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Restoration Weekend: The Progress We've Made By: Jeff Sessions
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, December 12, 2003


Rep. Roger Wicker: You should know that Jeff Sessions was born in Hybart, Alabama, that it is not Hibbert; it is Hybart. It's near Camden. You should know that before he was politically active, he was politically incorrect. He was an Eagle Scout. He went to college at Huntington College in Montgomery, Alabama, met a young lady there named Mary, and before they got married, they had founded the College Republican Club.  He went on to receive his Juris Doctorate degree at the University of Alabama. 

Now in 1994, Florida sent Joe Scarborough and others to Congress. We had this huge class. Alabama didn't send us anybody in 1994. But they did do something very, very nice: they elected Jeff Sessions Attorney General, paving the way for our present United States Senator Jeff Sessions.

 

But some of you who did not attend the meeting today on the judges' controversy, the outrage in the United States Senate, should know that before 2003 -- and the judicial outrage in the United States Senate -- before Judge Bork even, the case of Jeff Sessions and his appointment to be a United States District Judge was a warm-up for the liberals in the United States Senate. This good man had been Assistant U.S. Attorney, had been U.S. Attorney, serving capably under President Ronald Reagan, and President Reagan thought that it would be nice to give Jeff Sessions a life appointment to the U.S. District Court in Alabama. 

 

The liberals of the United States Senate, and I think Almighty Providence, had other ideas. They played every nasty card they could.  They played the Southern white card. They played the race card. In the end, the very United States Senate Judiciary Committee, on which Senator Jeff Sessions now sits, defeated our next speaker and did not allow him to be a federal district judge. But so many times, particularly in the South, we say, "What goes around comes around." Jeff Sessions was elected, as I say, Attorney General in 1994, United States Senator, succeeding Howell Heflin in 1996. 

 

You've heard him briefly today at lunch, but you'll hear more from him now. He is a wonderful friend of ours, a member of the Armed Services Committee, the Budget Committee, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Ted Kennedy and Joe Biden kick themselves every day for not confirming our next speaker. I present to you my friend, who I hope and pray will never be a federal district judge from Alabama, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama.

 

Jeff Sessions: Thank you. It's good to see Roger Wicker. Of course, Joe is a University of Alabama graduate.  We let him split off to Northwest Florida. We'll annex that before long anyway, but Roger and I were involved in the Young Republicans, and Mary and I were active, and I was elected State Chairman when I was at law school at Alabama. I

 

 got this call from this guy, who kept bugging me to vote for somebody for National Chairman. I said, "I don't go to those national meetings." "Well, we've got to have your vote. It's going to be a close vote." "I'm not interested. I've got enough to do in the state, and all you do, guys, is get up there and fuss."

 

And so it kept on.  He said, "I'm coming to university."  I said, "Don't come."  "I'm coming."  "No, don't bother.  Don't waste your time."  "I'm coming.  I've got to have your vote."  So I finally said, "Okay," and he spent the night with me and convinced me I should vote for his candidate, and, Roger, that was Lee Atwater for Karl Rove as National Chairman. It’s so funny how we see people again. 

 

For a lot of us in the South, things have changed. I remember, Mary and I were there at Huntington College, a liberal arts Methodist college in Montgomery, and we supported Perry Hooper for the U.S. Senate. We were so convinced he was going to win, he made me the College Chairman, he campaigned all over, and he got 38 percent of the vote. 

 

Almost 30 years later, he ran for Chief Justice in a bitter battle against a trial lawyer incumbent. I was Attorney General and was able to send my Chief Assistant on these matters to Atlanta in the election contest. It was decided by a 200-vote difference out of a million votes cast. My predecessor was trying to keep the other guy in, and we knew justice was on our side, so I sent Bill Pryor to Atlanta to argue the case for Judge Hooper. Judge Hooper won and that very case played a role in President Bush's victory in Florida, because some of the same principles applied on equal protection issues. 

 

David Horowitz is a man I admire. He has made a tremendous personal journey, an odyssey. He has understood with a degree very few do the nature and character of the Left. It is still alive in America today. It is particularly alive on college campuses, and we need to do more about that. I remember when I was going off to college, I had a brilliant English teacher in high school. He went on and later taught in college. He read National Review and wanted me to read the National Review.  He said, "You need ammunition, Jeff, when you get off to college because they're going to come at you, and if you don't have the ammunition to defend your values, they might get you." And so I got my dictionary, and I tried to read the National Review. And I read it cover to cover, you know, and I read about the former communists. But David has a unique knowledge and ability to communicate on campuses.  He goes into the toughest areas, like Brown, and actually tries to make them listen. They don't -- they threaten his life, but he goes anyway and makes a difference. So sharing these values, his insight into the nature of the Left in the world today is good. It is a heresy; it is an evil practice that subordinates everything to the attainment of power, and I really believe we have a duty to confront it. You would think it's gone away, but it hasn't gone away. I see it in the United States Senate. We saw in the last 39 hours, if you want to know the truth, some of the tactics, I believe, that come out of that. (The Senator is referring to those Democrats who opposed the Senate Republicans’ 39-hour filibuster he and others had recently completed, to draw attention to the Democrats’ filibuster of Bush’s judicial nominees. – The Editors.)

 

I think the questions of truth, faith, values, are courage are things that we need to worry about in America today.  If this country fails, as I used to say in my campaigns, it won't be because of economic failure or military failure really; it will be because of the failure of will, a loss of the character and values that we held as Americans. It's important for us to understand the culture that created us, that has allowed us to be the most free and the most prosperous people in the world, the most generous people in the world.  And why anyone would want to abandon the very principles that allowed us to do that, I'm not sure. I think we ought to intentionally be more aggressive to teach our young people about that, and, David, thank you for what you do.

 

What do I think of the Academic Bill of Rights? On our college campuses, the philosophy that the end justifies the means is still afoot.  In this debate over the judges, Lindsey told you about how they did Judge Pickering, and I could talk about what they did to Bill Pryor and how his record was twisted. I thought I would tell you two things that I think indicate the kind of competitors we're dealing with. 

 

For one, I think I'll tell you the way we did a little colloquy with Orrin Hatch on the floor. I said, "Senator Hatch, when President Clinton was president and you were chairman of the Judiciary Committee. What position did you take on whether or not a filibuster was appropriate in the Senate against judges?" He said he opposed them. I said, "The Majority Leader, Trent Lott, was the Republican Majority Leader and President Clinton was president. What position did he take as to whether a filibuster was appropriate against judges?" He said, "He opposed them." And I said, "Well, what position did Senator Daschle, the Minority Leader, and what position did Senator Leahy, the ranking Democratic on the Judiciary Committee, take when the President of the United States was Bill Clinton?" He said, "They opposed the filibuster." I said, "Well, what position are they taking today?" Of course, they're now leading a filibuster. Just a few years later, two or three years later, a position that they are on record taking consistently in the Senate, they completely flipped because it was to their advantage to do so, and I think that says something about the nature of that debate. 

 

And in the debate on Carolyn Kuhl, I'll just share this story. Carolyn Kuhl, graduated magna cum laude at Princeton. She went to Duke Law School and was editor of the Law Review and was selected for the Department of Justice Solicitor General's office, where they argue before the Supreme Court. Senator Leahy, in talking about her on the floor yesterday, said that she was a spear-carrier for Bob Jones University and was against blacks, Mormons, and Catholics. Now, I bet she had never heard of Bob Jones University by the time she was in the Solicitor General's office. She is a brilliant young lawyer who was asked to do some research on the question of whether or not the Internal Revenue Service could look out at all over the colleges and universities in America, private and public, religious, and so forth, and say to Bob Jones University, "You don't get a tax exemption." Ed Meece remembers that debate. The government concluded that the IRS did not have that authority. She wrote an internal memorandum as a young lawyer, and it built it up, and (fmr. Solicitor General) Charles Fried took that position in the Supreme Court and in the courts of the United States, and it had nothing to do with any affirmation of the abominable policies of Bob Jones University in that regard. It was a clear, legal position. 

 

But this is the kind of debate that we involved ourselves with too often in the Senate. Before you can wash off the mud from the last attack, they've gone to another charge. And by the time you get that one straightened out, they've gone to another charge and another charge. And pretty soon, a person like Judge Pickering, who is a champion of civil rights, is pictured as a person who's insensitive to civil rights, and that's not right. We need to do better about that. I worry sometimes about our Senate: the nature of the debate, our commitment to truth,  and our commitment to sound public policy. I believe the culture is important to that. How we affirm or condemn people who are not fair in debate, who don't treat people with respect and decency is important.  Maybe we in the Senate need to work harder to try to turn the tide and be more tenacious in making sure that charges that are untrue are refuted.

 

I thought I would share just a couple of things with you on some different issues for what it's worth. President Bush is an extraordinary leader in my opinion. Zell Miller has sized it up basically the way I have. He is a straight shooter. He is a man of conviction, and he has the courage to act on those convictions. 

 

A number of years ago, Mary and I were at our alma mater, Huntington College, and Henry Kissinger was speaking, and he talked about the presidency. He said, "The greatest characteristic of a president is courage." Then he defined courage. I was so moved by his definition that I immediately wrote it down on a napkin, and I've never forgotten it. He said, "Courage is a willingness to act on a set of beliefs that can't be proven at the time." President George W. Bush has got the courage to act on what he believes in, he's willing to take the heat and put everything on the line if he thinks it's good for America. 

 

And, by the way, one of his other good characteristics is he understands he represents the United States of America; he does not represent the whole world at this point. He speaks for us, of our values and our heritage without embarrassment. He's proud of what we do in the world. He believes we have a positive impact, and he's not defensive about it. And he's not worried if the socialists in Europe don't agree. He stands firm on a lot of things, like judges, fighting for his nominees. He said he wanted judges to follow the law, not make the law. He likes Justice Scalia, and when he became President, he nominated judges who would follow the Constitution, not draft a new one. And he has said explicitly, "If some of these nominees are knocked down, I'm going to nominate another one just as conservative." That's leadership. That makes us want to fight for him.

 

And he fights for all of us in the War on Terrorism. Osama bin Laden had started the war a long time ago. He declared war on the United States15 years ago. There was the Khobar Towers and the first attack on the Twin Towers. There was the attack on our warship in Yemen.  A warship of a great nation was attacked in a harbor around this world by a fanatic who had declared war on us, and nothing was done about it. A cruise missile was lobbed into Afghanistan, and that was the end of that. And that was not sufficient. 

 

Then September 11 occurred, and President Bush acted with decisiveness and courage and leadership. He didn't dither. He didn't worry. He made a clear statement that we were at war and we were going to act like we were at war. Like Patton said, "We were going to make the other dumb slog die for his country or his beliefs, not us." 

 

I remember going to a naval group and talking to them before September 11, and this young young sailor hollered out, "Remember the U.S.S. Cole!" I always thought about that. I mean a great nation cannot allow its warships to be attacked without fighting back.

 

We were at a conference, a North Atlantic Assembly of Parliamentarians and a member of the House of Lords in the UK, a real liberal, came up to me and said, "We shouldn't do anything in Kosovo without the UN vote." I replied, "Well, sir, let me ask you this: If the UK were in a life-and-death situation and you called the United States for help, would you want us to ask for a unanimous vote in the Security Council first before we came?" No great nation, no military nation with the power that our nation has today can subordinate itself to NATO or to the UN. We want to work with those organizations. We want to work with the UN. Sometimes good things can happen from that, but Bush has made clear that our hands will not be tied. Under the Clinton administration, I was growing quite worried about our constant signing of treaties. It struck me, as I said on the floor, and I've heard this analogy used subsequently, of Gulliver in the land of the Lilliputians, where they keep tying him down with strings, and pretty soon you can't move. That is probably the goal of some of these people, to make sure the United States cannot act. 

 

Now, we have a high moral responsibility. We've got to be very careful about how we use power. The Economist magazine has said the good news for the world is that the interests of the United States in the world are world interests. The United States is for trade, is for prosperity, is for progress; it's for health, peace and stability; and it's for freedom. The Economist magazine said the Europeans – yes, they're going to complain, they're going to fuss, and they're going to whine and grumble – but if they were really afraid of the United States, why don't their increase their defense budgets and get our troops out of the continent?  They're going to sit back there with a low, low defense budget and fuss about the United States, but they're not really worried about the United States, because they know we're not going to take unfair and unjust advantage of them in matters of high security. 

 

I’m happy to tell you, when Donald Rumsfeld talks, the Europeans hush up. We've made some progress if you think about it. Pakistan was harboring terrorism. They chose to move away from it. We've cleaned out the Taliban in Afghanistan, and I believe the new government established there will be successful there. In Iraq, we have eliminated the biggest mass murderer in the last 30 years. Three hundred thousand graves have now been found in Iraq, and remember, we had embargoes around Iraq, flew missions from Turkey and Saudi Arabia over Iraq. They shot at us, and we shot at them for 10 years. We were in a state of constant conflict. Really, we didn't need preemption as a doctrine in Iraq; the first war never ended. They didn't comply with the agreements we made when we ceased hostilities, and we had every right to resume formal hostilities again when that failed. 

 

So Indonesia, the Philippines, Europe, even the Arab countries are doing a better job against terrorism. They're sharing with us better -- our agencies are sharing with themselves better as a result of the Patriot Act, which, trust me, is a modest step. It is not threatening to your basic liberties. If you have any doubt about that, call John Ashcroft, and how limiting the bill really is.

 

I also think about Tony Blair speaking to the Joint Session of Congress. It was really an impressive time after the war, and he'd just met with (Senator) Harry Reid (D-NV). Reid asked the question, "Well, what if somebody in Nevada says to one of you, you know, ‘Why us? Why do we have to carry the burden around the world?’" Blair answered, "If you asked me, I would just give this answer. ‘It's your destiny.’" You can get carried away with that kind of philosophy, but I think we do have a burden, a challenge, a responsibility at this time. Nobody else is capable of keeping this world from descending into total disorder, and these tenacious, organized terrorists have to be challenged. We have not been attacked again in our homeland, to date. We've made progress around the world. 

 

I watch the papers every day. I go to Walter Reed regularly and see soldiers over there, including several from Alabama, so I don't like it when our helicopters go down and we lose soldiers. I hate to see that. But I'm confident if we stay the course, we'll be making progress, particularly as we bring on an Iraqi army, an Iraqi police force, an Iraqi security force. To have just more soldiers walking around on the streets not knowing who the enemy is, not being able to speak the language, is not particularly helpful, in my view. So soldiers, it doesn't strike me, in larger numbers is the answer to this; the answer is to bringing up an indigenous force committed to a new Iraq, and I believe we can accomplish that.

 

I believe we’re making progress on the economy, too. You know, I’m no economist, but I remember the first Joint Economic Committee I attended, and Alan Greenspan was the witness. I was nervous about it, frankly. What do you ask Alan Greenspan when you don't know much about your subject? So I read up on the subject. As part of that I read a USA Today article, where they interviewed people from England, Japan, and Germany. The paper asked them why the United States economy was better than theirs. And the answer was the same: the United States had less taxes, less regulation, and a greater commitment to the free market. Well, I said, "Mr. Greenspan, do you agree with that?" He perked up, looked right at me and said, "I absolutely agree with that." That's been my marching orders on the economy ever since. 

 

Well, the numbers have been good.  You know, we see a 7.1 percent growth and an 8 percent productivity increase. Those are stunning numbers. First-time unemployment claims last week dropped 12 percent over the week before. We've got 136,000 new jobs.  The stock market is on the move. Even Gerhard Schroeder told the truth the other day. He said, "We've got to have tax cuts in Germany because President Reagan's tax cuts are working in America." How about that? 

 

Thank you. It's been a pleasure for us to be with you. We value this opportunity. I believe America is a great land. I meet our soldiers. They are tough and ready and willing to fight. I was at Walter Reed Veteran's Day and met a couple soldiers from Alabama.  Both have serious leg wounds, but both want to stay in the military. One had been a Marine at Beirut and was injured under the rubble of that bombing, and now he almost lost his leg and his life in Iraq fighting this group of terrorists. 

 

An African-American Lieutenant Colonel was racked up there with a bad leg injury. I said, "How do your soldiers feel when they're on the streets? Are they nervous?" And I don't think he quite understood where I was coming from. He said, "They're not nervous. These guys are warriors. They're prepared to kill the enemy wherever they find him."  And I liked to hear that, you know. I thought, if you don’t have young men and women who will go out and put it on the line when you have to do combat, you're in big trouble. 

 

They had a Discovery Channel story on Rome, you know, the last losing to the Huns at the end. They just wouldn't fight because Rome was so corrupt; who'd want to fight for Rome? So we've got to keep our heart strong. We’ve got to keep on turning out young people like we're turning out today who, when called on to put their lives on the line, will do so. Then I believe we'll be able to contribute to a better world. That is my prayer.  Thank you so much.


Sen. Jeff Sessions is a Republican U.S. Senator from Alabama.


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