Jeff Sessions

Political Correctness And Political Awkwardness At The RNC

The Republican National Convention and the constellation of right-wing events scheduled during and around the official gathering included plenty of downright disturbing examples of racism, misogyny, religious bigotry, and Mussolini-wannabe-ism. It also included some intensely awkward moments, not all of them caught on television cameras.

Picture Sen. Jeff Sessions sitting on stage with four other speakers on a panel organized by the American Conservative Union Foundation to address the question, “Will conservatives support Trump?”

OK, now picture Sen. Sessions’ face as he tries to remain calm and composed while fellow panelist Heather Higgins, head of Independent Women’s Voice and a Wall Street Journal contributor, tells this joke:

There was a man who was lying in his hospital bed, quite sick, oxygen mask on his nose and mouth. And a young nurse comes in … to give him a sponge bath. And she hears him mumble through his mask, “Nurse, can you check, are my testicles black?”

She is embarrassed at this and kind of horrified, and she says, “Sir, all I’m supposed to do is wash your upper body and your feet.” And he tries again, and says, “Please, please can you check, are my testicles black?”

And so she decides that she doesn’t want his blood pressure to go up and him to be agitated by worrying about this, so she just steels herself for the embarrassment, pulls back the bed clothes, lifts up his hospital gown, takes him in one hand and checks, and she says, ‘Sir, you’re fine. You’re magnificent…

And he takes off his oxygen mask and he says, “Thank you, that was wonderful, nurse. But let me say this again slowly: are my test results back?”

Higgins was trying to make a humorous point about messaging, and people not hearing what you’re trying to say. But she also seemed to be demonstrating the gleeful contempt for “political correctness” that was on display all last week in Cleveland. The attitude seems to be that people should just “have a sense of humor” rather than take offense when something inappropriate or offensive has been said.

As others have noted, conservatives who complain about “political correctness” often seem to be longing for a time when it was acceptable to openly traffic in stereotypes or worse – or in the words of comedian Samantha Bee, to be free of the “cruel shackles of empathy and mutual respect.”

Back to Higgins. In response to a question about Trump’s promise to build a wall on the border with Mexico, Higgins reminded people that Trump has said his wall would have a big door. “Who else would run the golf courses?” she snarked. That comment drew some groans and a loud “whoa” from fellow panelist KT McFarland, and someone else chimed in, “I think it’s Eric Trump, actually.” Rather than letting it go, Higgins added, “No, I meant manage the day-to-day maintenance.”

Higgins said that some conservatives oppose Trump because they don’t genuinely believe him to be conservative; others she described as “ever snob” – people who have a “social discomfort” with the way Trump talks and presents himself and “can’t see themselves or their friends every finding it socially acceptable to say that they’re for Trump.”

She said that those snobby people might never tell a pollster they are a Trump “supporter,” but that if a pollster asks whether they are thinking about voting for Trump they will get a much higher number, because in the end it comes down to a binary choice between him and Hillary Clinton. While many conservatives who backed other candidates are still working their way through the stages of grief, Higgins said, by October and November they’ll get to “acceptance” and vote for Trump.


Trump Lawyer Who Trashed Campaign Finance Laws: SCOTUS List Shows How Trump Will Govern

Among the events hosted by right-wing groups during the Republican National Convention was “The Conservative Pit Stop,” sponsored by the American Conservative Union Foundation with an assist from its friends at the National Rifle Association. The ACU hosts the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, which attracts thousands of participants and a host of Republican officials.

The RNC event consisted of two panel discussions and a surprise keynote from vice presidential nominee Mike Pence. Among the speakers, on different panels, were U.S. senators from opposite ends of the Trump train: early Trump booster Jeff Sessions of Alabama and Utah’s Mike Lee, who was involved in the raucous, unsuccessful Day 1 effort to force a roll-call vote on the convention rules in an attempt to undermine Trump.

Also speaking: Fox News national security analyst KT McFarland, Heather Higgins of Independent Women’s Voice, GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway, Heritage Foundation VP for Policy Promotion Ed Corrigan, platform committee policy director Andrew Bremberg and former chairman of the Federal Election Commission Don McGahn, a Jones Day attorney who is the lawyer for Trump’s campaign.

The two questions formally on the table were “Will conservatives support Trump?” and “Can we reverse the Obama imperial presidency?” For these panelists, not surprisingly, the answers were “yes” and “yes.” Lee said it is in Trump’s power to win over Cruz supporters like him by adding to the campaign’s message a clear stand on reversing the trend of allowing the federal government and executive branch to accumulate too much power.

The Supreme Court was a major topic at the event, as it was throughout the convention, where the court was cited frequently as the ultimate reason for conservative voters to back Trump despite whatever qualms they might have.

Making that point most extensively was Trump counsel McGahn, who called the list of 11 potential Supreme Court nominees released by the Trump campaign the most important insight into how Trump will govern. “For those conservatives who are on the fence…I would counsel them to take a very hard look at this list and I would also counsel them to take a very hard look at what’s at stake in this election.”

McGahn said the list presents “a defining moment” and “a very, very, very clear choice for Americans.” It contains no moderate or “squishy” judges, he said, “no stealth candidates” and “no David Souters.” A number of them, he noted, clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas or the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

“Everyone on the list is already wearing a black robe,” McGhan said. He explained that there were a number of state Supreme Court justices on the list because many conservative “rising stars” whose age puts them in the “sweet spot” for a Supreme Court nomination are not on the federal bench:

Frankly, anyone in what I consider to be the sweet spot barely had an opportunity to be considered for chance to be considered for a federal court appointment in the last Republican administration so I think the rising stars who are conservative, conservative-libertarian, movement conservative, whatever one wants to label themselves, constitutionalist, textualist, etc., etc., are really going to be found on the state courts, simply because that’s where we are generationally.

McGahn did praise by name a few of the federal judges on the list, including William Pryor and Diane Sykes. And he mentioned state Supreme Court justices Allison Eid of Colorado and Don Willett of Texas, an anti-regulatory judge whose opinion in a Texas licensing case McGahn called “a manifesto on economic liberty we have not seen in our lifetime.”

Sessions also praised Trump’s “great list” of judges, saying it contains “no Souters or Kennedys.”

While everyone on the panel loved Trump’s list, the Heritage Foundation’s Corrigan had one more suggestion: In response to a question about what a President Trump should do on his first day in office, Corrigan suggested that he nominate Sen. Mike Lee to the Supreme Court. (Not long ago we discussed Lee's extreme views about the Constitution.)

Trump’s list of potential Supreme Court nominees was reportedly drawn up with help from right-wing powerhouses the Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation. McGahn also seems to have played a role as Trump’s liaison to the conservative and Washington establishments in putting that list together; in his introduction, the ACU’s Dan Schneider said McGahn “gets a lot of credit for those 11 judges.” McGahn also reportedly helped broker Trump’s March meeting with GOP congressional leaders.

What do we know about McGahn? He is a partner at the Jones Day law firm. His uncle Paddy was an Atlantic City power broker who helped Trump cut real estate deals in that town. As a Republican appointee to the Federal Election Commission, McGahn actively resisted enforcement of campaign finance laws and sought to “chip away at election rules and regulations.” MSNBC’s Zachary Roth has said, “if you don’t like today’s almost-anything-goes campaign funding landscape, you can lay part of the blame on McGahn.” 

McGahn has bragged that others have called his tenure “the most consequential of any commissioner.” Says Democratic FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, “He was consequential like a sledgehammer was consequential. He did his best to undermine the law.”

Meet The Speakers: On Immigration, RNC Tries To Send Conflicting Messages

In the lead-up to and during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, we’ll be profiling some of the activists and politicians invited to speak at the event. Find more of our Meet the Speakers series here.
Tonight’s schedule at the Republican National Convention is organized around the Donald Trumpian theme of “Make America Safe Again,” featuring speakers who are poised to talk about immigration, law enforcement and the 2012 Benghazi attack.
We’ve already profiled Sheriff David Clarke, the Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, law enforcement official who is likely to throw plenty of anti-Black Lives Matter, anti-Obama, anti-Clinton red meat the crowd. (And who has a troubling sideline as a cheerleader to anti-government groups.) Also on the docket for tonight is former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, who we don’t expect to be all that friendly to Black Lives Matter either.
On the issue of immigration, the convention’s organizers seem to be trying to walk a fine line between encouraging the anti-immigrant sentiment that has been a cornerstone of Trump’s campaign and attempting to present a more moderate face to a national audience.
One notable speaker tonight is Rachel Campos Duffy, who will be speaking alongside her husband, Rep. Sean Duffy of Wisconsin. Although the RNC’s schedule presents Campos Duffy as a sidekick to her husband, she has a prominent role in conservative politics in her own right as the national spokesperson for the Libre Initiative, a Koch-funded organization that has been trying to win over Latinos to support conservative candidates.
Campos Duffy has chastised her party for what she calls a “tonal problem” on immigration. “Some of the harsher voices within this party have been able to sort of hijack [the immigration debate], in a way, and I think present a face that doesn’t really I think reflect the way so many of us feel about immigrants, about Hispanics,” she said in a 2013 speech.
We are not optimistic that she will address this “tonal problem” while speaking at the convention where Donald Trump will be nominated for the presidency.
Also reflecting the fact that the GOP’s problem with Latinos is more than just “tonal” is the prominent speaking slot being given tonight to Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama.
Sessions has had a close relationship with Trump’s campaign, especially when it comes to shaping the candidate’s draconian immigration policies. A Trump campaign source told journalist Gabriel Sherman in April, “ When Jeff Sessions calls, Trump listens .” Trump consulted with Sessions when he drafted an immigration plan last summer. Earlier this year, a top Sessions aide left to join Trump’s campaign and, shortly afterward, Trump named Sessions the chairman of his foreign policy advisory committee.
It’s easy to see why Trump and Sessions get along. In the Senate, Sessions has been a leading critic of immigration reform, helping to defeat immigration reform efforts in 2007 and 2013. In doing so, he has worked closely with the network of anti-immigration organizations started by John Tanton, an immigration restrictionist with a white nationalist bent. Sessions himself has dismissed immigration reform as “ethnic politics” and warned that allowing too many immigrants would create “cultural problems” in the country. Sessions first gained national attention when, in 1986, a bipartisan majority of the Senate Judiciary Committee rejected his nomination to a federal judgeship in the midst of charges of racial bias.
In another attempt at a balancing act on immigration, the convention’s organizers have invited three people, Mary Ann Mendoza, Sabine Durden and Jamiel Shaw, to speak as “victims of illegal immigrants.” Mendoza, Durden and Shaw are all grieving parents whose children were killed by undocumented immigrants; Shaw’s son was shot by a gang member and Durden and Mendoza’s children were killed in car crashes.
All three have become involved in the Remembrance Project, a group that uses genuinely tragic stories like that of these parents in a cynical attempt to paint undocumented immigrants as criminals. As we wrote in a profile of the group’s founder, Maria Espinoza, in 2014:
Espinoza has carved herself a specific niche in the anti-immigrant movement: highlighting cases where American citizens have been killed by undocumented immigrants in an attempt to tie individual crimes to undocumented immigrants as a whole.
Espinoza travels the country with her “Stolen Lives Quilt,” which features pictures of people who have been killed by undocumented immigrants, and is sometimes joined by family members of those featured on the quilt. The crimes that Espinoza highlights are indeed tragic, but the subtext of her project is dangerous.
Espinoza has close ties to the anti-immigrant movement, has written for a white nationalist magazine, and has even promoted writing from the racist website Daily Stormer. Trump, embracing Espinoza’s message, has promoted her and her group on the campaign trail.
These parents have very sad stories to tell. But Trump and the RNC are exploiting those stories to promote the myth of immigrants as criminals that has been a theme of Trump’s campaign from the very beginning.

Jeff Sessions: Keep 'Secular Mindset' Off The Supreme Court

Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, a Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, warned in a speech to the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority conference today that “the courts are at risk” in the upcoming presidential election, lamenting that at least one current Supreme Court justice displays a “secular mindset.”

Sessions said that as the committee’s ranking member during the confirmation hearings of Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, “I felt, like so many of you, the court hasn’t been performing in a way we like it to.”

He repeated a criticism of Sotomayor that conservatives had leveled at her during her confirmation hearings, expressing dismay that she had approvingly quoted legal scholar Martha Minow’s observation that in the law "there is no objective stance but only a series of perspectives — no neutrality, no escape from choice in judging," an acknowledgment of the hidden assumptions and biases that all judges bring to the law.

Sessions said the quote “still makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck.”

“You see, this is a postmodern, relativistic, secular mindset and I believe it’s directly contrary to the founding of our republic,” he said.

“So I really think this whole court system is really important,” he added later in the speech, “and the real value and battle that we’re engaged in here is one to reaffirm that there is objective truth, it’s not all relative. And that means some things are right and some things are wrong, and we’re getting too far away from that in my opinion and it’s not healthy for any country and it’s really not healthy for a democracy like ours that’s built on the rule of law.”

Jeff Sessions: My Immigration Position Is the 'Biblical' One

Speaking today at the Road to Majority conference, an annual event hosted by Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, a fierce immigration opponent in Congress who helped craft Donald Trump’s immigration policy, referred to a handful of Bible stories to declare that immigration reform advocates’ position, which he characterized as that nations can’t “establish who can and can’t enter,” is “not biblical.”

Sessions spoke of the biblical figure of Nehemiah, who rebuilt the walls in Jerusalem after obtaining traveling papers from the king of Persia, and referred to another story, which although Sessions seems to have gotten the details mixed up, seems to be the tale of the Israelites being barred by the king of Edom from crossing his land.

“So the idea that nations don’t set laws, establish who can and can’t enter, is not biblical in my opinion. Nations do that and they’ve done it since time immemorial and there’s nothing wrong with it,” he said.


On Eve Of Super Tuesday Religious Right Continues To Split

On the eve of Super Tuesday, the dream of Christian-nation advocates like David Lane to get evangelicals to coalesce around one of their own in the Republican primary is fading away as Donald Trump pulls ahead of Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio in national polling, and among evangelical voters in particular.

The ongoing split is reflected among right-wing political leaders.  Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach both endorsed Trump for his anti-immigrant policies. But first-term Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, the former president of a Christian college, wrote a public letter explaining why he would not vote for Trump in the general election if he became the party’s nominee.

And while Ted Cruz, his father, and Glenn Beck are frantically making the case that Cruz is God’s chosen candidate for the presidency, one of the country’s most prominent Christian business leaders has endorsed Marco Rubio.

David Green is the founder of the Hobby Lobby arts & crafts empire.  Green and his family have become right-wing folk heroes for successfully arguing that their massive for-profit company deserved a religiously-based exemption from the requirement under the Affordable Care Act that its insurance plans include contraception. Over the weekend, Green declared Rubio “a man who is prepared to be president.”

Cruz continues to build his own list of often-extreme Religious Right backers.  Jerry Johnson, president of National Religious Broadcasters, put out a video endorsement of Ted Cruz, who he called the most conservative candidate who can win the election. Johnson said Cruz will fix the economy by cutting taxes and regulation, “and he’s going to eliminate the IRS, and I like that.” Johnson also focused on the future of the Supreme Court.

Ted Cruz will make the right appointments on the Supreme Court. He’ll make conservative appointments. He’ll appoint justices that defend the sanctity of innocent human life and oppose abortion. He’ll appoint justices that protect your First Amendment freedom to believe and to live out your faith. He’ll appoint justices that will protect your Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

Johnson added that Cruz will rebuild the military, secure the border, and defeat and destroy ISIS. He said the fact that Cruz can’t get along with politicians in Washington, D.C. is a “badge of honor.”

Phyllis Schlafly Praises Jeff Sessions, Trump & Cruz, Warns GOP 'Kingmakers'

In her February newsletter,  which came out just after Sen. Jeff Sessions’ endorsement of Donald Trump, Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly reproduced a column she wrote earlier in the month gushing about a round of interviews Sessions had given in which he said 2016 “is the last chance for the American people to take back control of their government.” Sessions helped Trump craft his immigration platform and previously backed his call for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S.

Here’s Schlafly:

“To win, Republicans need to demonstrate that they care about the average person who goes to work every day,” he added. Average Americans are tired of paying billions in welfare handouts to immigrants who are undermining U.S. wages. “People should have total confidence and a clear commitment on those issues. If they don’t, then they don’t have my vote,” he said…

Our immigration policy has been anti-American, decade after decade, and the voters need to know that 2016 might be our last chance to elect a president who can reduce this tide of illegals crossing our borders. The interests of working Americans must “be put first,” Sessions urged. “We need a president with the credibility to tell the world that the time of illegality is over. Do not come to this country unlawfully,” he said.

In the same column, Schlafly praised “outsider” candidates like Trump and Ted Cruz, and warned against “the Washington-based Republican Establishment” who she said are plotting to “take back control of the party from the outsiders and grassroots.” Among those she names as would-be “kingmakers” are House Speaker Paul Ryan – “who is openly contemptuous of Trump and has little use for Cruz” – and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who offended Schlafly by using her response to the State of the Union Address “to slam the ‘angriest voices’ in the presidential campaign and disavow the Republican front-runner’s popular call for a temporary pause in Muslim immigration.”

Schlafly vows that the Republican platform will be written by GOP delegates who are disappointed with the ineffectiveness of congressional Republicans and who “will have no use for Ryan’s open-borders ideology, which holds that anyone who can find a low-wage job should be allowed to settle in the United States.” Schlafly warns that a deadlocked convention could make  someone like Ryan the nominee. “Such an outcome,” she writes, “could destroy the Republican Party and guarantee a Democratic victory by causing disheartened grassroots voters to stay home and tempting an aggrieved candidate to mount a third-party or independent presidential campaign.”

In January, Schlafly declared that Donald Trump was “the only hope” to defeat the GOP’s “Kingmakers.”

Sessions Defends Trump On Muslim Ban, Says It's 'Appropriate To Begin To Discuss This'

Sen. Jeff Sessions, the Alabama Republican who helped Donald Trump craft his far-right immigration platform, came cautiously to Trump’s defense today after Trump proposed banning all Muslims from entering the United States. Sessions said that Trump was “treading on dangerous ground” but that it is “appropriate to begin to discuss” the issue.

“Well, he’s treading on dangerous ground,” Sessions told Stephen Bannon on Breitbart News’ SiriusXM program this morning, “because Americans are so deeply committed to freedom of religion, that is a major part of who we are.”

“But,” he added, “at the same time, we’re in an age that’s very dangerous and we’re seeing more and more persons enter and a lot of them have done terrorist acts and a lot of them believe it’s commanded by their religion … So I think it’s appropriate to begin to discuss this, and he has forced that discussion. We may even have a discussion about it in Judiciary Committee today. But, you know, it’s time for us to think this through and the classical, internal American religious principles I don’t think apply providing constitutional protections to persons not citizens who want to come here.”

“As a principle, we want to be not condemnatory of other people’s religion,” he continued. “And there are millions of wonderful, decent, good Muslims, hundreds of millions worldwide, and so we’ve got to be really careful that we don't cross that line and I guess Mr. Trump has caused us all to think about it more concretely.”

Jeff Sessions: No Major Hurricanes In Ten Years 'Thank The Lord'

Dismissing the threat of climate change yesterday, Sen. Jeff Sessions declared that no devastating hurricanes have hit the U.S. since Hurricane Katrina, “thank the Lord.”

The Alabama Republican appears to have forgotten events such as Superstorm Sandy, the 2012 hurricane that resulted in 285 deaths, and Hurricane Ike, which left 195 people dead, including at least 112 Americans, in 2008. After Katrina, Sandy and Ike were the second and third costliest storms, respectively, in U.S. history.

Sessions made his remarks on “Washington Watch,” the program hosted by Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. Discussing the upcoming climate change summit in Paris, Sessions insisted that there’s been “almost no warming” in the last 25 years and contested claims that climate change will increase the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events.

“Neither have we had more hurricanes,” he said. “We remember Katrina, I know you do and I do too being from Mobile, but we haven’t had a major hurricane hit the United States in a decade. Unbelievable. Thank the Lord. The predictions were we’d have more hurricanes and more devastating.”

Maybe Sessions doesn’t consider Sandy a “major hurricane”: After all, he voted against disaster relief aid to the people in affected areas, even though he has a record of requesting aid for his home state of Alabama.

The senator went on to say that climate change science has “a world government background to it” and will lead to “more and more world government.”

Jeff Sessions: Gay Couples Could Just ‘Call Themselves Married,’ Don’t Need Legal Recognition

At last week’s Eagle Forum Collegian Summit, Sen. Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, told a crowd of young conservatives that the Supreme Court was wrong in its “beyond breathtaking” ruling to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide.

“People could get married before the Supreme Court ruling, two people could call themselves married” he explained, saying that same-sex couples could “go off at the beach and have flowers and play rock music” in a symbolic, but not legally recognized, ceremony.

Sessions also took a page from Religious Right activists like Tony Perkins and Rick Wiles, and warned that Christians would soon be persecuted for their beliefs: “We are at a period of secularization in America that I think is very dangerous, it erodes the very concept of truth, the very concept of right and wrong, and there are people out there who enjoy attacking people who follow biblical directives.”


Rick Perry, Ron Johnson And Jeff Sessions To Join Anti-Muslim Activists At Florida Beach Resort Confab

FrontPageMag editor and increasingly unhinged anti-Obama yeller David Horowitz is hosting his annual “Restoration Weekend” for anti-Muslim activists at a beach resort in Florida this month. This year, Horowitz has recruited an impressive slate of Republican politicians, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, Oklahoma Rep. Jim Bridenstine to partake in the event’s offerings of golf, spa treatments, and Muslim-bashing.

Joining the GOP politicians at the Palm Beach weekend will be anti-Muslim activists including the Family Research Council’s Jerry BoykinJihadWatch’s Robert SpencerNational Review columnist Andrew McCarthy and, as Horowitz announced this weekend on Newsmax, far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders.

Conservative pundits Ann Coulter, Michael Reagan and Ben Shapiro will also be at the event, according to its website, along with FreedomWorks CEO Matt Kibbe, Heritage Foundation economics chief Stephen Moore and Wall Street Journal editorial board member Kimberly Strassel.

Horowitz organizes and funds the annual Restoration Weekend through his David Horowitz Freedom Center — attendees pay between $1,750 and $20,000, but the group’s most recent available tax return shows the 2012 event didn’t even break even. At past events, Horowitz has attracted GOP luminaries including Sen. Ted Cruz, former Sen. Jim DeMint, Rep. Steve King and Rep. Michele Bachmann. All apparently undeterred by their host’s record of anti-Muslim extremism, including accusing former Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin and Republican anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist (whose wife is Muslim) of being secret Muslim Brotherhood agents.

In just the past year, Horowitz’s commentary has moved even further to the fringe. As the Justice Department launched an investigation of the shooting of an unarmed black teen in Ferguson, Missouri, this summer, Horowitz accused Attorney General Eric Holder of leading a black “lynch mob.” A day earlier, Horowitz said he was “sure” President Obama was secretly a Muslim because “he’s a pretend Christian in the same way he’s a pretend American.”

Such anti-Obama conspiracy theories have a welcome place at Horowitz’s Restoration Weekends. At last year’s event, for instance, Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona agreed with Robert Spencer’s statement that President Obama is either a secret Muslim or just acting like one:

Wilders, who has spoken at past Horowitz-affiliated events, including at least one Restoration Weekend, is currently on a U.S. tour that included lunch at the Capitol with Bachmann. Wilders, one of the most fiercely anti-Islam voices in Europe has compared the Quran to Mein Kampf and this year lost some prominent members of his own party when he targeted Moroccans living in the Netherlands to stir up support before the European elections.

Rubio and Sessions Can Prevent Delay of Critical 11th Circuit Vote

Get ready. There’s more Republican obstruction on the way.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a vote on 11th Circuit nominee Robin S. Rosenbaum for this Thursday, which is an important step forward in the fight to address our judicial vacancy crisis. Fully a third of the 11th Circuit’s twelve active judgeships are currently vacant, and all four of its empty slots have been declared judicial emergencies by the Administrative Offices of U.S. Courts.

The vacancy crisis in the 11th Circuit is so bad that the court’s chief judge, Edward Carnes, issued an order in December temporarily suspending the standard rule that at least two judges on a three-judge 11th Circuit panel must be members of that court. That means that going forward, two of three judges on these panels could be visiting from someplace else, potentially outvoting the one 11th Circuit judge. It is vital that Judge Rosenbaum be confirmed in a timely manner. And that starts with a timely committee vote.

But it’s unlikely that’s enough reason for GOP Senators to drop their campaign of endless delays for judicial nominations.

Republicans are expected to delay that committee vote using a procedural tactic that they have deployed against all but five of President Obama’s judicial nominees.

That is, unless Sen. Marco Rubio or Sen. Jeff Sessions steps in.

Rosenbaum is from Florida, which gives Rubio a special responsibility to urge Republican senators on the committee not to delay the vote. It is a chance for him to prioritize his constituents over politics. Similarly, Sessions, who represents a state (Alabama) covered by the 11th Circuit, also has a unique responsibility, as a member of the Judiciary Committee, to avoid such needless delay.

Will either Rubio or Sessions step up and help move the process in a more functional direction? We’ll learn on Thursday, but if past events are a predictor of future behavior, I wouldn’t hold my breath.


Senate Hearing Held on Bill to Add New Judgeships

GOP criticism of the bill - which was based on nonpartisan expert recommendations - did not hold water.

Black American Leadership Alliance Anti-Immigrant Rally Keeps on Adding Fringe Activists…and Senators

On Monday, a brand new group called the Black American Leadership Alliance (BALA) will be holding a march on the National Mall in opposition to a new immigration policy. Michelle Cottle at the Daily Beast today explains that BALA, far from being the grassroots group it claims to be, consists of “a dozen or so…seasoned activists who have long been conducting this same anti-immigration crusade by means of an evolving series of similar groups.” Last month, when BALA first emerged, we profiled some of its leaders and their deep connections to the anti-immigrant network stemming from white nationalist John Tanton.

As Cottle puts it: “As a result of the many links between BALA’s leaders and the Tanton network, hate-group watchdogs have expressed concern that the organization is merely the latest in a series of minority front groups providing anti-immigration extremists cover from charges of racism.” We wrote about the anti-immigrant movement’s persistent but largely unsuccessful attempts to drive a wedge between black and Latino communities in this 2011 report.

Unsurpisingly, anti-immigrant congressional leaders are jumping to associate themselves with BALA and take part in its rally. The speakers list so far includes Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Iowa Rep. Steve King, former Rep. Allen West, and, somewhat ironically, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions.

Also speaking at the event are some lesser-known African-American conservative activists, including Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, who has said he thanks God for slavery, accused the NAACP of being “no different than the KKK” and frequently claims that President Obama is “racist” against white people. Joining him on the podium will be  radio host Kevin Jackson, who claims that feminists are waging “a war against beautiful women” and that President Obama “has taken America back into the 1960’s except now whites are enslaved to blacks.”

And we just noticed the addition of another fringe speaker to the list: Florida pastor O’Neal Dozier. Dozier made national headlines last year when, while serving as state chairman of Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign, he announced that Mitt Romney’s Mormonism would “taint the Republican Party.” A profile of Dozier by Mother Jones’ Adam Weinstein highlights some of the pastor’s worst anti-gay, anti-Islam rhetoric, dominionist rhetoric, which ultimately caused him to lose favor with the state's Republican establishment:

As Republicans courted him, Dozier continued to express some of his most extreme views. At a Reclaiming America convention in 2003, Dozier declared that "We should take control of every facet of society." He added that God was "100 percent for capital punishment. Oh, yeah, God knew some were going to slip through, a few innocent ones. He knew that. But you cannot have a society without capital punishment."

He reserved his greatest fervor for that "paramount of sins," homosexuality—which he declared was "something so nasty and disgusting that it makes God want to vomit."

In 2006, he declared war on a local Islamic group trying to build a mosque in the neighborhood. "One day," he intoned, "our grandchildren will live under the grips of sharia law. It's coming our way. Islam has a plan, a 20-year plan, to take over America from within. And they're doing it." The feds charged a charity that Dozier and local Republican activists had supported with swindling $3 million from Haitian immigrants. And Dozier started asking Florida judicial nominees if they were "God-fearing" and in favor of anti-sodomy laws. The GOP establishment began to sour on Dozier. By the summer of 2006, Crist and Jeb Bush had both dumped him.

Right Wing Round-Up - 6/12/13

Eagle Forum Rallies Anti-Immigrant Activists; Caller Suggests Shooting Senator

With immigration reform moving toward a vote in the Senate, anti-immigrant forces are ratcheting up their rhetoric.  On Wednesday night, Eagle Forum hosted an “emergency” phone briefing intended to spur grassroots lobbying by their activists.  It featured dire warnings about the Senate bill spelling doom for America, attacks on pro-reform Sen. Marco Rubio, and a joking suggestion that activists planning a visit to Sen. Susan Collins’ office “shoot her.”

Joining Eagle Forum’s Colleen Holcomb were Stephen Miller (standing in for his boss Sen. Jeff Sessions), Rosemary Jenks from anti-immigration Numbers USA, right-wing pundit Betsy McCaughey, and activist leaders from around the country. Also joining the call was the Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector, whose much-maligned “study” of the costs of immigration reform has gained attention mostly for the views of its co-author, since forced to leave Heritage, that immigration policy should reflect his belief that Hispanics have lower IQs than the “white native” population of the U.S.

One notable feature of the call was anger at Sen. Marco Rubio, who not long ago was the darling of the Tea Party movement, but who is now vilified for his support of immigration reform.  Speakers on the Eagle Forum call expressed contempt for Rubio, saying he has been lying about the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” bill. 

Rosemary Jenks from Numbers USA called the current Senate bill “devastating for America” and worse than the immigration bill that was defeated in 2007.  “If this amnesty passes,” she warned, “that’s it for America.”  Jenks insisted there is no way to fix the bill. “There is no series of amendments that can make this bill palatable to the American people,” she said. “Kill it dead, now, because it is not savable.”  Jenks said it is important to keep the bill from passing in the Senate, because if it passes, and the House passes any kind of immigration legislation, the bills would go to conference where she said it would leave our future in the hands of President Obama, Harry Reid, and John Boehner.

Betsy McCaughey, a right-wing think-tanker and former Lt. Governor of New York, urged activists to point out sections of the bill that she said people will find “repulsive,” including provisions that she said would put “left-wing community organizations” in charge of assisting people applying for legal status. She said Rubio has not read the bill he is promoting.

Rector echoed that charge, saying Rubio “has no knowledge whatsoever” of what is in the bill.  Rector defended his calculation that the immigration reform bill would cost America $6 trillion over the next 50 years and accused the bill’s supporters of deceiving the American public about its costs.

Callers were urged to rely on resources from Numbers USA, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, and the Center for Immigration Studies, a trio of organizations that are, in the words of the Southern Poverty Law Center, “fruits of the same poisonous tree.”  According to the SPLC,  

“Together, FAIR, CIS, and Numbers USA form the core of the nativist lobby in America. In 2007, they were key players in derailing bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform that had been expected by many observers to pass. Today, these organizations are frequently treated as if they were legitimate, mainstream commentators on immigration. But the truth is that they were all conceived and birthed by a man who sees America under threat by non-white immigrants. And they have never strayed from their roots.”

The remarks about Sen. Collins came in response to a question from an activist looking for suggestions for an upcoming meeting with her district office.  “Yeah, shoot her,” came the response from a participant on the call.  Awkward laughter followed, along with a speaker’s suggestion that they “shoot her with data.”

Republicans Seek to Rig the DC Circuit Court

GOP bill would delete three of the vacancies on the DC Circuit so President Obama would be unable to restore balance to this extremely influential court.

Sessions Objects to Judicial Nominee Who Called Kagan ‘Qualified’

The Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday approved the nomination of Maine attorney William Kayatta Jr. to sit on the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals. Only two committee members voted against allowing Kayatta a vote from the full Senate: Utah’s Mike Lee, who is still protesting all Obama nominees, and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who gave the following reason, according to the Portland Press Herald:

In a statement on his opposition to Kayatta's nomination, Sessions cited Kayatta's role as lead evaluator for the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary during the nomination of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan.

Sessions said Kayatta saw fit to give Kagen the highest rating despite her lack of substantial courtroom and trial experience, as a lawyer or trial judge. Sessions said the rating was "not only unsupported by the record, but, in my opinion, the product of political bias."

Yes, that’s right. Kayatta was involved in the American Bar Association’s nonpartisan rating process, which dared to call the solicitor general and former Harvard Law School dean “well qualified” for the job of Supreme Court Justice.

Sessions, one of the most outspoken opponents of Kagan’s Supreme Court nomination frequently slammed her lack of judicial experience in her confirmation hearings two years ago. He seemed to conveniently forget that the late conservative icon Chief Justice William Rehnquist also came to the High Court without having previously served as a judge – as have over one third of all Justices in U.S. history. The American Bar Association similarly found Rehnquist qualified for the job and called him “one of the best persons available for appointment to the Supreme Court [pdf].

It would be funny if it weren’t so appalling: Sessions’ grudge against Kagan runs so deep that he not only objected to her nomination, he’s objecting to anyone who who’s dared to call her qualified for her job.


Senator Sessions Equates Citizens United with Brown v. Board

Talking Points Memo has reported an exchange in which Sen. Jeff Sessions, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, defended the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC by comparing it to the decision to desegregate American schools in Brown v. Board of Education.
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