Congressman Cotton, for people who don't know you, you are kind of an interesting figure. You went to Harvard, you went to Harvard Law School, and then you spent five years on active duty, on the front lines, in Iraq and Afghanistan, so you have got a lot of credibility on this issue on both sides of the equation.I'm not a complete pushover for credentials, but this made me want to pay attention when Wallace invited him to respond to Senator Dianne Feinstein's idea that we need, as Wallace put it, "a secret drone court, where the president would have to go to get approval before putting terror suspects on his kill list.... How do you feel about this idea? Before the president could target someone for assassination, especially an American citizen, he'd have to go get approval from a judge?"
COTTON: We don't need federal judges involved in sensitive and urgent national security matters, and it would be an unconstitutional infringement on the president's rights to keep America safe. So, if you take up arms against America and you fight in a terrorist training camp or on the front lines in Pakistan or Afghanistan or Yemen, you shouldn't be surprised if America reaches out and exacts justice against you.A while later, there was a discussion of Leon Panetta's testimony about Benghazi. Co-panelist Bill Kristol went first and laid out the criticism of Obama pithily:
KRISTOL: I think it is genuinely shocking. The president -- Leon Panetta walked out of the Oval Office at 5:30 that night, after a previously scheduled meeting. The president never called -- he knew -- he briefed the president on what was happening in Benghazi and that the American ambassador was missing, and it was clear there could well be sustained and ongoing attacks, and the president never spoke to the secretary of defense or the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff the rest of that night, and, interestingly, Secretary Panetta said he never spoke to the White House later this night. So it's not as if he spoke to the national security adviser, Tom Donilon, or the chief of staff, Jack Lew, and said, and conveyed a message to or from the president.Cotton followed on, bringing in his military expertise:
So basically, the president seems to have checked out. He spent an hour that evening on the phone with the Israeli prime minister, Bibi Netanyahu, because there has been that flap about Israel at the Democratic Convention the week before, and I think he wanted for political reasons to show that he was in touch with the Israelis. They did a readout of that call, the National Security Council spokesman did. So they're busy talking to the Israeli prime minister, doing the readout of the call for the press, and he is not talking to Panetta and, insofar as we -- and Donilon, apparently, is not talking to Panetta. And it is really, I think, a dereliction of duty on the part of the president and his senior staff, and I think they should be asked about it. I think Tom Donilon, the national security adviser, and Jack Lew, the White House chief of staff, should -- the president did not talk to anyone. Did they even talk to the secretary of defense, or did they just say, do what you can and then totally checked out for that evening, and then the next morning the president goes off to Las Vegas for a fund-raiser?
COTTON: It is not just shocking, I would say it is outrageous as well, and it shows he has lack of preparation to be the commander in chief and lead troops when they are in combat. You know, you mentioned I was in the Army. At Fort Benning, where I spent a year, you learn the eight-step troop leading procedures. Step eight, the final step, is not issue an order. Step seven is issue the order. Step eight, which is the most important step, is supervise. He said in September that I issued a directive to take whatever steps are necessary to protect our troops and our assets. And then as Bill said, he never again followed up, he never asked, is my directive being executed? That is the essence of leadership, and this is a complete failure of leadership.Cotton also got my attention earlier in the show when Wallace asked whether the decision to have Marco Rubio deliver the GOP response to the SOTU makes him "the new face of the Republican Party on Capitol Hill."
WALLACE: What about the argument, Congressman, and I don't know, and Bill raises a legitimate question, maybe he was doing this through his national security adviser.
COTTON: What General Dempsey and Secretary Panetta said, indicates there was no further contact from the White House, and the president showed no curiosity at all. He had a conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu that was in the middle of [the] political season when he was receiving criticism for not being engaged with the prime minister, and then probably preparing to fly off to Las Vegas the next day for a fundraiser.
When you have troops in contact -- when I was in Afghanistan, we had troops in contact. I was right next to the radio, monitoring that at all times. When the president has troops in contact in an embassy that he knows is insecure, that has to be the very first priority.
COTTON: I wouldn't say that decision makes him. I think he has been an emerging leader on Capitol Hill for Republicans, and across the country for two years now. He's a generation of new leaders, not just Marco, but Paul Ryan and Scott Walker and so forth, who are emerging and who I think are going to be the leaders of our party going forward.So, wanting to portray Rubio as not The One but part of "a generation of new leaders" and needing to name some names, Cotton comes up with Paul Ryan — the erstwhile VP nominee — and — of all the others — Scott Walker. I read that out loud and Meade deemed it time to play the Governor Walker anthem one more time: