The Sessions sessions
Will the attorney general rise above again?
“With the exception of the late, great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any president that’s ever held this office.” — President Trump, Tuesday
Few people, we expect, thought the president of the United States would suddenly develop a modicum of class or a bit of decorum once in office. Old dogs, new tricks and all that. A person isn’t going to change overmuch after the age of 70. So the voters are getting what they asked for, good and hard.
This week alone, the president used a speech in front of the Boy Scouts — the Boy Scouts — to rail against enemies, real and imagined. He went on yet another daybreak Twitter tear Tuesday morning, firing at all targets, including Hillary Clinton, her emails (remember them?), leakers, the FBI, the special prosecutor, health-care reform holdouts, collusion allegations, the EU, and even brought his own youngest son into the mix while complaining about media coverage of the latest scandal. (“Jared Kushner did very well yesterday in proving he did not collude with the Russians. Witch hunt. Next up, 11 year old Barron Trump!”)
One suspects that few voters in November thought that a President Trump would turn into Michael Caine after the inauguration — but voted for him just the same. Drain the swamp. Build the wall. Repeal and replace. Americans wanted that bull in the china shop. A gentleman might have more trouble fulfilling those campaign promises.
Speaking of campaign promises, the president said he would surround himself by the best people. Or as he might put it, the very, very best, wonderful great people. And that promise, it turns out, he has kept.
The other day, somebody asked if we could imagine a President Rubio appointing Betsy DeVos to run the Department of Education. (Answer: No.) Or a President Kasich hiring Rex Tillerson at State. Or a President Bush III nominating James “Mad Dog” Mattis for Defense secretary. The current Cabinet might have the most potential since Reagan’s.
That is, if this president can keep it together. His Cabinet and his psyche.
This president talks a lot about loyalty. But it’s all one-way. He demands it. He doesn’t return it. He has now begun the push to force his attorney general to quit because said attorney general did the prudent thing in recusing from a probe to avoid a conflict of interest. Or even the appearance of it. (“. . . . Since I had involvement with the [Trump] campaign I should not be involved in any campaign investigation.”) Being a gentleman and a legal scholar, Jeff Sessions did what a gentleman and a legal scholar would do.
We were reminded how cool under fire Jeff Sessions was back in June when he appeared before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss this Russian affair. He certainly rose above many of those on the committee, who tried to trip him up in various ways. We thought at the time that if anything can surprise us in politics these days, it would surprise if Jeff Sessions turned out not to be an honest man.
It would surprise us still.
There’s not much subtle about this president. Over the last few weeks he took to Twitter to denounce General Sessions’ recusal. Then smeared him in an interview with the New York Times. Then used a news conference Tuesday to push the AG even further under the bus. Then took to Twitter again. The Associated Press was reporting late Tuesday that the president and his people were talking about the best way to get rid of the former senator from Alabama.
And replace him with who? Rudy Giuliani, who told the papers this week that Jeff Sessions did the right thing when he stepped aside from the investigation? Ted Cruz? After the smears of the 2016 campaign and his non-endorsement at the convention? This president doesn’t forget slights, even when he should.
Our considered editorial opinion: Jeff Sessions has shown nothing but respect for the law in office, has been a law-and-order attorney general, did the right thing by recusing from the campaign investigation, is considered one of the more honest men in Washington these days, and deserves to be treated with more dignity than this.
The other day, the president mentioned how presidential he could be. Here’s a chance to prove it. He could start by giving up Twitter and public insults.