Jeff Sessions Enters Alabama Senate Race With Obsequious Trump Praise
Jeff Sessions entered the race for the GOP nomination for Senate in Alabama by heaping obsequious and pathetic praise on a man who had spent two years insulting him publicly and privately
As reported yesterday, former Senator and Attorney General Jeff Sessions entered the race for the Republican Senate nomination in Alabama with a campaign video that expressed obsequious support for a man who spent the better part of two years insulting and belittling him before finally firing him as he had threatened to do in the past:
Jeff Sessions formally announced on Thursday that he was entering the Senate race in Alabama, a decision that will likely put him on a collision course with President Trump, who still harbors resentment toward the former attorney general a year after forcing him from office.
In a statement issued just after 8 p.m., Mr. Sessions took pains to signal that he had remained loyal to the president despite their differences. “When I left President Trump’s cabinet, did I write a tell-all book? No. Did I go on CNN and attack the president. No. Have I said a cross word about President Trump? No,” the statement said. “I was his strongest advocate. I still am. We must make America great again.”
The announcement came after several weeks of public leaks and private maneuvering during which the former attorney general tested the waters about running for what would be his fifth term in the Senate. He gave up his seat in 2017 after Mr. Trump nominated him and the Senate confirmed him.
But their relationship soon soured as Mr. Sessions, an adviser to Mr. Trump’s first presidential campaign, decided to recuse himself from overseeing the Justice Department’s investigation into whether Mr. Trump and his associates worked illegally with Russians to interfere in the 2016 election. Mr. Trump has never forgiven Mr. Sessions, who was the first member of the Senate to endorse his presidential bid.
In his first televised interview since leaving office, Mr. Sessions told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson on Thursday that he had no regrets about the recusal. “I did the thing I had to do under the rules of the Department of Justice,” he said, acknowledging, “I know how painful this was for the president.” He added that he has not yet spoken with Mr. Trump about his Senate campaign but hopes to.
Because Mr. Trump has an almost imperial hold on the Republican Party, Mr. Trump’s dislike could make for a rough road ahead for Mr. Sessions. Republicans who find themselves in Mr. Trump’s political cross hairs rarely fare well with their party’s voters. And the president has sent word to the former attorney general through allies that he would publicly attack him if he went ahead with the campaign.
But Mr. Sessions, 72, has been an admired figure in Alabama Republican politics for four decades and, by many accounts, remains popular there despite the withering scorn Mr. Trump has leveled at him. Among other insults, Mr. Trump has accused Mr. Sessions of betrayal and of being a “total joke” of a leader at the Justice Department. More recently, the president has referred to him as a “jerk” in private conversations.
On the issues, at least, there are few Republicans who are as committed to Mr. Trump’s approach. Mr. Sessions was often a lone voice in the Senate arguing to restrict immigration and rescind global free trade agreements. His opposition to immigration reform, in fact, came years before Mr. Trump’s conversion on the issue.
In his Fox interview on Thursday night, Mr. Sessions tried to remind people that he was a true believer in these policies long before Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign. “I was for this agenda before President Trump announced.”
Here’s the video that Sessions released on Twitter, which some have likened to a hostage video:
Sessions also appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show at roughly the same time that the tweet above was posted, and he was equally as obsequious toward the President:
Sessions’ obsequiousness toward the President is notable given the fact that the respect that he appears to be showing the President is obviously not mutual and that the President seems unlikely to return the favor. Even while he was still serving as Attorney General, Trump’s contempt for the person who was one of his earliest and most powerful supporters in Congress was an open secret in Washington. To a large part, Trump’s disdain for Sessions was rooted in the fact that he had recused himself from the Russia investigation due to his involvement with the Trump campaign, but there also seemed to be a truly vindictive personal nature to the attacks. It was widely reported, for example, that the President mocked Sessions’ southern accent and called him “Mr. Magoo” behind his back. Trump continued these attacks on Sessions long after he had left office as Attorney General, and all but claimed that Sessions himself was part of the alleged “Deep State” conspiracy that the President claims was arrayed against him.
Like any other man subjected to such attacks, one would expect that Jeff Sessions would hold a grudge against the President not just for firing him, but also for the public and private personal abuse that he suffered. This abuse came not just from the President, but also from supporters like Steve Bannon, who once suggested that having graduated from the University of Alabama shows that Sessions was too stupid to get into a “real” school like Georgetown or the University of Pennsylvania, the alma maters of Bannon and Trump respectively.
Instead of giving any indication of holding such a grudge, though, Sessions looked as obsequious as Lindsey Graham and Rand Paul in his video and Fox News Channel appearance last night. It is understandable, I suppose. Sessions wants to win the nomination for the Senate in Alabama, after all, and while he has his own record as a Senator to fall back on it’s clear that any candidate in the Republican Party that indicates that there is even the slightest bit of daylight between them and the President is going to receive the wrath of Trump supporters. This is especially true in a solidly red state like Alabama, where the President won by 600,000 votes in 2016. As with so many other signs, this is yet further confirmation that, as James Joyner and myself have said in the past that the Republican Party is Trump’s party now, and that even a man who endured two years of personal insults and attacks at the hands of the President is willing to bow down to him to get back to the Senate. It’s really quite pathetic.