It’s bad enough for Jeff Sessions that after being Donald Trump’s earliest and most important Senate supporter and then giving up his seat to become attorney general, Trump angrily fired him for following every ethical procedure by recusing himself from a Justice Department investigation into activities in which he was himself potentially involved. It was worse that Trump kept after him like a dog with a bone, blaming the Mueller investigation and all his subsequent problems on the old Alabama nativist. It added insult to injury that when Sessions sought to recover the Senate seat he had discarded on Trump’s behalf, POTUS endorsed a minimally qualified rival, former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville (whom Sessions is facing in a July 14 runoff for the right to challenge Democrat Doug Jones, who won the 2017 special election to succeed the new attorney general).
But now it’s really getting personal, as the New York Times reports:
President Trump’s campaign is demanding that Jeff Sessions, the former Attorney General, stop attaching himself to the president in his effort to win back his old Senate seat in Alabama, after Mr. Sessions distributed a campaign mailer that mentioned the president 22 times.
In an unusual letter to the Sessions campaign, which was obtained by The New York Times, the Trump campaign called Mr. Sessions’ claim that he is the president’s top supporter “delusional.”
“We only assume your campaign is doing this to confuse President Trump’s loyal supporters in Alabama into believing the president supports your candidacy in the upcoming primary runoff election. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Now, the truth is, slavish, redundant, quasi-embarrassing praise of Donald J. Trump is the coin of the realm in Alabama Republican politics these days. And since Sessions can boast of an intimate connection with the MAGA cause that extends back to the days when Tuberville was still drawing x’s and o’s on a chalkboard for the edification of teenagers, his campaign is unsurprisingly telling voters ol’ Jeff loves Trump and his atavistic world view even if POTUS will not reciprocate. But that offense to the president’s wishes will not stand if his campaign has anything to say about it.
Team Sessions is fighting back by appealing to the independence of Alabama voters, who won’t let any outside agitators — even the agents of the greatest leader ever to — how to vote:
“Alabamans don’t like to be told what to do,” [Sessions campaign spokeswoman Gail] Gitcho said, adding, “They have shown that repeatedly. Washington told them to vote for Luther Strange over Roy Moore, they disobeyed. Washington told them to vote for Roy Moore over Doug Jones, they disobeyed. They are a hardheaded and independent lot.” She said that Mr. Sessions “is indeed one of the strongest supporters of President Trump and his agenda” and “no one can change that.”
Gitcho didn’t mention that Trump himself was one of the people from Washington who endorsed first Strange and then Moore. But it’s true that in the Republican primary for the special election that led to Jones’s victory, all the candidates worshiped at the altar of Trump whether he endorsed them or not, and Alabama Republicans figured they could freely choose among them. That’s what Sessions hopes will happen again, just as Jones hopes Republicans will keep attacking each other again. With more than three months left before the runoff, however, Trump and his people had better keep some hatefulness in reserve for Sessions. And maybe the former senator’s campaign should spend more time reminding Alabamans why they liked him before he hitched his career to the dark star of the billionaire demagogue from New York.