The reports of Jeff Sessions’s political death in the Trump administration were greatly exaggerated. The attorney general’s ice-cold announcement that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) “is being rescinded” is the second time Sessions has bent President Trump to his will. And it marked the umpteenth time the greatness of America has been diminished by the “Make America Great Again” crowd.
Politico reported last month that the president was “at war with himself over Dreamers.” Even his statement Tuesday was pixilated contradiction. “I do not favor punishing children, most of whom are now adults, for the actions of their parents,” Trump said in a statement. But Sessions’s argument that DACA could not withstand legal challenge from Republican governors vowing to sue the administration if the president didn’t end DACA prevailed. Because, you know, a promise is a promise for the man who campaigned hard against DACA, calling the executive action undertaken by President Barack Obama in 2012 “amnesty.” The estimated 800,000 people who were allowed to work without fear of deportation and could renew their status after two years are now in legal limbo. Relief now lies with Congress, which has six months to come up with a legislative fix. Believe that will happen and you’re also likely to believe the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus are vacation buddies with the Tooth Fairy.
Listening to Sessions prattle on about respect for the rule of law after his boss ignored it last month to pardon a racist former sheriff is World Series-level gall. And it fits with the reprehensible zeitgeist that has always enveloped Sessions since before he took the helm of the justice department. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) was as unsparing in her assessment of him as she has been on the president during an interview on my podcast “Cape Up” in May.
“I think that Jeff Sessions is very dangerous,” Waters said. “I think he’s a racist, and I think that he absolutely believes that it’s his job to keep minorities in their place.” When I challenged her on her tough language, she doubled down. “I think he’s a racist, I think he’s a throwback, and I don’t mind saying it, any day of the week.”
Dreamers aren’t the only ones who felt the lash of Sessions. Transgender students lost out in a fight between the former Alabama senator and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. The issue was an Obama-era directive that allowed transgender students to use the bathroom that fit with their gender identity. DeVos resisted Sessions’s efforts. But, as the New York Times reported, resistance was futile, especially when one’s spine is gelatinous.
Mr. Sessions, who has opposed expanding gay, lesbian and transgender rights, pushed Ms. DeVos to relent. After getting nowhere, he took his objections to the White House because he could not go forward without her consent. Mr. Trump sided with his attorney general, the Republicans said, and told Ms. DeVos in a meeting in the Oval Office on Tuesday that he wanted her to drop her opposition. And Ms. DeVos, faced with the alternative of resigning or defying the president, agreed to go along.
Every day, the president and his administration do something that strips the glimmer of hope and opportunity from the United States. In March, a foreign ambassador told me something that has only gained in resonance. “America has lost the one weapon it has, the power to inspire,” the envoy said with a mix of sadness and disbelief. And in the middle of it all is Jefferson Beauregard Sessions. Each day that he is in Trump’s orbit and his ear, the promise of America diminishes further.