BY RICHARD L. FRICKER
There those who are truly mad, and those who are barking mad, and then there is Congressman Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas.
On May 22, the anniversary of winning his party’s nomination for Congress two years ago, as the rest of the country watched reports of tornado devastation in Moore, OK, Congressman Cotton was trying to con the House Foreign Affairs Committee into accepting an amendment to the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act of 2013 that would gut the basic tenants of our Constitution and system of jurisprudence.
Cotton failed. The fact such an amendment would have been offered by a member of the Congress is at the very least instructive as to what the Tea Party and fellow travelers have in mind for the republic. The only things this amendment lacked was funding for boxcars and barbed wire.
The Nuclear Iran Prevention Act is designed to impose stiff penalties on persons who violate human rights, censorship, or other abuses related to the Iranian government. The bill was in the “markup” when Cotton offered his amendment.
Cotton sought to punish “any family member” of a person found in violation of the Act. Cotton told the committee “family” included “a spouse and any relative to the third degree, …. parents, children, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, grandparents, great grandparents, grandkids, great grandkids.”
The Arkansas congressman didn’t stop there: “There would be no investigation … If the prime malefactor of the family is identified as on the list for sanctions, then everyone within their family would automatically come within the sanctions regime as well. It’d be very hard to demonstrate and investigate to conclusive proof.
“Iranian citizens do not have constitutional rights under the United States Constitution. I sympathize with their plight if they are harmless, innocent civilians in Iran. I doubt that that is often the case.” Cotton said.
The penalty for such violations would be 20 years. This begs the questions as to how many gulags the congressman has in mind.
There are, of course, problems with Cotton’s amendment, and Cotton for that matter. First, the constitution’s Fifth Amendment guarantees, among other things, no one charged with a crime will be deprived of freedom or property without due process. The Supreme Court made that very clear in its 1896 Wong Wing v. United States decision.
It might also be noted that Cotton removed the presumption of innocence. The only “proof” needed is a blood relationship to the person on the violation list, regardless of whether you had ever met or spoken to them.
This amendment could be excused if introduced by someone from the backwoods with a GED. Such is not the case with Congressman Cotton.
The 36-year-old Arkansas native has a law degree from Harvard as well as a magna cum laude A.B. in government. He also served as a Fifth Circuit Appellate Law Clerk for Judge Jerry Edwin Smith.
Cotton’s Wikipedia biography notes he also worked for Washington, DC powerhouse law firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher. It further noted he concentrated in, among other areas, constitutional law; it just fails to note which country’s constitution.
This is not the first time Cotton has called for mass incarcerations. In 2006, as an Army lieutenant serving in Iraq, Cotton called for the prosecution and imprisonment of New York Times reporters Eric Lichtblau and James Risen for reporting on the Bush Administration’s tracking of terrorist financing.
The young lieutenant hosted his credentials, saying, “having graduated from Harvard Law and practiced with a federal appellate judge and two Washington law firms before becoming an infantry officer, I am well-versed in the espionage laws relevant to this story and others – laws you have plainly violated.”
The lieutenant didn’t mention, and perhaps didn’t know, several other papers had published similar stories on the same day. He concluded, “By the time we return home, maybe you will be in your rightful place: not at the Pulitzer announcements, but behind bars.”
Apparently Cotton’s understanding of the U.S. Constitution does not extend to the First and Fifth Amendments. Perhaps, he wasn’t in class the day those amendments were discussed, or again perhaps Harvard Law, realizing greatness of his patriotism and depth of his legal perceptions did not feel the necessity to dwell on such legal trivia for such an enlightened young man.
Had Cotton attended class or Harvard attempted to educate the upstart congressman he may have encountered the Magna Carta [Great Charter] [1215 a.d.] and Article 39. As most remember, except the congressman, the Magna Carta was the English barons response to King John, the most failed and nasty King in that island’s history, so much so there has never been another King name John.
It is worthy of note that Cotton’s amendment would have thrust us four-square with King John who historian Matthew Paris [1200-1254], a Benedictine and English chronicler, said, “Foul as it is, Hell itself is defiled by the fouler presence of John.”
The article  Cotton sought to annul says, “No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.”
This due process dictum has been a part of English, United States and the entire western world system of juris prudence for 798 years. Too bad Cotton missed it.
But, good news for the congressman: he can see this document at the National Archives Building, just a short walk from his office. And being a member of Congress he might get his own personal guide. Once having viewed the document the congressman will at last know what everyone else is talking about.
Unfortunately, Congressman Cotton is not alone. Across the state line are two fellow freshmen Teabag congressmen, Jim Bridenstine R-Tulsa, and Markwayne Mullin, R-Muskogee.
These three have voted lockstep against Speaker John Boehner, repeal of the Defense of Marriage, gun control, women’s rights, funding for education and, of course, health care not to mention any number of social improvement measures. This is the Teabag agenda.
It would be reasonable, under the Cotton theory, that his fellows also favor abolishment of due process, in certain cases, and return to the days of King John. Just how far would they be willing to extend such action?
Would, if Cotton had prevailed, the next amendment have extended to any Muslim family, to the families of some suspected of drug dealing, abortions, civil disobedience? Just how many gulags would they willing to build in their America?
To the credit of the committee Cotton was driven back under his rock. But, that is not to say similar amendments aren’t waiting in the wings. Is this the Teabag agenda – discard or ignore those amendments that are troublesome while extending the Second Amendment to the point that the purchase of each round of ammunition is tantamount to indulgences in heaven?
Cotton’s effort was certainly instructive. Now, will enough people figure out where the Cottons, Bridenstines and Mullins of Congress want to take the republic?
As once said, “The answer my friends is blowing in the wind.” Or, “the bird of time has but a little way to fly, and lo the bird is on the wing.”
– Richard L. Fricker lives in Tulsa, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer. His latest book, The Last Day of the War, is available at https://www.createspace.com/3804081 or at www.richardfricker.com.
If the GOP becomes any more stupid than it is, it will be livestock.
Who knew, in the 1950s, that the lunatic fringe would become the Republican mainstream a half-century later?
The GOP has become GOOP! What is Harvard teaching??? What training did he receive with his Washington experiences? How embarrassing that these are our “nation’s leadership”. His militant behavior is a disgrace to his military training. For Oklahoma’s own Jim Bridenstine (a former naval officer) to share the same opinion is very disconcerting.
Thank you for bringing these notable events to light. I appreciate your ongoing battle with complacency. If individuals do not wake up, our citizens could find any infraction of the “law” by a distant relative could result in their own internment (or worse).
Great points. I do believe that given just a bit longer in Congress, Little Jimmy Bridenstine will prove himself to be one of the all time insipid clowns of our day.