While most of America spent Tuesday thinking about Donald Trump Jr. and Russia, Attorney General Jeff Sessions was busying himself with what he seems to do best: pushing draconian conservative policies and generally being really, really, really horrible.
First up was the 30th DARE Training Conference, where Sessions—a former federal prosecutor and staunch anti-drug crusader—burnished his hardline “enforcement first” bona fides during a speech to the assembled narcs.
“Now, some people today say that the solution to the problem of drug abuse is to be more accepting of the problem of drug abuse,” Sessions said, after noting the ongoing opioid addiction crisis.
“They say marijuana use can prevent addiction,” he continued. “They say the answer is only treatment. They say don’t talk about enforcement. To me, that just doesn’t make any sense. In fact, I would argue that one reason that we are in such a crisis right now is that we have subscribed to this mistaken idea that drug abuse is no big deal.”
Sessions then went on to claim that lax drug laws corresponded to an uptick in violent crime, and drum up the racially tinged specter of Latin American gangs like MS-13 which, he claimed, “take advantage of cities and states that shelter them in order to smuggle in drugs, recruit school children to join, and pillage and plunder our communities.”
His solution? Turning to one of the most debunked anti-drug programs in the history of the United States: D.A.R.E.:
“Experience has shown, sadly, that it is not enough that dangerous drugs are illegal. We also have to make them unacceptable. We have to create a cultural climate that is hostile to drug abuse. In recent years, government officials were sending mixed messages about drugs. We need to send a clear message. We must have Drug Abuse Resistance Education. DARE is the best remembered anti-drug program. I am proud of your work. It has played a key role in saving thousands of lives and futures.”
In fact, despite Sessions’ proclamations, D.A.R.E. was found by multiple studies to be wholly ineffective at dissuading children from trying drugs by a staggering degree. So much so that in 2001, the U.S. Surgeon General wrote that “numerous well-designed evaluations and meta-analyses... consistently show little or no deterrent effects on substance use.” (But, hey, cool shirts!)
But raising the spirit of a dead, anti-drug horse only to beat it once more wasn’t all Sessions had on his agenda for the day. He was also scheduled to speak at a “Summit on Religious Liberty” held by the Alliance for Defending Freedom—a Southern Poverty Law Center-flagged anti-LGBTQ extremist group.
Earlier this year, ADF president Mike Ferris claimed that President Trump presented a “window of opportunity” for the group’s efforts to roll back LGBTQ protections and marriage equality legislation. But the organization—whose senior legal counsel reportedly described “the homosexual agenda” as “unfettered sexual liberty and the silencing of all dissent”—is likely best known for backing the Colorado baker who claimed his Christianity prevented him from making a cake for a same sex couple. That baker’s case will be heard by the Supreme Court in its next term.
BuzzFeed’s Dominic Holden attempted to ask the DOJ about Sessions’ speech. He was met with silence.
While Sessions’ speech to the ADF was billed as closed to the press, it seems safe to assume that he’s unlikely to admonish the group for their bigotry.
Not bad for just one day’s work.