I don’t think liberals know what the word ‘racist’ means. They are like Vizzini in the Princess Bride. Liberals, you keep using that word. We do not think it means what you think it means.
By Mark Hemingway
Now that Jeff Sessions is Donald Trump’s pick for attorney general, you’re going to hear a lot of people dig up old accusations that Sessions is a racist. In fact, CNN did so last night. However, between the nature of the accusations and Sessions’s actual record of desegregating schools and taking on the Klan in Alabama, it strains credulity to believe that he is a racist.
These accusations all center around the bruising judicial nomination process Sessions went through in 1986. Ronald Reagan had tapped Sessions to serve on the federal bench and the Senate judiciary committee ultimately rejected him after they heard testimony that he had supposedly called the ACLU and NAACP “un-American” and “communist-inspired,” as well as made racist remarks. The accusations came from Thomas Figures, a black assistant U.S. attorney who worked for Sessions who said Sessions called him “boy” and had made a joke about how he thought the KKK was “O.K. until [he] found out they smoked pot.” Another prosecutor, J. Gerald Hebert, said Sessions had called a white lawyer “a disgrace to his race” for representing black clients.
There is no concrete reason to doubt Figures or Herbert. Sessions vehemently denied calling Figures “boy,” but he didn’t rebut the substance of some of the claims—though he asserted they were taken out of context. It’s not exactly inaccurate to point out that the NAACP and ACLU were “communist-inspired.” He said he thought it absurd to think he would make a pro-KKK joke considering he was prosecuting the Klan at the time he made the remark. And for what it’s worth, Figures also directed accusations at a another assistant U.S. Attorney who worked with Figures. That assistant U.S. Attorney also said Figures wasn’t telling the truth and defended Sessions’s integrity. Ultimately, the charges were no more than hearsay.
However, it’s worth noting that Senator Ted Kennedy, on the Senate judiciary committee at the time, seemed heavily invested in tanking Sessions nomination. The next year, Kennedy’s crusade was to sink Robert Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court, which has generally been regarded as a shameful smear campaign ever since. The episode upended the comity that had previously existed between the Senate and the White House on Supreme Court nominations—Antonin Scalia was approved to the court 98-0 the year before, the same year that Sessions was filleted by Kennedy and Democrats on the judiciary committee. Perhaps Sessions was a trial run for “Borking.”