Ben Sasse, running for public office or running from public debate?

On November 4, 2014, we will choose the next U.S. Senator to represent us in Washington for the next six years.

I admire any candidate who throws their hat in the ring for such a high profile and important position. It takes courage, commitment and sacrifice. Candidates must undergo intense scrutiny, open themselves up for accolades and accusations, and be willing to successfully debate challengers to convince the electorate they deserve the honor to represent us.

This year we have four U.S. Senate candidates to choose from. In alphabetical order, David Domina, Jim Jenkins, Ben Sasse and Todd Watson. I won’t tell you what party they belong to, because it doesn’t matter to me! We should vote on the candidate’s character, integrity and ideas. It is what they say (and have said in the past) and what they do (and have done in the past) that should guide us as we enter the voting booth. It is how they conduct their campaign that reveals to us how they will govern if elected.

There are only 100 people in the country that have the privilege of being a U.S. Senator, two from each state. They will be part of what has been referred to as “the world’s greatest deliberative body” which prides itself on “unlimited debate.”

Three of our four candidates, Domina, Jenkins and Watson seem to be living up to the demanding expectations required to become a U.S. Senator because they are willing to openly debate anytime anywhere, a characteristic that should be a requisite to enter the U.S. Senate.

Ben Sasse, on the other hand has been noticeably absent at many of these forums, which immediately raises the question: “If you can’t successfully debate your challengers during the election, what makes us think you would be able to so if elected to “the world’s greatest deliberative body?”

According to the Domina campaign, Sasse was a no-show at a recent Hastings debate, declined to participate in a debate or forum sponsored by the Norfolk Daily News, the O’Neill Ranchers, the Millard West Students, the Rural Health Care Forum in Kearney, the South Sioux City Town Hall, the UNL Policy Forum, the Scottsbluff Chamber and has declined an invitation from the Nebraska Wind and Solar Conference.

Domina said, “He (Sasse) is obviously withdrawing from public view, he is withdrawing from public debate and to the extent that a candidacy is public service, he is withdrawing from public service.”

In September, KRVN radio quoted Jim Jenkins, “After calling for more debates just a few weeks ago, Sasse is now stonewalling groups across Nebraska and refusing to engage the issues.”

Folks, this is disconcerting. Is Sasse running for public office or running from public debate? It is glaringly obvious he is unwilling to engage the voters alongside his challengers at every opportunity. Without adequate explanations of why Sasse declines these opportunities, we are left with speculation as to the “why” he made these decisions.

So, I will speculate. If this is a political tactic because he thinks he is in the lead, that alone would tell us how he will govern. If he is unable to control his own campaign schedule to accommodate these invitations, that alone brings up the question of his management ability. If he is uncomfortable in a debate setting, that alone may suggest he is running for the wrong office.

In the highly politically charged atmosphere that has invaded Washington like a plague, it is clear to the American people that strict ideology and the unwillingness to compromise has brought the “people’s work” to a grinding halt. Failure to debate the issues in the U.S. Senate is something we need to end, not perpetuate. Sasse’s campaign style does little to show us he will be part of the solution and in fact, shows us he may add to the problem of gridlock.

So, why is Sasse avoiding these public discussions while his challengers welcome the opportunities? That is for you to decide, I can only speculate, as I just did.

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