WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse went on late night television this week to promote his new book, talk Big Ten football smack and discuss whether the Nebraska Capitol in Lincoln represents a phallic symbol.
The Nebraska Republican appeared as a guest on Tuesday’s “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.”
“My kids want to know who canceled,” Sasse quipped as he took the chair.
At one point, Colbert brought up the midterm election results and noted that Democrats have promised more oversight of the Trump administration now that they will control the House.
What’s most in need of more oversight, the comedian asked Sasse, whose reaction suggested the answer would take all night.
“Holy smokes,” Sasse said.
“It’s a family show, please,” Colbert quickly interjected. “I know you guys are potty-mouthed in Nebraska, but please.”
“You need to come visit,” Sasse said.
“I have visited Nebraska,” Colbert said. “I had a girlfriend from Nebraska.”
Colbert recounted driving to Lincoln at Thanksgiving.
“Which is a lonely drive,” Colbert said. “It’s flat, all the corn has been harvested.”
Colbert said he learned something during his trip to the Cornhusker State: that it’s the only one with a unicameral legislature.
He then suggested the capitol itself, as a looming tower visible from far away, has an off-color nickname.
“It’s called ‘The Penis of the Plains,’” Colbert said.
Sasse said locals call it no such thing, which prompted Colbert to ask just how they do refer to the capitol at home.
“That building next to the Nebraska football stadium,” Sasse responded.
That produced some back-and-forth about how Northwestern, Colbert’s alma mater, defeated the Huskers in overtime this season.
Colbert did bring up more serious matters during their chat, asking Sasse about revelations that Ivanka Trump used a personal email account for official business. He reminded Sasse of his criticisms of Hillary Clinton’s handling of her emails.
Sasse said Clinton had classified information on a private server.
“If Ivanka Trump has classified information on a private server, it’s a big deal,” Sasse said. “I don’t know any of the details.”
Sasse said it’s up to the branches of government to provide checks and balances on one another.
“How has that been going the last two years, the check-and-the-balance thing over there?” Colbert said. “Because it sounds like — a lot of check. I think we lost the balance somewhere along the line.”
“The Congress doesn’t work well,” Sasse said, suggesting Washington is now dominated by career politicians.
Colbert also asked about President Donald Trump naming Matthew Whitaker as the acting U.S. attorney general after the resignation — at Trump’s request — of Jeff Sessions.
Sasse, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Trump should have made a different choice but that there is some debate over the legality of the move.
He also said it would be best if presidents put only Senate-confirmed individuals into those kinds of offices.
“A lot of us have been leaning on the president to say ‘Nominate somebody quickly,’” Sasse said.
“Would you bring suit like the Democrats have?” Colbert asked.
“I don’t know that bringing the third branch into it is going to solve it as quickly as if the president would just nominate somebody for the job,” Sasse said.
“So you’re counting on the president to do the right thing?” Colbert said.
That line brought appreciative laughter from the audience.
“I get the joke,” Sasse said.
Here are two videos from his appearance: