Jeff Sessions is doing what Hillary Clinton could not: exposing Donald Trump as an incompetent. You may remember that of all the self-proclaimed virtues Trump discerned in himself, the most awesome was a breathtaking managerial acumen. Trump knew how to run a business. He was an executive without peer or parallel, possibly the greatest in history. He created a business and made it splendid, and on television he dispatched people with dispatch. The phrase “You’re fired!” became his trademark.
But Trump can’t fire Sessions. He has the authority, but he cannot bring it off. So, he has to live, publicly and with evident frustration, with a man who has failed him. He has to abide the intolerable, tolerate the unabidable — look weak, ineffective, chaotic and incompetent. Like a child, he tweets his tantrums. Like a Henry II wanting to kill Thomas Becket, he echoes the Queens (N.Y.) version of “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?” But the GOP-led Senate, unlike the barons of Henry II’s England, does not do Trump’s bidding. Instead, the senators dig in their heels. Sessions is one of them. He must stay.
The beleaguered attorney general has been under incessant tweet attack. Yet, try as I might, I cannot summon any sympathy for him. Sessions was Trump’s first and foremost champion in the Senate. Like Gary Cohn and some others, he was not an opportunistic Trump supporter, catching onto the caboose of the Trump train only after he had won the presidency. No, Sessions was early — the first in the Senate to endorse Trump — and this while the GOP still offered other candidates, all of them as conservative as Trump, some of them even more so.
Sessions leaped anyway. He apparently did not notice that Trump was a liar, a braggart, a bully, an ignoramus and a menace to all living things, including Southern conservatives. The character of a president — the utmost consideration when filling that office — did not trouble Sessions at all. Sessions embraced Trump and Trump hugged him back. He is like one of those people who takes a baby alligator into their home and realizes, always too late, that they are living with a monster. Trump will devour Sessions yet.
Sessions was hardly only alone in redefining conservatism as morally bankrupt. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, sticks by Trump no matter what. The president’s lewdness, his remarks about women, his several marriages and his history of infidelity have not in the least deterred these avatars of conservative morality. Their old-timey religion has been updated. Almost anything goes — as long as it is anti-gay, anti-lesbian, etc.
Sessions is a bit of the same. He is obviously willing to abide Trump and his insults as long as he is free to implement his darkly conservative agenda — restricting voting rights, jailing minor miscreants, waging war on marijuana, enabling and expanding civil asset forfeiture and in other ways nimbly reviving failed programs so that they can, with the usual costs and human misery, fail again. For the moment, Sessions has the support of his former Senate colleagues so that, paradoxically, he probably has the greatest job security of anyone in the president’s Cabinet.
Sessions was right to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential election. It was this act of probity that so vexes Trump because it brought on Robert S. Mueller III, who stalks Trump in his sleepless White House nights. Still, sooner or later, Trump will exorcise him. But until that happens, Sessions will persist as a rebuke to the president’s pose as a brilliant executive.