Benjamin Franklin has been trying for years to give the Republicans needed advice from the grave, and they never listen. “We must indeed all hang together,” Franklin told his fellow conspirators in Philadelphia, “or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
The poor old Stupid Party. The Democrats are trying to pick off the new Republican administration, one officer at a time, and some of the Republicans in Congress imagine that once Jeff Sessions is packed home to Alabama Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi and the editors of The Washington Post and The New York Times will pat them on the head, say “well done,” and leave them alone to enjoy their privileges of life in Washington and the perks of office.
Mr. Sessions is accused, more or less, of discussing campaign strategy with the Russian ambassador to the United States, and promising him, more or less, that Russia can have whatever American treasure it covets — a case of vodka, the nuclear access codes, even an autographed photograph of Nancy Pelosi, suitable for hanging in Vlad’s parlor.
Mr. Sessions disappointed the Democrats late Thursday when he recused himself from any matters arising from the campaigns for president of the United States.” They really wanted the controversy to go on and on, thinking they could keep it on Page One and on the evening news.
But the attorney general further said his announcement should not be taken as confirmation “of the existence of any investigation or suggestive of the scope of any such investigation.”
The mob is trying to hang Mr. Sessions on an exchange between Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota and Mr. Sessions at his confirmation hearing. “If there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign,” the senator asked, “what will you do?”
Mr. Sessions replied: “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I didn’t have — did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it.”
The attorney general said Thursday that he, like many others watching the televised hearings, understood the senator’s question to be whether he had met Ambassador Sergey Kislyak as a surrogate, or substitute, for the campaign, and that his answer to Sen. Franken “was honest and correct as I understood it at the time. I appreciate that some have taken the view that this was a false comment. That was not my intent. That is not correct.”
Mr. Sessions was right to recuse himself. It’s important that the attorney general not only make sure the investigation, if there actually is one, is conducted in a thorough and dispassionate manner, and that it be seen by the public as thorough and dispassionate.
Facts are never allowed to get in the way of thorough and dispassionate in Washington. The Democrats are armed with the confidence that they can say anything and the media will let them get by with it. Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, in demanding the attorney general’s head, said that as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee for 10 years she had never met the Russian ambassador. She couldn’t imagine that any worthy senator would. She forgot that in the digital age facts are hard to kill graveyard dead.
Then she spent the afternoon trying to explain why she would have made such a categorical statement after several tweets about visits with the Russian ambassador (she said it was about American adoptions of Russian children) were discovered and published on the internet.
Some of our Republican worthies might have waited for Mr. Sessions to take the first step to defuse the controversy. But the temptation to join the pile-on could not be resisted. Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, the House majority leader, first said Mr. Sessions should recuse himself.
But when he was confronted by a Fox News camera later in the day he thought it wise to fudge. “I’m not calling on him to recuse himself.”
Mr. Sessions is a man of integrity and plain dealing, and he will survive the sticks, stones and hatchets. But he is well advised not to let his “friends” have access to his back. Those “friends” are well advised that the Democrats are continuing to collect rope, and not all of it is for the neck of the attorney general.
The Democrats call their scorched-earth attacks on the new president “the resistance.” But it is accurately described as “an insurrection.” They’re determined to destroy a duly elected president of the United States, by resignation or impeachment if they can, and if that doesn’t work, maybe something more sinister will be employed. We’ve never before seen anything like this. We’re sailing in uncharted water.
• Wesley Pruden is editor in chief emeritus of The Times.
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