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Sen. Sherrod Brown publicly slams his GOP colleagues' private cowardice on The Late Show

Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Stephen Colbert
Screenshot: The Late Show

Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown—one of the few elected Democrats who has not run for president at this point in the 2020 election cycle—brought some gruff-voiced insight into the workings of the Senate on Monday’s Late Show. And he wasn’t kidding around when it came to answering Colbert’s curiosity about just what goes on in private when Brown talks to his Republican colleagues—some of whom Brown claimed to “like personally”—about Donald Trump and, well, almost everything he does.

“Yeah,” confided Brown with obvious disdain, “Most Republican Senators, when you talk to them individually, quietly, will acknowledge that Trump is a racist. They’ll acknowledge that Trump is a misogynist, they’ll acknowledge he has trouble telling the truth, they know he doesn’t do his homework, they wonder about his relationship with Putin.” As to why those public servants then continue to publicly support a racist, sexist, lying, lazy, treasonous head of state (their words), Brown was equally unsparing, telling Colbert that Trump’s tax cuts, attacks on environmental and labor regulations, nomination of young, right-wing judges to lifetime appointments, and their fear of their own voters’ backlash should they show the merest hint of backbone in not backing Trump keep them mum when it counts.

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Calling it the “biggest disappointment” in his long career in national politics (he first served in the U.S. House in 1998, the Senate in 2007), Brown explained that “watching them embolden this president, cover up for this president, flee when a journalist comes by to ask them questions about it—they will not look good in history.” Dropping the “not going to go down as Profiles In Courage bomb, Brown noted that the upcoming trial in the Senate (since, as Colbert said, the House vote to impeach Donald Trump is essentially a done deal) is going to put those selfsame sweaty GOP senators in a position it won’t be quite so easy to squirm out of. Asked by Colbert about what his Republican peers are saying to excuse Trump’s infamous phone call (you know, the one where he verifiably tried to extort a foreign country to help him win re-election by withholding federally approved military aid), Brown explained that they’re invoking what—in deference to mob bosses everywhere—is a policy of omertá, since, as the notedly not-reticent Senator put it, “they know that one puts them in real trouble if they acknowledge that publicly.”

There to plug his new book Desk 88, about his time in the Senate and the other occupants of that seat who were, in fact, profiles in courage, Brown—after admitting that he, like all senators before him, deface public property by carving his name in his assigned desk drawer—said that the upcoming trial in the Senate requires him to keep an open mind. (He did agree with the fingers-crossed Colbert that he, too, is hoping Trump lawyer and babbling self-incrimination machine Rudy Giuliani will be pleading Trump’s case.) He noted that, like all jurors everywhere ideally should, he will ignore public sentiment (and whatever panicky nonsense Trump tweets out) and focus only on the facts presented. That said, it looks like Trump’s officially down 1-0 on any eventual vote to remove his ass from office, as Brown concluded, regarding the Ukraine call, “He’s doing things that even Richard Nixon didn’t do.”

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Dennis Perkins

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.