Thursday, January 12, 2017

True Lies; Slate, 1/10/17

Dahlia Lithwick, Slate; True Lies

"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.

Sessions was quick to reiterate that he doesn’t believe in religious tests, and Whitehouse moved on to questions about whether Sessions could be persuaded to abandon the GOP denial of global warming. (He says he can.) But it was one of the very few moments in which Sessions’ deft denials of prior positions and statements veered completely off script. It spoke to the levels of obfuscation that are now customary in such confirmation hearings, especially about matters of faith, and the degree to which hearings become theater in which little true about the nominees and their most deeply felt positions are revealed. It also demonstrated that the views that Sessions is hiding are absolutely inimical to the democratic values of many members of the Senate and a large portion of the country...

Again, the only moment during which the mask seemed to slip was in that exchange with Sen. Whitehouse about whether secular people are capable of knowing the truth.

In a deep sense the language of religious morality has crept into this transition period with arguments that words spoken have no real meaning anymore, and that nobody—save, perhaps God—can know what is truly in a man’s heart. Sessions inadvertently conceded Tuesday that people of God are closer to truth, including those who happen to be at the Justice Department he’s almost certainly going to lead. Nobody in the chamber knew what to do with that statement. But as is the case with the very finest gaffes, this was the moment that revealed both why Jeff Sessions will be handily confirmed, and also why Democrats are rightly very, very afraid."

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