I’m not enough of an elitist to believe that only Senators with legal training should serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee. However, the ability to engage competently in legal reasoning ought to be a prerequisite.
In his work on the Judiciary Committee, Al Franken has failed to display this ability. Indeed, he shows a lack of competence in basic logic that, in a better world, would disqualify him from the Senate.
In this post, I discussed Franken’s laughable attempt, when questioning Jeff Sessions, to show that the then-Senator misrepresented his involvement in prosecuting several civil rights cases while he served as a U.S. Attorney. In this post, I discussed Franken’s rambling, intellectually dishonest diatribe against Sessions on the same subject during a Judiciary Committee hearing.
In both instances, Franken’s main claim was that Sessions had no real role in several voting rights case brought by the U.S. government while he was a U.S. Attorney. Franken claimed that Sessions just signed the pleadings and therefore misrepresented his role when he said he personally handled the matters.
In his effort to make this showing, Franken relied heavily on a Washington Post op-ed in which Gerry Hebert, lead counsel in some of these cases, claimed that Sessions basically had no role. But there were two problems with relying on Hebert.
First, he has a history of dishonesty. Second, Hebert testified back in 1986 that Sessions was actively involved in helping him (see below).
Nonetheless, Franken tripled down on this line of attack in a speech on the Senate floor during the debate on Sessions’ confirmation. In the process, Franken served up this affront to logic:
[During my questioning of Sen. Sessions] I. . .moved on to question him about four cases that he had listed on his committee questionnaire, which asked him the — quote — ten most significant litigated matters he personally handled, personally handled. Among those ten cases were voting rights cases and a desegregation case.
Now, I know Senator Sessions and I know his record on voting rights. He is no champion of voting rights.
He has called the Voting Rights Act intrusive and complained about states with a history of discrimination being subject to preclearance. But here his questionnaire seemed to tout his involvement in three voting rights cases and one desegregation case.
It seemed to me that given his previous experience before this committee and given the concern the civil rights community had expressed about his nomination, that it had been the transition team or others managing Senator Sessions’ nomination had attempted to revise some of his history and recast him as a civil rights champion.
So Franken was arguing: (1) Jeff Sessions thinks the Voting Rights Act is too intrusive and he objects to its preclearance requirements (because they are based on assumptions about how certain states behave that were made 50 years ago and are out-of-date); therefore (2) it’s highly unlikely that Sessions was involved to any real degree in cases where the Department of Justice sued under the Voting Rights Act.
This is a non sequitur. Sessions may not agree with some of the more extreme aspects of the Voting Rights Act. However, this doesn’t remotely suggest that he wouldn’t be significantly involved in any lawsuit under the Act (Indeed, it doesn’t even mean he wouldn’t be significantly involved in a lawsuit pushing a part of the Act he doesn’t like; lawyers sometimes take positions they don’t agree with.)
Consider, by analogy, the Civil Rights Act’s ban on employment discrimination. One could strongly disagree with that Act’s ban, via disparate impact theory, on “unintentional discrimination,” yet vigorously and enthusiastically pursue a solid case alleging intentional discrimination (i.e., disparate treatment).
Thus, Franken’s argument is stupid, and in a revealing way. He’s saying, in essence, that if you don’t agree with me on all positions that I think are encompassed by “civil rights,” then you’re probably not decent enough to have taken any worthwhile positions on civil rights.
That’s leftist thinking in a nutshell. It makes me believe that the Democrats actually might nominate this arrogant, dogmatic clown for president.
Let’s conclude by recalling what Hebert, Franken’s star witness, said in 1986 about Jeff Sessions’ involvement in civil rights cases he handled:
We have had difficulties with several U.S. Attorneys in cases we have wanted to bring. We have not experienced that difficulty in the cases I have handled with Mr. Sessions. In fact, quite the contrary. . . .
I have had occasion numerous times to ask for his assistance and guidance. I have been able to go to him and has had an open door policy, and I have taken advantage of that and found him to be cooperative. . . .
I needed Mr. Sessions’ help in those cases and he has provided that help every step of the way. In fact, I would say that my experience with Mr. Sessions has led me to believe that I have received more cooperation from him — more active involvement from him because I have called upon him.
I have worked side-by-side with him on some cases in the sense that I have had to go him for some advice.
Jeff Sessions read this testimony by Hebert to Franken during the Judiciary Committee hearing. Franken tried at one point to cut him off. Thereafter, he ignored it, ultimately opting to triple down on stupid.