A close study of the testimony given at the Jeff Sessions nomination hearings shows that the Democrats and Republicans showed that the two parties had finally come to bipartisan agreement on one key issue:
Jeff Sessions is not a racist, mysogenist, or any other sort of “ist”.
In fact, from questioning, it appeared that the Democrats had decided even prior to the hearing not to pursue this line against Sessions. The most vigorous attack from Democrats came from Al Franken, who attacked Sessions not on charges of racism, but on that of resume embellishment; that Sessions had not led as many civil rights cases as he said he had, but merely participated in them. Resume embellishment matters, but in the end, that’s pretty weak tea.
The only other glove that came close to Sessions was laid by Richard Blumenthal, not on the grounds of resume embellishment (which he has is own sordid history of) but by laying the logically fallacious “guilt by association” charge based on awards accepted by Sessions from individuals or organizations who have taken or made controversial positions or statements the past.
Blumenthal swung after the bell and below the belt by using the word “KKK” in his final question, after which Sessions, rightly shocked because no one on any credible side has suggested he took an award from, blinked off the low blow and raised the name of the KKK Grand Wizard he had secured the death penalty against in his own defense.
Charles Grassley then took Blumenthal to the woodshed for his intellectually dishonest line of questioning. Blumenthal sheepishly admitted that yes, when you’re a US Senator, you receive more awards than you can count and certainly more than you have time to track the history of, and figuratively slunk off to lick his wound.
The final panel consisted of six african-american individuals, three rising against his nomination. They also played true to this script. Cory Booker, making the first political speech of his 2020 presidential campaign, threw his friend and colleague under the bus, despite the fact that Sessions and he had worked together on civil rights legislation, something he had lauded Sessions for previously. Hypocrisy knows no bounds when there’s politics to be played.
Neither did Booker accuse Sessions of any “-ism”, but deciphering his rambling statement, seemed to be withholding his support for Sessions based on the fact that Sessions would “only” apply the law equally, and would not take extraordinary measures to extend the law, perhaps disproportionately, to disenfranchised communities.
John Lewis followed, with a historical summary of his own experiences within the civil rights movement, and again while not accusing Sessions of any “-ism” (or even opposing Sessions explicitly) discussed how the principle of “law and order” had been used in the past to justify prejudicial legal behavior against black individuals and movements in the past by the authorities, and didn’t care to see that repeated in the future. No reasonable person would disagree in principle.
Neither did the final of the three, Cedric Richmond, change this arc. He said that Sessions’ appointment would cause African Americans “great harm” without explaining how that would actually occur. He seemed more concerned about the scheduling decisions of Grassley, putting the panel which included John Lewis last, rather than Sessions per se. His parting shot, that anyone who voted for Sessions would be made to “own that vote”, was a tangible threat to Democrat senators, I suppose. The problem there is that only Senators who require a substantial number of African American votes to be re-elected will care. Republican Senators win without those votes already, and Democrat Senators from states which are almost all white anyway (Heitcamp, Tester) don’t need to care, either.
I suppose that Sessions will be approved on party lines. Clearly, certain organizations have put the Democrats on notice that they are expected to oppose Sessions. So votes will be made on politics, not fact.