Fresh­man sen­a­tor gives pep talk to va­pid cham­ber of fake de­bate

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - BY CHARLES HURT

When was the last time you heard a sit­ting politi­cian give a speech that made you stop and think? A speech where you ac­tu­ally learned some­thing?

When was the last time you heard a vi­cious ex­co­ri­a­tion of Wash­ing­ton and Congress and the whole fed­eral gov­ern­ment, yet saw the first glimmer of hope that per­haps all is not al­ready com­pletely lost?

Sen. Ben Sasse, Ne­braska Repub­li­can, de­liv­ered his first speech on the Sen­ate floor Tues­day af­ter­noon, one year to the day since be­ing elected in his first bid for pub­lic of­fice. All of his fel­low fresh­men have long since de­liv­ered their “maiden” speeches. But Ben Sasse waited. Not be­cause he wanted to re­ject the whole silly tra­di­tion that some stupid first speech by a newly minted Sen­ate blowhard is some­how so pre­cious it is to be called “maiden” and po­litely ap­plauded and toasted af­ter­ward for pos­ter­ity or some­thing. I am cer­tain that not a sin­gle one of the other “maiden” speeches — blech!!!! — de­liv­ered on the Sen­ate floor this year has been worth watch­ing, much less ap­plaud­ing or re­mem­ber­ing.

No, Mr. Sasse waited sim­ply be­cause he did not want to speak un­til he ac­tu­ally had some­thing worth say­ing. (I know what you’re think­ing. “And he’s a politi­cian? And he got elected to the United States Sen­ate? Some­thing is wrong here.”)

Not only did Mr. Sasse want to wait un­til he had some­thing worth say­ing, but he also had some­thing par­tic­u­lar he wanted to talk about. He wanted to talk about how en­tirely bro­ken the United States Sen­ate has be­come.

He wanted to talk about how dan­ger­ously out of whack the whole sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers has be­come, send­ing the bloated fed­eral gov­ern­ment on a glide­path to mon­strous and un­stop­pable debt and even­tual doom.

He wanted to talk about all the ways pres­i­dents from both par­ties and mem­bers of both cham­bers of Congress have in­ex­pli­ca­bly con­spired to cede greater and greater con­trol from the leg­isla­tive branch to the ex­ec­u­tive branch. To­day, we see, there is vir­tu­ally no check what­so­ever left on the ex­ec­u­tive branch.

And he wanted to talk about the in­sid­i­ously cor­ro­sive ef­fect that the in­creas­ingly un­govern­able “ad­min­is­tra­tive state” has on a free so­ci­ety.

Mr. Sasse wanted to sound the alarm on Amer­ica’s com­ing ruin.

The mes­sage he brings from home: “A pox on both par­ties and all your houses! We don’t be­lieve politi­cians are even try­ing to fix this mess.”

And a sidewinder for a cou­ple of fel­low Sen­ate Repub­li­cans run­ning for higher of­fice: “To the grand­standers who use this in­sti­tu­tion as a plat­form for out­side pur­suits: Few be­lieve the coun­try’s needs are as im­por­tant to you as your am­bi­tions.” Yowza! And to who­r­ish Sen­ate Democrats who would trade away their grand­mother if they could get a good deal on her: “Few be­lieve bare-knuck­led pol­i­tics are a sub­sti­tute for prin­ci­pled gov­ern­ing.”

The pri­mary rea­son for this cat­a­strophic leg­isla­tive de­cay, Mr. Sasse warned, is the death of de­bate in the United States Sen­ate, once en­vi­sioned as the “world’s great­est de­lib­er­a­tive body.”

Not the fake bark­ing back and forth and manufacturing of fake “facts” and statis­tics we al­ways see. But ac­tual de­bates where hon­est men and women ar­gue about real and se­ri­ous prob­lems.

“We in re­cent decades have al­lowed the short-ter­mism of sound-bite cul­ture to in­vade this cham­ber and rad­i­cally re­duce so many de­bates to fact-free zones.”

And — thank good­ness — Mr. Sasse moved quickly to squash the peren­nial ca­nard from the scream­ing wee­nies about the need for more “ci­vil­ity” on the Sen­ate floor.

No, he said. “This is not a call for less fight­ing, but for more mean­ing­ful fight­ing.”

Sure, the speech was sharp, con­cise and bru­tally hon­est. But the great­est thing about it was the sur­pris­ing sense of hope­ful­ness.

De­liv­ered with the sen­a­tor’s trade­mark goofy grin and gen­uine hu­mil­ity when speechi­fy­ing, it wasn’t an an­gry ha­rangue.

It was a call to arms, the read­ing of a se­ri­ous mis­sion.

De­liv­ered by a guy who looks like your av­er­age col­lege foot­ball coach, talk­ing to his los­ing team, in­spir­ing them to dig down, fo­cus and reach once again for great­ness.

Charles Hurt can be reached at and on Twit­ter via @charleshurt.

Sen. Ben Sasse

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