In a Thursday speech, Attorney General Jeff Sessions lambasted Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a possible 2020 Democrat presidential hopeful, for her contention that law enforcement and the justice system in the United States are irredeemably bigoted.
Warren made the remarks earlier in the week at a historically black college in New Orleans, telling the audience that the system is “racist … front-to-back,” according to The Associated Press.
In a speech in Macon, Georgia, on Thursday, the nation’s top law enforcement official struck back at Warren’s remarks.
Right after Sessions thanked the luminaries in attendance, he noted that the Trump administration respects police officers and the work they do.
“This Department of Justice has listened to you and we want to be a force multiplier for you. We want to give you the tools that you need to be successful and to keep dangerous criminals behind bars,” Sessions said, according to a Justice Department transcript.
“One of my most important goals as attorney general is to help restore officer morale. In recent years, too many of you were taken for granted, ignored, or even maligned by political leaders. President Trump came into office determined to change that.
“But even now, there are still many politicians who don’t appreciate you,” Sessions continued.
“Earlier this week, a U.S. senator called our justice system ‘racist…And when I say our system, I mean all the way. I mean front to back…on the front end—what you declare to be illegal—(and) on how you enforce it, on who gets arrested.’
“This is a slander of every law officer and every prosecutor in America,” Sessions continued. “And, frankly, I think it is an insult to their families and to the crime victims they have helped to face their attacker.
“And so this slur isn’t just wrong. It’s sad.”
According to Independent Journal Review, Sessions wasn’t the only person taking Warren to task in a very public way.
That same night, at a town hall in Massachusetts, an African-American man said that her remarks impugned minority law enforcement officials.
“As a young American of color, your recent comments that you made in New Orleans are just a little bit concerning to me,” the individual said, addressing Warren.
“I’m just concerned that your rhetoric there is inciting some of the division that you claim the president is purporting. You say that Donald Trump undermines the justice system, but it highly concerns me that you made a blanket statement that the over 400 federal judges of color, thousands of law enforcement officers of color, and even the new black police commissioner of Boston of color are racist.”
Warren, for her part, insisted that wasn’t the point.
“This wasn’t about individuals. I didn’t call any individual anything,” Warren said. “What I was talking about is a system that has a lot of good people in it — a lot of people, law enforcement officers, judges, public defenders who, by golly, have dedicated their lives to getting out there, to try to build a justice system that works.
“And who themselves have come forward and said, ‘this system needs reform. It needs significant reform…”
That’s actually not what most people heard. They heard, “racist … front to back.” There wasn’t a whole lot of talk about the individuals being good, and the fact is that systems are made up of individuals.
To be, on balance, “racist … front-to-back,” a system would almost certainly need an overwhelming number of racist people in it, combined with an electorate and other politicians willing to let those people do racist things. This is an adumbration, of course, but the basic principle of the matter holds. Whether you agree or not, what Warren said and what she said she said are two exceptionally different things.
And, as Sessions pointed out, that’s a pretty big deal for our nation’s law enforcement officials.
“Our officers face enough challenges — long and unpredictable work days, threats from violent criminals, and exposure to dangerous drugs, to name a few,” Sessions said. “The last thing that you need are political leaders and fellow citizens disrespecting you and the goals that you work so hard to accomplish.”
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