Political Animal


January 10, 2013 4:31 PM Never Say Never

By Ed Kilgore

The Hill has a dispatch on Sen. Jeff Sessions’ reaction to the nomination of Jack Lew to serve as Treasury Secretary that illustrates some of the contemporary GOP’s basic problems:

The top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee will oppose Jack Lew’s nomination to be Treasury secretary.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) has prepared a statement saying “Jack Lew must never be Secretary of Treasury.”
He is not saying yet whether he will filibuster the nomination, however, which sources say President Obama will announce Thursday.

If you support the option of filibustering Cabinet appointments (which Sessions does), and you say someone should “never” be confirmed, and you use such categorical language about someone’s unfitness for an office, then what are you waiting for? A direct sign from God?

More basically, today’s conservatives are in the bad habit of using absolute language all the time that destroys their ability to modulate their incessant rage. Sessions is apparently furious at Lew because he claimed during Senate testimony that Obama’s FY 2012 budget was consistent with a course of eventually reducing deficits and debt. From Sessions’ POV, that was bad, really bad. But what if Obama sent someone’s name up that was worse, far worse? What language would Sessions deploy had Obama nominated Paul Krugman, whom I imagine Jeff Sessions considers evil incarnate?

Rhetoric is just rhetoric, I realize, but at some point congressional Republicans need to realize that this kind of crap is one reason for the impression a majority of Americans have that they are unreasonable, and why their own “base” is perpetually frustrated and disappointed. When you act as though you’d just as soon quit your cushy Senate seat as allow Jack Lew to become Treasury Secretary (which he almost certainly will become), then you move right on to the next hate-fest without a pause, don’t you lose some credibility, or even self-respect?

Just asking.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Ronald on January 10, 2013 4:45 PM:

    Apparently no. At least not among their base, which seems to be about the only group that the Republicans are actually listening or responding to.
    Very sad.

  • Josef K on January 10, 2013 4:46 PM:

    More basically, todayís conservatives are in the bad habit of using absolute language all the time that destroys their ability to modulate their incessant rage.

    Haven't we established by now that this is the defining feature of modern Conservatives: incessant, irrational, directionless, amorphous rage that makes simple discussion - never mind effective governing - impossible?

    What's it going to take to get this point across? An officeholder exercising some "2nd Amendment solution" on the floor? There is precedent for it, albeit very old precedent.

  • martin on January 10, 2013 4:47 PM:

    Oh well, it's been awhile...I'd like to take this opportunity to apologize for the quality of politician we elect here.

    I'm really beginning to think I shouldn't have put all of that work and effort into opposing his nomination to the Federal Bench.

  • boatboy_srq on January 10, 2013 4:47 PM:

    Sessions would have said all this if BHO had resurrected Adam Smith and nominated him to the post. The GOTea doesn't want competence in any Cabinet position: appointing people willing and able to do the job just makes Big Gubmint look like it can work.

  • Peter C on January 10, 2013 4:48 PM:

    So, how's filibuster reform looking now, eh?

  • Lifelong Dem on January 10, 2013 4:52 PM:

    It has become apparent to anyone paying attention that the Republicans are against anyone that President Obama nominates for any position. Except John Kerry, and Republicans are fine with his nomination because that's the only way they can get him out of the Senate.

  • c u n d gulag on January 10, 2013 4:52 PM:


    Never did.
    Doesn't have it now.
    And never will.


  • zandru on January 10, 2013 5:02 PM:

    " this kind of crap is one reason for the impression a majority of Americans have that [the Republicans] are unreasonable"

    Really? The majority of Americans think the Republicans are unreasonable? I thought we'd been conditioned for lo these 30 years that "both sides" are doing the exact same thing.

    Seriously - when, outside of the very small, limited Librul Media, have you ever seen newsreaders or gabbing heads discuss how the Republicans have done [some damned thing]? Unless the conclusion is something like "But Democrats have been very very bad, too." (Period. No need to give the audience any examples.)

    Because, ya know, they're "fair and balanced."™

  • T2 on January 10, 2013 5:04 PM:

    "donít you lose some credibility, or even self-respect?" Well, you can't lose something you don't have. "modulate"? come on. With these nuts it is pedal-to-the-metal all the time...full throttle crazy. Morons like Sessions have a lifetime job - just behave like a fool and the moonshine buzzed re-districted crackers in Alabama will keep sending him to Congress, where he can get paid by the public to act a fool. sweet.

  • Quaker in a Basement on January 10, 2013 5:16 PM:

    ...todayís conservatives are in the bad habit of using absolute language all the time...

    Um, glass houses, y'know?

  • RaflW on January 10, 2013 5:20 PM:

    Apparently "advise and consent" now means "hissy fit and obstruct."

    These jerks (who otherwise used to claim the mantle of personal responsibility) seem to have no acceptance what so ever of the notion that elections have consequences.

    They act as if they didn't loose the Presidency, Senate seats or House seats.

    The problem remains that outlets like The Hill, Politico, some parts of WaPo, and all the Sunday chat-ghettos act as if the Republicans didn't loose either!

  • Mimikatz on January 10, 2013 5:28 PM:

    Sessions is one of the stupidest members of the Senate, quite possibly the stupidest. These guys dislike Lew because he can do math and can show that the GOP math just doesn't work and is based on fairy dust. He can negotiate! He can do calculations! In his head, yet! Knows the budget cold! Can't have that.

  • Anniecat on January 10, 2013 6:37 PM:

    It's great fun to imagine Obama appointing Paul Krugman to the Cabinet, just to picture all the Republican heads that would explode with fury.

  • Anonymous on January 10, 2013 7:42 PM:

    He should have equated Jack Lew with Hitler. That seems to be a powerful technique guaranteed to work in any situation.

  • purplehawk on January 10, 2013 7:56 PM:

    Sessions was himself denied Senate confirmation in 1986 for a position as a district judge. Why? His own racist comments.

  • biggerbox on January 10, 2013 11:22 PM:

    A statement like Sessions' is so over-the-top that I kind of expect more. Like, "If Jack Lew becomes Treasury Secretary, the gates of Hell itself will open, demons will roam the Earth, and the End Times will be at hand." Oh, except the righties think that will be a good thing, because Jaysus will come back. Never mind.

    "Must not" is so... weird. Like the confirmation of Jack Lew is the only thing standing behind us and the end of the Republic and all we hold dear. What, are the Russians going to launch a first-strike if Jack Lew gets confirmed? It's ridiculous.

  • MuddyLee on January 11, 2013 8:26 AM:

    Interesting that Sessions is from the political party that brought us the Bush-Cheney administration - does he think Jack Lew can do the country more damage than they did? Also the party that nominated Sarah Palin to be VP - what would the Democrats do to top that? But don't blame the voters of Alabama alone - crazy rightwing money flows from all over the country into all the congressional races now. Don't ever forget to blame the likes of Karl Rove, the Koch brothers, Grover Norquist, Jim DeMint, and all the big money rightwingers whose reason to live is to reduce the taxes of the rich.