Photo | Ashley Trice
Sen. Doug Jones, AG Jeff Sessions and Sen. Richard Shelby cut the ribbon at the new federal courthouse.
Last Friday, I had the opportunity to attend the dedication of the new federal courthouse for the Southern District in downtown Mobile. The new 158,000-square-foot limestone-clad building on St. Joseph Street is just stunning and a very welcome addition to the area. Somehow the architect was able to make anyone who sets foot in it feel like they are standing in a shiny, brand-new, state-of-the-art structure that also feels timeless and majestic, like it may have been there a couple of hundred years or so.
Like any project of this magnitude, it took many years of hard work before the ground was even broken, and the doors were officially opened to the public last week. And many of the players that put in all that work were there beaming like proud parents, including Judge Kristi DuBose, lead architect Lee Becker, Sen. Richard Shelby and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, among others. The new senator on the block, Doug Jones, joked in his remarks that he was the only one speaking who had nothing to do with the opening of the courthouse, but he was also on hand for the event.
Of course, the star of the show was AG Sessions, as President Trump had just stated hours before he wanted Sessions to investigate who authored the now-infamous anonymous op-ed in The New York Times, which basically states the president is unhinged and has no idea what he is doing and senior staffers (aka “the steady state”) are there protecting us all from him really going off the rails. Comforting? Terrifying? Both?
A reporter from CNN made the trip down to question Sessions about this, but Sessions did not answer his question or any from the assembled local media either, other than his spokesman telling one reporter they didn’t comment on such matters.
The CNN guy went and interviewed folks at the Dew Drop Inn who were happy to speak on said matters. There were a couple of folks there who said they didn’t really care what the president said about Sessions and they felt “Jeff’ probably didn’t care either. But most everyone else seemed pretty defensive of their hometown guy. For some reason, that viral video of the guy crying when Britney Spears had her meltdown came to mind. “Leave Britney alone!” “Leave Jeff alone!”
Sessions and his spokesfolks are used to staying mum on these things. They have to NOT comment all the time. As the president’s favorite person to deride/criticize/emasculate on Twitter (and allegedly also to his top advisers, according to reports), the AG is asked to respond to all of the demeaning “presidential” social media tirades directed at him.
He rarely does.
I’ll admit, while I wanted to see the new courthouse, I also really wanted to see Sessions, in the train wreck kind of way (I do feel guilty for that). I thought there was maybe a 1 percent chance he would say something about the op-ed or Trump’s trolling. Maybe it wouldn’t be overt, but perhaps he would throw some thinly veiled shade the president’s way since he was in front of the hometown crowd.
Even if you don’t agree with his policies, I think it’s only human nature to want to see a victim fight back. It’s like watching someone abuse a dog. Don’t we all rejoice when the dog finally bites back? Even if you aren’t a dog person. OK, maybe I’ve taken this dog analogy too far, but you know what I mean.
There was none of that, and I should have known better. But what did occur was so much better anyway. And much more uplifting. And refreshing! I had forgotten just how much I liked it!
It was completely nice. And boring and uneventful. And I truly mean that as a compliment.
Sens. Jones and Shelby and AG Sessions all sat by each other and whispered to each other, made friendly jokes, smiled and looked like they truly enjoyed being in each other’s company. And they probably do. Why wouldn’t they?
But I guess in this volatile, super-partisan political climate where all we see on a regular basis are clips of Trump being angry and lashing out at people at rallies, and “panels” of Republicans and Democrats attacking each other on cable news, it’s easy to forget civility still has a place in our national discourse.
And it was so nice to see it in person! More, please!
I mean, I don’t want to get crazy here or anything, but it was almost like they could have actually sat down together and maybe even worked together across the aisle on something, like, I don’t know, a piece of legislation.
I know, I know, that’s cuckoo talk. We all know in this day and age, you have to pick a side/tribe and you can’t even question or disagree in any way with even one small part of your tribe’s tenets or you will be eviscerated by the people who are supposed to be your people. In addition to blindly subscribing to whatever your tribal leaders have decided is acceptable or unacceptable, you must also HATE your enemy. If someone disagrees with you on policy, they are evil and subhuman and you don’t care if they die a slow death in a fire ant bed. That’s just the way it is.
There is no place for respectful debate anymore on any issue. You better be all in, all out or keep your mouth shut or you’ll be kicked off your side of the field. It’s just ridiculous. And intellectually lazy.
Though it would be disingenuous for me to say I don’t rubberneck at all of these political train wrecks as much as the next guy, I do miss passionate-but-friendly discussions. I miss civility. I miss standing up for what you believe in but doing so with kindness. And I miss boring! If Justin Timberlake can bring sexy back in 2006, someone can certainly bring boring back in 2020. Come on! Your nation is counting on you!