Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Stunning Sessions Remark about "Truth"

From Slate, on yesterday's confirmation hearings of Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General:
In what seemed to be the only moment gobsmacking enough to bring the Senate chamber to almost complete silence, in the late afternoon Sessions had this terse exchange with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.

Whitehouse suggested that lists were already circulating suggesting there might be purges or demotions of certain career appointees in the Justice Department. Whitehouse wondered whether Sessions would have a problem with career lawyers “with secular beliefs,” having in the past criticized department attorneys for being secular. Sessions replied that he has used that language about secular attorneys to differentiate between people who recognize objective “truth” and those who take positions “in which truth is not sufficiently respected.”

Whitehouse replied, with a leading, and perhaps slightly conclusory question: “And a secular person has just as good a claim to understanding the truth as a person who is religious, correct?” At which point Sessions responded, “Well, I’m not sure.” For a few seconds the Senate chamber seemed to go completely silent.

1 comment:

David in Cal said...

Yes, the "I'm not sure" remark was odd and disturbing. But, in fairness, it should be viewed in the context of the entire conversation. Here's a bigger quote:

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse questioned Sen. Sessions quite severely on the treatment career attorneys, who have been the subject of intense criticisms from right wing groups.

Whitehouse asked, "Will you support the career attorneys against the pressure from these right wing organizations seeking to "wash them out like filth," to paraphrase the Heritage Foundation?"

Sen. Sessions responded that many employees at the DOJ were "career professionals" and he gives them "the highest respect."

Sen. Whitehouse asked, "Does a secular attorney have anything to fear from an Attorney General Sessions and Department of Justice?"

Sen. Sessions responded, "Well, no and I use that word in the 90,000-foot level."

He continued, "We are not a theocracy. Nobody should be required to believe anything...and not demand any kind of religious test for holding office."

Sen. Whitehouse asked, "And a secular person has just as good a claim to understanding the truth as a person who is religious, correct?"

Sen. Sessions oddly replied, "Well, I'm not sure. in what method - is it less objectively committed to --

Sen. Whitehouse, "In the methods and an attorney would bring to bear -

Sen. Sessions, "Well, let me just say, we're going to treat anybody with different views fairly and objectively."

Maybe Sessions's "I don't know" was just a slip of the tongue, like Obama's "all 58 states". Or, maybe it was clue to Sessions' real feelings.