Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, scourged President Trump on Wednesday in a telephone town hall with voters, accusing the president of botching the coronavirus pandemic response, snuggling up to dictators and white supremacists, and slamming voters insult that he could cause a “Republican carnage” in the Senate.
In a horrific nine-minute indictment of Trump’s foreign policy and what Mr. Sasse called his “flawed” values, the senator said the president abused women and estranged key allies around the world, was a lavish donor and ignored human rights and treated the pandemic like a “PR crisis”. He predicted that a loss of Mr. Trump on election day less than three weeks away was “likely” and said Republicans would have a strong impact if they had so resolutely supported him in four turbulent years.
“The debate won’t be, ‘Ben Sasse, why were you so mean to Donald Trump?'” Mr. Sasse said on audio received from the Washington Examiner and authenticated by the New York Times. “It’s going to be, ‘What the hell did any of us think it was a good idea to sell a television-obsessed, narcissistic person to the American people?'”
“We’re staring at the barrel of a blue tsunami,” he added.
Mr Sasse also hinted at more drastic consequences: a Venezuelan-style Supreme Court with dozens of judges appointed by rising Democrats; an empowered China ruling the Pacific because of Mr. Trump’s “weak” policies; and American allies doubt that they “can trust the strength and will of the US”.
Sasse, who stands for re-election on November 3, took public his concerns as Republicans became increasingly concerned that Mr. Trump would suffer a devastating loss in the November election that could also cost them the Senate. Giving control to Democrats who already hold the house. After years of tolerating the president’s Twitter bullying and disregarding party orthodoxy and basic American norms, her patience seems to be wearing off.
He spoke to voters on Wednesday around the same time the Judiciary Committee Senators completed their questioning of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, Mr. Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, on Capitol Hill. Mr. Sasse, a member of the panel, had given high praise to Judge Barrett, a Conservative darling who would turn the court decisively to the right.
Rarely has a split screen better summarized the compromises Republicans have accepted in Congress over four years of Mr Trump’s presidency than a Republican senator who in a moment cheers his Conservative Supreme Court candidate and laments his norm-shaking behavior – and the willingness of his party to tolerate it calmly – in the next.
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Mr Sasse did not exactly try to keep his criticism calm. James Wegmann, a spokesman who confirmed his comments, said 17,000 Nebraskans had been invited to take part in the appeal, although it appeared not to be open to the general public. Mr Sasse’s criticism came after someone on the call asked the Senator about his previous criticism of Mr Trump.
“Like many Nebraskans, I try to understand your relationship with the president,” the woman said. “Why do you have to criticize him so much?”
Mr. Sasse, a former university president with a PhD in American history from Yale who claims to be a principled conservative, has never kept his dislike of Mr. Trump a secret. During the 2016 campaign, he compared Mr. Trump to David Duke and refused to vote for him. In office he called Trump’s typical trade war with China “nuts”.
But he had toned down his criticism in recent years and received crucial endorsement from the president he had once devastated.
Wednesday’s remarks were far more damning than any other he has made recently, and especially noteworthy given the close influence Mr Trump had on the Republican Party during his four years as president.
Mr Sasse, 48, initially said he had worked hard to establish a “working relationship” with Mr Trump and even prayed for the president because he was one of our “leaders”. He said he was delighted when Mr Trump took traditionally conservative political positions and appointed conservative judges. And he added that he understands that some Nebraska voters are “frustrated” by his criticism of the president.
But the compliments stopped there.
“I do not apologize at all for fighting for my values against his in places where I think his are flawed not only for a Republican but also for an American,” said Sasse.
Oct. 15, 2020 at 11:44 am ET
He argued that Mr. Trump “walked from curb to curb” while trying to respond to a pandemic that killed more than 217,000 Americans that year.
“He refused to take it seriously,” said Mr Sasse. “For months he treated it like a news cycle to news cycle PR crisis.”
He added that he did not believe that Mr Trump’s leadership through the crisis was “reasonable or responsible or right”.
The “shortcomings” added up from there.
“The way he kisses dictators’ buttocks,” said Mr Sasse, listing his reservations about Mr Trump. “I mean how he ignores the fact that the Uyghurs are literally in concentration camps in Xinjiang right now. He didn’t lift a finger on behalf of the Hong Kong people. “
He continued, “The United States now regularly sells our allies under his leadership, the way he treats women, pretends to be a drunken sailor.”
Mr Trump “mocked evangelicals behind closed doors,” he added. “His family treated the presidency like a business opportunity. He’s flirted with white supremacists. “
Any of these things, Mr Sasse predicted, would have ramifications for Republicans and the nation. He was particularly concerned about the possible long-term damage that Mr. Trump, who supported the Democrats as a businessman for decades, could do to the Conservative cause by driving the country “leftward.”
Young people could “become permanent democrats because they have just been rejected by the obsession with our politics”. Women who have left the party in droves could decide “that they must turn away permanently from this party in the future”.
“I am now looking into the possibility of a Republican bloodbath in the Senate, so I’ve never been on the Trump train,” he said. “That’s why I didn’t agree to be on his re-election committee and that’s why I’m not campaigning for him.”
In a statement, Mr Wegmann did not comment on Mr Sasse’s remarks. He said the Senator would continue to focus on the Senate races.
“I don’t know how often we can shout that,” said Wegmann. “While the Beltway is purely race-owned, control of the Senate is ten times more important.”