- The Washington Times - Monday, July 18, 2016

CLEVELAND — Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas said Monday that politicians need to stop “fanning the flames of racial division” and called for people to rally around the country’s police in the wake of the recent killings of officers in Louisiana and Texas.

Asked about racial tensions and the recent killings of officers, Mr. Cotton said it must be made clear that any attack on police is “abhorrent.”

“And it’s an attack on civil society and the rule of law itself,” he said.

“There are wives and children now in Baton Rouge and Dallas who are not going to have their husbands and their dads come home,” he said. “In some ways, it’s harder than what soldiers have to face.”

Mr. Cotton, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, was speaking at an event hosted by The Atlantic on the first day of the Republican National Convention.

Three officers were fatally shot and three others injured Sunday morning in Baton Rouge. That followed the recent sniper attack in Dallas, in which five officers were killed and more than half a dozen officers were injured at the conclusion of a Black Lives Matter protest.

“The first thing we have to do is make it clear that we support the police and we will give them the benefit of the doubt and we will stand with [them],” Mr. Cotton said.

“Frankly, I think a lot of political leaders need to stop fanning the flames of racial division,” he said. “Because there is a police shooting does not mean the police are racist or that police officer did anything wrong. You cannot know that until there is an investigation that takes place.

“And when people go on TV or they go in the streets and they call the police racists or they insinuate that the police are racist without a factual basis, only to have police officers exonerated months later … does nothing to promote racial harmony and unity in our country,” he said.

Mr. Cotton’s name had been mentioned as a possibility by some when Donald Trump was weighing his options for a vice presidential pick, and outside chatter of a possible presidential run for Mr. Cotton in the future has already begun.

He is scheduled to speak on the opening night of the Republican National Convention Monday, when the theme is “Make America Safe Again.”

Asked how 2020 and 2024 are looking, Mr. Cotton said: “A long way off.”

Mr. Cotton, who also serves as a vice chair of the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, said he feels good about where incumbent GOP senators and candidates are positioned.

“We’ve always known this would be a tough Republican cycle,” he said, pointing out that Republicans are defending twice as many seats as Democrats and many key races are in purple or blue states.

The GOP currently holds an effective 54-46 majority in the U.S. Senate.

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