Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.). (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)
Opinion writer

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) has written some witty tweets and interesting Facebook posts critical of the Trump administration. However, he has voted consistently with the administration: yes on the tax bill, yes on Obamacare repeals, yes on every executive branch nomination save one, yes on federal judge nominations and no on legislation to protect special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

In his latest Facebook treatise, Sasse speaks out strongly against the administration’s child separation policy: “Family separation is wicked. It is harmful to kids and absolutely should NOT be the default U.S. policy. Americans are better than this.” He argues:

The administration’s decision to separate families is a new, discretionary choice. Anyone saying that their hands are tied or that the only conceivable way to fix the problem of catch-and-release is to rip families apart is flat wrong. There are other options available to them. The other options are all messy (given that some overly prescriptive judges have limited their administrative options), but there are ways to address this that are less bad than the policy of family separation they’ve chosen.

He hasn’t yet mentioned the president’s name nor Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. “There are many senior folks in the administration who hate this policy, and who want to do something better,” he assures us. Really, which ones? “Some in the administration have decided that this cruel policy increases their legislative leverage. This is wrong. Americans do not take children hostage, period.” Does he know who decided this?

He nevertheless continues in a forceful vein: “Neither the horrors of family separation nor the stupidity of catch-and-release should be about leverage for a broader debate. We should start by tackling the specific problem before us in the narrowest way possible. The President should immediately end this family separation policy.” In other words, Trump can end it but chooses not to. Sasse hints, “I am also working on a possible solution with James Lankford of Oklahoma, a man of integrity who has been pouring great energy into addressing this human tragedy at the border.”

That sounds swell, but Sasse needs to do more tham vaguely hint at a solution. I sent Sasse’s office a series of questions:

  • In his mind, who is responsible for the wicked policy?
  • Does he hold the president responsible?
  • How can he support a president or a party that holds kids hostage?
  • Will he vote against must-pass legislation to change this?
  • The DHS secretary says there is no such policy. Is she lying? Should she have to testify before Congress?

I have yet to receive responses to any of these, but I’ll be sure to update this post if I hear back.

The larger issue for Sasse and for other Republicans who have from time to time taken issue with the president is their abject refusal to translate rhetoric into action. In legislation, in oversight and in the confirmation process, they routinely shrink from confrontation with the White House or their own leadership. Republicans do, after all, have the majorities in both houses and long ago could have voted to end child separation. They could, at any time, cease confirming judges or even refuse to go forward on any business until the wicked policy is ended.

Sasse, a former university president who holds a PhD in history from Yale, surely is familiar with the admonition, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil  [or wicked, in his telling] is for good men to do nothing.” Speaking, posting and tweeting don’t count as “doing.” Unless Sasse starts doing, he is enabling.