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Dear Tom

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Sen. Tom Cotton image
  • Brian Chilson
  • Sen. Tom Cotton

Greetings, senator! Hope all is well there — that you're settling into your new office, and that you're finally getting around to opening the boxes marked "Misc" in quick, too-tired-to-mess-with-it handwriting instead of just leaving them in the hall closet where they've been since they came off the moving truck, the way Spouse and I did. We've got 13-year-old Miscellaneous still boxed up in the attic as I speak, my friend, and there is every indication in the world that that's where it's going to stay for the foreseeable future. After a while, it's just more fun to leave stuff like that sealed, a little time capsule for Future You, full of at least some of the crap you probably didn't need in the first place.

All is well here in Arkansas, for the most part. Thought I saw some buds on the crepe myrtle out back of the house the other day, and the birds are singing to beat the band. Spring has sprung, or soon to sprung. We are in that short, beautiful moment between freezing one's ass off and so hot it feels like being boiled in molten paraffin, so it's a fine time indeed.

But enough chit chat about the weather.

Not to rub it in, but you sure got your dingus in the wringer over that letter to Iran, didn't you? I usually don't do politics in polite company, but I'm making an exception in this case. Doesn't get much more political than trying to get the president's goat by attempting to scuttle a deal that would hopefully keep some of the craziest people in the world from getting an A-bomb, now does it? When Bob Schieffer asked you on "Face the Nation," "Are you planning to contact any other of our adversaries? Do you plan to check with the North Koreans?" Ouch. Seriously. I felt your pain. If you watch the YouTube clip of that moment, I swear that in the two seconds after Bob asked those questions, I could see a tiny image of you parked behind the Resolute Desk evaporating out of your eyes like a snowball in a bucket of hot spit. Don't know if you've read it, but even the editorial page of the big daily paper here in Arkansas, usually on the side of conservative folk like a mother mockingbird after her brood, delivered a mighty kick to your ribs the other day, noting the fact that while most freshman senators with less than 100 days of seat time are still trying to find the bathrooms in the U.S. Capitol building and figger out how to best work for the interests of their constituents back home, you already seem to be looking past the Senate to The Big Chair on Pennsylvania Avenue, blowing off boring ol' Arkansas issues in favor of pulling a stunt that'll get your mug on CNN, consequences be damned. Arkansas as a stepping stone, I believe the editorialist said. Double ouch.

See, the issue is that you broke the second rule of a happy and productive life. The first, as related in one of my favorite movies, "The Princess Bride," is: Never get involved in a land war in Asia (there's still time for you on that one, I suppose). The second, however, is this: Don't write anything down when you're mad, and for sure don't put it in a mailbox.

That's an issue in itself, though. You just seem mad all the time, always on the cusp of hulking out, a lofty flagpole of barely contained rage. I don't think I've seen you smile in public since election night. While there are those who love that emotionally constipated, Stone Idol on a Hill stuff — usually those dumb enough to see a sense of humor as weakness — I would submit that even John Wayne cracked a grin or two in "The Searchers." Not to get you on the couch and perform some unlicensed psychotherapy, but on a man who just became the youngest member of the U.S. Senate, with a lovely wife and very-soon-to-be-newborn child, world by the tail in a downhill pull, that frown you always seem to sport reads a lot like joylessness. I sincerely hope not — not only for your sake, but for all of ours. Joylessness can lead to recklessness, and a joyless, reckless man in a position of great power is a frightening thing indeed.

Anyway, thanks for listening. I'm sure you've got better things to do, so I'll let you go. My best to you and your family, and congratulations on the soon-to-come little Cotton boll. Keep the sunny side up, try to smile every once in a while, and — for God's sake — keep the drawer with the stamps and envelopes closed, at least in the short term.

Your friend,

The Observer

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