I can only imagine Jeff Sessions staring at himself in the mirror asking that question before deciding to throw his hat into the ring for U.S. Senate. Certainly as he considered making the announcement, the humiliation he endured after being forced out of the office he so dearly wanted had to weigh heavily on his mind. After all, the very angry Donald Trump had all but blamed him for the very existence of Robert Mueller’s investigation into “the Russian thing.”
It seemed laughable when people first suggested Sessions should just come on back and run for Senate again. The guy had been publicly pantsed. On Twitter, no less. Trump sunk his Crest Whitestrips-bright chompers into our hometown hero and left him chewed up on the side of the political dirt road to die. Surely it was time to retire, go write a book and make loads of money giving speeches, right?
But the whispers kept getting louder that Sessions was weighing his options. Still, until he actually announced last week that he would indeed run, it sounded like so much, ahem, “fake news.” Or maybe even straight up insanity.
The armchair punditry began, with the mainstream take being that Jeff Sessions immediately becomes the frontrunner because the people of Alabama still love him even though the president they love even more does not love Jeff. But there are nearly four months left before the Republican primary March 3 and then the runoff is four weeks after that. Trump spat out 85 tweets just on Sunday, so it’s not hard to imagine how much damage El Presidente could do to Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III over nearly five months. Contemplating what could be coming, it’s hard to imagine Sessions as a shoo-in.
I can’t help wondering what drove Sessions to take the plunge given the abuse he’s already taken from the Trumpster. The easy answer is that he has Stockholm syndrome and has grown to enjoy the torment of his political captor. That has to be it, right?
It would take massive amounts of electroshock therapy for Sessions to forget Trump: mocking his Southern accent while calling him “weak” and “ineffective,” calling him “mixed and confused,” calling him a “dumb Southerner” and “retarded,” calling him “disgraceful,” “scared stiff and missing in action,” “Mr. Magoo” and an “idiot.”
And that’s all just while Jeff was working for him. Now that the conventions of etiquette that generally exist between an employer and employee are gone, look out! Trump might get really mean.
So let’s imagine the next four-plus months are filled with Trump tweeting out insults slamming Sessions when he isn’t busy slamming journalists, actors, foreign leaders, other politicians, things he doesn’t understand and people who don’t get his soup hot enough. That would have to be a pretty unbearable situation for Jeff, especially since he’s made it absolutely clear he intends to lie there and take whatever vitriol the president spews his way. Hell, Trump may hammer him just to see how much he’ll take.
Going into this, Sessions is in the position of either fighting with Trump and pissing off the president’s supporters, or just hanging there like a little piñata in a grey suit, getting whacked over and over, which looks totally weak. It’s a no-win situation for Sessions. Unless ….
Maybe Jeff thinks if he’s nice to Trump the president will be nice to him. That schoolyard tactic sometimes works, I guess, but it’s hard to believe Trump wouldn’t avail himself of the opportunity to squash Sessions’ electoral hopes after blaming his former AG for essentially facilitating the political “witch hunt” against him. Trump’s not really known for letting things slide.
Sessions has to know going in that he’s a target. He has to know abuse is coming. All that again begs the question of “why?”
It’s not like there aren’t some rock-ribbed conservatives running for this seat, even if one or two of them aren’t nearly as rock-ribbed as they might let on. In making his announcement, and in the first commercial he released, Sessions has tried to make the case he needs to be back in D.C. to help push Trump’s agenda. But it’s not like Jeff would be running against a gang of maverick Republicans bent on undermining Trump’s plans.
Some supporters have made the point Sessions might get some of his 20 years of seniority back in the U.S. Senate, and that would be great for Alabama. But Jeff was a back-bencher his whole career. He didn’t go looking for those sweet money-shoveling committee assignments before he MAGAed out, so why would he be the right guy now? Sessions spent a lot of his time on more judicially oriented committees. We also still have the mummified remains of Richard “Earmark” Shelby funneling money back to the state, so we don’t need Jeff to really move the money home.
So what is it Sessions really brings to the table? All I can figure is Sessions’ total prostration to the president is his number one selling point. Right now, the easiest way to cause a stampede among Alabama’s GOP Senate candidates would be to tell them Trump needs a major internal organ. Bradley Byrne, for example, would doubtlessly remove his own kidney with a Trump brand steak knife just for a shot at providing a presidential filter organ. There’s a high bar of Trump loyalty to achieve.
But Sessions can do them all one better. He can kiss ass at a higher level.
The whole rest of the gang can talk the talk about loving Trump and serving as his hand puppet on Capitol Hill, but nobody can walk the walk like Sessions. He’s had his ribs kicked in by Trump over and over for doing exactly what he should have done as a conflicted AG, but he hasn’t even attempted to defend himself in public.
Sessions’ first commercial was as embarrassing a piece of political capitulation as we’ve seen since Neville Chamberlain asked Hitler where he got his boots. In the original version, the part of Jeff Sessions was played by a jellyfish, but it came off too tough.
We’ll see whether going full-on invertebrate is the path back to Congress for Jeff and if Alabama voters are really just looking for the biggest Trump sycophant. If it turns out that’s not the case, at least Sessions can enjoy the convenience of losing the race and his dignity at the same time.
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