Never Say Never

The Hill has a dispatch on Sen. Jeff Sessions’ reaction to the nomination of Jack Lew to serve as Treasury Secretary that illustrates some of the contemporary GOP’s basic problems:

The top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee will oppose Jack Lew’s nomination to be Treasury secretary.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) has prepared a statement saying “Jack Lew must never be Secretary of Treasury.”

He is not saying yet whether he will filibuster the nomination, however, which sources say President Obama will announce Thursday.

If you support the option of filibustering Cabinet appointments (which Sessions does), and you say someone should “never” be confirmed, and you use such categorical language about someone’s unfitness for an office, then what are you waiting for? A direct sign from God?

More basically, today’s conservatives are in the bad habit of using absolute language all the time that destroys their ability to modulate their incessant rage. Sessions is apparently furious at Lew because he claimed during Senate testimony that Obama’s FY 2012 budget was consistent with a course of eventually reducing deficits and debt. From Sessions’ POV, that was bad, really bad. But what if Obama sent someone’s name up that was worse, far worse? What language would Sessions deploy had Obama nominated Paul Krugman, whom I imagine Jeff Sessions considers evil incarnate?

Rhetoric is just rhetoric, I realize, but at some point congressional Republicans need to realize that this kind of crap is one reason for the impression a majority of Americans have that they are unreasonable, and why their own “base” is perpetually frustrated and disappointed. When you act as though you’d just as soon quit your cushy Senate seat as allow Jack Lew to become Treasury Secretary (which he almost certainly will become), then you move right on to the next hate-fest without a pause, don’t you lose some credibility, or even self-respect?

Just asking.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.