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Opinion Jeff Sessions’s dismissal of Hawaii as an ‘island in the Pacific’ is peak colonialism

Attorney General Jeff Sessions. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
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Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the most powerful law enforcement official in the nation, struggles in understanding a very basic tenet of federal governance.

In a radio interview with Mark Levin, Sessions says he is “amazed” that a judge “sitting on an island in the Pacific” can issue an order that stops President Trump from “what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power,” in reference to the court successfully blocking the travel ban. Here’s the clip, and jump to the three-minute marker so you can hear the quote directly.

My colleague Aaron Blake at The Fix does a fine job in outlining three problems with what Sessions said. Hawaii is a state (it’s literally dubbed the “Aloha State” — and, by the way, it’s actually eight islands); U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson is a federal judge, well within his jurisdiction; and Hawaii is a major international point of entry. I know: I lived and reported there for eight years. The place has federal agents running about like any other state. Amazing, right?

I’d like to add one important point: Sessions, as a senator, voted “yea” along with 93 other senators to confirm Watson as a federal judge sitting on an island in the Pacific. The U.S. Senate roll call clearly shows this, as Brian Schatz, one of Hawaii’s Democratic senators, was quick to point out.

And here’s a question I’d like to ask the attorney general: Which state do you think is on our first line of defense in the Asia-Pacific region? Which state is host to thousands of members of “the greatest military in the world,” as our president said recently?

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said "it does take some months, and has traditionally," to fill U.S. attorney positions within the new administration. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Jeff Roberson/The Washington Post)

Earlier this week during his Asia trip, Vice President Pence did a bit of saber-rattling aimed at North Korea. “The United States of America will always seek peace but under President Trump, the shield stands guard and the sword stands ready,” Pence said.

Hawaii is the sheath to our vice president’s sword at the ready. Her people have been made targets of U.S. enemies such as North Korea due to the state’s considerable military presence.

And this is why what Sessions said is colonialism in its purest form.

Here’s the message: You, the federal-tax-paying, patriotic residents of Hawaii, should not have an equal say when it comes to American governance. But we will conduct a hostile overthrow of your Hawaiian Kingdom, a sovereign government created by the native people of Hawaii, a kingdom whose palace had working electricity before even the White House and Buckingham Palace.

And we will use your land for our weapons and our troops. We will put your citizens at risk for war, something they pay for every day through hard work and diligence. But when it comes to how we run the country, you are insignificant and not worth a listen.

What Sessions said is not new to islanders who live in the continental United States. This notion that we are somehow “less American” persists. I still fend off questions on whether Hawaii residents use dollars and cents. The ignorance is profound. What Sessions said crystallizes this profound ignorance in no uncertain terms.

Still, I’m willing to bet that you can ask many folks in Hawaii whether they would defend America and her values. Hurt and outrage over the Hawaiian Kingdom’s overthrow remains strong. But as Sen. Mazie Hirono (D) pointed out, Hawaii has been a state for 58 years. You’re bound to find patriots who will echo Pence’s words to “stand ready.”

These Americans deserve better than what Jeff Sessions thinks of them.