Thursday, January 12, 2017

Transcript: Sessions and Whitehouse

On Tuesday (10 January 2017) Jefferson Beauregard "Jeff" Sessions III, President Elect DJT’s nominee for Attorney General and junior Republican senator from Alabama, was subjected to a love-fest of questions from his fellow senators. The process went on for hours, and most of it was mind numbingly dull. During the second round of questions presented by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island (Democrat) the following exchange that should be of interest to my readers was recorded. The following transcript is mostly from the direct transcription performed by the closed captioning algorithm, but I have fixed it to be more accurate in a couple places; it may still have a few inaccuracies inherited from the closed captioning that I did not catch. I also noted the timing of a couple telling smiles provided by Senator Sessions.

---- On being secular in America ---- 

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) :  Does a secular attorney have anything to fear from an attorney general Sessions in the Department of Justice?

Senator Jeff Sessions III (R-AL) :   Well, no. and I use that word in the 90,000-foot level of -- a little concern I have that we as a nation I believe are reaching a level in which truth is not sufficiently respected, that the very ideal, the idea of truth is not believed to be real, and that all of life is just a matter of your perspective and my perspective which I think is contrary to the American heritage -- let's just say kind of a criticism. We are not a theocracy. Nobody should be required to believe anything. I share Thomas Jefferson’s words on the memorial over here, “I swear eternal hostility over any domination of the mind of man.” And I think we should respect people's views and not demand any kind of religious test for holding office.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) :  And a secular person has just as good a claim to understanding the truth as a person who is religious. Correct?

Senator Jeff Sessions III (R-AL) : Well ... I’m not sure. {Smiles} in what method? Is it a less a objectively committed to a …

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) :  (interrupting) the methods that an attorney would bring to bear.

Senator Jeff Sessions III (R-AL) :  Well… let me just say this. We’re going to treat anybody with different views fairly and objectively, and the idea of truth and trying to achieve the right solution to me is an important goal of the American juris prudential system, actually the legislative system. What is right, what is true and let's act on it and do the right thing.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) :   On the subject of what is truth, you may –

Senator Jeff Sessions III (R-AL) :  (Smiling and interrupting) An age-old question.

---- On climate change ----

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) :   You may be in a position as attorney general to either enforce laws or bring actions that relate to the problem of carbon emissions and the changes that are taking place both physically and chemically in our atmosphere and oceans as a result of the flood of carbon emissions that we've had. it is the political position of the republican party in the senate, as i have seen it, that this is not a problem, that we don't need to do anything about it, that the facts aren't real, and that we should all do nothing whatsoever. that's the senate. you as attorney general of the united states may be asked to make decisions for our nation that require a factual predicate that you determine as the basis for making your decision. in making a decision about the facts of climate change, to whom will you turn? will you, for instance, trust the military? all of whose branches agree that climate change is a serious problem of real import for them? will you trust our national laboratories, all of whom say the same? will you trust our national science agencies -- by the way, nasa is driving a rover around on the surface of mars right now. so there are scientists i think who are pretty good. i don't think there is a single scientific society, i don't think there is a single accredited university, i don't think there is a single nation that denies this basic set of facts. and so if that situation is presented to you and you have to make a decision based on the facts, what can give us any assurance that you will make those facts based on real facts and real science?

Senator Jeff Sessions III (R-AL) :  that's a good and fair question, and honesty and integrity in that process is required, and if the facts justify a position on one side or the other on a case, I would try to utilize those facts in an honest and appropriate way. I’m not -- I don't deny that we have global warming. In fact, the theory always struck me as plausible, and it is the question of how much is happening and what the reaction would be to it. So that's what I would hope we could see occur.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) :   Indeed, I’ll bet you dollars against those lovely Krispy Kreme doughnuts that we have out back that if you went down to the university of Alabama and if you talked to the people who fish out of Mobile, they'd already see the changes in the ocean, they'd be able to measure the pH changes and knows that acidification is happening and there would be no dispute about that -- except in the politics of Washington, D.C.

Senator Jeff Sessions III (R-AL) :  I recognize the great interest and time you've committed to the issue and I value your opinion.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) :   I do come from an ocean state and we do measure the rise in the sea level and we measure the change of temperature of the bay, and we measure the change in pH, and it is serious to us.

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