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The Hill / YouTube

An unshaven and slovenly-looking Ben Sasse (R-NE), his red tie dangling askew from an unbuttoned dress shirt, left his former high school’s graduating student body an indelible impression of what growing up Republican can lead to if they’re not careful.

From the Associated Press, via Yahoo News:

FREMONT, Neb. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse’s attempt at humor during a speech at a Nebraska high school’s online commencement — which included jokes about students’ fitness and psychologists and also blamed China for the coronavirus outbreak — drew strong criticism.

In a pre-recorded, eight-minute online commencement speech to Fremont High School, Sasse, who is facing re-election this fall against Omaha Democratic challenger, Chris Janicek, vividly displayed the time-tested principle that conservatives and humor don’t mix. Ever.

Sasse said during the speech “95% of all gainfully employed psychologists — and I’m serious there are dozens of them that are gainfully employed —- their job is really just to help people forget high school … If you’re headed to college, do not — do not — major in psychology. That part’s not a joke.”

Sasse, the only known person to date stupid enough to criticize the profession of psychology during a global public health crisis, looked and sounded suspiciously like a person who desperately needed one.

Sasse, who was unshaven and wore a loosened red tie and white dress shirt, also said that in life, the graduates would at times be asked to climb giant ropes. “If you don’t get that joke, talk to your mom and dad. Back in the day when we were a lot fitter than you people are, we used to have to climb ropes all the way up to the ceiling of the gym all the time.”

After being essentially characterized as lazy and out-of shape by Sasse, the students (who are all, for the most part, stuck at home and limited in their physical activities), were then subjected not once, but twice, to the GOP’s talking points placing blame for the pandemic on China.

Sasse suggested that the graduates would remember their senior years at their future reunions as “that time when China started a big global pandemic that created the worst public health crisis in over a century and brought the economy to its knees and we had to stay home and everybody was hoarding toilet paper.”


….We are going to beat the virus … We’re going to have to have a serious reckoning with the thugs in China who let this mess spiral out of control by lying about it.” he said.

Sasse thus completed his lesson on Republican behavior: insult people you feel may be more intelligent than yourself, mock the physical characteristics of others (while holding yourself out as superior), and blame someone else for problems you caused.

CNN has helpfully compiled a selection of the most notable of Sasse’s remarks. In addition to the ones detailed above, they include:

“If you’re a parent, you’re a teacher. Thanks a lot, China. We’re all teachers now.”

“Let’s be honest, at the start of this, most parents thought we would be visionary math teachers, changing the world. But after about two weeks, we all decided to just default into gym teachers. I’m kidding — my dad was a gym teacher. I’m serious.”

“Everybody named Jeremy is the worst.”

It’s not clear that the school appreciated Sasse’s lesson. One school board member posted an angry retort on his public Facebook page: “You deserved better than the graduation remarks from Senator Ben Sasse. The racism, implying that our graduates are fat and lazy, disparaging teachers, and attacking the mental health profession are despicable.”

Janicek, for his part, called Sasse’s speech “beyond reprehensible.”

And Twitter rendered its verdict early on.

One of the only silver linings of this COVID-19 pandemic is that it has provided Americans with an unparalleled window into the Republican personality. In fact, there will likely be enough research material for all those maligned psychologists to sift through for decades.

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  1. In May of ’17, Sen. Saase was on Jimmy Fallon. Folks were desperate to hear from anyone in public life, especially a Republican, who seemed sane. His slightly tempered, barely critical remark about Trump’s long term chances were like manna from heaven. He spoke of how all these electronic toys do not make us feel connected, saying hello to the neighbor we don’t know did. The audience was almost in tears clapping for someone who was not worshiping at the altar of Two Divided Americas. Hardly the stuff of the ages, but still. And yet during the applause, I remember him studying the audience with a look as if to say, ‘Huh, so this stuff really works!’ A moderate!? Well I’m not sure.. Seems mighty afraid to have so completely missed the mark with a young viewership…H.S. seniors. One joke, sure. Nothing but jokes…. Can you say ‘panic?’ With Republican Senators slipping by the week in the polls; what are we going to learn about this guy?

  2. Is it me or did Sasse’ (rhymes with Asse?), behavior strike a resonant chord with the recent Joker character in the movie of the same title? A would-be comedian, who’s telegraphing something darker, sinister, and more than a little psychologically broken about himself and the people with whom he affiliates.

    What at first glance comes off like humorous snark, leaves a nasty aftertaste that is far more reminiscent of disrespect and vague animosity. Tone-deaf, dumb, and blind. Ben wins the Bozo trifecta.


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