We Need More People Like Ben Sasse In Politics

Ben Sasse was elected to his second term as a U.S. Senator from Nebraska in 2020.  He is a Republican, but has drawn the ire of his party in his home state because he voted to convict Donald Trump after his last impeachment.

In fact, the state’s GOP state central committee formally passed a resolution stating that Sasse “stands rebuked.”

Sasse’s response: “Most Nebraskans don’t think politics should be about the weird worship of one dude.”

Sasse is no dummy.  A Nebraska native, he was educated at Harvard and received a doctorate from Yale  He worked for several years in President George W. Bush’s administration before becoming president of Midland University in Fremont, NE.. He resigned that position to run for senate in 2014.

Unlike some of his colleagues, Sasse does not seek headlines  Instead, he believes he was elected to work on policy–not be a fixture on Fox News.  And he certainly has the courage of his convictions as evidenced by his vote to convict Trump.. If some senators want to be a robot in support of the former President and talk out of both sides of their mouth. then so be it.  Sasse will not be joining them.

As to being afraid of Trump’s threats to get even with those who did not support him in the last impeachment effort, Sasse seems to care less.  One reason is he has looked at a lot of numbers and simply does not see a good reason to be bullied by Trump.  Both times he has run for Senate, he greatly outperformed Trump in Nebraska..

Last November Sasse got 68 percent of the general election vote whereas Trump got 58 percent on the same ballot.  He sees that Trump has lost the popular votes in both his runs for president and has never cracked 50 percent.  The Republican defeat on Jan 5 in the two Georgia senate races was especially telling.  Trump got very involved in both.  And lost each

Even with his independent streak, Sasse is well-thought of by many of his Republican senate mates..

Ohio Senator Rob Portman, who is retiring in 2022, thinks Sasse would be a great candidate for President.

Sasse does not mince words about some of the work of the senate or some of those who serve in Washington.  He is very concerned about the Biden Covid relief bill, saying it is “disastrous” for education.  He says he would help Republicans take the Senate back but he is looking for “candidates that want to do something more than Marjorie Taylor Greene.

(Greene is the freshman congressman from north George who was stripped of her committee assignments for promoting conspiracy theories and false information.)

Matt Gatz is a Republican congressman from the Florida panhandle.  Sasse’s opinion of Gatz, “He is not an adult.‘”

(I could not agree more on this assessment.  He is as worthless as a wet newspaper.  And like Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham and Jim Jordan, he seems fixated on sound bites for TV.)

I like Ben Sasse,  I respect him for his willingness to stand for his principles.   A trait that is far too uncommon these days.



Super Bowl Ad

We make a big deal each year of ads played during the Super Bowl.  I watched the game and saw the ads.  To be honest, I had no clue what some of them were trying to tell me.

The one that seemed to get the most chatter was a two-minute ad by Jeep that featured singer Bruce Springsteen.  Rather than ballyhoo Jeep, it talked about this county and the need we have to seek common ground–instead of becoming more and more divided and listening to voices intended to turn us one against another.

It centered on tiny Lebanon, KS (population 218 in the last census).  Lebanon has long been considered to be in the exact middle of the 48 contiguous states.  There is a tiny chapel, open 24/7, where the center is.

Here is some of what Springsteen said:

All are more than welcome to come meet here in the middle.

It’s no secret the middle has been a hard place to get too lately, between red and blue, between servant and citizen, between our freedom and our fear..

Now fear has never been the best of who we are, and as for freedom, it’s not the property of just the fortunate few, it belongs to all us.
Whoever you are, wherever you’re from, it’s what connects us, and we need that connection.  We need the middle.

We just have to remember the very soil we stand on is common ground, so we can get there.  We can make it to the mountaintop through the desert, and we will cross this divide.  Our light has always found its way through the darkness.  And there’s hope on the road up ahead.

This is a strong, strong message.  Too bad we don’t have 435 congressmen and 100 senators in Washington who understand this.

You can see this ad here:


Violence Is Part Of Who We Are

Hundreds of vehicles past the spot every day.  Cars, pickup trucks, log trucks, 18 wheelers, fisherman going to Lake Eufaula.  I have passed it 100 times or more.

“The spot” is on U.S. Highway 82 in Barbour County.  Right where a county road turns north toward the old Comer school.  There is historical marker there, like countless ones that dot Alabama’s landscape.

This one tells the story of the election riot of 1874.  Freedman were the majority of county citizens during this reconstruction era.  They voted Republican.  Members of the Alabama chapter of the White League, a paramilitary group didn’t like what was happening and decided to take matters in their own hands.

So on November 3, election day, League members attacked the crowd gathered to vote.  They killed seven black voters and wounded 70.and drove away a crowd of about 1,000.  Over time, such actions dissuaded black voters and Democrats soon controlled local politics again.

This story seems pertinent in these times, especially in light of the riot at the national capitol on Jan. 6.  Can you imagine the furor if the election riot of 1874 took place today?

Our history is covered with blood.  Just read about the family feuds that sprang up all across Appalachia in the late 1800’s and early in the 1900s.  I deplore violence.  Haven’t shot a gun since I was a teenager shooting doves.

But I think it is important to keep our willingness to resort to guns to settle our disagreements in context.  We should contuse efforts to limit the guns in our midst.  However, given our DNA, it is not an easy task.

This Woman Is Scary

Marjorie Taylor Greene is a brand new congress person from Georgia’s 14th district.  This covers most of northwest Georgia.  It is a very strong Republican part of the state.  Donald Trump got 75 percent of the vote here in 2016.

To say she is nuts is an insult to any tree that produces nuts.

She filed articles of impeachment against President Biden on his first full day in office claiming abuse of power.  But even more troubling is her involvement with QAnon, the far-right group that spreads conspiracy theories far and wide   Best known is their claim that a cabal of Satan-worshipping cannibalistic pedophiles is running a global child sex-trafficking ring. .

A number of groups and publications have been going over Greene’s social media footprint with a fine-toothed comb.

Among things they have found:.

She posted a picture on Facebook last year showing her holding an AR-15 next to a collage of pictures of Democrats in Congress and the statement that it was time “for strong conservative Christians to go on the offensive against these socialists who want to rip our country apart.”

According to CNN, she has expressed support for hanging elected officials.

She opposes wearing face masks to slow the spread of Covid-19.  She is also opposed to compulsory vaccinations or lockdowns.

Her comments regarding Blacks, Muslims and Jews were denounced by Republican House leaders.

She does not believe an airplane hit the Pentagon on 9/11.

She thinks the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School and Stoneman Douglas High School were fake.

Now Congressman Kevin McCarthy, leader of the House Republicans, says he is aware of disturbing comments Greene has made and that he will have a conversation with her. I would like to be a fly on the wall when this happens.

Not only is Marjorie Taylor Greene scary, it is also scary that the good folks of Georgia’s 14 district elected her.

Inauguration Thoughts

We survived.  At long last, we endured the campaign of 2020, its millions and millions of dollars and endless charges and countercharges. At long last we endured the election of Nov. 3 and the aftermath of those who refused to accept its clear outcome. And at long last we endured the two months between election and inauguration when reckless voices became more and more reckless and some of our own citizens attacked our national capitol under the misguided notion that somehow they should be called patriots.

We now have a new president.  Joe Biden now occupies the Oval Office as our 46th president.

Like many I spent much of the day watching on TV as we transferred power under conditions that were anything but normal for this event due to the virus pandemic and the threat that some citizens think chaos is preferred to democracy.

I reread Donald Trump inauguration speech.  I listened to Joe Biden’s same address.  The differences were stark.  While Trump talked about “American carnage” and foreboding, Biden appealed to America’s better angels and repeatedly called for unity

Here are some of Biden’s comments:

Today, we celebrate the triumph, not of a candidate, but of a cause, the cause of democracy.

To overcome these challenges, to restore the soul and secure the future of America requires so much more than words.  It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy: unity, unity.

Through civil war, the Great Depression, world war, 9/11, through struggle, sacrifice and setbacks, our better angels have always prevailed.  In each of these moments, enough of us, enough of us have come together to carry all of us forward.  And we can do that now.  History, faith and reason show the way, the way of unity.  We can see each other not as adversaries, but as neighbors.  We can treat each other with dignity and respect.  We can join forces, stop the shouting and lower the temperature.  For without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury.  No progress, only exhausting outrage.  No nation, only a state of chaos.

Let’s begin to listen to one another again.  Hear one another, see one another, show respect to one another.  Politics doesn’t have to e a raging fire, destroying everything in its path.

Disagreement must not lead to disunion

We must end this uncivil war.

While I do not recall Donald Thump’s name ever being mentioned, his presence hung over the day.  Certainly many mentally compared his increasingly erratic behavior of the past two months to the normalcy unfolding before them.

To me his greatest transgression was the refusal to take part in the inauguration.  After all, former presidents Bill Clinton, George Bush and Barak Obama, two Democrats and one Republican, were all there.  But then they have class.  Trump does not.

His pettiness was especially noted when Biden, Clinton, Bush and Obama all took part in a celebration at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  This slight seared me.  As taps rang across the hillside, I thought of the cold February day in 2006 when I stood by daddy’s grave and listed to the same tune.  As I write this, I can glance over my right shoulder and see the flag that draped his coffin that day.

Trump’s failure to recognize tradition and the sacrifices made by daddy and the 400,000 buried at Arlington is now his legacy.


Game On

While we fuss and fume about so much of the foolishness we see coming from Washington, we should NEVER, NEVER, NEVER forget that at its core, politics is as much about gamesmanship as anything else.  Like a game of chess, it is about who can outmaneuver the guy on the other side of the issue.

Power drives it all.  Sure we hear all the rhetoric about how we need to take care of the mamas and the little chillun–but we want to make damn sure that my side is calling the shots on how this is done.

For proof, just look at how these final days of the Trump administration are unfolding.  It all begins with Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.  At the moment–and since 2015–he has been the most powerful person on Capitol Hill.  He has had absolute power.  And he liked it.

But that now ends with the new administration and the Democrats gaining control of the Senate.  So McConnell is in a position he’s long held, how do i wheel and deal and come out the best I can.

There are 100 U.S. Senators.  This may well be the most exclusive club in the land.  Everything is based on tradition and seniority.  They do not abide “shooting stars” well.  Those who reach the top do so by paying their dues.

McConnell was elected to the Senate in 1985.  He served in local office before that.  No one from Kentucky has ever risen to this height in the Senate.  Trump was an interloper.  He had not paid the price.  He did not understand or respect the institution.  He thought everyone was only there to do his bidding.

McConnell looked at him with contempt.  He did not respect him.  He toted Trump’s water as long as he could and kept his mouth shut.  He knew Trump was a conman.  And most importantly, he knew one day Trump would be gone and he would not.

McConnell is surrounded by people like him.  Long-serving, patient, obey the rules.  Alabama’s senior Senator is Richard Shelby.  He was elected to the Senate in 1986.  He served two terms in the state senate and two terms in Congress before that.  Democrat Tom Carper of Delaware was elected in 2001.  Prior to that he was in Congress and also governor.

Let’s not forget Joe Biden.  He served in the Senate from 1973 to 2009.  He and McConnell served for 24 years together.  They were molded by the same norms.

They were mentored and nourished and counseled by stalwarts like Howard Baker, Robert Byrd, Bob Doyle, Fritz Hollins, Dale Bumpers and John Glenn.  They were men of character and integrity.  They were trustworthy, they respected their peers, they understood bipartisanship.

John Glenn asked President Obama to speak at his funeral.  He didn’t even want Trump to attend the service.

McConnell and Trump come from two different worlds.  Their marriage has been estranged at best.  It is about to cease to exist.  The signals McConnell has been sending in the last week are not unexpected.