Moving Terrifyingly Up From Clubs and Cattle Prods To Federal Power

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Banal spectacle, Day One. Photo by Getty

Of the surreal spectacle that was the Jeff Sessions confirmation hearing - aka a day of "unremitting banality in the face of questioning" - two moments stand out. One was the trashing of Sessions' outright lies about his racist record by a methodical, take-no-prisoners Sen. Al Franken, glorious to behold. The other, which unfolded beyond the hearing, was the long-delayed release of a fiery letter by Coretta King urging Congress to block Sessions' 1986 nomination to a federal judgeship. First published Tuesday by the Washington Post, the letter damns the Alabama lawmaker's abuse of power in the prosecution of civil rights activists, cites his overriding history of "shabby" acts of racism, and argues his judgeship would “irreparably damage the work of my husband.” That one ascension - far more modest than the one now looming - “simply cannot be allowed to happen," she writes.

“The irony of Mr. Sessions’ nomination is that, if confirmed, he will be given a life tenure for doing with a federal prosecution what the local sheriffs accomplished twenty years ago with clubs and cattle prods. I believe his confirmation would have a devastating effect on not only the judicial system in Alabama, but also on the progress we have made toward fulfilling my husband’s dream.”

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