“It Serves a Compelling Purpose to Note the Similarity Between the Ryder Cup and Battle”: The Best of Tom Cotton’s Harvard Crimson Columns

Arkansas Senate hopeful Tom Cotton once walked these hallowed grounds.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Laura Bassett has welcomed Rep. Tom Cotton to the Arkansas U.S. Senate race by spelunking into his old Harvard Crimson columns, written when he was a junior in the late 1990s. Democrats insist that Cotton is basically “anti-woman,” and the young Cotton was certainly anti-feminist. “Feminists say no fault divorce was a large hurdle on the path to female liberation,” he wrote in a piece defending covenant marriage. “They apparently don’t consult the deepest hopes or greatest fears of young women.”

Now, as a former collegiate conservative who even ran a conservative paper on campus, I don’t think Cotton’s corpus presents any problems for people who like him already. His beliefs haven’t really changed; he’s just a little less pompus now, as hopefully all people are when they get out of liberal arts school. “This is the reason I have written polemical philippics,” explained Cotton in his final regular column. “I have sought to counteract rampant prejudices. While I stand by my previous writings and their cogency, my first end was not to persuade but rather to offend your sensibilities.”

He succeeded! Here he is on the glories of the Ryder Cup, and of golf in general.

[I]t serves a compelling purpose to note the similarity between the Ryder Cup and battle. Americans once venerated their generals; today, we venerate our sports heroes. This development is both healthy and sad; healthy because it means we do not suffer the depredations of war, but sad because it deprives us of displays of great virtue. The example of a Grant or a Eisenhower awes us while also instructing us in courage, resilience, loyalty, and the other virtues necessary to compete and succeed.

Without great soldiers, we can receive such instruction, for instance, from Justin Leonard, whose sixty-foot putt on the seventeenth hole after two-and-a-half days of poor play sealed the American victory.

On the failings of libertarianism.

There are many reasons to be a libertarian. One is vanity. It is nice to think that you are responsible for all the good fortune and success you achieve. Another is naivete, for you are surely naive if you believe the immediately preceding proposition. Still another reason is selfishness: since you are fortunate and successful, you are likely to want to hoard that fortune and success. Each of these reason, and others, point to the central fact of libertarianism, which is that practically all of its adherents belong to a self-regarding and sanctimonious elite. Little surprise, then, that it is popular at Harvard.

On the meaning of polls that showed Bill Clinton’s approval rating enduring the Lewinsky scandal: 

It is as if a wife tolerated her womanizing and lying husband because he brought home a hefty paycheck and kept her safe… Clinton may lose his support, which means trouble for him. Or Clinton may retain his support, which means trouble for us. If we continue to ignore Clinton’s degeneracy, the real story then becomes our degeneracy.

On the shame of racial preferences:

Everyone should deny the value of the diversity spawned by affirmative action and trumpeted by intellectuals. It produces and artificial, superficial diversity. It demeans blacks and Hispanics by saying that the essence of their being is their skin color, that the diversity they bring is literally skin deep. It treats them as an undifferentiated and homogeneous mass, characterized by Orwellian groupthink of the sort that post-war intellectuals said would never exist and that present-day intellectuals seem all too eager to abet.

On why stupid liberals overrate the educational value of the Internet.

The Internet at best brings convenience to everyday life. It allows us to check the weather, the news, the stock market and so on very quickly. None of this information helps educate children. But the Internet does not just fail to educate children; it even obstructs their education. The information on it lacks veritable scholastic quality because it is not filtered through the ordinary editing and publishing process of books and magazines. Moreover, the Internet has too many temptations–ESPNet and Playboy come to mind–to distract students bored with their assignments and looking for some fun.

And on the laziness of Congress.

Congress all too often abdicates its duty, passing vexatious policy questions to the bureaucracy and the courts via vaguely worded statues. By doing so, legislators avoid taking stances on controversial issues, which is to say they protect their hides for the next election. The phenomenon is not isolated to sexual harassment: Congress has punted continually on racial preferences, environmental regulation, entitlement reform, etc., ad nauseam.

Such diffidence frustrates representative democracy by telling citizens their genuine opinions do not matter, which is just another way of saying they are incapable of self-government.

It would be gauche to point out that the Congress of which Cotton is finally a member hasn’t passed serious bills dealing with any of these issues.