When Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified last week, he gave a textbook example of how to define a position and then defend it brilliantly while under partisan attack. He was clearly well prepared and had thought through the tone and toughness with which he would defend his record, his reputation, and his honor.
He began with a firm clear statement:
"Let me state this clearly, colleagues. I have never met with or had any conversation with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election in the United States. Further, I have no knowledge of any such conversations by anyone connected to the Trump campaign. I was your colleague in this body for 20 years, at least some of you. And the suggestion that I participated in any collusion that I was aware of, any collusion with the Russian government to hurt this country which I have served with honor for 35 years, or to undermine the integrity of our democratic process is an appalling and detestable lie."
Note the use of "appalling and detestable lie" delivered forcefully.
As I watched the Attorney General calmly and firmly stand his ground and then, when appropriate, counterattack with intensity and passion, it occurred to me that we were watching a remarkable moment.
Sessions set the tone of righteous defense early on:
"I recused myself from any investigation into the campaign for president, but I did not recuse myself from defending my honor against false allegations.
"At all times throughout the course of the campaign, the confirmation process, and since becoming Attorney General, I have dedicated myself to the highest standards. I have earned a reputation for that. At home and in this body, I believe. Over decades of performance...... These false attacks and innuendos and the leaks, you can be sure, will not intimidate me. These events have only strengthened my resolve to fulfill my duty."
Every Republican, including the President and the Vice President, should study the video of the Sessions’s testimony.
Part of what made it so exceptional was his militant refusal to let the Left define the terms of the debate. When one Senator asked him about unsubstantiated rumors, he pushed it right back in the Senator’s lap. He insisted that the Senator define what he was talking about. When the questioner simply could not produce any substance, it was clear that it was now Sessions who was on offense and his questioners who were on defense.
Consider this exchange:
"WYDEN: Respectfully, you're not answering the question.
"SESSIONS: What is the question?
"WYDEN: The question is, Mr. Comey said there were matters with respect to the recusal that were problematic, and he couldn't talk about them. What are they?
"SESSIONS: Why don't you tell me? There are none, Senator Wyden. There are none. I can tell you that for absolute certainty. This is a secret innuendo being leaked out there about me, and I don't appreciate it."
Is there any doubt who grew and who shrank in that exchange?
Republicans should also study the disciplined passion with which Sessions defended himself and condemned those who attempted to smear what he said was 35 years of honorable service to the country.
All too often Republicans fall into a trap where they seek to be calm and reasonable, while allowing the Left to speak with passion. The result is an imbalance in body language, which can lead the audience to believe that those with passion are right, even when wrong, and those who remain quiet and reasonable are wrong, even when right.
Sessions dominated the Democrats in his disciplined intensity. He used strong words and showed strong emotion, when appropriate. Yet he was so disciplined and modulated that he never seemed overly emotional or out of control.
Sessions’s testimony was truly a profile in courage. His determination to insist on the truth and to defend himself against every lie and aspersion is the gold standard for which Republicans should strive.
Newt Gingrich is a former Republican Speaker of the House. See his website here.