By Joey Kennedy
Alabama Political Reporter
This is not an exciting column, if any of my columns are exciting. But it’s a column I need to write.
For years, I’ve advocated that the US President, whichever party, should be allowed to appoint whomever he (or she, if ever we have a she) wants to Cabinet positions, the Supreme Court, the Federal judgeships, the US attorney generals — as long as that person appointed is qualified. The Senate, in its “advice and consent” role, has no grounds to deny a president his appointees unless that candidate is found truly unqualified.
I believe former US Senators Jeff Sessions is unqualified to be the US Attorney General. He’s shown throughout his career he does not speak for Everyman. He has a racist past (and probably present). I question his dedication and commitment to civil rights for all. He’s xenophobic and homophobic, and, frankly, just unpleasant.
And now, apparently a liar.
Yet, Sessions was confirmed by the Senate. Now, he’s embroiled in a scandal involving misleading — if not outright untrue — statements he made during his confirmation hearings about his contacts with Russian officials during President Donald Trump’s campaign last year, when Sessions was a surrogate for the clearly dysfunctional candidate and, now, clearly dysfunctional president.
As Alabama Political Reporter’s Chip Brownlee reported this week, nearly “2,000 attorneys from across the US have signed on to a complaint addressed to the Alabama State Bar Disciplinary Committee asking that Attorney General Jeff Session be disbarred from the Alabama State Bar.”
The reason: Sessions should be disbarred because he violated professional conduct standards with his misleading testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearings. Sessions himself has recused himself from any investigation into collusion between Trump’s campaign and the Russians because of his omissions during his testimony. So he knows he did wrong, as well.
There is smoke here, and maybe, a raging fire.
Those are Sessions’ problems, and we’ll have to wait and see if he can overcome them and retain any credibility (such as it is) as US Attorney General. Probably not, for many of us who had little faith even before Sessions was confirmed.
Still, the Senate Judiciary Committee and full Senate should, indeed, confirm federal Judge Neil Gorsuch to the US Supreme Court. Let’s move on.
No, Gorsuch isn’t my choice. But neither is this President. However, Trump was declared the winner, and he should be able to appoint qualified people to lead US agencies, courts, and courthouses.
After his confirmation hearings last week, it was clear that Gorsuch is highly qualified. Yes, Gorsuch has some writings and judgments in his distant past that are troubling. But, please, don’t hold me to what I thought or did when I was in my early college days. Those were days when I was actually a Republican myself, working in the congressional campaign of then-US Rep. Dave Treen in Louisiana. I also supported Treen’s successful run for Louisiana governor.
Hell, as a teenager, I canvassed my neighborhood for former President Richard Nixon. Eventually, Nixon’s role in Watergate would lead me to journalism.
Early in my days in Alabama, in 1978, I worked in former Gov. Guy Hunt’s first campaign for governor.
In those days, I supported the death penalty, I had naïve beliefs about public assistance, and I opposed government-supported health care.
No longer, though, because I’ve gained life experiences, a renewed faith, and an education that informed me the death penalty is wrong, that people who can’t work or feed their children need help, and that a one-payer, universal health insurance system is the best for us all. C’mon, most First-World nations already have universal health care, or some form of it. Most of those nations’ residents aren’t clamoring for our private-pay system, are they?
No, Neil Gorsuch isn’t my choice.
Even President Barack Obama’s nomination last year of Merrick Garland – who Republicans refused to even consider – wasn’t my choice. But Garland was a credible choice. He certainly is qualified. Still, that’s last year’s news.
Gorsuch is this year’s news, and, friends, Gorsuch is qualified. Democrats in the Senate should not delay any longer his consideration before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Democrats shouldn’t filibuster his nomination, either. That’s just petty. Pick your fights, folks, and this shouldn’t be one.
Gorsuch is going to be confirmed – either straight up, as he should, or after Republicans invoke the so-called “nuclear option” that will allow a simple majority vote for confirmation (Republicans have 52 votes, so Gorsuch is in).
True, Gorsuch isn’t one some of us would prefer, no doubt about that. But the president picked him. And, Gorsuch is well-qualified to serve on the High Court.
If only we could say that about Jeff Sessions as US Attorney General.
Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column every week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected]