocates robust U.S. leadership in the world. Cotton values NATO. He is a proponent of free trade and believes that, on balance, NAFTA has benefitted the U.S. economy. He thinks the Iraq War was necessary and just.
The presumptive nominee is Donald Trump, a nationalist, semi-isolationist Republican who has ridiculed John McCain, has scant experience with international affairs, and dismisses America’s global leadership as a rotten deal. Trump is fed up with NATO. He is a proponent of protectionist trade policies, even trade wars, and describes NAFTA as the “worst trade deal in the history of this country.” He calls the Iraq War “one of the worst decisions in the history of our country.”
Therein lies the surprise, and the confusion, about the position Cotton has staked out in the election. “We need to be active and engaged throughout the world because [the United States has] been a positive force for stability and order, which as a continental nation with global interests is in our national-security interest,” Cotton told The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg at the Aspen Ideas Festival, which is co-hosted by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic. This conviction, he said, put him squarely within the “post-World War II bipartisan consensus” on U.S. foreign policy.