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Tilting at Windmills

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May 4, 2009

RANKING MEMBER SESSIONS.... When Sen. Arlen Specter left the Republican Party last week, he created an inconvenient vacancy for the GOP: the party needed a new ranking member for the Judiciary Committee. With more senior Republicans already committed to other committees, the job will apparently fall to Jeff Sessions.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) will take over the ranking member position on the Senate Judiciary Committee after striking a deal with his more senior colleagues over the weekend, sources confirm to The Hill. [...]

The seven Republicans who remain on the Judiciary Committee after Specter's departure will meet to vote on Sessions's ascension early this week. Once they do, the decision goes to the full Republican Conference, which usually ratifies decisions the committee makes. Sources could not recall a ranking member vote made by a committee that was not, in the end, ratified by the full conference.

Sessions is arguably the most right-wing member of the committee, so the move will no doubt please the Republican base. (Some conservative blogs began pushing for this last week.)

But this is also an opportunity of sorts for Democrats, who may want to use Sessions' promotion to reinforce the arguments about Republicans becoming far too extreme for the American mainstream.

In 2002, The New Republic ran a rather devastating piece about Sessions' background, most notably with regards to the Alabama Republican's background on race relations.

Sessions got his start in Alabama politics as a U.S. Attorney. His most notable effort was prosecuting three civil rights workers, including a former aide to Martin Luther King Jr., on trumped up charges of voter fraud.

Also during his illustrious career in Alabama, Sessions called the NAACP "un-American" because it, among other groups, "forced civil rights down the throats of people." A former career Justice Department official who worked with Sessions recalled an instance when he referred to a white attorney as a "disgrace to his race" for litigating voting rights cases on behalf of African Americans. Sessions later acknowledged having made many of the controversial remarks attributed to him, but claimed to have been joking. Yeah, "disgrace to his race" is hilarious.

That's not all. Thomas Figures, a former assistant U.S. Attorney in Alabama and an African American, later explained that during a 1981 murder investigation involving the Ku Klux Klan, Sessions was heard by several colleagues commenting that he "used to think they [the Klan] were OK" until he found out some of them were "pot smokers." Sessions once again acknowledged making the remark, but once again claimed to have been kidding. Figures also remembered having heard Sessions call him "boy," and once warn him to "be careful what you say to white folks."

All of this came to light when Reagan nominated Sessions to be a federal court judge. The Senate ultimately rejected the nomination, labeling Sessions an extremist. Regrettably, Alabama voters weren't troubled by his record in the slightest, and Sessions successfully ran for the Senate.

Now, he'll be the ranking member of the same Judiciary Committee that rejected him for being an apparent racist.

Digby added, "Making [Sessions] the ranking member today means the Republicans will put their ugliest face forward during judicial confirmation hearings. But hey, it's their long, ongoing funeral."

Steve Benen 12:30 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (29)

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luckily for the GOP, whites are the fastest growing demographic in the United States.

Posted by: eric on May 4, 2009 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

my bad. i was looking at the population data for 1809.

Posted by: eric on May 4, 2009 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

I wouldn't be sanguine about his appointment, thinking it means more trouble for Republicans. There is something about racism, xenophobia, homophobia and misogyny that seems to prevail generation after generation, despite the best efforts of the citizenry to discourage and outlaw them. Sessions has the miserable tide of human history on his side.

Posted by: steve duncan on May 4, 2009 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

And now I'm reminded of why the time that I had to spend in Alabama was some of the worst in my life.

Posted by: Michigoose on May 4, 2009 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

From what I've heard from him, Sessions also doesn't appear to be all that bright. The fight over Obama's Supreme Court picks should be interesting.

Posted by: Me on May 4, 2009 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

"Sessions has the miserable tide of human history on his side."

No he does not. The rate of progress may grind much slower than desired, but it does grind.

Posted by: Johnny Canuck on May 4, 2009 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

The more the political parasite known as the unreconstructed South continues to take control of its host (the GOP), the better it is for us, since the majority of Americans may like Southern music and the food, but they still recoil from the peckerwoods. As the GOP becomes the Peckerwood Cracker Party, the less likely it is to win elections - even in the South.

Posted by: TCinLA on May 4, 2009 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

One more reason for Dems to reject the new Judiciary Committee resolution.

Posted by: Danp on May 4, 2009 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

Among others, RedState.com has been pushing for Sessions as the top rethug on the Judiciary Committe. Their reasoning is that he will be the most obstructionist to any Supreme Court nominee that Obama makes.

It is not a laughing matter that the rethugs put a racist in that position.

It can be expected that any nominee of Obama's will be considered 'controversial' by the rethugs and their corporate media echo chamber. That the chief rethug on the committee is a racist is not likely to be given any airtime during the corporate media talking head shows.

Posted by: AngryOldVet on May 4, 2009 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

"forced civil rights down the throats of people."

the right seems to think about things being forced down their throats an awful lot....

Posted by: g on May 4, 2009 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Heavy Sigh. Yes, we are soooo proud of Jeff effin Sessions. He makes Richard Shelby look good.

Trying to listen to Sessions talk is worse than listening to W.

Posted by: martin on May 4, 2009 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

Sessions was heard by several colleagues commenting that he "used to think they [the Klan] were OK" until he found out some of them were "pot smokers."
That actually could have been a joke. But given who made the remark and what else he's said, I doubt it.

Posted by: smiley on May 4, 2009 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

This posting highlights why I look on the idea of a Texan secession as a good thing. And if some other southern states would like to join them, then, "fare thee well." Who needs a bloody rebellion? Just go. Czechoslovakia hasn't turned out so bad, has it?

Posted by: Kevin the Baker on May 4, 2009 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not entirely certain, but I seem to detect some disparagement of the KKK in your post. Is this not America?

DD

Posted by: David Duke on May 4, 2009 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

Even without knowing about his past fondness for the pot free klan, the first thought I had reading of Sessions in a Judiciary Committee post was: Sessions + SCOTUS Hearings televised = again, what are they thinking?

Posted by: Capt Kirk on May 4, 2009 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

Thomas Figures, unlike his universally respected and unfortunately deceased brother Michael, is an extremely partisan racial figure in Alabama politics. Not that it should cleanse Sessions' other negatives on race relations, nor excuse all the horrible things he said since George W. Bush took office, but Figures is far from an unbiased source and any story he repeats should be viewed very skeptically.

Posted by: Shalimar on May 4, 2009 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

It can be expected that any nominee of Obama's will be considered 'controversial' by the rethugs and their corporate media echo chamber. That the chief rethug on the committee is a racist is not likely to be given any airtime during the corporate media talking head shows.

All the more reason for Obama to nominate a minority. Let the GOP strangle itself to death

Posted by: about time on May 4, 2009 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

More ReThug loons in higher and higher positions of authority. Yeah, THAT's the way to rebrand the Greedy Old Plutocrats.

All those independents who were turned off by La Palin's reactionary blathering in the Fall will move even farther away from the ReThugs when they get a load of Jeff Sessions grilling an intelligent woman or minority who responds with equanimity.

Get your popcorn and hunker down with C-Span.

Posted by: Sarah Barracuda on May 4, 2009 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

All the more reason for Obama to nominate a minority

I'm hoping for a black lesbian.

Posted by: JHelms on May 4, 2009 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

I watched Mississippi Burning last night. The whole "disgrace to his race" thing fits right in there. Next thing you know, Sessions'll be referring to "The nigras".

Posted by: steve s on May 4, 2009 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

Sessions ---> Secession? Just another step "forward" for the good ol' boys ....

Posted by: Neil B ☻ on May 4, 2009 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

Every time I hear Southern slurs, I think of California electing the movie stars. Stupidity, unfortunately, isn't regional.

Posted by: jen f on May 4, 2009 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

It's interesting to find the same old ignorant south-hating comments that prevail on this blog even in a post that explicitly refers to southern blacks.

Posted by: Disputo on May 4, 2009 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sure Grassley was also hurt (in addition to his not being a Southern Australopithecus) by his state throwing in with Teh Gays.

As for secession, I say we go neo-con on Texas: let them go, bomb them, go back and take their oil, and then build a wall to keep them out.

Posted by: Mary Contrary on May 4, 2009 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK
Every time I hear Southern slurs, I think of California electing the movie stars.

Like, say, Reagan. Sad thing is, after California did it a couple of times the rest of the country decided to follow suit.

Posted by: idlemind on May 4, 2009 at 11:05 PM | PERMALINK

"the right seems to think about things being forced down their throats an awful lot...."

...that and asses (Limbaugh) and orgies(Bachmann). Of course, in a family values kinda way.

Posted by: Always Hopeful on May 4, 2009 at 11:06 PM | PERMALINK

As one commenter posted I too would like the idea of Obama's nominee being a Black female lesbian or maybe even an Native American/Asian "little person". That should give the GOP a huge migraine! Sessions is a dinosaur, he doesn't know he's extinct!

Posted by: Shaaron on May 4, 2009 at 11:55 PM | PERMALINK

"This posting highlights why I look on the idea of a Texan secession as a good thing. And if some other southern states would like to join them, then, "fare thee well." Who needs a bloody rebellion? Just go. Czechoslovakia hasn't turned out so bad, has it?"

Hey thanks for being there for us, bro! You know, not all of us in Bama are lowbrow idiots like Sessions. Some of us are out there fighting the good fight every day. We are vastly outnumbered by our counterparts, and we get zero help from yankee pussies like you, but we stick our neck out for liberal/progressive causes every day. And it takes a hell of a lot more courage to attend a rally in Mobile than it does in Boston or New York, but we have 'em. The few dozen of us that there are, we have 'em.

Posted by: johndri on May 5, 2009 at 1:04 AM | PERMALINK

"All the more reason for Obama to nominate a minority

I'm hoping for a black lesbian."

Come on, think outside the box! Surely a black atheist lesbian? Or, better yet, a black Muslim lesbian?

That would be worth it just to secure a massive Senate majority when half the sitting Republicans collapsed in paroxysms.

Posted by: ally on May 5, 2009 at 8:16 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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