May 9, 2016
"This story is about whether or not we take truth seriously – whether or not we care about the public trust."
Tonight, U.S. Senator Ben Sasse discussed the White House's manipulation of media and read sections of The New York Times Magazine's profile of President Obama's Deputy National Security Advisor on the Senate floor.
Excerpts of the Senator's comments, as prepared for delivery, are found below.
"I rise this evening to read into the record a portion of The New York Times Magazine’s profile piece yesterday on Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor to President Obama.
"But before reading the article, titled 'The Story-Teller and the President,' I want to explain very briefly why I believe this piece is so important.
"We live in a time of precipitous change – both in American government and in communications. We don’t admit it enough in this body, but the Congress in the last decade-plus is extraordinarily weak by historical standards. At the same time, media is rapidly fragmenting.
"Vacuums are being filled by the executive branch in ways that are badly damaging both the separation of powers, and the idea of a meaningfully engaged citizenry. There can be little doubt that our Founders would be troubled by what is occurring.
"Washington is the process of replacing 'self-evident truths' with self-serving spin. This is dangerous.
"For no one is entitled to his or her own facts – yet this story makes clear that the executive branch feels empowered to proclaim its own narratives.
"This is bigger than Republicans and Democrats. This is about the legislature’s check on the executive. To my Democratic colleagues who supported this deal, does it at all trouble you that the White House displayed this contempt for you? And for your voters, and for my voters? Will you stand for this kind of fundamentally dishonest spin from a future Republican administration? (Because I won’t – from any administration of either party.)
"Some will say this is just the story of one staffer who wanted to brag – who boasted about how the world could be his canvas. But we should be clear that it is elected officials that ultimately bear the responsibility for the ongoing evaporation of public trust in our time.
"I want to underscore: This isn’t about whether you share President Obama’s view that the Iranian nuclear deal was a prudent move, or my view that it is a disaster. Instead, this story is about whether or not we take truth seriously – whether or not we care about the public trust.
"There is a widespread view around here that our chief job is 'to pass legislation.' That is incorrect. Our main job – indeed the oath that we took – is to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution – which is about limited government and about the separation of powers. Our job is to ensure that the nation is well-governed, and that the public can have confidence that it is well-governed.
Congress's chief job is not to "pass legislation." It is to preserve, protect and defend the constitution. https://t.co/YqykHFydYz— Senator Ben Sasse (@SenSasse) May 10, 2016
"This necessarily means that oversight is at least as important as passing or repealing legislation.
"This horrific story should be a screaming siren to us.
"Newsrooms are still struggling with how to do independent and vigorous reporting in the digital age. But it will remain true that freedom – that ordered liberty – will remain dependent on an informed citizenry, and that requires a serious and free press. Good journalism, serious journalism – that takes actual facts seriously, and grapples with them honestly – is an important calling.
"I plan to read about one-fourth of this New York Times piece into the record, but please note that I will skip over many proper names for ease of audible understanding.
"Truth is bigger than talking points and self-government deserves more than spin.
"Does the President think there is such a thing as domestic propaganda? Does he think it is OK? Do we?"