Shane Osborn is the only Senate candidate who can make a campaign pitch like this.
“If I can stand up to interrogations by the Chinese — the communist Chinese for twelve days — I can certainly handle Harry Reid in Washington, D.C.,” Osborn said in a recent interview with The Daily Caller.
Osborn, the former Republican State Treasurer in Nebraska, was the Navy pilot held captive for nearly two weeks by the Chinese after the Hainan Island incident in 2001.
The Navy plane piloted by Osborn collided in midair with a Chinese fighter jet in international airspace, sending his plane into an inverted dive.
“It cut the Chinese jet in two and flipped us inverted, tore the nose off,” Osborn told TheDC.
While the Chinese pilot died in the collision, Osborn safely landed the plane in China carrying a 23-member crew. That gave newly-sworn in President George W. Bush his first international crisis to deal with.
Osborn and his crew were interrogated by the Chinese before being released.
“You’re 26 years old, you’re scared out of your mind,” Osborn recalled. “Those twelve days they held us prisoner were very intense. They used sleep deprivation. They interrogated me six to eight hours at a time. They didn’t let me sleep for days on end.”
Osborn said he is often asked about his experience in China while on the campaign trail.
“I say this on the stump, ‘Listen, I understand you’re probably thinking in your mind what’s being a good Navy pilot have to do with being a good U.S. senator. And my answer is not much. But leadership matters. And, I learned how to lead in the Navy,’” Osborn said.
The Nebraska Senate primary
Osborn is running in a competitive GOP primary to replace Republican Sen. Mike Johanns this year. His competition includes Republican Ben Sasse, the president of Midland University.
Asked to differentiate himself from his opponents, Osborn noted his military experience. “There are only two combat veterans in the United States Senate,” he said.
“I’ve collected intelligence off of every single country we’re having problems with today,” Osborn said. “I won’t just make my decisions based on academic theory. I make them on real-world experience. Personal experience.”
Obsorn also emphasizes his business experience. “I’m the only entrepreneur in this race,” he said. “I’m the only one who knows what it’s like to risk all and leave a cushy job and go out there and create a business from scratch.”
He also boasts of cutting spending as state treasurer. “I’m the only one in this race or probably in any race running right now that can say they’ve actually shrunk government,” he said.
Continuing, he said: “Over a four year period, I cut the budget nearly 12 percent. I reduced the staff 28 percent. … I actually know how to shrink government and make it more efficient.”
As state treasurer, Osborn said he launched NebraskaSpending.gov, which shows every aspect of state spending. He said the federal government should do something similar.
“Pie graphs, bar graphs, historical data going back ten years and it shows people where they’re money’s being sent,” he said. “Who’s the vendor, who are the vendors doing business with the state? That’s something we absolutely need in Washington, D.C.”
As for other issues he’s talking about on the trail, Osborn said: “Obamacare is obviously a big topic on everybody’s mind. I am the only candidate in this race that back in 2009, I spoke at rallies all across the state hammering on Obamacare, saying this is bad policy.”
“Obviously Obamacare is failing miserably, but it was designed to fail. It’s just failing quicker than they thought. And we know the end game here. For the Democrats and Obama it’s to have single payer health care,” he said.