In early 2009, I drove to St. Pete to hear this guy, Marco Rubio, (about whom I knew next to nothing) speak. His supporters had taken over a sports bar for the afternoon, and the place was packed with hundreds of supporters, and an air of excitement.
Rubio gave a bravura performance. Standing in the middle of those in attendance, he spoke for about 30 minutes about what he believed, and why he was running for the Senate. He then spent almost two hours taking questions from the audience, fully answering all of them, not once ducking a topic, or replying in political doublespeak.
That day I wrote his campaign a check, signed up to volunteer, and spent the next several days telling and writing everyone that I had just shaken hands with a future president of the United States.
Rubio is everything that the GOP wants in a potential candidate. Young, bright, articulate, attractive on camera, a great personal story (and did I fail to mention that he's Latino?)..soon after his election he was already being hyped as a possible VP candidate for 2012.
And then came the immigration debate.
This diary is not going to rehash that debate here. That's not the purpose of this discussion. Indeed, the Senator has elegantly explained his position and views on several diaries here at Red State. But now, in all the early polling for the 2016 nomination, Rubio is somewhere between 5th place and nowhere. He might not even be able to get elected as dog-catcher in Florida, as some in the Tea Party are already talking about opposing him in a primary.
Which brings us to Tom Cotton.
Cotton is a rock star. Period. A sterling resume, he's brilliant, articulate, good looking, and a war hero. Almost out of central casting for a remake of "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." Cotton has one thing that Rubio lacks..military service. Rubio possesses the one thing that Cotton doesn't as yet have: a gorgeous wife and kids. But happily, there are all these gorgeous and smart conservative women to choose from, and just imagine the idea of a president getting married in the White House.
Cotton has done a superb job of attacking and criticizing Obama on Benghazi, terrorism, Obamacare, and immigration reform, and has rapidly become an idol of conservatives. His future seems limitless. He recently announced that he is running for the Senate seat in Arkansas against Mark Pryor, and there is already chatter about the 2016 ticket.
Then, soon after Obama stated that he wanted to bomb Syria, Cotton penned an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal where he strongly endorsed Obama's decision. (It's surprising, nay bizarre that the WH has yet to pick up on this and run with it. They're embraced McCain and Graham to make the case; neither are Tea Party favorites. Cotton most definitely is.)
In backing Obama, Cotton is probably going counter to 80%+ of his fellow Republican congressmen, and 90% of his constituents.
Indeed, his opponent, Pryor, (whom many, after Cotton announced, had viewed as the "second leaving" of Blanche Lincoln) has already strongly indicated that he will vote against the resolution, and will make it a key issue in the campaign.
Is there any greater possible irony than this?
Among the GOP base/Tea party constituencies, opposition to any intervention in Syria is probably running stronger than to Obamacare and to the idea of immigration reform/amnesty.
So will we now see Cotton's stock drop dramatically? Will he now be vilified, excoriated? Will there be another entrant in the Arkansas GOP senate primary?
Eric Erickson writes here often, and poignantly, that only one perfect man has ever walked this earth. The Democrat party, liberalism, the left, the MSM..the whole gamut of the "opposition".... has been doing their collective best to "fundamentally transform" America into something that the Founders and Framers did NOT intend it to be.
I see two men whom I think can be great future leaders of this nation, to help restore its promise. We have already knocked one off the pedestal. Are we about to do the same for the second?
I don't know the answer, but it is time for my fellow conservatives to take stock of the bigger picture. There is no "perfect" candidate, but in our eternal quest to find that person, we may be condemning ourselves to failure, and leaving our children and grandchildren to an America that we would not recognize, nor want to live in ourselves.
I hold Ronald Reagan in the greatest esteem. In the words of Tom Clancy, in his dedication to Reagan in "Executive Orders", Reagan was "The Man Who Won The War."
Yet Reagan made mistakes.
*Reagan called signing the 1986 Immigration Reform bill "the greatest mistake of his presidency."
*The much-vaunted 1983 compromise with Tip O'Neill on Social Security didn't solve anything. It didn't reform the program. It kicked the can down the road, and the problem has grown exponentially.
*He ignored SecDef Weinberger's advice, along with that from many Marine generals, to NOT station Marines in Lebanon as a buffer, and we sadly know the results of that decision.
There are others. Yet Reagan is acclaimed by conservatives, and correctly so, as the greatest president since the end of WW II.
The point is, if back then we had the internet, Twitter, cable news stations, and a 24/7 news cycle, would the Gipper have faced a primary opponent in 1984?
It is good for the party, and ultimately for the nation, that we have this full throated debate, this impassioned discussion about the future of the country. But we, this party, can no longer afford to tear down the good people, to debase them, to "eat our own."
We have learned since the 2012 election that Romney lost because a lot of Republicans and conservatives stayed home, sat it out. That's the reason. Period. Romney wasn't the perfect candidate, far from it, but does anyone honestly think that we would not be far better off today, and far safer, if he were in the Oval Office.