Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions was the first sitting senator to endorse Donald Trump for president, meaning he’s already a fan of giant walls paid for by somebody else. So why the faux outrage this week over the security perimeter fence around the Wells Fargo arena in Philadelphia?
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., accused presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee of applying a double standard by planning to construct fencing around this summer’s Democratic convention.
Sessions is the chair of the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration and National Interest. As such, you’d think he has at least a passing familiarity with domestic security. But apparently he doesn’t understand security issues for major events like the Super Bowl, Pope Francis’ visit, and even national political conventions.
Does he really think that Hillary Clinton & Debbie Wasserman-Schultz sitting around debating how many metal detectors are needed, chatting with the Philly police, and soliciting bids with fencing companies? Not likely. Hillary’s busy running for office and Wasserman-Schultz is busy wondering whether she will have a job in August.
If Senator Sessions had actually read the budgets he’s voted on, he’d already know that neither the DNC or RNC is in charge of convention security. Both events have been designated as “National Special Security Events,” so the Secret Service is in charge of security.
Philadelphia and Cleveland are each getting $50 million in federal grant money to help those cities pay police overtime and purchase extra equipment and gear as needed. Cleveland police are getting new riot gear, for example. Those grants don’t cover security at the actual event location. That’s the Secret Service’s job – and also comes out of the federal budget:
There are other security costs incurred by the federal government associated with the conventions that are not part of the $100 million appropriated in FY2016. Some of these additional security costs include the USSS protection of the major presidential candidates (whether at the convention or at other campaign locations) and the use of other federal government personnel which assist in securing the convention sites, such as Federal Protective Service law enforcement officers. Other federal security costs include the securing of the convention venue through the positioning of fencing and barricades, as well as the pre-positioning of federal law enforcement K-9 units and other teams such as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’s) Domestic Emergency Support Teams, and Urban Search and Rescue Teams.
The Secret Service is constructing these security perimeter fences around both the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia and the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. Not everyone is pleased, with some calling the arrangements “Fortress Cleveland.”
The RNC has been designated a National Special Security Event, which makes it eligible for federal funding. The U.S. Secret Service is running point on security, and is overseeing the high-security perimeter that is expected to be built around Quicken Loans Arena, the main convention venue.
That raises the specter of an image being beamed around the world of Fortress Cleveland that won’t exactly yield the desired bump in how folks think about a new, revitalized urban area full of cool structures and nighttime happenings.
We can certainly have a serious discussion about whether US taxpayers should be on the hook for so much money related to national political conventions (and the money states spend running partisan primary elections). We can also debate whether the security procedures are more about stifling dissent than protection, and contribute to the militarization of local police forces. But there is no question about who controls convention security.
My guess is that Sessions knows all this but prefers to take cynical cheap shots, confident that the right-wing echo chamber will bleat out agreement like a psycho Greek chorus. He’s either stupid, lying, or both. Either option certainly qualifies him for the short list of running mates for Donald Trump.