Speaking at a House committee hearing on Wednesday, Cotton attacked the administration for justifying the Bergdahl swap by suggesting that his release was worth any price.
“Every day in Ranger School, we recited the Ranger Creed that I will never leave a fallen comrade,” Cotton said. “You know who didn’t leave a fallen comrade? Cody Full. Darryn Andrews. Or all the soldiers who went after him in the weeks and months after his disappearance, knowing that he had deserted.”
“When we made those promises to each other, we didn’t promise that we would exchange five stone-cold Taliban killers for each other, nor would any soldier want that to happen,” the Arkansas representative continued.
“Finally, I want to say something to the anonymous sources in the president’s administration who are disparaging the service of Second Platoon and Blackfoot Company,” Cotton concluded. “Show yourself, speaking your own name, have the courage of your convictions. If you don’t, shut up, stand back, and thank these men for their service.”
While this clip will fire up base Republicans, it could also play into the hands of Sen. Mark Pryor’s (D-AR) campaign which has spent the last several weeks attempting to turn the Arkansas Senate race into a personality contest. The coordinated effort by the Pryor camp to paint Cotton as insensitive recently prompted the Republican House member to joke “I’m warm, dammit!”
Cotton’s campaign themes, however, much of which center on his status as a war veteran, are likely to blunt any attempt to frame this episode as an example of his penchant for hotheaded and impolitic statements. If anything, it shows that Cotton views the swap of five dangerous Taliban commanders for one alleged deserter in personal terms.
With attack ads flooding the airwaves, and voters in Arkansas likely tuning out political messaging, this is the kind of moment which can cut through the noise.