Tom Cotton marks two milestones this week. As of Monday, more than half of his senatorial career will have elapsed (63 days!) since his pugilistic letter warning Iran against cutting a nuclear deal with the Obama administration. And Wednesday is the Arkansas Republican’s 38th birthday, another reminder he’s the youngest senator in two decades.
Those twin occasions provide an opportunity to note just how unusually hot and fast Cotton’s start has been. Even in a Senate where newcomers no longer feel obligated to bide their time or defer to their elders, as they did for so much of history, just four months of combativeness may have determined the personality of Cotton’s entire congressional life — no matter how long it lasts. That may not be a problem if he doesn’t plan on remaining in Washington very long, and is mainly concerned with gaining maximum love from other confrontational conservatives while at the Capitol.
If he makes something even approaching a career in the Senate, though, Cotton will inevitably want flexibility to modify his style. And he may find (in another way Capitol Hill is like college ) it can be pretty tough to overcome a reputation of being too “out there” freshman year.
Cotton is sending every signal he’s ready, if not eager, to run that risk.
“Some people say I’m ‘a young man in a hurry.’ Guess what? They're right. We've got urgent problems and I am in a hurry to solve them,” he said in announcing his Senate bid in August 2013, when he’d been a House member all of seven months. He repeated versions of the line dozens of times on the way to unseating two-term Democrat Mark Pryor by 17 points. The sentiment has infused most everything Cotton has done since.