Has a public official ever had his reputation revived faster or more vigorously than Jeff Session did this week, when Trump laid into him with a series of potshots on air and on Twitter?
The always-reliable Memeorandum aggregator site gives a flavor of how obsessed the media have been with Trump’s “war” on Sessions.
Much of the Republican establishment is up in arms defending Sessions, after weeks of rarely uttering his name because he was basically too toxic to be associated with. The media had establishment Republicans cornered with the vaporous theme about Sessions and “Russia,” Sessions and his recusal from the Russia probe, etc.
But now Trump has broken them out of that corner by attacking Sessions himself. Suddenly, Sessions is The Man.
Even Democrats and the MSM have been defending Sessions.
So now Maddow LOVES Jeff Sessions….
— Joe Borelli (@JoeBorelliNYC) July 26, 2017
Hysterical watching Rachel Maddow now defend Sessions after she tried to stop him from being AG, declaring him an unfit racist.
— MARK SIMONE (@MarkSimoneNY) July 26, 2017
Adding to the furor, Trump came out on Wednesday, 26 July, and announced that transgender people would not be allowed to serve in uniform in the military. As I pointed out in my post on that, Trump is making himself an outrage magnet. He’s also introduced a Pavlov’s Bell topic that is sure to generate a frenzy and preoccupy his political opponents. (Fortunately, he did that without making a faulty policy move.)
Even Trump’s supporters have been at wits’ end trying to figure out why he’s bashing Sessions so hard. But when I saw how the backlash was turning into a Sessions support-fest, I felt like I had an inkling. Tuesday evening, I tweeted that Trump was giving Sessions a big boost.
— J.E. Dyer (@OptimisticCon) July 26, 2017
I figured it was probably to give Sessions top-cover for something he was about to do.
Now, it’s being widely reported that Sessions will shortly make an announcement about his investigation into the extraordinary problem of classified-intelligence leaks that has been dogging the Trump administration from Day 1 — and undermining U.S. national security at the same time.
Yesterday, it was anonymous sources telling the media that such a probe would be announced. Today, Politico reports that Anthony Scaramucci has stated it’s coming.
Here’s an important point. The Justice Department has actually been probing the intelligence leaks since May. So Sessions isn’t just going to “announce” that. We already know it’s underway (although some may have forgotten).
That point strengthens the deduction that Trump is paving a path for something significant. After two months of investigating, it’s likely that DOJ has something more to say than “We’re looking into it.” There could well be some specifics coming. And I wouldn’t expect Trump to go to high warble with the “information warfare” for anything short of meaningful specifics.
Note this about Trump’s tactics. He has set Sessions up with widely-affirmed support from others for Sessions himself, as a public official. And he has made possible — made obvious — the narrative that whatever Sessions has to tell us, it’s all Trump’s fault.
This latter is a way not only of diffusing some of the polarizing fury against Sessions, but of clarifying that this is the president’s fight. If the league of leakers wants to throw down, it will be with him.
Each of you can decide how you feel about these methods. I know many people are profoundly depressed to think of American politics being handled this way. I can’t say it thrills me, for that matter.
But it’s what the progressive left has been engaged in for years. Trump didn’t introduce this form of political maneuvering. The left did. Your eyes are not attuned to the agility and surprise Trump achieves with it, because for all those years, the left has been the only party maneuvering. It’s been maneuvering against a stationary and unalerted target: the American people, the American center, the Republican establishment, the dwindling ranks of old-style Democrats. The left’s maneuver stratagems have come to look, to your eyes, like the normal course of events, instead of an elaborate kabuki dance designed to frame everything you think you know in a very specific narrative.
Myself, I would naturally prefer to see the president and his officials simply come out and make their announcements in a manner that I know feels straightforward and conventional to everyone. I think, for example, that that’s what a President Ted Cruz would have done.
But I also know that the narrative-machine of the left has so subverted our media and our mental expectations that it would, in sober truth, be very hard to get the message out that way.
As regards the substance of the intel-leak investigation, it is a vital matter for national security. The leakers have shown utter disregard for national security, by irresponsibly exposing national secrets whenever it seems convenient for their political purposes. They have exposed sources, methods, and identities in their quest to damage the Trump administration.
There is also the exceptionally important question of what exactly they were doing to unmask the identities of any number of blameless U.S. persons in the last several years, as they apparently sought to gain “dirt” on those persons, and track their movements and connections for no valid purpose of law enforcement or national security.
The perpetrators of this enormity must be identified and prosecuted. Doing that is more important than observing the conventions of social discourse that make us feel good. Conventions of discourse are not due process of law. Trump must not violate due process of law. But he hasn’t done that here.
Assuming Sessions does have a significant announcement about his intel-leak probe, we will find that Trump’s communications onslaught shaped the political battlespace for this absolutely essential investigatory news, whose introduction in a less wary, more stately-paced manner would have succeeded only in making Hill Republicans cower in fear. Getting a better outcome than the usual bleat-scatter of the old-consensus Republicans is worth a few days of uneasy confusion.