Trump’s Xenophobic Advisor – Senator Sessions

XEN O PHO BI A: noun; Intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries

Donald Trump has been all over the Twitter and news feeds reacting to the tragedy this past weekend in Orlando, Florida. As usual, his remarks are without fact, tact, or empathy. Additionally, they are dangerous as he continues his mission to create an us’ and a them’ in this country and the world.

To their credit, the Republican leadership both past and present has condemned his remarks as racist and not helpful. Please note that they continue to support his nomination for the presidency because the people have spoken.’ Departing from the majority of his colleagues, Senator Sessions (R) AL, remains a committed supporter of Trump and in his remarks, and parrots Trump’s xenophobic and racist talking points.

Back in 2009, I wrote a lengthy article about Sessions in reference to the confirmation hearings for Justice Sotomayor. The 111th Congress was in session and it was run by the Democrats. The Chair was Senator Leahy (D) VT, and Senator Sessions was the ranking (minority) member. I write about Senator Sessions again as his influence as a legislative supporter and advisor to Donald Trump is informed by his personal beliefs and history.

The basis of the article was Justice Sotomayor’s use of the phrase wise Latina and empathy. As we discuss LGBTQ rights, racism, and immigration in the context of the presidential race, my comments about Senator Sessions are unfortunately, still relevant so I have borrowed a portion of those words. I believe it is important that we assess not only Trump, but those who are his influencers.

Mr. Sessions last sat before this very committee, before many of these same members as a supplicant for a judgeship in his own right. Not a Supreme Court judgeship, just a federal one, for which he was (very rightly) rejected. Losing out on that dream, he went into politics and now sits in judgement of Judge Sotomayor. The cause of his rejection? Racism. What he chooses to focus on in his interrogations of Judge Sotomayor? Racism. Why? Because she said that her experience as a Latina woman gave her the life experience to empathize with those before her. To understand the lives of those whose rulings came before her and that this worldview enabled her to have the perspective to look at the law with an understanding of its real world effects. Every Republican on the Committee yesterday referenced her “Wise Latina woman” comment in their opening remarks and intends to question her about it. You will note, not one of them, nor the mainstream media, has seen fit to quote the entire context of that remark. Fortunately, the Democratic Senators have and will see to that.

Chairmanships in the House and Senate are gained by seniority. Mr. Sessions was not next in line for his. When Arlen Spector moved across the aisle to become a Democrat, it opened up the spot for Minority Chair of the Judicial Committee. Knowing full well the (racist) history of Mr. Sessions, knowing the points they had decided to use to attack Ms. Sotomayor (even knowing she would be confirmed regardless), the Republican leadership jumped Mr. Sessions to the head of the line and named him to the position. Why? That’s an interesting question. So far, all the strategy devised by the Republicans so far has failed, so it will be interesting as this confirmation process moves forward to see how this one plays out.

Mr. Sessions is no longer the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee in this 114th Congress, but he retains a seat. The Chair is now Senator Grassley (R) IA and Sessions chairs the Committee on Immigration and National Interest, a subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee. Clearly Sessions holds immense power and coupled with Trumps xenophobia and racism, represents a clear danger to our democratic ideals.

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