- - Monday, January 9, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

At the beginning of my first term in Congress I paid symbolic respect to a man I have known for over 22 years by voting for him as Speaker of the House. That man is Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions.

Mr. Sessions is now President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for U.S. attorney general. Mr. Trump picked the right man, and the leftist media and deluded Democrats know it. That is why they have launched a disingenuous and dishonest smear campaign against this honorable man who has ably served his state and nation with great integrity.

The American public should be greatly concerned by the Democrats’ efforts in the last election to characterize their opponents as racists and now in their efforts to oppose Mr. Sessions. Playing the race card has become the last desperate gasp of a party that has lost touch with the American people. Consequently, I believe efforts of the Democrats and their collaborators in the media to characterize Mr. Sessions as a racist will fail miserably and will further undermine whatever credibility they have left. And if the last election is any indication, it is not much.

What is at stake here that would cause the Democrats to resort to such destructive tactics? I believe their determination to stop Jeff Sessions from becoming the next U.S. attorney general is simply this: He will uphold and enforce the laws. Over the last eight years the Department of Justice has shown a reckless disregard of the rule of law. As demonstrated by the decision not to vigorously investigate numerous cases where there was a high probability that federal law had been broken — from Fast and Furious to Lois Lerner at the Internal Revenue Service to Hillary Clinton’s unsecured personal computer server and careless handing of classified emails — the Justice Department did practically nothing.

Having served on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, I have witnessed firsthand the arrogant disregard of Congress by members of the Justice Department. Under the leadership of Jeff Sessions, there will be no more double standards, there will be no more disregarding Congress. and there will be no more disregard for the Constitution and statutory law. This is, I believe, what his Democratic opponents fear most.

As I said at the beginning, I have known Mr. Sessions for more than 22 years. Never once have I heard or seen any indication that he harbored racist views toward anyone. Over that time, my interactions with him have been extensive in his capacity as Alabama’s attorney general, in his capacity as chairman of the Republican Senate Steering Committee, working with him on judicial nominations, and having detailed discussions about policy ideas. What was always evident was that Jeff Sessions cares deeply about our nation and all of our nation’s people.

It was through my work with Mr. Sessions that I met William Smith, who now serves as my chief of staff. William, the only African-American chief of staff for a Republican member of Congress, was hired by Mr. Sessions as the first African-American to ever serve as chief counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He worked for Mr. Sessions in that capacity and later as chief counsel on the Senate Budget for more than 10 years before I hired him.

Before I offered William the job as my chief of staff, I called Mr. Sessions to let him know I wanted to hire William. It was very evident that he hated to lose William and that he held William in the highest regard. There was no questioning the admiration and affection he held for him.

While it is fully within their rights and responsibilities to fully evaluate a nominee’s fitness for a position in the federal government, especially a position as consequential as attorney general, it is wrong for Democratic senators to attempt to dishonestly attack a person’s character, especially in regard to portraying a person as a racist. This is especially true for Senate Democrats opposing Mr. Sessions, a man who many of them have served with for many years. Such tactics continuously utilized serve to undermine our nation and to be destructive or representative government and its institutions. A nation cannot survive, and certainly cannot prosper and advance, whose representatives intentionally and recklessly employ such divisive and destructive tactics.

Of all the people I have known who have served in elected office, Jeff Sessions has been the least affected of them all. In fact, he has demonstrated that a person of integrity and faith can serve in elected office in Washington and remain a person of integrity and faith. These are qualities of character, along with the unquestioned credentials, that Mr. Sessions possesses which will make him a great U.S. attorney general.

The attempts to label Jeff Sessions as a racist will not only fail, in the end they will ultimately reveal the lack of character and integrity of those who launch them against him.

• Gary Palmer is a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Alabama.

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