July 16, 2020

Jeff Sessions

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“Alabama Republicans nominated political neophyte Tommy Tuberville, the choice of President Donald Trump, to run for the Senate in November… Tuberville, 65, a former football coach, beat Jeff Sessions, a former U.S. attorney general who was fired by the president, in Alabama.” Reuters

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From the Left

The left criticizes Sessions for his policy preferences and support for Trump, and celebrates his loss.

“During the first half of Trump’s term, Sessions was arguably the President’s most effective Cabinet member, separating families at the border, removing federal oversight of dysfunctional police departments, holding back the Washington consensus on criminal-justice reform, getting out of the way of Republican-led states that wanted to restrict voting and to gerrymander their maps.…

“[But] In March, 2017, Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation. Sessions deemed the act a legal necessity, but Trump considered it a supreme betrayal. Even as Sessions continued to deliver on Trump’s agenda—continued, in many ways, to define Trump’s agenda—what followed was a more-than-year-long spectacle: a President publicly bullying, belittling, and bemoaning his own Attorney General… In 2016, Sessions had asked Bannon if Trump could win; he should have asked what Trump would demand.”
Eric Lach, New Yorker

“As I wrote in June, to ditch Trump now would be a futile effort for most Senate Republicans. Which voters are they going to win over? There is no political home for Republicans in office who want to leave the president. Sessions was an extreme example of that, because he tried to launch a political comeback from one of the most pro-Trump states in the nation while being on Trump’s bad side. But there are other cautionary tales from the Senate…

“Jeff Flake in Arizona and Bob Corker in Tennessee both prominently criticized Trump while in office, and it played a role in both of them deciding not to run for reelection. One conservative congressman from South Carolina lost his primary after criticizing Trump and said the president’s tweets played a role. Republicans are trying to hang on to their Senate majority, and the last thing they need is a Sessions-like battle with the president who deems some of them not loyal enough. That’s a lesson many of them have already learned, but Sessions’s humiliating defeat drives it home.”
Amber Phillips, Washington Post

“It’s a little weird contemplating Sessions now. Trump’s treatment of him was outrageous, but if anybody’s going to suffer a political stab in the back, you have to be glad it’s the guy whose policies as attorney general ranged from keeping more people in prison longer to ‘good people don’t smoke marijuana.’ Tommy Tuberville, the football coach who beat Sessions, doesn’t seem to have any ideas beyond flexing his muscles and promising to do whatever President Trump likes. Alabamians have no idea what he would do if Joe Biden was president, since Tuberville will never acknowledge such a possibility.”
Gail Collins, New York Times

Tuberville’s football past could play a surprisingly big part in November’s general election. Though he gained national attention for leading the Auburn Tigers to an undefeated season in 2004, five years earlier he handed down a one-game suspension to a player who was charged with the second-degree rape of a 15-year-old girl. Despite the player pleading guilty to contributing to the delinquency of a minor, Tuberville permitted the player to remain on the team… Whether he’ll serve his team well in November remains to be seen.”
Jane Coaston, Vox

Dated but relevant: “From the moment he took office, Trump communicated to everyone that they were there to serve him and him alone. He forced White House staff to sign nondisclosure agreements. James Comey testified that in the first days of Trump’s presidency, he called the FBI director to the White House and told him, ‘I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.’…

“No president has ever asked for more loyalty or gotten less; even as he demands the most abject displays of sycophancy as a demonstration of his people’s commitment to him, Trump’s White House is populated by backstabbers and schemers who for years have provided reporters with a steady stream of anonymous leaks and gossip portraying him as an incompetent fool…

You may have noticed that there were no scandalous insider tell-alls written about Barack Obama, and it wasn’t because he rooted out internal enemies and punished those whose faith in him wavered. The loyalty he got from those who worked for him was earned, not demanded. So perhaps what we should want is politicians who don’t value loyalty, who ask from their staff only hard work, competence, commitment to the public interest, and principle. Imagine what that might be like.”
Paul Waldman, Washington Post

From the Right

The right praises Sessions for his consistent policy preferences and laments his loss.

The right praises Sessions for his consistent policy preferences and laments his loss.

“The former U.S. attorney general lost big in his political comeback attempt for the U.S. Senate from Alabama, but he never lost his moorings, his principles, or his dignity… the sense Sessions gives is of a man thoroughly earnest, thoroughly convinced his ideas are right for the United States. And, as he noted, these are indeed his ideas, ones he was pushing as a lonely voice in the Senate for more than a decade before Donald Trump ran for office. Win or lose, Sessions was not going to stop spreading his message, and he gave the sense that his winning or losing was of less importance than that the message be understood and that policy reflect those values.”
Quin Hillyer, Washington Examiner

“There was a point in early 2017 when Jeff Sessions looked like a shrewd political genius. He had been a moderately well-known longtime senator trying to enact tougher restrictions on immigration with little success. In 2015 and early 2016, almost all Republican senators looked at Trump and saw an erratic, unqualified reality-television host, but Sessions saw something none of his colleagues did… Sessions didn’t deliver the nomination to Trump all by himself, but he helped — and hurt Senator Ted Cruz — at a key moment…

“In his concession speech [on Tuesday night], you could see Sessions coming to terms with the fact that his journey in American politics has come to an end — talking about his younger years and victories from long ago. Defeat is not dishonorable, but it stings nonetheless. The endorsement of Trump that looked like his shrewdest maneuver in 2016 now looks like the first domino in a series that led to his departure from public office.”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

“The irony is that Trump could have made his life a lot easier by simply following Sessions’s course regarding customs, ethics, and norms. I believe (and I assume Sessions believes) that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in 2016. Sessions, however, served on Trump’s campaign and, during the campaign, met with Russia’s ambassador to the United States. It made perfect sense to recuse himself from any investigation into Russia-Trump 2016…

“Had Trump accepted that for what it was, an act of ethics and professionalism, and stated that he didn’t fear an investigation because he did nothing wrong, he could have sat back as Peter Strzok, Rachel Maddow, and the rest of the #Resistance all lost their minds, eventually finding nothing. Instead, Trump made it clear he hated Sessions for the recusal, which only made Trump look guilty… However harebrained and improper the spying on Trump 2016 and the investigation in 2017 were, Trump could have followed Sessions’s lead and ignored it while governing the country.”
Timothy P. Carney, Washington Examiner

“In my opinion, Jeff Sessions was one of the very best Senators of the past 50 years. His votes were uniformly sound and he led the charge on key issues like defeating immigration reform and jailbreak legislation (which eventually passed after Sessions had moved on)... Don’t expect Tuberville to lead any charges for key conservative causes, the way Sessions did. There’s no indication that, as a freshman Senator, he has the knowledge or status to do so. In sum, conservatism would have been far better served if Jeff Sessions had prevailed [Tuesday] night.”
Paul Mirengoff, Power Line Blog

“The big winner of the night was President Trump… Trump’s endorsement clearly carried more weight with voters than Sessions’ endorsements from prominent Republicans and his former Republican Senate colleagues… In Texas former White House physician Dr. Ronny Jackson, who was endorsed by Trump, won his primary for a U.S. House seat, beating out Josh Winegarner. Winegarner was endorsed by the outgoing Republican… [By contrast] the division between the progressive and moderate factions of the [Democratic] party was manifest in Tuesday’s primaries…

“In the Texas Democratic primary run-off for the Senate, Air Force veteran MJ Hegar, the establishment-backed candidate who was endorsed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, narrowly defeated Royce West, an underfunded progressive insurgent candidate. Hegar’s narrow win will make it more difficult to unite the Democratic Party in the race against Republican Sen. John Cornyn in November. Similarly, this was the case in Kentucky’s Democratic primary for the Senate held in June… the president’s current chances for reelection may be stronger than national polls indicate.”
Doug Schoen, Fox News

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