There are some takes which set the Internet ablaze with such a fury that it would be malpractice not to fisk them. Fisking is the art of writing a column within a column about a column, and Axios’ Jonathan Swan wrote a couple hundred words today that cannot be ignored. If you’re unfamiliar with either Swan or Axios, you’re probably aware of Politico, who set the 21st century standard for obsequious deference to our corrupt political class. Great reporting has and still does come out of Politico, but it is well-known as the place that politicians venture to get their talking points out. (Well, that and all of cable news.)
Axios was launched by Politico founders Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei as a revamped version of what they brought to the early web, and Jonathan Swan is a journalist who has proven himself to be extremely well-connected in our nation’s capital. If you have read a scoop in Axios, it was likely unearthed by Swan. Today, Swan brought more information to the fore, but packaged it in such a Politico-y manner about a transparently evil man that the entire internet jumped down his throat, and practically forced Axios to make a correction. Here’s the editor’s note they slipped in after the firestorm erupted:
Editor’s note: We changed the first sentence of the second paragraph to show it’s a reflection on how Sessions views himself.
As always, the target of my ire is in grey, while my angry words have a white background.
Think of the job that you dreamed you could have when you grew up.
Ten-year-old Jeff Sessions aspired to deport every immigrant in America? Where is this going?
Think of going through your whole life — and in an extraordinary twist of fate and luck and with a smart move — and, finally, that job will be the capstone to your career. Then, when you start that job, your boss spends the entire time making it hell for you.
Welcome to late-stage capitalism.
The big picture: Jeff Sessions prides himself on being an honorable person.
When this article was first published. That’s not what it said, and it’s a big reason why I’m writing this rage screed right now. If you want to know why people don’t trust the mainstream media as a whole, it’s because some are so dedicated to the access they enjoy, that they cannot even tell when they’re writing PR for the powerful people they’re supposed to be holding accountable to the truth.
— Jeff Sessions wrote an article in The Washington Post asserting that legal immigration is to blame for America’s low wages.
— Jeff Sessions voted against H.R. 4674, which would have prohibited “the return of persons by the United States, for purposes of detention, interrogation, or trial, to countries engaging in torture or other inhuman treatment of persons.”
— Jeff Sessions said that “Carbon pollution is CO2, and that’s really not a pollutant; that’s a plant food, and it doesn’t harm anybody except that it might include temperature increases.”
— Jeff Sessions was denied a federal judgeship in 1986 by the Senate, as his former colleagues testified that he used the n-word and joked about the Ku Klux Klan, saying they were “okay, until he learned that they smoked marijuana.”
Jeff Sessions is a gigantic piece of shit, but please, go on about how admirable he is—I mean—how admirable he thinks he is. Right?
He takes extraordinary pride in the fact that, during his decades-long career, he’s built a reputation as the literal and figurative Boy Scout. He loves that reputation — and doing the right thing.
Wait, when did the Boy Scouts merge with the KKK?
Now, he’s being publicly humiliated day after day with his boss, President Trump, saying he did the wrong thing for the country by recusing himself from the Department of Justice’s Russia investigation.
Trump publicly humiliating Jeff Sessions on a near daily basis is the best thing he’s done as president.
After withdrawing his resignation letter last year, Sessions resolved to push ahead, put his head down and fulfill the policy agenda he dreamed of enacting. But there’s an open question of how much more of this Sessions can take.
The policy agenda that Sessions dreams of enacting is pure evil, and anyone who treats Sessions’ endgame as anodyne is being a useful idiot for the cause of white nationalism. A sampling of Jeff Sessions’ votes in Congress detail what kind of hellscape his American dream looks like:
— In 2013, he voted no on reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act.
— In 2006, he voted yes on a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
— In 2000 and 2002, he voted no on expanding the definition of hate crimes to include homosexuals.
— In 2001, he voted yes on loosening restrictions on cellphone wiretapping.
— He voted no to expand the education budget several times over the past few decades, with perhaps the most offensive being his no vote on shifting $11 billion from corporate tax loopholes to education.
— The ACLU grades his voting record at 20%. The Human Rights Campaign pegs him at 0%. The NAACP gives him a slightly better rating of 7%. The National Education Association grades him as 20% effective. What these figures mean is that according to organizations dedicated to the cause of basic human rights, Jeff Sessions stands in opposition to their work.
— The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, one of the largest pro-business lobbying groups in the world, gives Sessions a 100% on his voting record. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union gives him a 14% rating.
Sessions’ voting record indicates that he wants to virtually liquidate all of government that’s aimed at helping nonwhite male America, all to benefit rich white male America. Again, Jeff Sessions is a humongous piece of shit. The fact that some Democrats and most Republicans in Congress think that he’s a swell guy is an indictment of their character, not an endorsement of Sessions’.
It’s nuts that he’s lasted this long. Imagine if this was happening to Jim Mattis. No one else would’ve put up with this and continued in the job with the commander-in-chief publicly saying he wishes he didn’t hire you and expressing no confidence in you.
General Jim Mattis—perhaps the most admired man in the military (hence why he was pushed to occupy his post at the Pentagon)—is more widely respected than some fringe Senator from Alabama who was only validated as a mainstream politician once white nationalism became the official public face of the Republican Party. That’s the shock expressed here. Jonathan Swan is so deeply embedded into the D.C. machinery that he can’t tell which way is up anymore. That or he’s a total buffoon. There’s really no in-between here.
Yes, but: Sessions eagerly pushed for the job, and he’s yet to quit.
It’s not a good sign when you can repudiate your entire “poor Jeff Sessions” shtick with one simple line. I’m going to end here because I’m all raged out, and the rest of the article details Trump’s anger with Sessions, and abandons the outright shilling done for America’s most visibly racist lawman. If you’re wondering why most news outlets couldn’t bring themselves to call Roseanne’s racist tweet “racist” yesterday, this glowing mini-profile of a white nationalist authored by one of America’s most well-connected political reporters is instructive.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.