Last night, one week before the Iowa caucuses, Nebraska senator Ben Sasse took to Twitter to (cordially) ask Donald J. Trump, the current front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, a series of pointed questions:
Mr @realDonaldTrump: You’ve struck a chord w/American ppl. (My folks email me abt u weekly). I think because you’ve rightly diagnosed (cont)— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) January 25, 2016
.@realDonaldTrump …much of what’s wrong in DC. Youre very talented&on a huge roll. If I were betting–youre likely next POTUS. Congrats. But— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) January 25, 2016
.@realDonaldTrump In our house we’ve talkd abt your phenomenal campaign a lot. Good to see people talking directly abt DC’s big mess. But…— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) January 25, 2016
.@realDonaldTrump …At the same time, we have questions about how you would govern. Would like to ask you some questions, if you are willing?— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) January 25, 2016
Trump is famously active on Twitter, a social-media platform not often associated with erudite thought or sober-mindedness. But, in a way, it seemed appropriate for Sasse — one of the leaders of the new generation of reform-minded conservative Republican senators and easily the Senate’s best tweeter — to use the medium to press Trump for answers on health-care policy, gun control, taxes, and Trump’s self-proclaimed proclivity for female companionship:
.@realDonaldTrump Questn1. You said you want single-payor “govt pays4everyone” HCare. If that isnt your position now when did it change?Why?— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) January 25, 2016
.@realDonaldTrump Q2: You’ve said you “hate the concept of guns.” Why the change? When did it happen? What’s the 2nd Amendment mean to you?— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) January 25, 2016
.@realDonaldTrump Q3: A few yrs ago u proposed $6trillion tax hike. Still want to do that? Agree w/ Biden that higher taxes=more patriotism?— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) January 25, 2016
.@realDonaldTrump Q4: You brag abt many affairs w/ married women. Have you repented? To harmed children & spouses? Do you think it matters?— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) January 25, 2016
.@realDonaldTrump Q5: I believe 1 of the most damaging things POTUS Obama did is ignore Constitution, act on his own,& bypass Congress(cont)— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) January 25, 2016
.@realDonaldTrump Next GOP POTUS must roll this back & reaffirm a Constitutional system b4 we lose this special inheritance forever (cont)— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) January 25, 2016
.@realDonaldTrump Do you agree that exec unilateralism is very bad? Because you talk A LOT about “running the country” as though… (cont)— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) January 25, 2016
.@realDonaldTrump …as tho 1 man shld “run America.” Questn5: Will you commit to rolling back Exec power & undoing Obama unilateral habit?— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) January 25, 2016
This is not the first time Sasse has attempted to direct attention to the fraying of our constitutional norms. Last November, after waiting the (formerly traditional) full year after his election to the U.S. Senate before delivering a speech from the floor, Sasse addressed his colleagues in a thoughtful, eloquent speech arguing that the Senate must reassert its place within America’s governing framework.
“We need Democrats to speak up when a Democratic president exceeds his powers,” Sasse said. “And I promise you that I plan to speak up when the next president of my party exceeds his or her proper powers.”While Trump is not yet president — or even the Republican nominee — it is encouraging that a rising Republican star should see it as his duty to query a member of his own party on the fundamental issue of executive self-restraint.
“The American people should demand more of us as legislators, and they should demand more of the next president as a competent administrator of the laws that we pass,” Sasse told his fellow senators. “That is only possible if we again have some identity commitments that are about the Constitution’s Article I (the legislature) in tension with the duties of the Article II branch (the executive). Everything cannot be simply Republicans versus Democrats.”
Last night, Sasse — in his role as a citizen-legislator — made a down payment on his promise to hold a politician of his own party to account. Would a President Trump follow in the path of President Barack “I have a phone and a pen” Obama, abandoning the separation of powers to rule by fiat? Or would Trump govern under the restraints the Founders had envisioned for a republic of laws, not men?
.@realDonaldTrump America isn’t about our bureaucrats are. And isn’t who is in the Oval“running the country.” WE THE PEOPLE run this country— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) January 25, 2016
.@realDonaldTrump The whole point o America is that THE PEOPLE r bigger than the govt.It’s THE thing that makes us exceptional across histry— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) January 25, 2016
.@realDonaldTrump The President’s job is NOT 2″run Amerca.”This is precisely Obama’s error. The “presiding officer” of the Exec Branch(cont)— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) January 25, 2016
“presiding officer” has the job of defending Constitution&”faithfully executing” the specific laws of a LIMITED govt https://t.co/6d9L2Cn3I7— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) January 25, 2016
Ben Sasse had the courage to ask. Will Donald Trump have the courage to answer?
— Mark Antonio Wright is an assistant editor at National Review.