Jeff Greenfield writes in Politico:
“Want to understand the key to the way the Jeff Sessions story is playing out today? Then leave the stately halls of the Capitol, and come with me to the playgrounds and streets of New York, where I first learned one of the most reliable of political rules.
We had no Little League, no organized games of any kind, and certainly no umpire to preside over stickball contests, or pickup games in Riverside Park. So pretty much every other play resulted in an argument (it was, coincidentally or not, a Jewish neighborhood). And the arguments always ended the same way: when a member of one team conceded.
“Yeah, he was out.”
“See?—your own man says so.”
When a political figure gets in trouble, that street-corner rule is the most significant metric of how to measure the depth of the trouble. President Richard M. Nixon could have survived the Watergate scandal had Republican senators backed him; there were 42, well over the one-third-plus-one needed to keep him in office. But when Barry Goldwater, Senate Minority Leader Hugh Scott and other GOP leaders went to the White House on August 6 to tell him his support had melted away, Nixon understood he was finished.
By contrast, President Bill Clinton retained almost total support from his part in Congress—just five House Democrats voted for impeachment—and his survival was assured. As New York Times reporter Peter Baker details in his book on the Monica Lewinsky scandal, “The Breach,” had Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle and House leader Dick Gephardt gone to the White House with a call to resign, the outcome might well have been very different.
So far, congressional Republicans have protected President Donald Trump from a host of otherwise troubling issues. No tax returns? No problem. Blatant family conflicts of interest? Nothing to see here. Cabinet members with “incomplete” disclosures? Only Labor nominee Andrew Puzder’s nomination was derailed, and that took everything from hiring an undocumented housekeeper to allegations of spousal abuse. (“Fake news,” in Puzder’s telling.)
The story of Attorney General Jeff Sessions is another matter. Rep. Darrell Issa—who as chair of the House Oversight Committee launched approximately 24,598 investigations of Obama administration malfeasance—called for Sessions to recuse himself from looking into charges of Russian meddling in American campaigns. The committee’s current chair, Jason Chaffetz, did the same. So did Rep. Raúl Labrador, one of the leaders of the House Freedom Caucus, the most militant of conservative voices.”