The left is going to make attacking Jeff Sessions the cornerstone of its early resistance to Donald Trump. Elizabeth Warren, a possible presidential contender in 2020, sounded the call almost immediately, asserting a moral imperative to block Sessions’ confirmation.
The alleged moral imperative is based on stale and, in some cases, disputed claims of mildly racist comments that were alleged 30 years ago when Sessions was denied confirmation for a federal judgeship. Warren stated:
Thirty years ago, a different Republican Senate rejected Senator Sessions’ nomination to a federal judgeship. In doing so, that Senate affirmed that there can be no compromise with racism; no negotiation with hate. Today, a new Republican Senate must decide whether self-interest and political cowardice will prevent them from once again doing what is right.
But did the Senate get it right 30 years ago? Arlen Specter, who cast the deciding vote against Sessions, later concluded it did not. Specter, who was never big on confessing error, called his vote a “mistake” that “remains one of my biggest regrets.”
Specter was right. Let’s look beyond disputed allegations about stray remarks to Sessions’ record.
Mark Hemingway points out:
As a U.S. Attorney, [Sessions] filed several cases to desegregate schools in Alabama. And he also prosecuted the head of the state Klan, Henry Francis Hays, for abducting and killing Michael Donald, a black teenager selected at random. Sessions insisted on the death penalty for Hays.
When he was later elected the state Attorney General, Sessions followed through and made sure Hays was executed. The successful prosecution of Hays also led to a $7 million civil judgment against the Klan, effectively breaking the back of the KKK in Alabama.
In Warren’s terms, Sessions refused to compromise with racism and negotiate with hate.
Sessions also voted across party lines to confirm Eric Holder as the first African-American U.S. Attorney General. If he were a racist, it would have been easy for Sessions to join the 21 of his conservative Republican colleagues who voted “no” on Holder’s confirmation.
At the time Sessions said he was sure Holder would be “a responsible legal officer and not a politician.” Even the best Senators make mistakes.
Opposition to Jeff Sessions isn’t a protest against racism. Even Sen. Warren must know that Sessions isn’t a racist.
The attack on this good man is in part an attempt to lash out at Donald Trump and in part an effort to rile up African-American voters who, collectively, weren’t sufficiently riled to deliver the votes Hillary Clinton needed in cities like Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and Detroit.
In Warren’s case, this probably is also an attempt to boost her credentials with civil rights leaders in case she runs for president. (Ironically, Sessions and Warren have something in common; both were elected to the Senate after failing to be confirmed by that body.)
The Democrats don’t have the votes to block Sessions’ confirmation. Thanks to rules changes pushed through by Harry Reid, it no longer requires 60 votes to confirm presidential appointees.
The filibuster is dead when it comes to such confirmations. Posturing is alive and well.
UPDATE: Watch Tucker Carlson take on Roll Call’s Jonathan Allen on the issue of alleged racism by Sessions.