U.S. Senator Tom Cotton says his party’s presidential nominee Donald Trump should apologize for disparaging exchanges with the family of a Muslim American killed in combat. The Republican senator, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, commented on his affinities and disagreements with Trump’s “underdog” campaign at Tuesday’s meeting of the Political Animals Club in Little Rock.
Prompted by a reporter, Cotton defended Gold Star families. He didn’t initially ask Trump to express remorse.
“No one deserves our respect and our honor more than they. No one deserves to be heard more than they,” said Cotton. “We should treat them with the utmost of respect. Donald Trump should get off the back and forth with the Khan family and get back to the issues that actually matter to the American people.”
When asked by KUAR if he thinks Trump should apologize, Cotton said yes.
“I think he should express his regret and apologize for what he said to the Khans and again to all Gold Star families,” Cotton continued, “I think the best course of action for him at this point is to express regret for what he said, to apologize, and to move forward to focus on the real issues."
At last week’s Democratic National Convention the parents of Army Captain Humayun Khan, who was killed in Iraq, criticized Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the country. Khizr, the father of the soldier, said Trump has “sacrificed nothing and no one.”
Trump responded by suggesting Khan’s mother, Ghazala, was barred from speaking because of her religion. She has said that wasn’t the case and that the event was too emotional for her to keep composed enough to speak. The GOP nominee has accused the Clinton campaign of writing the speech. Khizr Khan has said he rejected offers to help write and coach his remarks. Trump also contended he’d made comparably hard sacrifices. In an interview with ABC, Trump argued that being a successful businessman was also a sacrifice, akin to the Khan’s loss.
The first-term senator from Dardanelle said that while Trump has made a string of remarks he disagrees with, he finds Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to be more objectionable.
“It’s almost like the pattern of Hillary Clinton lying,” he said, referring to issues involving a private e-mail server she used while Secretary of State. “In the end though I am confident the American people will be safer and more prosperous with a Republican President and Republican Congress.”
For Cotton, it is Congress that will bring about praiseworthy conservative change if Trump is elected president. Throughout his remarks to club members and press, Cotton’s chief selling point for Trump was that he would sign into law a wish list of Republican bills that President Obama has opposed. Cotton mentioned repealing Obamacare, increasing defense spending, and appointing conservative Supreme Court justices.
Cotton also identified restricting immigration as a point of unity with Trump.
“There's no issue in America today in which elites in both parties are more disconnected from the people than immigration itself," said Cotton.
But even on this issue, Cotton couldn’t give full throated support of Trump’s rhetoric to build a wall. Cotton prefers a fence.
“I’m for a fence, probably a double sided fence with different kinds of technology augmenting it,” he said. “We have to have a fence on our Southern border if we want to make sure our border is secure.”
When asked directly by KUAR why he didn’t say ‘wall,’ Cotton stuck with the fence descriptor.
“A fence has proven more effective on our southern border, on Israel’s southern border, and European nations that have used fences. The point is there has to be a physical barrier,” Cotton said. “There needs to be a physical barrier that is the outward expression of our inward determination to control our borders and enforce our immigration laws.”
But Cotton said it’s an uphill race for Trump – and for any nationwide Republican campaign.
“You don’t get to order off the menu,” he told a club member expressing dismay over the GOP ticket, “Donald Trump is an underdog. Any Republican would be an underdog if you look at the Electoral College.”
“We are not a majority party. We may be a majority party in Arkansas but in this country Republicans and conservatives are not a majority. There was a lot of talk about party unity in Cleveland, that’s not good enough. We can’t just have party unity we have to have party growth. We have to reach new voters, voters who are independents, or moderates or centrists or maybe disaffected Democrats,” he said.
Cotton still expressed belief that Trump will prevail. When asked if he will run for president in four years, Cotton replied, “We’re going to be re-electing a president in four years.”
The senator spent the bulk of his speech to the Political Animals Club, hosted by the Pleasant Valley Country Club, walking attendees through the process of consuming national intelligence briefings. Cotton sits on the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee. He praised the nation’s intelligence gathering services as an effective, professional, and non-political force in government.