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Right Now Interview: Jeff Sessions on Trump, Tuberville, and Free Trade ‘Religion’

'I have come to understand that the neocon foreign policy, the libertarian free market ideology, beyond common sense, was not healthy.'

(By mark reinstein/Shutterstock)

The following is an edited excerpt from former Senator and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ interview on TAC’s Right Now podcast this week, about his campaign to return to his old senate seat in Alabama. To hear the full interview with Sessions, followed by a conversation with Ann Coulter, hit play on the widget below, or subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, or Google Play.

TAC: Your opponent, Tommy Tuberville has so far refused to debate you, why?

Sessions: Well, Tommy Tuberville doesn’t seem to have any fixed values. He’s asking us to send him to Washington to advocate for Alabama values but he’s not really an Alabamian, number one. But number two, he has very little history to suggest that he’s not going to be blown about by every wind of doctrine. In the first 65 years of his life he’s never even declared himself a conservative, never given a single contribution to a single political candidate, claims he’s a strong Trump supporter, but never said a kind word about him, never endorsed him, and never gave a dime to the Trump campaign. That’s the kind of thing I think is worrisome, he needs to stand up before the people of Alabama to reveal what he truly believes, and if you don’t have deep views, when you get to Washington, you get blown about, there’s no doubt about it. And we do not need, being a red state, to send a potted plant to Washington, who isn’t willing to fight for the classical American values Alabamians hold dear.

TAC: There’s a lot of criticism over Tuberville’s staffers that have come from either Mark Zuckerberg’s group, or the Jeb Bush campaign, and it seems like Tommy Tuberville, or his associates anyway, come from the corporatist class of the GOP. Should that be worrisome?

Sessions: It absolutely should be, he said a number of things that I think are very revealing of where he comes from. He said, well, to have a hundred thousand people at the border — that was the number at the time, and they just want jobs, we want them to have jobs, we just want to know who they are. That’s not the right values for Alabama, we need a lawful system of immigration. People don’t need to come illegally. He said in December we need 400,000 people from India because they’ve got skills, we need to bring them into the United States. So this is the corporate, Zuckerberg mentality, it just is. He says, on trade, he’s not just a free-trader, but a 100-percent free-trader, and he flatly opposes tariffs, and he opposed President Trump’s standing up to China, and using tariffs against them. He said, I don’t agree with Trump’s position on China. Also he said his business buddies tell him this, and his business buddies tell him that, well maybe the skybox buyers at the football games think that way, but that’s not what we need for America. So I agree that there are strong indications that he does not understand the real issues facing America today.

TAC: If you do succeed in regaining your old seat, do you think your conflict with the president will harm or inhibit your ability to work with him in Washington?

Sessions: Look, I intend to be supportive of almost every issue he’s promoting. I was supporting them before he ran. that’s why I endorsed him, and he has delivered pretty darn well on those agenda items. I gotta say, we’ve got great judges, on regulations, on taxes, we’ve stood up and redone NAFTA, challenging China now with tariffs and fighting back against their abuses and misbehavior, so I think I’ll be able to be a good and effective advocate for him. What you really need, sometimes, in Washington, is strong voices out there.

TAC: Looking forward, if you do go back to Washington, what issues would you champion, and what do you think America in 2021 should really focus on?

Sessions: Well, I have come to understand that the neocon foreign policy, the libertarian free market ideology, beyond common sense, was not healthy, and resulting in damage to families and to American citizens. It’s our duty as public officials to protect American citizens from damage from unfair foreign competition and other tactics. That’s a big deal. I think our Republican agenda has got to be more focused on helping American people fight back against unfair attacks on our businesses, closing our factories, losing our jobs, transporting our jobs. I’ll be an advocate for that.

We have a nation, and the government’s job is to protect the nation. President Trump said it simply: Other nations protect their interests, why aren’t we protecting ours? We don’t ever use a tariff? When people cheat you every day, how do you fight back, are you going to drop bombs on them? Why don’t you use tariffs, which Alexander Hamilton and George Washington did at the very beginning of the republic, that’s a perfectly normal response to an adverse attack on your people. So those are the kind of things that I feel strongly about. I believe in markets, competition, and international trade, but we can no longer sit quietly while are savaged by very clever, devious mercantilists who want to advance their interests and weaken the United States, while we sit there, based on some theory, that we can’t impose a tariff. Give me a break!

Also, we need to reestablish a foreign policy for this time in our country’s history, and it has to be really bipartisan. You remember the Kennan Long Telegram that laid the foundation for the containment policy against the Soviet Union. It lasted for 40 years with basic bipartisan support. That’s the kind of thing we need to be rethinking today. We cannot continue, as the president has warned us, getting involved in endless wars all over the globe, thinking that we can just remake humanity. That’s not conservatism. Conservatism, as Bob Tyrell said, is a cast of mind, it’s a thought process, about, ‘wait, is this realistic? You sure this theory is going to work? Are you trying to put a square peg in a round hole? It’s just not going there. Aren’t you getting feedback from reality, don’t you adjust to it?’ Our fundamental goals are to make the American people happy, prosperous, and stable. Family, traditions, culture, those kinds of things have got to be defended. And this ideological view that we’re not a nation, we’re an idea, somehow our constitution is supposed to apply worldwide, is ridiculous.

We have borders, and we have a right to defend those borders, to establish good, healthy conditions within our country. Not just for the billionaires, wages need to go up for working people. For example, for 20 years wages for average Americans did not increase. GDP was going up, that seemed to be all the economists cared about, CEOs were making more and more money, but the wages for the core American people were not going up. They have, under President Trump, some, and we need to focus on that.

TAC: In both military and economic terms, how should we begin confronting China?

For starters, we need to take off the rose-colored glasses. This is a communist regime. We can wish it weren’t so, people hoped they would moderate when they got wealthier, but actually the opposite is occurring. Xi Jinping is using technology to repress his people even more ruthlessly. And they are not free market people. They are not free market people, they’re communists! They are using our free-market theories — religion — against us, to destroy us, to gain market share, and they’ve been highly successful. President Trump and I talked about it on the airplane a number of times during the campaign, and he understands one thing: China needs our markets more than we need their products. We can make those products in the United States, we can make our drugs here, we can buy them from Mexico, our neighbors like that, we can buy them from the Philippines, South Korea, Japan, India, Vietnam, places that aren’t threats to us strategically, and who will deal honestly with us. So we absolutely need to alter that supply chain system that has given China an advantage over all the other nations of the world, and we can do that in a way that does not harm our economy significantly.

Listen to the rest of the interview here. 

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about the author

Arthur Bloom is managing editor of The American Conservative. He was previously deputy editor of the Daily Caller and a columnist for the Catholic Herald. He holds masters degrees in urban planning and American studies from the University of Kansas. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Washington Times, The Spectator (UK), The Guardian, Quillette, The American Spectator, Modern Age, and Tiny Mix Tapes.

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