Friday it was announced that Senator Jeff Sessions will be President Donald Trump’s Attorney General. I think he’s a terrible choice.
But as many delve into Sessions’ career and background, how many remember the time Sessions basically said Patrick Henry got it wrong when it comes to liberty? The senator wasn’t directly addressing Henry, but he still definitely rebuffed the famous American revolutionary.
One of the most—if not the most—famous quotes about the subject of liberty in American history and lore belongs to the famous Founding Father:
“Give me liberty or give me death!” Henry declared in 1775.
This quote embodies the spirit of the generation who fought and won America’s independence. When it came to liberty, Patrick Henry did not mess around.
But in 2007, Sessions said the following, in a derogatory tone, during his defense of the Patriot Act: “The civil libertarians among us would rather defend the constitution than protect our nation’s security.”
Sessions was upset that, in his view, some were paying more attention to the Bill of Rights than the threat of al-Qaeda.
But think about what he said. Sessions was worried that some people are so concerned with protecting their basic liberties that they might invite death.
Sessions was saying that if we don’t give up our freedoms, we’re all going to die!
This is the exact opposite of Henry’s famous pronouncement. Literally.
It’s pretty incredible when you think about it. It’s a reminder that the opposite of liberty is authority; a simple juxtaposition of libertarian and authoritarian minds.
Unfortunately, Sessions is not alone in this kind of thinking.
(Note: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald originally made this point contrasting Sen. Sessions and Patrick Henry’s statements during a civil liberties panel I moderated for Young Americans for Liberty in 2012. I searched for a source to properly credit Mr. Greenwald and was unsuccessful).