Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show” and a columnist for The Daily Beast. Follow him @TheDeansreport. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.
Dean Obeidallah: Jeff Sessions' views on a range of issues are jaw-droppingly extreme
Sessions' worldview is often far to the right, skirting outright bigotry, he says
Even a magical mirror would have a tough time answering this question, given how many stunningly bad people President-elect Donald Trump has chosen for his administration.
There’s Steve Bannon – Trump’s chief strategist – whose selection elicited cheers from white supremacists. There’s Trump’s nominee for national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who has a history of embracing wild conspiracy theories and backing some of the nation’s most notorious anti-Muslim activists.
But the worst of this horror show may very well be Trump’s choice for attorney general: Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, known to most as U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions. It’s a selection that should concern Americans who believe in equal rights for all.
If confirmed as attorney general, the Alabama Republican would have vast powers such as serving as the chief law enforcement officer for the federal government, providing legal opinions to the President on key issues and deciding when the Department of Justice will become involved in fighting for the civil rights of Americans.
That’s troubling because of Sessions’ well-documented views on issues ranging from equal pay for women to voting rights to the LGBT, which are jaw-droppingly extreme. We aren’t talking mainstream conservative views, but a worldview that is often far to the right, skirting outright bigotry.
Here’s a sampler of Sessions’ views on key issues that should send shivers down your spine:
In 1986, when President Ronald Reagan nominated Sessions to a federal judgeship, he was voted down by the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee, making him only the second judicial nominee in 50 years to be rejected.
Why? Well, at the hearings, the senators heard allegations of Sessions’ history of doing things like calling a black lawyer “boy;” joking that the Ku Klux Klan was “okay, until he learned that they smoked marijuana;” and that he had described the NAACP as “un-American” and “Communist inspired.”
Sessions even allegedly stated that the NAACP and American Civil Liberties Union were trying to force civil rights “down the throats of people.”
Sessions – who appeared to suggest, after Trump’s infamous “Access Hollywood” video was released, that he wasn’t sure grabbing a woman by the genitals would constitute “sexual assault” – shockingly voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act in 2013.
And Sessions not only supported an unconstitutional complete ban on abortions after 20 weeks, which violates Roe v. Wade, but he also voted against federal protections for reproductive clinics against violence.
Sessions was one of the senators to oppose the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, signed into law in 2009. The law extended federal hate crime protection to people victimized for their sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability.
Yet Sessions – who has supported a constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality – astoundingly suggested that extending hate crime protection for the LGBT community would “cheapen the civil rights movement.”
Sessions described the seminal Voting Rights Act of 1965, enacted to prevent state and local officials from imposing barriers to disenfranchise black voters, as a “piece of intrusive legislation.” And in 2013, after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down an important enforcement provision of that law, Sessions opposed efforts to update it, remarking that “the justification no longer exists.”
(In reality, various Republican-championed voting-related laws were struck down in 2016 by federal courts for unconstitutionally depriving people of color the right to vote.)
And these are just a few reasons why so many oppose Sessions’ nomination. Just this week, more than 1,200 law professors signed a letter urging the Senate to reject Sessions, declaring that “we are convinced that Jeff Sessions will not fairly enforce our nation’s laws and promote justice and equality in the United States.”
In 2015, I attended a dinner where current Attorney General Loretta Lynch told a roomful of Muslim-Americans that we – along with other minority communities – were not alone, since she was standing with us against hate crimes and attempts to deprive us of our rights.
But with Sessions as attorney general, it appears that many communities will be even worse off than if they were standing alone. It appears that women, people of color, the LGBT community and others have a person in Sessions who actually opposes equal rights for all Americans.
With that in mind, and given Sessions’ own record, under no circumstances should he be confirmed as attorney general of our great nation.