Drug War Now, Redux: Jeff Sessions, Day One

Photo bu MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

An Alabama lightning rod for controversy, America’s new attorney general is also a magnet for creativity.

A few short decades after Jeff Sessions was rejected for a post as a federal judge on account of his patent, outspoken and undeniable bigotry, an “NAACP governmental excellent award” suddenly appeared in his Senate office. This award appears as trustworthy as a Pizzagate conspiracy: Sessions appears to be the only person in recorded history to have received a “governmental excellence award” from the NAACP, whose national office “has strong reasons to doubt” the award’s legitimacy—and, in case it was unclear, used the occasion of the ersatz award to reiterate its total opposition to Sessions (for his long record of excellence in opposing black peoples’ ability to vote).

So what do you do when you nominate a guy to be the nation’s top law enforcement officer, and he once declared he thought the Ku Klux Klan were OK people until he found out “they smoked marijuana”? If you’re Donald Trump’s people, you make shit up. You craft a Newt Gingrich-worthy alternative history of “Jeff Sessions, civil-rights advocate.” This is pure fiction, as the Atlantic observed, and fooled no one (not the least of which Mitch McConnell, who used an arcane rule to shut Elizabeth Warren up and prevent her from reading an anti-Sessions letter written by Martin Luther King, Jr.’s widow).

As the Atlantic pointed out, Sessions’ record is anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-person of color and isn’t so much instilling hope in women. These are the vulnerable populations who rely on the forces of good and the power of law to protect them—you may even say they are reliant on “justice.” 

So on his first day in office, the leader of the Justice Department did the sensible thing, the Trumpian thing, and manufactured a massive crime wave, transparent fear-mongering in order to justify an enormous crackdown on drugs.

Crime did rise slightly in 2015, according to the FBI’s most-recent Uniform Crime Report, the biblical authority on this matter. But overall crime in America is still near a 20-year low. For Sessions, this is “a dangerous permanent trend that puts the health and safety of the American people at risk,” as he declared during his swearing-in on Thursday, according to the Daily Caller.

This does not jibe with any known theory of criminal justice. (If anyone claims to know exactly why crime goes up or down, that person is a liar and will probably get a job in the White House.) That would be inconvenient for most police officials. But it’s perfectly consistent with Donald Trump’s vision of an America caught in a “dangerous time,” an America that can’t be great until “American carnage” is done away with by police enforcing a particular vision of “law and order.”

After installing Sessions, President Trump signed a trio of executive orders, including one declaring an all-out, if vague, outline for a war on drug cartels, which “have spread across our nation and are destroying the blood of our youth and other people, many other people,” the president said.

Within four months, staffers will compile and deliver a report that outlines the extent to which cartels have taken over America and how to best dismantle them. In the meantime, “Today’s ceremony should be seen as a clear message to the gang members and drug dealers terrorizing innocent people, your day is over. A new era of justice begins, and it begins right now,” the president said.

A few hours after his installation, Sessions attended his first official event as attorney general—a party for drug cops. Exactly what he said at the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area award banquet is unknown, as it was closed to the press.

But if you’re truly curious, feel free to fill in the blank for yourself—that’s what Trump or Sessions would do.

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