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Stacking the Deck By: Gregory Gethard
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, May 11, 2009


Senator Jeff Sessions is ready for his close-up.
The Alabama Republican, recently named as the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, will be the public face of the GOP opposition to President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. That news has galvanized the Left, and the campaign to discredit Sessions has already kicked into gear. The Politico reports:
By elevating Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions to their top spot on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Republicans have selected their chief inquisitor for President Barack Obama’s first Supreme Court nominee: a Southern, white conservative man who has drawn fire for racially insensitive comments in the past.

Democrats like how this is looking.

“Sessions will help galvanize and crystallize why we need a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate,” a Democratic senator, speaking on the condition of anonymity...
The strategy is simple. By painting Sessions, a conservative with a distinctive Southern twang, as a bigot, the Left hopes to make it easier for Obama’s choice to ascend to the Supreme Court. After all, if Sessions is too aggressive in his questioning of the nominee, it will be easy to drag his name out for a media show-trial to question his “true motivations.” However, a close look at Session’s record shows that he is anything but a racist.
Take his position on the issue of disparate sentences for crack versus cocaine. In the 1980’s, the phrase “crack cocaine” was a regular large-font headline. In 1986, prompted by the drug-related death of college basketball star Lenny Bias, Congress passed the “Anti-Drug Abuse Act,” which required mandatory sentencing for drug possession.
But the law had one great disparity. For people possessing the crack form of cocaine, only five grams was needed to guarantee a five-year prison sentence. For those possessing the powdered form, on the other hand, at least 500 grams was required for the same penalty. This 100:1 ratio exists despite crack and powdered cocaine being the same drug, just in different forms. Critics argue that, as a result of this law, a great racial imbalance has occurred. As the theory goes, crack is perceived to be a drug for poor, inner-city minorities; powdered cocaine attracts more affluent whites.
Congress has revisited this law, but has never followed through on changing it. Two years ago, though, an important voice emerged in the attempt to repeal the Anti-Drug Abuse Act. It was Republican Senator Jeff Sessions. As Sessions said, “Congress thought by having very harsh sentences, it would deter the spread of crack into the inner cities and around the country. The truth is, it didn't stop it. It spread very rapidly. Now we need to ask ourselves, what is the right sentence for this bad drug. I think it's time to adjust. I think it's past time to do this.”
In supporting changes to the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, Sessions has clearly shown racial sensitivity. But that won’t stop the Left from tarring him as a racist. Indeed, Sessions has long been the object of such treatment from his critics across the political isle.
In 1986, when Sessions was nominated by President Ronald Reagan for a federal judgeship, he was forced to defend himself about racially insensitive comments he had allegedly made earlier in his career. Sessions’ nomination was eventually turned down. (Coincidentally, in the same year Sessions was turned away for allegedly racist remarks, Congress passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which would have its own racist legacy. The bill was sponsored in the House by Texas Democrat and former Speaker Jim Wright.)
Sessions’ 1986 committee hearings gained new life last week. Virtually every news story written about Sessions touched on his past – and specifically the baseless allegations of racism that have been trotted out throughout his career. Thus, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow used the 23-year-old hearings as a way to label Sessions as a racist.
Sessions has always maintained that any comments he made were taken wildly out of context. And, in addition to his desire to modify the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, Sessions has also shown his true colors in other ways. Of charges that he was a segregationist, Sessions has said, “That is absolutely not true. I’ve never supported anything like that. As a United States attorney, I bet I filed 20 or 30 lawsuits to desegregate schools to maintain our consent decrees, working hand-in-glove with the Civil Rights Division in the Department of Justice for 12 years. So that’s just not true.”
Still, left-wing efforts to smear Sessions have continued. In fact, they have only gotten nastier. Last week, the Huffington Post made much of a report from America’s Voice, a group that supports amnesty for illegal immigrants, which outrageously attempted to link Sessions to the white-supremacy movement. As with similar charges, the group’s claims that Sessions is a white supremacist are outright slander. Sessions’s real “offense” here seems to be his opposition to amnesty under the guise of “immigration reform,” a position that has won him plaudits from groups like Americans for Legal Immigration even as it has made him an enemy of the Left.

While Democratic strategists and the media are busy making Sessions out to be a modern day George Wallace, his Senate colleagues have defended his honor. Among others, Sessions has the backing of South Carolina Republican Lindsay Graham, who said about the left’s attempts to paint Session as a racist. “If people try to go down that road, it’ll blow up in their face, because Jeff is a good guy,” Graham said last week. “[I]f we’re going to let the [left-wing] bloggers run the country, then the country’s best days are behind us.”
 
Senators who hail from outside the South also have also come out in support of Sessions. When asked about Sessions record on race, Arizona Republican Jon Kyl responded, “Come on, I’m not going to respond to idiotic questions like that. That’s an affront. ... He’s being attacked because guys like you ask questions like that. That is an affront to civility. Jeff Sessions has been a very valuable member of that committee.”
 
Even one Senator who voted against Sessions in 1986 has had a change of heart. His name? Arlen Specter, the man Sessions is replacing. Said Specter, “My vote against candidate Sessions for the federal court was a mistake because I have since found that Sen. Sessions is egalitarian,” Specter said.
 
So far, though, Specter has had little influence over his new Democratic colleagues and their allies in the blogosphere. As the nomination fight nears, the smear campaign against Sessions will only intensify. The good news is that, as Sessions becomes the public face of the GOP opposition, he has a powerful defense to offer: his esteemed political career and the decades-long dishonesty of his political opponents.   

Gregory Gethard is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer.


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