Ben Sasse replies to Hannity: Sorry for still believing in the First Amendment, buddy

I mean, he should be sorry. As a libertarian-leaning conservative, he’s grossly out of sync with the nationalist party he purports to represent.

How enthusiastically is Sasse going to be primaried by Trumpists next time on a scale from one to Jeff Flake? Before you say “FLAKE SQUARED,” remember that Sasse has the good fortune to be up for reelection in 2020, a presidential election year. Trump will be busy with his own campaign and won’t want any damaging intraparty squabbles that might suppress his own turnout. The share of the GOP that prefers Sasse to Trump is small but every vote counts for POTUS. Knock Sasse off in the Nebraska Senate primary and maybe the right’s rump conservatarians stay home in November.

Or maybe Sasse will moot the question by primarying Trump. He’s responding here to the shot Hannity took at him last night:

Ah, there’s the slippery slope argument, just like the one Rush made yesterday in criticizing Trump for wading into the NFL protest clusterfark. Bigwig Republicans still haven’t grasped, I guess, that the age of Trump is a post-slippery-slope age. The populist answer to Sasse’s question is that President Warren will certainly try to censor Fox News no matter what Trump does to CNN (whether that’s actually true is immaterial), therefore Trump and the GOP would be chumps not to try to get the jump on them now. The whole driving ethos underlying righty populism is that the left is capable of any evil you can dream up and thus you should be capable of it too. You don’t bring a knife to a gunfight. Nationalize CNN while you have the chance!

There’s something missing here in Sasse’s reaction to Trump, though. It’s ominous for any president to threaten a broadcaster’s license for “unfair” coverage but the hard fact is that most people simply don’t take POTUS’s Twitter farts seriously anymore. Journalists will hyperventilate and content-hungry hacks like me will churn out posts but we’ve already reached the “pay him no mind” point of his presidency. His authoritarian tendencies seemed frightening during the campaign at times because you never knew how much he’d indulge them if he became president. Now that we’ve had nine months to watch him, the answer is: Not much. He’s a caudillo on Twitter, when he’s watching “Fox & Friends,” but no one believes he’s going to make a move on NBC — although if he did, sure, plenty of righties would cheer him on. Jack Shafer:

With few exceptions, though, I treat his incendiary tweets the way I do my morning alarm: I open one eye, glance at the thing and go back to sleep. His tweets aren’t just paper tigers; they’re virtual kittens…

Obviously, some Trump tweets require our immediate and rapt attention. For instance, the warmongering tweets he’s launched against North Korea could instigate World War III, and who besides the survivalist crowd wants that? Obviously, his tweets, if backed up with action, have the potential to cause people trouble. If for example, he wanted to make life miserable for NBC’s parent company, Comcast, he could. But he’s too cheap to spend that sort of political capital for short-term gain, and he’s too lazy to be the autocrat that his tweets make him out to be. The average Trump Twitter provocation exists, as during the campaign, to reset the news agenda somewhere near a place of his liking.

Or, to put it another way:

Pretty much. Jake Tapper said today on CNN that if Obama had threatened to revoke Fox News’s “license” over a damaging story, there would have been people with torches in the street. Right — and Obama did, of course, have his moments of greater and lesser thuggery towards Fox. But one reason why that comparison doesn’t quite work is that, if Obama had threatened Fox on Twitter or elsewhere, people would have believed him. Trump is a blowhard so no one cares. It was said during the campaign that the media takes him literally but not seriously while his fans take him seriously but not literally. At this point much of the country takes him neither seriously nor literally.