Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) was an early and vocal supporter of Donald Trump’s presidential bid. Now that his man is headed for the White House, the 69-year-old senator seems likely to be rewarded with a plum cabinet position.
Sessions’ name has been floated for a number of cabinet positions, including Attorney General, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, and Secretary of Homeland Security.
Here are five reasons Sessions would be no friend to libertarians if he does indeed leave the Senate and join the Trump administration:
1. He was not only for “the Wall” before Trump thought it was cool, he’s against legal immigration, too.
More than a decade ago, Sessions was pushing for a fortified barrier on our Southern border, and has never let go of the dream. He has also opposed every congressional attempt at immigration reform since then, of which Reason‘s Shikha Dalmia wrote, “Sessions has done more than any human alive to torpedo every sensible immigration reform effort and makes no bones about his wish to basically stop all immigration. He moves the goalposts on reform constantly, recently even calling for the elimination of the H-1B visa program for foreign techies, which sent chills down the IT sector’s spine.”
It’s not just illegal immigration Sessions opposes, he’s also fond of spreading the canard that all immigrants are a drain on the economy and take the jobs which are the birthright of all native-born Americas, when in fact, the opposite is much closer to the truth.
As Nick Gillespie noted, Sessions’ hostility to the free movement of people also makes him no friend of free trade. On that topic, Daniel Griswold wrote at Cato at Liberty that “Sen. Sessions supports our freedom to trade only as long as it does not affect any noisy special interests in his own state.”
2. He thinks only bad people do drugs, m’kay.
After previously mischaracterizing certain countries’ efforts at drug decriminalization as “legalization” and incorrectly arguing that they have “failed,” Sessions lamented that Nancy Reagan’s Just Say No campaign against drugs has been relegated to history and replaced by a growing tolerance for the legalization of adult recreational use of marijuana.
At a hearing earlier this year, Sessions said:
I can’t tell you how concerning it is for me, emotionally and personally, to see the possibility that we will reverse the progress that we’ve made….
It was the prevention movement that really was so positive, and it led to this decline. The creating of knowledge that this drug is dangerous, it cannot be played with, it is not funny, it’s not something to laugh about, and trying to send that message with clarity, that good people don’t smoke marijuana.
Reason‘s Jacob Sullum wrote of Sessions’ comments:
This is not the first time that Sessions, who served as a U.S. attorney during the Reagan administration, has pined for the days of Just Say No. But crediting Nancy Reagan for a decline in drug use that began before she latched onto her pet cause is scientifically problematic, and so are the messages Sessions wants the youth of America to hear—especially the idea that “good people don’t smoke marijuana,” which condemns at least two-fifths of the population (and probably more like half, allowing for underreporting by survey respondents).
3. He’s willing to abandon his fiscal conservatism to appease Trump’s plans for a YUGE increase in defense spending.
Politico has described Sessions as “a budget hawk more than a defense hawk,” which would actually be in line with libertarian values of reining in the wastefulness that defines a great deal of defense spending.
But by boarding the Trump train, Sessions appears ready to abandon his fiscal conservatism and back the next president’s plan to add over 70,000 troops to various branches of the military, scores of ships to the Navy’s fleet, and any number of improvements to what is already the world’s most expensive military many times over by adding a minimum of $55 billion in spending.
4. He’s pretty hung up about “the gays.”
In an appearance on Morning Joe in 2009, Sessions sympathized with those who “might feel uneasy” about the prospect of a gay Supreme Court justice, which he described as “big concern.”
Unsurprisingly, he also called the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling legalizing gay marriage across the country “unconstitutional” (he had previously voted in favor of a ban on gay marriage to be enshrined in the Constitution), and was one of 31 Senators on the losing side of the 2010 Senate vote to end the ban on gays in the military.
5. He has an aversion to civil rights, and has been accused of using racially insensitive language in the workplace.
Sessions had been nominated by President Ronald Reagan for a federal judgeship in 1986, but his nomination was torpedoed after multiple allegations that he used racially insensitive language to colleagues were leveled against him.
A former US Attorney (Thomas Figures) and another Justice Department employee (Gerald Hebert) both testified that Sessions had described the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as “un-American” and “communist-inspired.” For his part, Sessions himself said during his confirmation hearings that these groups could rightfully be called “un-American” when they “they involve themselves in promoting un-American positions,” particularly when addressing foreign policy issues.
Hebert also testified that Sessions had claimed these groups “forced civil rights down the throats of people,” and Figures (who is black) claimed Sessions had called him “boy” and had said that he used to like the Ku Klux Klan until he found out some of its members smoke marijuana. Sessions claimed he was merely joking about the KKK.
Bonus fact: Sessions voted in favor of a ban on “flag desecration” to be added to the Constitution.
Read more Reason coverage of Jeff Sessions here.