Firing Sessions Is a Terrible Idea

Donald Trump is a naturally polarizing figure.   His bread and butter is brazen attacks on those who challenge him.  As a media figure and as a business promoter, that worked well.  As president, however, Trump needs to pick his fights carefully and avoid needless political bloodletting.  Changing people in his administration when he feels that things have gone wrong suggests that he picked the wrong people to begin with, especially in the first six months of his administration.

In some cases, like Comey, a holdover from the Obama administration, Trump should have cleaned house right at the beginning of his term of office, when people naturally understand Trump's need to have his own people in key positions.  When Trump gets rid of people who have been his supporters and who have interviewed for the job Trump gives them in his administration, it is a different matter.

Jeff Sessions was the first senator to endorse Trump in his run for the Republican nomination.  Sessions is also a man who during his political career has stood up to the Establishment and done what he has believed to be the right thing even if it was not the most politically expedient.  Sessions has a reputation among the Republican caucus in the Senate as a particularly honorable and decent man.  He also gave up a safe Senate seat as a member of the majority party to serve on Trump's team. 

If President Trump fires Attorney General Sessions or if Trump continues to harass Sessions with dumb tweets, then the president runs the risk of alienating honest, genuine Senate conservatives who are immune to threats from Trump but who can give him headaches and problems he cannot imagine.

Almost everything Trump does, except for executive orders, must go through the Senate – legislation, appointments, and treaties.  If Trump alienates conservative Republicans in the Senate, it is hard to see how he will be able to do anything during his term as president.  Why should these senators trust Trump?  Why should they believe he is really conservative, particularly if he taps Rudy Giuliani as the next attorney general, a decent man on the wrong side of nearly every social issue?

When every single Republican Senate vote is vital in repealing Obamacare, why in the world would President Trump risk offending those conservative senators whose support he desperately needs?  While pressure from McConnell and Trump have doubtless switched some votes, every single vote in the Senate is necessary to beginning the repeal process.

When the investigation of Trump and his family bubbles into allegations that suggest the need for congressional investigation, why would Trump go out of his way to outrage conservative senators who will be on the very committees interrogating his family and his staff?  Does Trump grasp that these senators could garner rave reviews from the mainstream media by asking tough questions in these hearings?

Trump behaves as if he were the head of a corporation called the federal government and everyone were his employee subject to firing at his wish.  His influence over senators in conservative states, however, is limited.  (The same is true of House members from safe districts, which is to say nearly every House member.)

Donald Trump won the presidency with less than 46% of the popular vote because conservatives supported him.  Conservatives wanted to support Trump and wanted to believe that he represents their values.  Without their support, Trump cannot do anything at all except lose the next election by a landslide and perhaps even lose the Republican nomination in 2020 to someone like Jeff Sessions.

No conservative really wants this, because it would mean needless civil wars and might lead to a leftist in the White House again, but President Trump needs to do much more to solidify his support with conservatives than he has done so far.  Conservatives are used to being disappointed in Republican presidents.  They have learned the hard way that supporting Republican presidents reflexively because that president is Republican is a betrayal of conservatism. 

Firing a strongly conservative attorney general who left the Senate to serve Trump, an early supporter of Trump, and a thoroughly decent and honorable man is a terrible idea – and a test for conservatives about the character and values of President Trump.

Donald Trump is a naturally polarizing figure.   His bread and butter is brazen attacks on those who challenge him.  As a media figure and as a business promoter, that worked well.  As president, however, Trump needs to pick his fights carefully and avoid needless political bloodletting.  Changing people in his administration when he feels that things have gone wrong suggests that he picked the wrong people to begin with, especially in the first six months of his administration.

In some cases, like Comey, a holdover from the Obama administration, Trump should have cleaned house right at the beginning of his term of office, when people naturally understand Trump's need to have his own people in key positions.  When Trump gets rid of people who have been his supporters and who have interviewed for the job Trump gives them in his administration, it is a different matter.

Jeff Sessions was the first senator to endorse Trump in his run for the Republican nomination.  Sessions is also a man who during his political career has stood up to the Establishment and done what he has believed to be the right thing even if it was not the most politically expedient.  Sessions has a reputation among the Republican caucus in the Senate as a particularly honorable and decent man.  He also gave up a safe Senate seat as a member of the majority party to serve on Trump's team. 

If President Trump fires Attorney General Sessions or if Trump continues to harass Sessions with dumb tweets, then the president runs the risk of alienating honest, genuine Senate conservatives who are immune to threats from Trump but who can give him headaches and problems he cannot imagine.

Almost everything Trump does, except for executive orders, must go through the Senate – legislation, appointments, and treaties.  If Trump alienates conservative Republicans in the Senate, it is hard to see how he will be able to do anything during his term as president.  Why should these senators trust Trump?  Why should they believe he is really conservative, particularly if he taps Rudy Giuliani as the next attorney general, a decent man on the wrong side of nearly every social issue?

When every single Republican Senate vote is vital in repealing Obamacare, why in the world would President Trump risk offending those conservative senators whose support he desperately needs?  While pressure from McConnell and Trump have doubtless switched some votes, every single vote in the Senate is necessary to beginning the repeal process.

When the investigation of Trump and his family bubbles into allegations that suggest the need for congressional investigation, why would Trump go out of his way to outrage conservative senators who will be on the very committees interrogating his family and his staff?  Does Trump grasp that these senators could garner rave reviews from the mainstream media by asking tough questions in these hearings?

Trump behaves as if he were the head of a corporation called the federal government and everyone were his employee subject to firing at his wish.  His influence over senators in conservative states, however, is limited.  (The same is true of House members from safe districts, which is to say nearly every House member.)

Donald Trump won the presidency with less than 46% of the popular vote because conservatives supported him.  Conservatives wanted to support Trump and wanted to believe that he represents their values.  Without their support, Trump cannot do anything at all except lose the next election by a landslide and perhaps even lose the Republican nomination in 2020 to someone like Jeff Sessions.

No conservative really wants this, because it would mean needless civil wars and might lead to a leftist in the White House again, but President Trump needs to do much more to solidify his support with conservatives than he has done so far.  Conservatives are used to being disappointed in Republican presidents.  They have learned the hard way that supporting Republican presidents reflexively because that president is Republican is a betrayal of conservatism. 

Firing a strongly conservative attorney general who left the Senate to serve Trump, an early supporter of Trump, and a thoroughly decent and honorable man is a terrible idea – and a test for conservatives about the character and values of President Trump.