by Max Brantley
You know: He thought the Internet was a bust as an educational tool. He wanted a ban on tobacco at Harvard, where he attended undergraduate and law school. He also decried campus activists as barbarians and wrote about Bill Clinton's "degeneracy."
People change as they grow up and, as I've said repeatedly, I said and did many things in college that I came to regret, sometimes immediately. But a pattern in Cotton's thinking emerged early — and it includes more than a trace of the superiority complex that one of his admirers, a former school teacher, noted at the rally this week for his senatorial announcement. Maybe young Tom really WAS smarter than all his teachers, the former teacher said generously.
But here's an area where Cotton continues today to say things that echo his youthful comments and they seem likely to contribute to a gender gap in this race. Remember when he said all women should be legally prohibited from serving in combat roles? It's not just a muscle mass thing, because clearly some women could meet the physical standards and all men aren't automatically capable by virtue of their gender. He said, with emphasis added:
To have women serving in infantry, though, could impair the mission-essential tasks of those units. And that’s been proven in study after study, it’s nature, upper body strength, and physical movements, and speed, and endurance, and so forth.
Nature? We look forward to more from Rep. Cotton on the nature of women. We now know his patronizing outlook goes back many years.
From the Ivy League wayback machine of the Harvard Crimson archives comes a taste. Here, Tom Cotton writes glowingly about covenant marriages (his tea leaves failed him on this gimmick taking hold, just as they failed him on the Internet) and the paternalistic Promise Keepers movement. He begins:
Men are simple creatures. It doesn't take much to please us. The problem is women. How does an utterly simple creature understand an infinitely complex one? Since this creature realizes he is even simpler than most men, I knew only women could help me understand, well, women.
You'll want to read the results of his informal survey of "Cliffies," the patronizing name Harvard he-men attached to students of Radcliffe, the all-woman's college that once operated as a separate and not fully equal collegiate partner. Cotton concluded Cliffies' driving motivation in life was finding and holding onto a husband.
My sample is admittedly small and perhaps unrepresentative. If it is representative—I tend to think it is—then maybe men can unlock the secret to a woman's heart and soul. Maybe the key is nothing more than a lifetime of love and devotion, of selflessness and sacrifice.
Yet that is a lot to ask of a man: Talk to a psychologist, a sociobiologist or a mother and you learn that men are naturally restless and rowdy, maybe even a little incorrigible. Throughout time, though, women and social institutions have conspired to break man's unruliness. In the past few decades, however, they have largely abandoned that noble and necessary project.
Young Tom decries the impact of divorce on women, but he seems to imply that it's women, encouraged by feminists, who account for most divorces. Thus, the economic fallout on women is somehow their fault — not that they devoted themselves to child-rearing rather than careers; not that the judicial system for the longest was run by and for men and terribly unfair to women.
Feminists who allegedly speak for women should attack divorce, not its effects. If men have easy access to divorce, many will choose it thoughtlessly. They may not gain true happiness with their new trophy wives, but they certainly will not slide into the material indigence and emotional misery that awaits most divorced women. If restrained, however, men can fulfill women's deepest hopes. They can learn that personal happiness comes from the desire to devote and sacrifice oneself to one's beloved.
A few men can see this by themselves, and women are quite lucky to hook them. Ordinary women must not only defend these men against feminism, but also demand that all other men accept the lifelong nature of marriage. If not, one-half of all women who marry see their "greatest fear" come true. If so, they can have their "deepest hopes" fulfilled.
If those deepest hopes include medical autonomy, however, women should not expect that from Tom Cotton.
Cotton's writing has drawn some modern-day comments on the Crimson website. More evidence of the educational value of the Internet. Sample:
Only Tom Cotton could actually believe that a woman's entire hopes and dreams are wrapped up in a man.