He’s the junior senator from Nebraska. He’s voted yes on every ObamaCare repeal effort to hit the floor since the caucus took up the subject this year, from the BCRA to partial repeal to “skinny repeal.” What more is he supposed to do? And what does the Senate GOP’s failure to repeal ObamaCare have to do with whether Trump should be threatening to revoke broadcast licenses, which was the original topic of this squabble?
I don’t know what Trumpers like Hannity want anymore. Three years ago, they said we needed to send principled young conservatives to Washington to drain the swamp. That’s Sasse, standing up to the president as he tries to intimidate media outlets. Now he’s getting killed for supposedly not pushing through Trump’s agenda. Except he votes for Trump’s agenda all the time, starting with health care. Offhand, in fact, I can’t recall a single case of Sasse casting a McCain-style vote to thwart a bill supported by the White House. That’s why the left disdains him — for all his criticism of Trump, he continues to be a reliable Republican vote. (And why shouldn’t he be? Is he supposed to vote like Bernie Sanders because he finds Trump civically and personally obnoxious?)
But that’s the point. Sasse criticizes Trump a lot, probably more than any Republican in Congress apart from Jeff Flake. He’s practically a one-man cognitive dissonance machine for the right, pointing out Trump missteps that would have given fans like Hannity an aneurysm if a Democratic president committed them. And so he must pay.
“The POTUS keeps his promises”? Not only is there no wall — ask Ann Coulter! — but he’s already looking to wriggle out of his promise to end DACA in case Chuck and Nancy drive a hard bargain on their DREAM deal. It’s true that Trump’s failure to keep his biggest promises, like repeal and replace, are more Congress’s fault than his. But who knows how that would have gone if he had pushed hard for a populist ObamaCare alternative that didn’t gut the Medicaid expansion rather than letting Ryan and McConnell write their own highly unpopular dogmatic conservative bills? There’s a reason the public blames the president when things don’t get done on his watch. Great leadership can move mountains.
I’m not even sure where Hannity ends up here, for or against Trump’s “revoke the licenses” threat. He’s right that, per New York Times v. Sullivan, the First Amendment isn’t absolute in protecting “fake news” provided that there’s actual malice. Which leaves us where? We *don’t* need to revoke the licenses because people harmed by bad coverage can already sue or we *do* need to revoke the licenses because actual malice is an unrealistically high a bar to recovery for public figures? (I think Hannity lands on the first position — “I say let them lie” — which ironically means he’s closer to Sasse’s position than Trump’s.) Or we should leave the licenses alone and instead work to loosen libel laws to make it harder for the media to criticize public figures? Trump himself has suggested that in the past.
Here’s Sasse a few months ago on CNN on free speech.