Senator Al Franken (D-MN) delivered a moving rebuttal Tuesday to the bigotry on display throughout Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in a confirmation hearing for Senator Jeff Sessions’ (R-AL) appointment as Attorney General.
Franken reminded Sessions that Trump had claimed in a Minnesota campaign stop before the election that the state’s Somali refugees posed a danger to Minnesotans and Americans across the country, and that Trump had floated the idea of a Muslim ban.
“I can’t begin to tell you how angry those comments made me,” Franken said. “To stoke that kind of fear and hatred was an insult, I believe, to every Minnesotan.”
Franken then remarked that Sessions had previously expressed his view that a Muslim ban was “appropriate to discuss,” and that Sessions was on record having said, “We must face the uncomfortable reality that not only are immigrants from Muslim-majority countries coming to the United States, radicalizing, and attempting to engage in acts of terrorism, but also their first-generation American children are susceptible to the toxic radicalization of terrorist organizations.”
Franken recalled Sessions having said publicly that America “has an unprecedented assimilation problem,” and then explained that some of his Somali-Minnesotan constituents, including young students, have told him they are afraid because of Trump’s claims that they are not real Americans.
Here Franken reached his crescendo:
“And a couple weeks later I talked to a French ambassador to the United States, I said to him, ‘Who’s defined as a Frenchman in France?’ And he said ‘Somebody who is—who can trace back to a couple centuries to their family in a French village.’ Well, these kids are Americans, and we consider them American. And what we saw in Paris, and what we saw—which was caused by Belgians—is because they take that attitude in Europe. We don’t take this attitude, and it’s dangerous to take it. One of the most beautiful events I’ve been to was a high school graduation in Willmar, Minnesota, in June, and I invited myself there because one of our pages—our Senate pages—was from Willmar and she’s Somali, a Somali Minnesota girl, and I saw her on election day, I was at the University of Minnesota—she graduated and went to the University of Minnesota. She told me her sister, her younger sister, was named the Willmar homecoming queen. In Europe they don’t assimilate people. Here in the United States, we vote them homecoming queen.”
Watch the video, for an inspiring articulation of social liberalism.