Not to be overly partisan about this, but Richmond’s performance was actually embarrassing to the state of Louisiana and he’s lucky if he doesn’t get censured for it.
We’ll show you the video and you can decide for yourself, but here are a few points to watch for as you view it.
First, Richmond had nothing of value to contribute to the hearing – he’s not from Alabama, he’s not a member of the Senate, he hasn’t worked with Sessions in the Justice Department or the Attorney General’s office in Alabama, he hasn’t tried any legal cases opposite Sessions…nothing of the sort. Richmond doesn’t have a perspective to offer on Jeff Sessions that is any more relevant or informative than anyone else in the building could bring to the witness table.
He got to offer testimony as a witness because he got himself elected as the leader of the Congressional Black Caucus, an organization which is in the midst of going to the mattresses over a painting by a high school kid which depicts policemen as pigs and which the CBC is insistent should hang on the wall of the tunnel between the Cannon office building and Capitol Hill, despite objections from several Republican House members who see that as offensive. Richmond took time off from threatening to “kick somebody’s ass” if the painting isn’t left undisturbed to take offense at Sessions’ nomination for Attorney General.
Which is, let’s face it, a nice favor to him by the Senate Judiciary Committee, the members of which likely had better things to do than to listen to him testify amid a two-day hearing. Richmond was the last of three Democrat witnesses in the hearing’s final segment, whose testimony was interspersed with that of three other black witnesses, all three of whom were from Alabama, had worked with Sessions, knew him well and were adamant as to the positive nature of his character. The first of the kibitzers was Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), who beclowned himself by attacking Sessions’ record as containing no commitment to civil rights despite his having fought to desegregate schools in Alabama, fighting to see the execution through of a KKK leader and actually shutting down the Klan in Alabama with a civil suit that seized their offices. Booker also babbled about “the arc of moral universe” and how it must be bent; a quite reasonable interpretation of his statement would be that he expects the Attorney General to do as Sessions’ predecessors Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch have done and bend the law to satisfy a certain political perspective.
Next came Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), the former civil rights activist who has clearly dined out on his actions of a half-century ago; Lewis huffed vociferously about the former presence of things like whites-only drinking fountains and left the offensive implication that Jeff Sessions as Attorney General would bring them back. One wonders whether Lewis understands not just how obnoxious such a suggestion is but also how pronounced a self-indictment of his role in the civil rights movement it represents; after all, if all it takes is one racist Attorney General such as he purports Sessions to be to roll us back to the Jim Crow Era, how much cultural and political change did the civil rights movement really achieve in the first place?
But as laughable as Booker and Lewis were in testimony before the committee, Richmond took the cake. Here’s how he began his remarks…
“First, I want to express my concerns about being made to testify at the very end of the witness panels. To have a Senator, a House member, and a living civil rights legend testify at the end of all of this is the equivalent of being made to go to the back of the bus. it is a petty strategy and the record should reflect my consternation at the unprecedented process that brought us here. my record on equality speaks for itself, and i don’t mind being last, but to have a living legend like John Lewis handled in such a fashion is beyond the pale and the message sent by this process is duely noted by me and the 49 members of the congressional black caucus and the 78 million Americans we represent and the over 17 million African-Americans that we represent.”
He’s lucky he’s there at all and that his testimony is suffered by the members of the committee amid the busy time the Senate is in. And he repays that sufferance by bitching that he’s relegated to the back end of the hearing? Add ingratitude to his many sins.
Richmond also took an aggressive shot at Sessions for having brought a case as the U.S. Attorney in Mobile against three black political operatives for vote fraud after they were accused of stealing and altering absentee ballots back in the 1980’s. The complainants in the case were other black politicos, and yet Richmond attacked them as Uncle Toms – alleging that they were acting as cats’ paws for the white establishment in filing those complaints as part of a practice of discrediting the civil rights community. He did not in fact have a tinfoil hat on in leveling such an irresponsible charge.
And Richmond then told the members of the committee that they would be either “courageous or complicit” depending on their confirmation vote of Sessions, a statement that were it made by a white Republican about the nominations of Holder or Lynch would have been savaged as racist.
It was a wholly unacceptable, disgusting performance and it’s a shame there will be no consequences to Richmond for it. He is off to an abysmal start as the CBC’s mouthpiece, and he’s plumbing new depths to that organization’s esteem.