Sessions for Attorney General? Let the Battles Grow and Protests Continue

By David J Dent and Talmon Joseph Smith

Donald Trump’s first ten days as President-elect has rendered a nation, an empire, indeed, an entire world order shivering with nerves. In fact, news of his cabinet choices have recreated those feelings of horror that swept one half of a divided nation ten days ago with Trump’s surprise win.

220px-michael_t_flynnToday the President-elect revealed his picks for three key posts: Michael Flynn for national security adviser, Sen. Jeff Sessions for attorney general and Rep. Mike Pompeo for CIA director. Each nominee’s controversy colored past will surely inspire Democratic-leaning voices  to ready their swords for the confirmation process.

Sessions, long trailed by accusations of racism, has a record characterized by the American Civil Liberties Union as “probably the most anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, anti-child… in the Senate.”During the Republican National Convention this summer, Flynn joined in the crowd’s anti-Hillary chorus of “Lock her up!” and he’s called Islam a “cancer.” Rep. Mike Pompeo, a former editor of the Harvard Law Review, and an aerospace manufacturing executive before becoming a politician, is sure to face questions about squaring Trump’s aggressive rhetoric with human rights law and the Geneva Conventions.

louis-sullivanEven some republicans had words of outrage at the choices. Take Dr Louis Sullivan, who  knows the process of cabinet selection, having been through it as a nominee who survived the confirmation process.  He served as Secretary of Health and Human Services in the George HW Bush administration. “I am disturbed by his selecting people that voice very negative views in certain segments of our society.  General Flynn for Security Advisor who apparently has hated Muslims worldwide and is as radical as ever.  That, I find unacceptable, it would be comparable to me calling all Whites members of the Klu Klux Klan, which is preposterous, says Sullivan, a republican who who has parted with his party in the last three presidential elections, supporting Obama twice and Clinton this year.

mike_pompeo_official_portrait_112th_congress“So I think that does not help us as a nation. Nor does it work internationally. Nor does it help us domestically.  We really, as a society, need to come together rather than having statements or positions taken that serve to polarize and push people apart. The same with Senator Sessions.  He really has, in my view, a troubled history in terms of racial issues in Alabama where he’s been involved in indicating that people who are working with the NAACP were communist and etc. That’s totally inappropriate… totally preposterous. I reject it outright. So having him as Attorney General raises questions as to how fair he will be in that position. So I am concerned.”


The concerns fill the streets of Tampa located in Florida’s lone Bush-Obama county–Hillsborough–which Clinton won.As publisher of the Florida Courier, a newspaper that focuses on black communities across the state, Charles Cherry says his paper has tried tourge voters to give Trump a chance, even though that has become difficult.  “I’ve been trying to talk our readers down off the edge of the cliff, and to then try to figure out where we go from here,” Cherry says. “I’ve seen him put up Steve Bannon, a white supremacist, next to Reince Priebus, who always stressed that  the GOP should be reaching out to the non-whites and everybody else besides the white guys who put Trump in. There are still a lot of unknowns.”

Cherry wants to see President-elect Trump denounce the rash of hate crimes that have spiked since Trump’s election. “And he should say anyone who does those kinds of things that is against the law, they will be arrested, I’m trying to move this nation forward.”cherry-charles-w-ii-2011


Few of the center-left establishment of the West expected Trump’s win. That included the West Wing. David Remnick of The New Yorker wrote in his election post-mortem profile:

Obama and his people admit that the election results caught them completely by surprise — “We had no plan for this,” one told me

Remnick also reports, according to insider accounts, that Trump was “awed” by the degree and scope of attention and energy the presidency required. The Times and Post and other legacy outlets culled multiple undisclosed sources leaking rumors of infighting and organizational chaos.

Trump, to the contrary, characterized his transition, in a tweet of course, this way: “ Very organized process taking place as I decide on Cabinet and many other positions. I am the only one who knows who the finalists are!”

Sullivan says the process is showing Trump’s lack of government experience. “Well the process is not a happy one.  Certainly a typical transition will have a level of chaos, but it’s usually manageable. It doesn’t surprise me that it’s more in this case because Trump has never served in public office before,  so that doesn’t surprise me that it’s more chaotic than usual. He really doesn’t have a working relationship with the number of individuals who could be recruited or tapped to serve in various governmental posts.  So that’s why I’m at least pleased that he chose Reince Priebus as his Chief of Staff because he does have a network. “

The transition process looks like a “clown show.” to Charles Badger, who worked on Jeb Bush’s campaign as Director of Coalitions and moved on to serve as senior advisor to the Republicans for Hillary 2016 Pac. “It’s insane. This is beyond insane. I mean it speaks volumes about his allocation of time and how he chooses to spend his time and what he feels is important, you know, clearly a reality TV show and lifelong celebrity who knows nothing about governance and it shows. The other reports coming out that his transition is being held up because his aides round him, prepare briefings for him, and then he won’t read them. They can’t get him to focus. Again, that should come as a surprise to no one because there were articles before the election that reported he has essentially the attention span of a cockroach.”

But whether the transition is a “clown show” or if it becomes seen as just another Trumpian unconventional means to an end, for now, all the conflicting perceptions and best guesses are just that — a ballyhoo of projections.

NATO or isolationism; wall or fence; nationalism or pluralism; ‘alt-right’ or ‘establishment;’ repeal and replace; or some currently unidentifiable Trumpian mish-mash located in between these respective poles?

Is the “infamous big, beautiful wall” bordering Mexico going to be a wall, or a fence? Is there even going to be a wall? The ‘Health Care Reform’ page on the Trump campaign website outlines how “On day one of the Trump Administration, we will ask Congress to immediately deliver a full repeal of Obamacare.”

How fully is fully? And how seriously should we take such a claim given the extremely popular components embedded in the law? Should  undocumented immigrants and their families fear the worst or hope for the best?

President Obama’s beyond cordial, almost shockingly hopeful perspective on Trump and the denials by previous #NeverTrump Republicans that they were ever #NeverTrump — further legitimized the Oxford dictionaries choice of 2016 word of the year: post-truth; an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.’

As The Economist has written recently, Trump is “estranged from fact, inhabits a fantastical realm where Barack Obama’s birth certificate was faked, the president founded Islamic State, the Clintons are killers and the father of a rival [TedCruz] was with Lee Harvey Oswald before he shot John F. Kennedy.”

However, on each of these issues and more, Trump eventually, abruptly delivers a half-concession drizzled in casual niceties, calls the recipient of his lie “smart” “tough” “a good competitor” or “a very good man” and keeps his political bulldozer pushing through the next fact-checker or establishment figure in the way.


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About Author: David J Dent

David J. Dent is an Associate Professor at New York University where he holds a joint appointment at the Arthur Carter Journalism Institute and in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis. He created the course “Deconstructing Obama” and teaches courses in journalism and non-fiction writing. He is the author of In Search of Black America which was a New York Times Notable Book of 2000. He has written for The New York Times Magazine, Book Review and Education Life supplements, Playboy, GQ, Salon, The Washington Post and many other publications. He and his wife Valerie are Co-Founders of Write for the Future, an organization that focuses on ways college admissions essays can help students become better writers.

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