If whimsical racist and Peter Dinklage stunt double Jeff Sessions is surprised that he's still the U.S. attorney general given the number of times his boss, President Donald Trump, has said he wishes he'd never given him the job, he didn't let on during a peppery address at the Western Conservative Summit this afternoon.
Indeed, Sessions used the phrase "the Trump era" so often during his thirty-plus minutes behind a podium at the Colorado Convention Center that attendees could have turned his palaver into a rip-roaring drinking game.
If they hadn't been so nice, polite and (overwhelmingly) Caucasian, that is.
The Mile High Ballroom inside the enormous edifice was crowded in the moments before Sessions took the stage, with attendees gathered under the auspices of event creator Colorado Christian University at a series of round tables that filled the lion's share of space between the stage and the back wall. Most were dressed in business-appropriate attire, but some bucked this trend by rocking a Trump trucker's cap.
Sessions's warm-up act was Kirk Cameron, who's gone from being a preteen pinup (he played Mike Seaver on the deathless — make that deadly — 1980s-era sitcom Growing Pains) to a Christian-friendly filmmaker and Billy Graham wannabe.
During his talk, Cameron spent an incredible ten minutes or so describing the National Monument of the Forefathers in Plymouth, Massachusetts, getting absolutely rhapsodic about Faith, the figure on the monument's main pedestal, and how she points toward heaven with her right hand and clutches a Bible with her left. But he didn't cause much of a stir until he introduced a little crowd participation into his shtick. First, he told everyone to spell the word "shop, then asked what you do when you see a green light — and when pretty much everyone within the sound of his voice said, "Stop," he needled them in good-natured fashion for their Pavlovian reaction.
Not that his listeners minded. They chuckled at the still-adorable Cameron, who built upon their goodwill with an appropriately Jesus-y conclusion that made them ripe for streaming Monumental, his recently released documentary about both Faith and faith.
Seconds later, Jeff Hunt, who organized the summit for CCU, hit the stage and rolled straight into a fiery introduction of Sessions, contrasting Obama-era immigration policies with those of the current AG, with a particular focus on criminal gangs. "Yes, they are going after those MS-13 animals!" he declared, much to the room's delight.
When Hunt called Sessions into the spotlight, the summiteers clambered to their feet and offered a standing ovation. Sessions, wearing the obligatory gray suit and red tie, was visibly pleased, admitting that the response "got me charged up a little bit" — which apparently explains why he described onetime Ronald Reagan cabinet member Ed Meese, who'll be speaking at the gathering tomorrow, as one of the best attorney generals in American history and among the greatest Americans in Sessions's lifetime.
Yes, Ed "Wedtech scandal" Meese.
At that point, Sessions slid his reading glasses to the tip of his nose, making him look astonishingly like Santa's Little Accountant, and rolled into his prepared remarks.
"We're making a lot of progress in a lot of areas," he maintained, including appointing judges who want to work "under the Constitution," not above it like those nasty activists who want to "change the meaning of words to advance their political agenda." He argued that those who truly honor America's foundational documents must accept every word of them, even if there are parts they don't personally like.
He probably didn't mean the amendment abolishing slavery, but we'll never know, will we?
From there, Sessions boasted about this week's Justice Department action challenging the constitutionality of the Obama health-care mandate, his settlements with 500 conservative groups allegedly targeted by the IRS when they applied for tax-exempt status, a permanent injunction granted in favor of Colorado-based Little Sisters of the Poor, who'd sued over Obamacare's contraception and birth-control provisions, and the U.S. Supreme Court decision stating that Denver baker Jack Phillips didn't have to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.
After calling Phillips "courageous," Sessions spoke about how freedom of speech and freedom of religion are so intertwined that if someone is prevented from being able to proselytize about his beliefs, that's "doubly bad."
Seconds later, Sessions pivoted to immigration. And like any effective bigot, he tried to frame his arguments as helping people whose skin color differs from his own. "Our first civil right is to be safe," he stressed, and that "applies to poor people and minorities.... They're entitled to public safety, too."
And not just rich Trump voters? What a concession!
Following this effort to inoculate himself against claims of prejudice, Sessions went into full demonization mode, picking up the MS-13 thread held out earlier by Hunt. References to murder and rape were juxtaposed with salutes to law enforcement ("We back the blue, not the criminals!") and straw-man arguments like the assertion that liberals were afraid of hurting MS-13's feelings.
When someone in the throng shouted, "Build the wall!," Sessions eagerly endorsed the notion. "We need to build that wall, I hear him saying — and we surely do." But he added that we also need to construct an immigration "system we can be proud of" that's right and moral but also recognizes that we can't let just anyone waltz into the U.S. whenever they'd like.
President Trump has made his position clear on this subject, Sessions said: "He's on fire about this. ... People are not going to caravan in here or stampede our border." That's why the Little General has instituted a "zero-tolerance policy for securing the southwest border" that aims to prosecute anyone who dares to cross the line unlawfully.
No, he didn't mention separating children from their parents at the same time. You didn't really expect him to, did you? And when he talked about getting tough on crime, in concert with Trump's law-and-order philosophy, he focused on lowering the rate of violent crime that supposedly skyrocketed under the last two years of the Obama administration, not stuff like Charlottesville.
He also advocated for a crackdown on drugs — but even though CCU has made a cottage industry out of opposition to cannabis legalization, the word "marijuana" didn't pass his lips. Maybe it was because Colorado Senator Cory Gardner, who spoke at the summit a few hours earlier, introduced a new proposal yesterday — with Senator Elizabeth Warren! — that would allow states to determine their pot policies without federal interference, and Trump said this morning that he will probably support it. No need to piss off the big guy any more than he already has by recusing himself from the Russian-meddling investigation....
"Here's my message," Sessions concluded. "We're going to keep up the pace" of what he sees as progress. He then coyly asked the crowd, "Are you tired of it yet?"
"No!" the people shouted — at which point Sessions disappeared in a cloud of pixie dust.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.