Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Sessions of sweet silent thought

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Some small encouragement in the story on the Sessions Justice Department push to get rid of affirmative action in college admissions once for all, in Charlie Savage's report:

The announcement suggests that the project will be run out of the division’s front office, where the Trump administration’s political appointees work, rather than its Educational Opportunities Section, which is run by career civil servants and normally handles work involving schools and universities.
In the first place, the obvious suggestion, that Sessions can't trust the career personnel to do what he wants; not necessarily because they're left, but just because they're professional; Sessions hasn't managed to bleed all the honesty out of DOJ, the way Tillerson seems to have blown the expertise out of State.

The other thing is that this attorney general looks to have been doing it all wrong, in taking power. Unlike the George W. Bush administration, with its John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzalez, Bradley Schlozman and Monica Goodling, Hans von Spakovsky, and so on, Sessions doesn't know how to get people in where they can do some serious harm. Where Schlozman and Goodling stuffed the inner workings of the department with politicals in disguise (they were told to hide their Republican affiliations), Sessions puts his politicals up front where they'll get on TV, or in commissions like the Special Advisory Board on Election Integrity, where Spakovsky is working in the fight to end imaginary voter fraud (smart politicians like Obama know naming a commission, like the Simpson-Bowles panel, is a way of avoiding action when you need to do that; stupid politicians like Trump may think it's a way of getting things done; but snakes like Sessions see it as a way of passing out wingnut welfare).

It looks as if Sessions, after all, may be not only a vicious liar, mediocre Senator, and Confederate holdout, but also incompetent, like Trump, confusing power with strutting around on camera, another poser, and his capacity for doing harm may be less than we've feared—NOT ZERO but not quite that bad. I'm not convinced this team trying to break affirmative action is going to get anywhere at all (which doesn't mean the situation is good, with the awful new Supreme Court looming over the issue, but it could be worse if any of these people knew how to play the game).

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