Capitol View: Tom Cotton
>> from the victory studios in do you want little rock, this is capitol view with your host drew petrimoulx.
>> good sunday morning.
And welcome to capitol view.
I'm drew petrimoulx.
Thanks for being with us on this easter sunday.
Barring a last minute legal ruling, executions are set to resume in arkansas tomorrow night.
I'll talk to the lieutenant governor, tim griffin b that and more.
But we begin with a tense woke for the trump administration as they weigh what to do next in syria while closely monitoring the aggressive north korean regime.
Here to discuss those situations, u.s. senator tom cotton.
Thanks for being here.
>> great to be on with you.
>> we're going to start talking about syria.
You praised the trump administration's decision to attack a syrian air base.
I wonder what you see as the threshold for future attacks?
Is it just if assad decides to use chemical weapons again?
Because there's been talk of responding to even barely bomb attacks in the future zoom in well, as secretary of defense jim mattis said, those attacks with chemical weapons were ill advised and i suspect about syria's al assad regrets it.
He knows and the word knows president trump doesn't share president obama's reluctance to use force.
I see the attacks as a targeted retaliatory trying to the use of a chemical weapon that's banned under the chemical weapons convention to which syria signed on to in 2013.
So it's ad much about the use of weapons of mass destruction, especially in a battlefield where we have hundreds of americans present as anything about broader syria policy.
So i think president trump went a long way to restoring our credibility, again, not just in syria, but with friends and foes alike around the world.
>> your party has talked about providing more weapons to syria and opposition groups imposing a no-fly zone, conducting further airstrikes to pressure russia and assad in the civil war.
Are you in favor of any of those options?
>> syria is a very thorny problem now.
It would have been much better had president obama acted six years ago to get ahead of events rather than let events stay in the saddle.
But as secretary of state rex tillerson has said, the rule of the assad family is coming to an end one way or another in the long run.
That did you want mean we ever to sit passively by.
Nor does it mean we have to have a ground invasion and occupation of the kind we've seen in iraq and afghanistan.
But it does mean that when our allies are involved in syria, when our interests are at stake there as we see pressure from migrant flows and we see the threat of the islamic state, we need to take the lead of a broad worldwide coalition in the fight against the islamic state to protect our interests in syria, and we can do more and we are doing more already.
>> what about on the idea of a no fly zone?
Because i think that would be kind of a pretty big decision and escalation?
>> that's much harder to accomplish now than it would have been four or six years ago with the the presence ever russian aircraft and russian air defense systems. i know the president and his national security team is working through a careful, deliberate process to determine a broader syria policy.
I'll waited until they reach the concludes of that policy, but i think that the goals of the policy are pretty clear.
We have to defeat the islamic state.
We have to reach some kind of political stable outcome in syria.
And we have to stand by our allies throughout the broader middle east.
>> how concerned with you with the accidental confrontation russia that could spiral out of control?
>> well, maybe from their standpoint, they should bolster their military presence in syria since they were powerless to stop the united states last weekend the de-confliction who had line we discussed is one way object two militaries can coordinate what's happening in syria.
We don't want to have any kind of inadvertent conflict between russian forces or american forces.
Both countries have troops on the ground in syria right now, but much of what russia has done since those attacks has been pr stunts to try to save face for the fact that they were powerless to protect their own client.
>> you don't seem very concerned that that's a likely or -- >> it's always a concern whenever russia and the united states are present in the same area of operations.
It's a concern around the world because of russia's aggressive techniques of flying their aircraft close to our ships and our planes, whether it's in europe or whether it's in east asa or the middle east.
I suspect, though, that after last week, russia, like most of our foes around the world, will be a little more hesitant to challenge the news that way.
>> you talked about coming to some kind of solution.
Because russia is so invested that country now with the air base and the naval base, what possible compromise solution that would appease the russians to a certain extent and end the civil war?
I mean, it seems like a quagmire.
>> well, as secretary of state tillerson said when he was in moscow this past week, vladimir putin needs to ask himself who's going to continue to support the al assad regime or whether it's going to come to the table with the other countries with large stakes in the outcome in syria.
The united states, turkey, the arab countries, and so forth, and make some kind of reasonable accommodation to everyone's interest.
Only he can bring pressure to bear on the assad family in a way that's necessary to reach that conclusion, but it's necessary for the united states to be a part of those deliberations and for too long we haven't been, because we simply haven't been invested in that outcome through the credit threat of force and the use of force, if necessary.
>> let's talk about north korea.
It strikes me that we have somewhat of a similar circumstance here with china in this case propping up outlaw regime.
What's the solution there where you can appease the chinese in some way, allow them to maintain what they see as a buffer against south koreans, but also, you know, maybe toning down the rhetoric there and the possibility for some kind of a deadly confrontation?
>> well northbound korea may be an even more threatening situation to the united states, because they have nuclear weapons and they have improving ballistic missiles.
They marry those two together and they're able to put a workable nuclear war head on the missile, they can threats he know not only our troops and citizens that we have living in places like korea and japan and guam and the pacific ocean, but the continental united states.
Before that happens the united states is going to have to act.
Donald trump has made it perfectly clear that after 25 years of failure on our north korea policy, there's no more road to kick the can down.
And i know that's made that clear to the chinese president xi jinping as well.
I thought it was very telling that these strikes in syria occurred literally in the middle of the dinner between president trump and president xi china is the one country to bring the most pressure to bare on north korea a 90% of north korean activity is oriented toward china.
So i think it's an important message that the president sent to china last week and that he continues to stand in conversation just this past week as well, which is that china is going to have to help the united states solve the problem of north korea.
>> you have another town hall planned for monday here in little rock.
There's been some criticism that it's at 1:30 in the afternoon.
Why not have it later in the day when working people could attend?
>> french hill and i decided we wanted to do a town hall together.
I did one with rick crawford in hebrew springs a couple weeks ago and we complimented each a the view from the house and senate, the view from different committees and expertises.
Just a the matter of coordinating the time french and i can both be in little rock.
He'll anybody little rock again a couple days after.
I'll be speaking with skip rutherford at the clinton school, looking at the first 100 days of the trump administration.
Multiple opportunities to see me in central arkansas during this easter holiday weekends?
>> do you enjoy that kind of atmosphere?
The rock also people shout and go yelling.
>> we have a lot of different ways we reach arkansans, whether at a big town hall or a roundtable with mayors or tours of manufacturing facilities or academic centers.
Private one-on-one meetings.
All of which i've didn't just in the past weekend so we try to have multiple opportunities for arkansans to meet me in any different form.
We try do things like telephone town hall so folks who can't get out of the house, either because maybe they're he would early and shut in or because they're parents with young children can have a chance to hear from me as well.so in every way possible, y to reach out to arkansans so we can hear this them and they can hear from me.
>> we have to leave it at that.
U.s. senator tom cotton, thanks for coming on the show.
>> and congratulations to you for the big move for washington.
We'll miss you in arkansas.
They are an getting the worst end.
Stick by moving to washington full time.
We appreciate all the time you've spent here.
>> he'll be seeing and you i appreciate your words.
>> thanks, drew.
>> coming up after a quick break, we'll break down the state's unprecedented stretch of capital punishment and more with lieutenant governor tim griffin.
You're watching capitol view on sunday morning.
>> you're watching capitol view, sunday morning talk focused on the political scene in arkansas.
>> welcome back to capitol view.
After a 12 year pause, capital punishment set to resume in arkansas tomorrow night.
Joining me to discuss that and some highlights from the legislative session, lieutenant governor tim griffin.
Welcome to the show.
>> thank you.
Thanks for having me.
Into are you concerned at all with the execution process?
There's been some testimony in the court that the sedative that the state plans to use may not be strong enough to keep inmates unconscious.
Let me say this.
And this is something that the governor, it's the governor's responsibility and it is the most serious responsibility that a governor has, and this governor, governor hutchinson, has shown the utmost seriousness in dealing with it.
I have been following it and i have the utmost confidence that he is, he has been, and he is and will continue to follow the law, and he is respecting the process.
>> does it make you feel uncomfortable at all to say we have to do seven executions in eleven days because our drug is going to expire?
>> well, that's not what the governor has stated.
I saw him say point blank that it is not because drugs are expiring.
And i take him at his word.
We are elected separately.
We work together on a lot of issues.
We disagree on issues.
So when i disagree with him, i have no problem saying it.
I will tell you, on this issue, i think he has shown the utmost seriousness and concern and he is-- and i trust him.
>> let's talk medical marijuana.
The medical marijuana commission recently finalized its rules governing dispensary and his cultivators, applications starts coming in may1st.
Are you confident that this program is going to run smoothly in the state?
I opposes this ballot initiative and i still think it is very bad for the state.
And i don't know many people in the state who have looked at this closely who believe that this is going to be about medical marijuana.
I think that this is an opportunity for a lot of people who don't necessarily need the medical component to have the marijuana.
Why do i say that?
In fact, i had some conversations with prosecutors and legislators.
I believe that the loophole to be able to, if you want to call it that, the ability to convince authorities that you have pain, it's a subjective determination.
I can tell you i have pain.
It doesn't require a prescription, but some kind of indication that i have pain or whatever.
I think that this will increase recreational use and, you know -- >> considering those worries, could the legislative and governor done more during the session to tightened?
>> well, there were a lot of attempts -- >> because there was push back against that.
>> there were a lot of attempts to tighten.
I don't think it's helpful to go back, but i will tell you that when we are trying to recruit, if marijuana use increases, which i think by any measure it's going to, if we're trying to recruit highly skilled, high paying jobs, companies to come to the state, and they say, well, you know, everybody that works at our company because of our equipment, because of the sophistication of what we do, because of safety, we test everybody for drugs.
Can you provide enough drug-free workers?
That's a challenge, because that was a challenge before this ever passed, and so i have great concerns.
>> coming out of session, there's going to be another taskforce about tax reform.
What would you like to see come from that?
>> well, there is no one in the state that i know of who has spoken more about the need to trash, completely trash our tax code and start over.
Part of tax reform should result, should be reducing the amount of taxes, reducing revenue, which means it's going reduce it is revenue in the state government.
Well, right now we have a situation where revenue and spending are very, very close.
If there's not surplus revenue where the money coming in far exceeds the spending, whether it be by growth, whether it be by reducing spending, through innovation, cutting, whatever, if you don't have that gap of extra money into the government, then when you start to tackle tax reform, you've got to come up with the same amount of revenue, that you can change where the kind of taxes, you can rearrange deck chairs on a titanic type thing where you say, well, we've got to have the same amount of money, but we'll just get it the from different taxes.
You can do that, and there may be an advantage in some cases, but if we really want bold comprehensive reform, we've got to lower the tax burden to be more competitive.
The only way we can lower the tax burden, we've got to reduce spending in state government through innovation and comprehensive reform.
>> that's the tough part.
>> that's the tough part.
I'm ready to do it.
>> all right.
Lieutenant governor tim griffin, thank you so much for coming on the show.
>> we're going to miss you.
Thanks for all you've done here.
>> when we come back, we'll talk arkansas support for the death penalty and their own lawmakers.
You're watching capitol view on sunday morning.
You're watching capitol view, focused on political talk.
>> welcome back.
Joining me to discuss some of the big issues of the week, two capitol view favorites, skip rutherford, dean of the clinton school of public service, and republican strategist big victory.
Gentlemen, welcome to you both.
Let's talk about the death penalty.
Also been something that's sucked up a lot of the air in the room over it is last week.
There was a talk business and politics hendricks college poll that said 2-1 support in arkansas for the death penalty versus life without parole.
Bill, what are the politic at play here?because obviously, tha sensitive issue, but one that the people wants carried out.
>> i think what you see, that's indicative of a public that likes to see justice carried out.
I mean, i think that's inherent in the american way of life is that you play by the rules and justice is meted out to those who don't player by the rules.
So that's not surprising.
I think it falls, then o elected officials to be judicious as to how they respond.
I have been very pleased with the leadership in arkansas, both legislative and from the executive branch, and you have a job to do.
There are victims that deserve justice and society deserves justice, but no one is grand stranded this.
This hasn't been some kind of, you know, macabre sort of big speech i identify being effort from a politician.
So i think you take it seriously, as we have.
But at the end of the day.
This is the law of the land and you have to carry out justice.
>> this is something that goes back even before republicans took over.
Bill clinton famously came off the campaign trail for the execution in the state.
>> jim guy tuck her a triple execution.
Executions are bipartisan.
I don't think you can tie it to one party or the other.
I think the real issue is that, again, and i know it's a political issue, this is one everybody other that i really would hope would not be political.
This is really a judicial issue in terms of looking at the facts and the law.
I think the challenge you have with executions have been in the years past where a lot of people have been wrongly executed and i think the challenge is, which we're seeing play out today in arkansas this week, particularly on the drug usage and how that works, but i tend to agree with bill that the system works.
We have a system of laws.
It doesn't necessarily really matter whether i am for it or against it.
But the law, the constitution works.
I would say this, drew, that i really don't think whether it's asa hutchinson or bill clinton or hike huckabee or mike beebe or jim buy tucker, presiding over an execution or potential execution has got to be one of the worst nights of your life.
And regardless of how you feel and regardless of carrying out the thing, it's still a horrible, tough, dramatic assignment.
>> let's talk about tom cotton.
He has another town hall planned for this week.
He's going to be coming over to the the clinton school to be questioned by you.
These town halls can get raucous.
He seems to enjoy it.
Is he a glutton for punishment for.
>> i want to thank senator cotton for coming to the clinton school.
I visited with him.
I invited him to come talk about president trump's first 100 days.
It is not a town hall.
It's not a town healing.
It is an interview between senator cotton and me, just like we're having an interview today.
So i appreciate him coming, and i think his inside into president trump's first 100 days, it will be very important, very valuable, very unique.
So i'm looking forward to our discussion on wednesday and we've had a lot of different speakers at the clinton school from the far right to the far left and in the middle.
>> i was going to say, skip has done a tremendous job.
I'm not jug saying this because you're sitting here.
Else that okay.
>> but let me settlement you.
You can see any wide variety of speakers over the years at the clinton school.
You can go town for lunch, open to the public, and just walk in and sit down and hear some fairly controversial figures.
Hear figures on the far right and the far left.
So i think skip has done a tremendous job of that.
Point about tom cotton is this.
He means what he says and he says what he means.
So he'll show up anywhere to talk to you about issues.
I think he's unafraid to face the public to say, look, this is what i'm doing and this is why i'm doing it.
So when you have that kind of conviction as a politician, it's easy to go places and take on crowds.
>> bill, let me stick with you and ask you about also in that talk business poll, only 32% of respondents approved of the job that the state legislature did during the last session.
One of the big things, they gotta the lot of the headlines was the gun bills.
Do you think those low poll numbers are a reflection that have?
>> i think you see on the state level, to some degree, what you see playing out on the national level when you ask about congress.
People don't like the institution, but they like their representative or their congressman or their state senator, because they know them, they see them, and they interact with them and they see that kind of fundamental day-to-day grassroots engagement with their elected officials.
So when you're asking them to rate a body, then i think you tend to take on everything else.
When you ask them to rate their individual state representative or state senator, it becomes a much different argument.
>> i think people look at their legislature and their congressmen in a different way than they look at their president and their governor.
You look at asa hutchinson's numbers, they're very strong.
So actually, the state legislature is higher than congress.
>> low bar, though.
>> well, but again, yes, there was some controversial legislation out there.
Guns being one of them.
>> skip rutherford and bill vickery.
>> hey, -- >> no, no.
We know you're leaving capitol view and -- >> yeah.
This is a non-bipartisan commentary that you've done a great job, drew.
We look forward to watching your washington coverage.
>> we've enjoyed being on your show.
We're going to mission you.
You've been a real asset to arkansas politics.
>> and it's an hone to set on the same stage with you.
>> i agree.
>> i really appreciate that.
Thanks for being on the show.
We're back to wrap it up after this.
You are watching capitol view on sunday morning.
>> well, as everyone has been hinting, this is my last show as host of capitol view.
I'm moving to washington, d.c.
To continue my reporting from the nation's capitol.
Good news is they've promised to have me on as a guest from time to time.
And you'll be able to follow my reporting on your regular newscast.
Hosting this show has been it is best part of my workweek and i'll truly miss it.
I want to thank everyone who has tuned in every week to watch, and i hope you will continue to follow as jessi overton takes over.
She is a talented journalist and i'm confident capitol view will thrive with her as host.
That is it for today's show.
We are back with an all new capitol view next week.
Enjoy the rest of your weekends.