Tuesday, July 14, 2009

In a Spirit of Fairness

Today, GOP senators will grill Judge Sonia Sotomayor in an effort to derail her ascent to a position on the Supreme Court of the United State. One of the most fervent challengers will be junior Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, whose full name, it must be mentioned, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III-- sounds like a Confederate general. The comparison is apt, particularly when one takes into account past statements he has made and contemplates his hometown of Selma, which was home to Black Belt plantations and slave labor during the Antebellum period.

In a spirit of fairness, I wanted to include a few eyebrow-raising quotes that Senator Sessions has said in his long career of public service.

  • I've seen it time and time again, people do not testify against innocent people, they, reluctantly, only testify against guilty people.

  • We don't pay judges to think; we pay judges to rule on the law.

  • Here, a lengthy passage quoted directly from The New Republic. By way of another source, the article in full is posted here.

  • It got worse. Another damaging witness--a black former assistant U.S. Attorney in Alabama named Thomas Figures--testified that, during a 1981 murder investigation involving the Ku Klux Klan, Sessions was heard by several colleagues commenting that he "used to think they were OK" until he found out some of them were "pot smokers." Sessions claimed the comment was clearly said in jest. Figures didn't see it that way. Sessions, he said, had called him "boy" and, after overhearing him chastise a secretary, warned him to "be careful what you say to white folks." Figures echoed Hebert's claims, saying he too had heard Sessions call various civil rights organizations, including the National Council of Churches and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, "un-American." Sessions denied the accusations but again admitted to frequently joking in an off-color sort of way. In his defense, he said he was not a racist, pointing out that his children went to integrated schools and that he had shared a hotel room with a black attorney several times.

  • _______________________

    As a native Alabamian, I have watched Sessions' rise from self-aggrandizing and sanctimonious prosecuting attorney to the United States Senate with a great degree of horror. His appointment to a Federal judgeship in 1986 was shot down due to a history of racially insensitive statements and other offensive remarks attributed to him over the years. When the consummate Good Old Boy, Howell Heflin, retired as senator, Sessions narrowly rode the Republican Revolution wave to victory over another good old boy with a long history in Alabama politics. Yet, he is seen as overwhelmingly popular in Alabama, largely as a result of his reliance on working class whites who find something courageous about his grandstanding about the evils of liberal activism, illegal immigration, and anti-environmentalism.

    Taking into account the fact that Sessions rose to a position of authority as a ranking member of the Judiciary Committee within the Senate's GOP caucus, one realizes that the Republican party has truly become a gathering that includes only the conservative right and is increasingly based in the southern states alone. The region's still-considerable poverty make it difficult for more than one party to make serious inroads and from the time of The New Deal to 1994, the region was solidly Democratic, though, it must be noted, it was largely full of conservative Democrats. Breaking the GOP stranglehold over the south would require something massive like wealth redistribution, an influx of residents from other parts of the country, or a phenomenally successful educational program that granted people the ability to easily attain some sense of social mobility otherwise denied to them. The region has never truly known democracy. Even back in the times before the Civil War, the classes were strictly stratified based on income. A small planter elite, which much of the country assumes was the norm based on romantic notions advanced in literature and movies, owned large parcels of land, kept slaves, and racked in money. They also, I might add, made money from northern industrial companies, making them very complicit in the peculiar institution of slavery, but that's another ball of wax for another time. Most whites were poor subsistence farmers (of which I am descended on both sides of my family) who had nothing in the way of means and could barely afford to feed themselves, much less make a profit. At the bottom, of course, were black slaves, who were seen as livestock.

    I included this background information to try to explain Jeff Sessions and those who continue to vote for him, time after time. If it were a simple matter of ignorance, that would be one thing, but Sessions has learned that the way to stay in office is to play to the worst fears of his supporters and try to seem like some courageous crusader for a way of life presumed to be under attack from all sides. This motivates him from a political standpoint in his queries during deliberation today and in the days ahead. Though I can say I dislike Sessions strongly, I do at least understand where he is coming from, too.


    Mauigirl said...

    We were watching some clips of the questioning of Sottomayor last night (on the Daily Show of course) and they all sound like a bunch of morons. But the stuff Sessions says goes beyond that...how do these people get elected to the Senate? It makes me lose all faith in the democratic system.

    Conrad Strong said...

    I'm from the South as well and like you, unfortunately understand what Sessions is up to. It's despicable but you are right in saying that he is playing "to the worst fears of his supporters and try to seem like some courageous crusader for a way of life presumed to be under attack from all sides." Times are changing but the change is so slow in parts of the South that I'm afraid you and I will be apologizing for the likes of Beauregard Sessions for many years to come.

    jadedj said...

    Also being from a similar background (all of my relatives on my mother's side are from south Alabama)...and, having broken away from my political roots to the horror of many with whom I grew up...after all these years, I have quit apologizing for ignorant ass voters, and bigoted politicians. To be ignorant is an easy thing...it requires no thinking...but is no excuse in this day and time. But to be an out and out opportunist, and liar leads me to think that we should call this guy what he is...simply, a goddamn bigot.

    Comrade Kevin said...

    The phrase "pissant" comes to mind regarding Sessions the man, but I was trying to explain why people are deluded into thinking they way they do, too.

    jadedj said...

    And ably you did too. Sorry, I get so upset with this type of jerk, that I sometimes go off in the wrong direction. I've been fighting them for a very long time now...and my tolerance level is zilch.

    Again. Sorry. You covered the rational very well.

    Conrad Strong said...

    Actually jadedj is right. He's a goddam bigot. I grew up in Alabama and escaped to Atlanta years ago so I understand what's going on these folks but there is no apologizing for them.