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Sessions and Jones battle over Confederate symbols

Jeff Sessions (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Democratic Senator Doug Jones have been in a battle since last week over the issue of ridding Confederate statues and symbols from military bases.

It started with salvos of tweets from both sides after Jones voted June 10 in the Senate U.S. Armed Services Committee on an amendment to remove monuments and base names associated with the Confederacy within three years.

Sessions, in a series of seven tweets on Friday said that Jones’ “vote to remove from all military facilities and installations the names of every soldier who fought for the Confederacy betrays the character and decency of every soldier who fought for the South in that bloody and monumental war… whose courage & duty reached the highest levels, on both sides. Naming U.S. bases for those who fought for the South was seen as an act of respect and reconciliation towards those who were called to duty by the States.”

Jones shot back in a Saturday tweet: “Delete your account Jeff. This came out of a Republican controlled Senate committee on a strong bi-partisan vote. I know it’s tough for you to be on the right side of history when it comes to the Confederacy, but you should give it a try.”

Sessions continued his attack Tuesday on Jones’ support of what he feels is the “erasing” of monuments and military base names “connected to the South.”

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Sessions, in an interview with AL.com, said he feels that Jones has sided with Democratic Senators to “remove every monument that was associated with someone who fought in the Confederacy in one fell swoop without individual discussions.”

“Doug Jones came to (the Senate Armed Services) committee meeting fully supportive of (California Democratic Senator) Kamala Harris in erasing any monuments and base names connected to the South,” said Sessions, who is running against Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate in Alabama on July 14. The winner will face Jones on Nov. 3.

“I think that is not the way it should be done,” said Sessions. “Dr. Ben Carson said it … we can’t go around renaming everything. We got to, as his line was, that this country ‘has to grow up’ and be more realistic about our past.”

Sessions’ comments came one day after Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall fined the city of Mobile $25,000 for the removal of the Confederate Adm. Raphael Semmes monument.

Sessions, a former Alabama Attorney General from 1995-1997, said he had “respect” for Marshall in pursuing the fine against Mobile.

“I think these are discussion people have a right to have regarding monuments,” said Sessions.

Jones was part of a bipartisan group in the GOP-led Senate Armed Services Committee that approved an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). It requires a commission be formed to study and come up with a plan to rename military installations named after Confederate figures.

Jones, during an interview on MSNBC Monday, said Sessions “is not on the right side of history when it comes to the Confederacy. Never has been, never will be.”

“The fact of the matter is this is an important step … a bipartisan vote,” said Jones. “There are Republicans in Congress now saying that it’s time. I don’t think people remember the fact there were only 11 states or so in the Confederacy, but there are Confederate monuments in 31 states. They were erected as part of Jim Crow and during the fight against civil rights.”

Jones said he believes local communities should have a say so on the fate of the monuments.

Sessions, meanwhile, said he believes Senate Armed Services Chairman James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, “is trying to propose a better solution.” Inhofe said last week that state and local communities should be involved not just in informing the commission’s work, but also in the decision over whether and how to rename military bases.

Tuberville hasn’t weighed in on the issue of Confederate monuments and military base names. Tuberville, as head football coach at the University of Mississippi in the 1990s, played an instrumental role in ridding the Confederate flag from Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford. Ahead of the 1997 homecoming game, he asked Ole Miss students and fans to “discontinue waving the Confederate flag at home sporting events.”

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© 2020 Alabama Media Group