Yesterday, a regular reader of this blog commented that Trump is “putting together a white supremacist hall of fame team.” It would seem he is right. The latest in the line-up is none other than Jeff Sessions, who I wrote about just a few days ago . Sessions has a long history of racism and bigotry, and in 1986, it kept him from being appointed to a federal judgeship. But will it keep him from being confirmed by the Senate next January when Trump nominates him for Attorney General of the United States?
An article in Slate says it best …
“If Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III is confirmed as U.S. attorney general, he will achieve the highest ranking legal job in the Trump Administration, despite the fact that in 1986, the Senate would not confirm him to be a district court judge. Sessions’ racist language, deemed disqualifying for high office 30 years ago, is not only acceptable in 2016, but also, presumably, a plus for the most senior positions in the Donald J. Trump administration.
Here are the things that took Jeff Sessions out of the running for a federal judgeship in 1986: There was the testimony that while he was a U.S. attorney, Sessions had called a black lawyer “boy” and warned him to “be careful how you talk to white folks.” There was also the testimony that Sessions had described the NAACP as “un-American” and joked about his support for the KKK, their pot-smoking aside. Sessions himself admitted to calling the Voting Rights Act a “piece of intrusive legislation,” and called white civil-rights lawyer Jim Blacksher “a disgrace to his race.
But we are told today that Sessions’ words—again, many of which he admitted to speaking aloud—do not in fact make him a racist. We should judge Sessions by his actions, we are told, as language tells us nothing about someone’s true character. But even the most cursory look at his actions suggest that his language of 1986 is perfectly aligned with his legal activities over the past decades.”
Some have argued that Sessions has changed during the past 30 years, but we need only look back as far as 2009 to see that Sessions is still as much a bigot as ever. In 2009, President Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor, a highly qualified candidate, for the position of Supreme Court Justice to replace retiring Justice David Souter. Sitting on the Judiciary Committee, Sessions mercilessly questioned Sotomayor, claiming he had concerns that she might be biased against whites and favour minorities. His ‘concerns’ were allegedly based on two things:
- A speech Sotomayor gave at the University of California-Berkeley School of Law, where she said she hoped “a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male.”
- A case in which, as a judge on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, she sided with the city of New Haven, Connecticut, which had thrown out a promotion test for firefighters because few minorities did well on it. Sotomayor was in the majority on this case and sided with the lower-court ruling, but the Supreme Court overturned both courts’ rulings shortly before Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings.
Sessions had 30 minutes to question Sotomayor directly as the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, and he dedicated almost the entire time to the “wise Latina” comment and similar remarks. Obviously, Justice Sotomayor was confirmed by the Judiciary Committee and a majority of the Senate, but even then, Sessions complained that Hispanics comprised 5% of the federal district and circuit court judges, while only 3.5% of lawyers were Hispanic. Source: Mother Jones, 28 November 2016
Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of civil rights group Color of Change, issued the following statement:
“There’s no other way to say it: Jeff Sessions is a racist. Our question for members of the United States Senate is simple: do they support racism, or do they not? In 1986, the Republican-controlled Judiciary Committee refused to confirm Sessions to the federal bench. In 2017, the Senate should be just as unequivocal: “no” to racism means “no” to Jeff Sessions.”
Other notables wrote similar sentiments:
- “We are deeply disturbed, but not at all surprised, by Donald Trump’s choice of Senator Jeff Sessions, a racist, misogynistic and bigoted man to serve as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer,” wrote Nita Chaudhary, co-founder of UltraViolet Action.
- “If you have nostalgia for the days when Blacks kept quiet, gays were in the closet, immigrants were invisible and women stayed in the kitchen, Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is your man. No senator has fought harder against the hopes and aspirations of Latinos, immigrants, and people of color than Sen. Sessions,” wrote Representative Louis Gutierrez of Illinois.
- Ari Berman wrote in The Nation magazine that, “Donald Trump chose a White nationalist as chief strategist and a White nationalist sympathizer as Attorney General.”
- “We face an alarming choice in the selection of Senator Jeff Sessions to serve as the chief law enforcer for the United States of America. Senator Sessions’ civil rights record is appalling and should disqualify him from Senate confirmation…the Congressional Black Caucus stands ready to oppose Senator Sessions’ confirmation as we adamantly believe his appointment will set us back in the advancement of civil rights and race relations across the country.” – Congressional Black Caucus Chairman G. K. Butterfield
The position of Attorney General is a cabinet position, and an extremely important, influential one. Back in the 1960s, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy played a significant role in seeing civil rights legislation passed. Will we allow Jeff Sessions to reverse 50 years of progress? The attorney general is the head of the U.S. Department of Justice—one of the most powerful law factories in the history of the world. This is not simply a law-enforcement job; it entails responsibility for every aspect of the U.S. government’s legal affairs. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has more than 110,000 employees and a budget of $27 billion. The attorney general sets legal policy in the areas of environmental enforcement, anti-trust enforcement, and civil rights. He or she advises the president about whom to nominate to federal judgeships and the Supreme Court.
When Presidents ask whether they can invade foreign countries without congressional approval, or torture terrorism suspects, or hold American citizens incommunicado without counsel, or use drones to assassinate them abroad, the answer will flow across the attorney general’s desk. In law enforcement alone, the attorney general is the head of three separate agencies, each of them with sweeping powers—the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Enforcement.
As you can see, there is far too much at stake here to allow a proven racist to occupy the position of Attorney General. There are a couple of online petitions circulating The petition site and Credo action to tell Senators not to confirm Sessions, and while I have signed both, I have very little confidence in them, as online petitions typically are not closely monitored for integrity. I think the better option is to write to senators individually and let them know how we feel. This is my goal for today, to draft a letter and send it first to the senators in my state, then to the other senators. How much good will it do? I have no idea, but I know I cannot sit here and do nothing while Trump loads his cabinet with the most inappropriate people for the jobs. According to Politico, three moderate senators, Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), and Republican Susan Collins of Maine have all said they will support the nomination. Why? I have no idea … I think it is called ‘boot-licking’. First Bannon, the uber-racist alt-right founder, then Ebell the climate change denier to head the EPA, then DeVos, who does not support public schools to be Secretary of Education, and now a confirmed racist to be Attorney General. It is too much!
It appears that Trump no longer even pretends to care about the nation or its citizens. He is out of control and choosing the worst possible people for every single position he has to fill. It is time to speak loudly, as many of us are doing. It is time to write letters and make our voices heard. I hope, though I have serious doubts, that the senators will work together in a bipartisan effort to block the nonsensical nominations Trump is planning in January. If they do not, then I, usually an optimist, see nothing but devastation for our environment, our educational system, our military, our budget, and our society. Several months ago, Donald Trump said he was ‘taking the gloves off’. Well, Trumpie, I have news for you … Filosofa is just now donning the gloves … the boxing gloves!