Confirmation That Being a Senator Trumps Being a Racist
Sessions’ nomination will be confirmation that being a Senator trumps being a racist. Despite his controversial racist past, Senator Jeff Sessions is probably a shoo-in for Senate confirmation as attorney general. There has been a public outcry, and a NAACP sit-in at his congressional office. Everything in the confirmation process, however, is stacked in his favor. In 1986 he was denied confirmation as a judge, but he wasn’t a Senator then. It is unlikely the Senate will reject one of their own. With the filibuster gone, Sessions just has to clear committee to become the nation’s top law enforcement official.
On the Senate Judiciary Committee Sessions now has all the support he needs, even from moderate Republicans and Democrats. Senators Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) have all said they will support his nomination.
Sessions, was a federal prosecutor in Alabama in 1986 when he became only the second nominee in 50 years to be denied confirmation as a federal judge. The Senate Judiciary Committee then was also republican-controlled. Asst. Attorney General, Thomas Figures, said Sessions referred to him as “boy,” and told him to be careful what he said to “white folks.” The most damning evidence against him was his behavior as a U.S. Attorney in Alabama. He prosecuted three black civil rights activists for voter fraud and lost. Sessions had no evidence, but brought the case anyway to intimidate minority voting rights advocates.
Jeff Sessions was also criticized during the hearing for a joke he made in front of an attorney with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Sessions said he thought the Ku Klux Klan was fine “until I found out they smoked pot.” Sessions made the joke while his office was investigating the 1981 murder of Michael Donald, a black man who was kidnapped, killed and then by two Klansmen who slit his throat and then hung from a tree in Mobile, AL.
Gerry Hebert, was another former Justice Department attorney who had worked with Sessions in the early 1980s. He told the Judiciary committee that Sessions called the NAACP and other civil rights groups “un-American” and “Communist-inspired,” that they wanted to “force civil rights down the throats of people,” and he called the Voting Rights Act “an intrusive piece of legislation.” He also was there when Sessions agreed with another person’s comment that a prominent white civil rights lawyer was a disgrace to his race for trying voting rights cases.
In rejecting Sessions’ nomination, Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts said Sessions was “a throwback to a shameful era which I know both black and white Americans thought was in our past.” Sen. Howard Metzenbaum of Ohio said, “How any black person would be able to feel they are going to have impartial justice from Mr. Sessions is beyond me.”
Sessions later withdrew from consideration, though he went on to become state attorney general and won election to the U.S. Senate in 1996. He is now in his fourth term in the Senate.
While Sessions was too racist to be confirmed in 1986 as a federal judge, he is racist enough for Trump to nominate him as Attorney General of the United States. Since he is now a member of the Senate club, and only needs a simple majority vote, he will likely be confirmed. If approved he would lead the Justice Department and the FBI. The excuses made will no doubt include the fact that the allegations leading to his 1986 failed nomination was a long time ago, and he is a changed man, so let’s take a look at his more recent history.
The “New” Jeff Sessions
Sessions has a record of controversial positions on race, immigration and criminal justice reform that Democrats can target. He has opposed lowering mandatory minimum sentences for low-level offenders; As a senator, Sessions opposed Obama’s nomination of Loretta Lynch as attorney general on the grounds that she supported Obama’s immigration policy shielding many undocumented immigrants from deportation; Sessions also has questioned the 14th Amendment, which guarantees citizenship to everyone born in the United States, and opposes plans to admit more immigrants from war-torn Middle Eastern countries; and has criticized U.S. companies bringing guest workers to the United States on temporary visas.
After the beating and rape of a Central Park jogger, Trump bought ads in New York newspapers, including the Daily News, demand the death penalty be brought back. The five teens later had their convictions vacated and the city settled a suit for their wrongful convictions, in 2014, for $41 million. But those facts didn’t stop Sessions from praising Trump’s actions at the time. Recently on the Matt & Aunie show on WAPI radio, in response to questioning about whether Trump was a conservative, Sessions said “but he bought an ad 20 years ago in the New York Times calling for the death penalty. How many people in New York, that liberal bastion, were willing to do something like that? So he believes in law and order and he has the strength and will to make this country safer.”
Sessions’ Critics and Supporters
Sessions’ nomination has been condemned by a host of civil rights groups, but white nationalists are ecstatic about it. Those white nationalists include David Duke, radio host James Edwards, writer Hunter Wallace, video blogger RamzPaul and Andrew Anglin, editor of the neo-Nazi site The Daily Stormer. Anglin wrote that the nomination of Sessions, Flynn and Bannon was “like Christmas” coming early, and “I think Trump is making a point by putting an aggressive anti-Black racist in as AG.”
The American Civil Liberties Union say his positions on gay rights, capital punishment, abortion rights and presidential authority in times of war should be examined.
Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, told Reuters: “Our nation deserves an attorney general who will be committed to enforcement of our nation’s civil rights laws and who will not turn the clock back on progress that has been made.”
Sen. Cory Booker, the only black Democrat currently serving in the Senate, issued a statement saying he is “concerned that [Sessions] possesses ideologies that are in conflict with basic tenets of the Justice Department’s missions.” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, in her own statement, said that if Trump did not reverse his decision, “then it will fall to the Senate to exercise moral leadership.”