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1A Across America: The Legacy Of Jeff Sessions


This message comes from. NPR sponsor. Xfinity some things are slow like a snail races. Other things are fast like Xfinity X.. By get get fast speeds even when everyone is online working to make WIFI simple easy awesome more at xfinity dot com restrictions apply. This is one A.. I'm Joshua Johnson visiting WBZ HMO in Birmingham Alabama Jeff sessions recently announced his plans to run for the Senate in Alabama. Clearly he wants president. Trump's support jeff sessions here approved when I left president. Trump's cabinet that I ride a tell all book. No then I go on CNN. Attack the President Doc nope have. I said a crossword about president. Not One time and I'll tell you what I that would be dissolved. I was there to serve. Serve his agenda not mine. Second the president's doing a great job for America and Alabama and he has my strong support sessions session's departure from the trump white house was not exactly amicable but the former. US Attorney General. May well need the president's backing to regain his following in Alabama president trump. I'm for his part has not committed to supporting sessions. Run in two thousand twenty so he said very nice things about me last night but We'll have to see they made. I haven't made it joining us here at. WBZ HIM to discuss. Jeff sessions legacy as a state attorney and senator in Alabama is Angela Lewis Professor of political science at the University of Alabama Professor Lewis. Welcome to one A.. Thank you for having me. Thanks for joining us by phone from Jacksonville. Alabama is Laurie. Owens as a professor of political science at Jacksonville State University professor owns welcome. Thank you glad to be here. Professor Owens tell us about what Jeff sessions position on immigration has been like particularly as as Alabama state's attorney and then as a senator well He he does take a strong hard line position on immigration. And that is that is reflected a belief reflected to buy a lot of the people in Alabama Keep in mind. There's a there's a difference in how people feel about immigration and illegal immigration. And so you know over over time. He has attempted to make that distinction I know immigration has has been a hot button issue For many years I I recall back in two thousand and three at the height of the Cold War. One of the Congressmen in Alabama said even at the height of the war in Iraq Doc The bulk of the phone calls that he received in his office had to do with illegal immigration in. So Jeff sessions really hasn't taken a position that would be the at odds with with A majority of the state. They are more in line with With president trump's Policies Professor Louis. I know this is a generalization but if we went walking downtown Birmingham and just grab a group of people and said you know if I say Jeff sessions was the first thing that comes to your mind. No no in Birmingham. Yes because Birmingham is democratic area in the state the larger Republican state of Alabama. And so if nine times out of ten if you walk down Birmingham they was no no no turn run well. And the thing is because of the incumbency effect and the fact that Alabama you know has become has a red state republican state and federal elections then He has an advantage over a Democrat in which was wide Doug Jones victory. I'm with such a historic event for the people in the state of Alabama because no Democrat has won since Howell Heflin before jeff sessions? got that seat and so am Birmingham. You're going to hear people say no. No No. I'm now if you go. Oh to some other places that may be more Republican. They will definitely be more positive about jeff sessions but if they are trump supporters i. I am not sure how they will respond Professor Owens. That's what I was going to ask you about in terms of other parts of Alabama how Republican voters might see jeff sessions well A lot of Republican voters would see him very warmly They would be glad to say that he's in the race. They might wonder why he waited so long to get in the race Sessions was a Republican in this state before it was popular to be a Republican in the state But the trump factor is unknown if if sessions is running exclusively on his record not only just in the US Senate but on the other things that he dealt with while he was the attorney. General for trump than people that support trump would support jeff sessions. Now will the trump separate out jeff sessions recused isn't himself in In the In the election investigation And see the other things. He's done we we don't I don't know the answer to that. And part of it would depend on whether trump decides to take a position in this primary If he doesn't beat up on Jeff Sessions That's that's better for Jeff sessions Keep in mind though to that. Trump did stop for luther. Strange and also Roy Moore and neither one of those were victorious luther strange in the runoff. And then of course Dr Lewis mentioned The the Roy Moore Doug Jones Special election in which Doug Jones one even wiz trump stumping for Roy Moore. I do want to talk more about that. Connection where Jeff sessions and president trump line. And maybe were they diverge as we continue our conversation with professor. Laurie Owens Jacksonville State University and Political Science Professor Angela. Lewis of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Stay close Support for this podcast and the following message come from the real real. 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What's what are some of the main touch points in his political past fasted people who are maybe not in or from Alabama should know about well he had been he'd been a federal prosecutor? He came from humble beginnings and went on to college and then law school and then ultimately becomes a federal prosecutor. And he ends up being nominated by President. Reagan for discredit all district judgeship and that would have been in the spring of nineteen eighty six. And how Heflin Who Dr Louis Reference? I was sitting with seating sitting on the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time. He was a democrat. Southern Democrat and sessions was nominated for that and He was born if you will before the board term became a part of our regular Vocabulary and then he went on To Ron for Alabama Attorney General and defeated incumbent Democrat Jimmy Evans In nineteen ninety four. And then the US Senate seat opened up that how l.. Half occupied and sessions one and nineteen ninety six and that's where he remind Until he left Senate seat to work for trump and they the attorney general fresher. Louis how did jeff sessions establish himself politically here. Were there certain key issues that he ran on was there a persona that he crafted after for himself like what's his what's his political persona in Alabama. He's a very conservative Republican Fiscal Conservative he was campaign a lot about the national debt and fiscal responsibility for the federal government. And making sure I'm the federal government did not overspend And so that was one of the things he was really really known for in the state and of course some of his positions on immigration and I think we have to go back as professor on talked about his Nomination to the cords he also has a a rather sketchy Ritchie history on regarding civil rights. in his position on civil rights and the Voting Rights Act. I some of the opposition that came from his nomination nation onto the chorus was that he seemingly was opposed to extending the Voting Rights Act and had some a UH beliefs about civil rights that were not. I'm indicative of at least a third of the state of Alabama. Now that's been brought up a couple of times. uh-huh Professor Lewis in terms of Jeff sessions civil rights record. And I feel like I. It seems like the farther out. You are from Alabama the more you might be relying on a facebook name to tell you Jeff sessions actually is as opposed to the reality of who is are there certain aspects of his story that needs debunking things that people tend to think they know about jeff sessions especially the civil rights aspect. That really are just not true. I don't know I guess it depends on what the main says right. Well I mean with the civil rights aspect of I mean. I've heard some folks talk about that in the sense of like you know. Jeff sessions is racist. I you know it's amazing that he made it to the trump administration. I mean W Kamau Bell took a big chunk out of Jeff sessions last. Stand up special on Netflix. And basically said you know. And I'm paraphrasing rephrasing canal that jumped sessions was racist even for Alabama. That's basically what they've set I know right. It's Kinda feels like he's got this mystique beyond Alabama Emma that may or may not be based entirely on the facts. I think it goes back to some of the statements that were made regarding his nomination to the cords senator take the deceased's Senator Kennedy made a statement about Jeff sessions and Jeff sessions has stated that that was one of the mean. You know worst thing someone has ever said about him. I'm regarding civil rights and so I I'm not sure if I would go that far. And of course we know memes are put out on social media media to cause people to have a reaction that caused them to have a star but he does have a conservative policy position on a lot of social civil rights issue so we can't ignore the fact that he is conservative and some rankings of Concern Senators in Congress rank him as very conservative. So we can't can't put that aside but we also know that social media has of his own is is is not designed to make smart. It's designed to make you mad right. And if not designed to give have you always accurate information so we have to be very careful about those names and remember. It's a picture. It has a few words on. It doesn't provide any context and so for people support but the another thing to remember is people in the state of Alabama will be the we'll have the verdict on jeff sessions and the election. No one else. And so while it's important that His Candidacy for the United States Senate is a national issue because he will be sitting in a national body. Only the people of in the state of Alabama mm-hmm we decide and and before the people in the state of Alabama decide Republicans in the state of Alabama will decide whether or not he will win the Republican primary. Okay so he has a hurdle to cross before anyone else in the state if you're not A Republican have a decision in this race year. Professor I was going to ask you about that stepping back from social media except for like you know like at NPR at NPR politics at one. A. You are following those right. Good Professor Owens in terms of the Republican in Primary Base here in Alabama. What's that look like? What he face a lot of opponents in the GOP on his way to nomination well they were already in the race your your bigger names Bradley Byrne who is a member of Congress John Merrill WHO Secretary of State TUB reveal. WHO's a retired Auburn coach? And in Roy Moore's in it again in a couple of others Sessions has the advantage of. He's already has the name. ID But these other people that entered entered the race You know a while back have all already been working. The state Barn has raised. You know the most money of that group that I mentioned Session still has quite a bit of money left in his in his campaign war chest but but the question is have the voters made up their remind solidly that they're going to support one of those other candidates are they open to the idea of walking and boating for Jeff sessions if if if the voters were pleased with the job that Jeff sessions dead while he was in the US. And all those years I would think they wouldn't have any difficulty of voting for Jeff Obsessions now the hard line trump people They might see it differently particularly there again. If if trump wades into the pool and we don't yet no If trump is going to do that we're speaking to Angela. Lewis a professor of political science at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Laurie Owens a professor of political science. Hi It's at Jacksonville. State University will have more with them in just a moment. Stay close support for this podcast. The following message come from Uber. Uber is committed to safety and to continuously raising the bar to help make safer journeys for everyone verse. Starters all drivers are are background checked before their first ride and screened on an ongoing basis and now uber has introduced a brand new safety feature called ride check which can detect a trip goes IOS unusually off course and check in to provide support to learn more about Uber's commitment to safety visit Uber Dot com slash safety. Hey there it's Joshua. Thanks for listening to a podcast. Please take a moment to subscribe and leave us a rating that helps other people find the show. And don't forget you can catch the news roundup at the end of every week. What does it take to start something from nothing? And what does it take to actually build it. I'm Ghairat every week on how I built this. I speak with founders behind some of the most inspiring companies in the world find it on. NPR One or wherever you get your podcasts back now to our conversation with professors Angela. Lewis and Laurie Owens. Let's get back to some more or listener questions. Paula tweeted sessions should stay in his trump induced retirement. His time is over. New ideas are needed and June tweeted. I live in Alabama. Jeff sessions was senator for Alabama for twenty plus years along with Richard Shelby. They have held the state back for too long Professor Owens. What about the issues shoes? That are most important to Alabama voters setting aside the candidates. What if we just pulled people and said what are the top three things that are going to drive you to the polls polls next time around? What do you think they would be For the voters in Alabama I think The immigration issue is very important for some of those primary voters. There's that you mentioned Perhaps appointments to the Federal Judiciary. But I think you know healthcare would be up there and also Education Asian They might do You didn't ask this but I but I'm going to interject it. Part of the question might be as Jeff Sessions viewed viewed as a creature of the swamp and some of your listeners. Chimed in Do they think maybe it is time for Jeff sessions to just retire and and then you know that opens the door for the other candidates. I'm glad you brought that up. Professor Ones Presser Lewis. What about that? In terms of Jeff sessions being able to come back back to a warm welcome among his prior constituency. Well you know and I spoke to someone yesterday. I think one of the things we have to consider and I'm thinking about at this from a larger political perspective. If Jeff sessions were to go back to the Senate would he gain his seniority back And if that's the case that means a high ranking on committees committee assignments leadership in the Senate dependent upon which Party controls the Senate. So that's one thing to think about From from the perspective of people in the State of Alabama you you want a member of Congress that has seniority on committees. I'm on the other hand. He was a member. Umbro the Senate for a long period of time There are quite a few things that Alabama is known for and bottom rankings and we had report come out. I'm I'm just a little while ago talking about education rankings and where Alabama students ranked in math. And we're at the bottom and so thinking about it from that perspective if you look at Jeff sessions record and you look at where Alabama is as far as rankings in education. Has He done enough for the state of Alabama to pull us out of the Rut and voters. We'll have to answer that question when they vote. And the primary and the General Election Martha tweeted. I live in Southeast Alabama one of the richest areas in this deep red state. I actively campaigned for Doug Jones in two thousand seventeen and will do so again. Jeff sessions is the past. We've got to move forward. Avery asked asked. Does Doug. Jones have a realistic chance of getting re elected on one of the few Democrats in Alabama. Hoping that the blue wave can get people out to vote again like we did in twenty only seventeen professor Louis. How do you see Doug Jones as political future here? That's a tough question. So we have a couple of things we have to consider for for Doug Jones He won one and a special election which was not an election where anyone was able to ride the Kotel of the presidential election. I'm in this upcoming election. We have to be concerned. Learned about the President Trump hotel. You have people who will be showing up to vote. Because it's a presidential election who may not vote regularly and mid term elections and so we have to consider we do that. We also I mean. The trump factor as professor on talked about and this particular election in Alabama is the unknown. There is no statistical program. Am I can think of that. Could factor in what impact trump's either. His silence will have on this. Election are his his position. -sition about sessions entering the race so Doug Jones has a lot of work to do jugs Doug Jones has to continue to ramp up the the democratic base. He has to make sure that Democrats so up to vote in the next election the same way if not more than they did in the special election that got him to the Senate before we go. Professor Owens I should note. There is a very interesting political story. Here in Alabama at the Alabama Lsu football game somebody brought a twenty foot tall balloon. That was a likeness of the baby trump image. There's a guy who is facing charges named White Hutchinson for popping that stabbing the balloon. There is a gofundme campaign to raise money for him. Professor Owens before we go the Alabama is a pretty fascinating political state is not it is it is and it's A. It's a great state in which to live and teach a course on southern politics because I never have a shortage of material. I imagine not Angela. Lewis a professor of political science at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Professor Lewis. Thanks for talking into us. Thank you for having me and Loro and professor of Political Science at Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville. Alabama Festival Owens thank you thank you and thanks to WB HMO for hosting US this week. Today's producer was stationed Brown. Our podcast editor is Miranda full. More and this conversation is part of our one A.. Across America collaboration funded in part by by the corporation for public broadcasting. This program comes to you from W. Amu part of American University in Washington distributed by NPR. Until we meet again again. I'm Joshua Johnson. Thanks for listening. This is one A.. Aw.

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