Monday, August 10, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He tried to cast the Republicans who don't think he's all-powerful out of the Republican party.

Trump made a big show of signing documents this weekend that he called executive orders providing emergency relief for Americans hurt by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. In reality, most of them were simply toothless memos suggesting his own executive branch look into the possibility of doing something. Republicans and Democrats alike condemned Trump for trying to rule by fiat. 

Today, Trump singled out one of those Republicans, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), and called him a "Republican in name only." 

Sasse won his primary by 50 points, so it's safe to say he didn't need Trump's endorsement. In fact, it's the other way around. Nebraska is one of two states that allots its electoral votes by Congressional district, and Trump is very likely to lose one of them if he offends Omaha-area Republicans and independents.

As Sasse pointed out today, he did not seek Trump's endorsement, nor did he use it during the campaign. In an open letter to Trump, signed "Gym Rat"—a reference to another Trump insult—he wrote:

Mr. President,

I understand that you're mad. A few thoughts....

(1) As we've discussed before, I don't think Twitter is the best place to do this. But, since you moved our conversation from private to public, here we are...

(2) I understand you've been frustrated I didn't join your re-election committee & that I a ran a primary ad admitting to Nebraskans that we sometimes agree and sometimes disagree. You also know I never asked for your endorsement nor did I use it in the campaign.

(3) None of my disagreements are personal. (In fact, you know — from our many conversations, even in the last few weeks — that I care about you personally and have tried to help you repeatedly, even on those issues where our prudential judgements differ widely.)

(4) You also know that I've never asked you for anything personal. I have pleaded with you but for bigger things like better U.S. policy on the Chinese Communist Party — and on this, you've done a very good job.

(5) Now, on the topic that had you mad this weekend: No president — whether named Obama or Trump or Biden or AOC — has unilateral power to rewrite immigration law or to cut taxes or to raise taxes. This is because America doesn't have kings. Under our Constitution, we're supposed to have public servants — Article I folks who pass laws; an Article II "presiding officer" who executes those laws; and Article III judges who have to put on boring black robes to remind them that they are not activist players like the folks in Articles I or II.

Happy to move the conversation back to a private channel if you're interested.


Why does this matter?

  • When a president's own party is telling him that he's acting like a dictator, he should probably listen.
  • Conservative voters who believe in limited government might not like being told they're not really Republicans.
  • It's pretty embarrassing if a junior senator has to take this tone with a sitting president.
  • There were more important things for Trump to be worrying about this morning.