Next week, Senate Republicans will begin their process to fast-track nominees for various positions in Donald Trump’s cabinet. One of the most controversial figures in this process that begins on January 10 will be Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, III of Alabama, and nominee for Attorney General of the United States. This nomination is extremely disturbing and distressing. In essence, it represents a throwback to the bygone days of the old South.
In an unprecedented move, The Senate Judiciary Committee is allowing the hearings, now limited to two days, to bypass their usual vetting process. It is unquestionable that Senator Sessions’ record must be carefully scrutinized, given his checkered and extremist views that continue to be expressed even today.
It is inconceivable that a man who was denied a lifetime tenured Federal Judgeship in 1986, a seat on the U. S. Court for the Southern District of Alabama, by his own republican colleagues on the Judiciary Committee, would now be considered and allowed to proceed through the process with minimal to no vetting. Most of us are aware of Senator Sessions’ history of racial insensitivity during his tenure as a U. S. Attorney. As the U. S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama, Sessions went out of his way to prosecute civil rights workers in the Alabama “Black Belt” for voter fraud in Black communities, while overlooking the same perceived violations in white communities. One of the workers was an aide to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The focus of these workers was on voter registration and it took a jury only 4 hours to render an acquittal. This is the same Jeff Sessions who labeled the NAACP, the National Council of Churches, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the American Civil Liberties Union as “un-American” and “communist inspired”. As if those denunciations were not enough, Sessions casted a white civil rights lawyer as a “disgrace to his race” for litigating civil rights cases.
Fast-tracking of Sessions’ nomination lay at the feet of his republican colleagues in the Senate, the integrity of his nomination lies in his hands. To date, Sessions continues to withhold from the Judiciary Committee, information surrounding decades of his career. As with any other such nomination, the committee requires complete documentation of employment history, published writings, interviews and speeches. The questionnaire that Sessions has submitted to the committee omits major details from his years as U. S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama from 1981 to 1993, his tenure as Attorney General of Alabama from 1995 to 1997, and his first term as a U. S. Senator from 1997 to 2002.
More recently, there have been several interviews during which he has once again made controversial statements. He is on record giving Donald Trump a pass for making sexist comments stating “everybody knows Trump likes women and uses this kind of talk”. In another interview he stated “the predictions aren’t coming true” about the deleterious effects of climate change. None of these interviews were identified in his questionnaire that he submitted to the Judiciary Committee. Sessions maintains an extreme bias against immigrants, a bias so right wing that it has even alienated many of his republican colleagues.
The irony is that as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sessions chided Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor for what he perceived as incomplete answers in her judiciary committee questionnaire. He went even further during the hearings for Goodwin Liu, nominee for the U. S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, warning that Liu “might be breaking the law” by leaving information out of his questionnaire, punishable by two years in jail. It seems hypocritical that Sessions feels so high minded to slam past nominees for incomplete documents, only to blatantly do even worse himself today.
Cowardice is the greatest vice. A man’s vanity tells him what is honor; his conscience tells him what justice is. The truth is tough and Sessions must face up to this fact. In his attempt to mislead and erase his hateful and willful past and present misdeeds, Sessions continues to thumb his nose at the American people, placing himself above the law.
The U. S. Attorney General is supposed to be the lawyer for the people. He should be above the fray. The U. S. Justice Department has a duty and a responsibility to uphold the laws of the country, protecting all Americans, no matter race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. These responsibilities must apply equally to all, in an even-handed manner. This office has jurisdiction over such vital areas as enforcing civil rights, voting rights protections, prosecution of hate crimes, protecting women’s health clinics and upholding the constitutional right to marry. The Attorney General’s personal views must be set aside.
For republicans to shorten this confirmation process in a burst of self-will may get Sessions through the committee, but this tactic only sends a reverberating message that the cause of equal justice is not on their radar screen. It means that the fortunate and especially the unfortunate, in the end will suffer. The position of U. S. Attorney General is much too important to be rubber-stamped. As noted by Martin Luther King, Jr., “When civil men would seek to perpetuate an unjust status quo, good men must seek to bring into being a real order of justice”. The nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions, extreme and unrepentant, is surely not a good sign for the future of justice and equality in America.
The 30 year record of racial insensitivity, bias against immigrants, disregard for the rule of law and hostility to the protection of civil rights make Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, III totally unfit to be granted the privilege of serving as the Attorney General of The United States of America.