Why Hillary Clinton Lacks Credibility On Criminal Justice Reform

1 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Charles Lane: Hillary gets zigged by the Democrats zagging left wing.

Hillary Clinton’s stance on a 2008 nuclear agreement between the U.S. and India reportedly changed after Indian donors poured cash into Clinton’s various organizations. Give Hillary Clinton credit for stepping up, in a speech at Columbia University on Wednesday, to the rioting in Baltimore and the confounding American problems of poverty and violence, racial injustice and criminal policing.

The big story here is that an avowed socialist who voted with the Democratic Party in the Senate, but wouldn’t join it, now feels comfortable seeking its presidential nomination.When Bill Clinton ran for president in 1992, South Central Los Angeles was ablaze in response to the acquittal of four white police officers who had viciously beaten a black man named Rodney King. The allegation comes from a chapter of the upcoming book, Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Help Make Bill and Hillary Rich, released to Politico: “In 1998 the Indian government conducted nuclear tests, Bill Clinton imposed restrictions on the export of U.S. nuclear technology, because this violated the nonproliferation treaty — Hillary Clinton supported that position,” Schweizer said Tuesday on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, outlining the chapter. “In 2005, the Indian government wanted those restrictions lifted.

Give her credit for naming the black men whose violent deaths have underlain a national outpouring of frustration and rage: Walter Scott, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin and, now in Baltimore, Freddie Gray. As Hillary Clinton embarks on her campaign for the 2016 presidential election, the country is again unsettled by unrest, this time in Baltimore, where Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man, died of a spinal injury suffered while in police custody.

But let’s wait and see how she does, as the most prominent Democratic presidential candidate, in pushing these issues to the forefront of the campaign, and pushing the country closer to solutions. Focus must be on helping America’s middle class.” Sanders avoided directly criticizing Clinton, though he said it was a “fair question” to bring up concerns about the Clinton Foundation. Though hardly a conservative, her record puts her to the right of a Democratic Party that has been gradually taken over by its left wing in the 20-plus years since a centrist Bill Clinton, accompanied by then-first lady Hillary, first gained the White House, as former Clinton White House political strategist Doug Sosnik argued in an influential 2014 article for Politico Magazine. After all, as recently as 2008 Clinton was attacking Barack Obama for his opposition to mandatory minimum sentences, using it as an example that he was too liberal to win the Democratic nomination.

Bill Clinton, whose popularity with black voters is legendary, went to black churches and promised to work for racial healing and equal opportunity if elected. He also noted his own role in leading efforts against the Iraq War — which Clinton voted to authorize — the Keystone XL pipeline and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. In 2014, a Pew Research Center survey found that rank-and-file Democrats were almost twice as likely to describe themselves as “mostly or consistently liberal” as they were in 1994 (56 percent in 2014 vs. 30 percent in 1994). And she wasn’t exactly a bystander during the “tough on crime” era of the 1980s and ’90s that created mass incarceration by putting many more offenders in prison for much longer. Clinton demanded “fresh thinking and bold action” to mend the justice system and repair shattered lives and communities of color, she was about half right.

And three decades after the prison population began the dramatic climb that she now considers shameful, Clinton offered no specific ideas for reversing it, which makes her look like a dilettante compared to politicians in both major parties who have given the issue serious thought. The party’s activists and leaders are even more left-leaning, with 70 percent of them pronouncing themselves consistent liberals in 2014, as opposed to 35 percent in 1994. Bill Clinton championed a 1994 law that, among other things, has increased untold numbers of prison sentences (by encouraging states to drastically reduce or eliminate parole and early release).

This does not matter much once a political leader has left office and hit the global-grandee circuit—a lucrative world of paid speeches, charity work and discreet consulting gigs. The foundation’s acting CEO admitted it “made mistakes, as many organizations of our size do” in failing to fully disclose foreign donors. (RELATED: Clinton Foundation Made The Same Foreign Donation ‘Mistake’ 1,100 Times) Kicking off her 2016 presidential campaign, Hillary’s team is seeking to disprove conservative author Peter Schweizer’s claims. As first lady in the 1990s, Clinton was a cheerleader for the “tough on crime” policies that produced the “era of mass incarceration” she now condemns. “We need more police,” she said in a 1994 speech. “We need more and tougher prison sentences for repeat offenders. Sosnik identified the improved funding and organization of left-wing groups, as well as the electorate’s increasing demographic diversity and leftward drift on cultural issues, as factors favouring the liberal Democratic ascent.

But the problems and omissions in Clinton’s speech shouldn’t blind us to the fact that it’s a remarkable piece of political rhetoric, both in its own right and for what it says about American politics in 2015. To that list of factors should be added the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and the financial crisis, which damaged public confidence in U.S. foreign policy and U.S. capitalism, respectively.

Even some white conservatives have joined the push for criminal justice reform, citing the strain of incarceration costs on budgets and infringement on civil liberties. Two days after riots in Baltimore—at a time when most of the presidential field is either silent or contemptuous—Clinton has stepped out front with a forward-looking agenda on bringing people out of prison, a definitive rebuke to the “law and order” politics used by her husband throughout his career. Alas for Hillary, the record of her husband’s administration — and even her own record as a senator and as a secretary of state sympathetic to the use of force abroad — reflected the lessons of older events — specifically, the defeat of Michael Dukakis by George H.W. Her husband Bill long ago passed through what might be termed the “money door”, cashing in his celebrity, eloquence and connections to become a rich man. Looking at the results of the crackdown that Clinton led at the federal level and encouraged at the state level, JPI dubbed him “the incarceration president.” The total prison population grew by 673,000 during Clinton’s eight years in office, compared to 448,000 during Ronald Reagan’s two terms.

Bush in 1988 and the loss of the House of Representatives to Newt Gingrich’s Republicans in 1994, both of which taught Democrats to fear getting outflanked on the right. Behind the snark, there are two big questions: Why should we believe Hillary Clinton suddenly cares about criminal justice reform? and Has Hillary Clinton really learned from her mistakes?

Her first major policy address of the 2016 campaign was Clinton at her finest, showcasing both strong policy chops and a deep sensitivity to Americans who are heartbroken over the deaths of young black men at the hands of police officers. Of the 600,000 prisoners who re-enter society each year, roughly 60 percent face long-term unemployment.” We have to do more than release nonviolent offenders to solve mass incarceration, but this at least shows that Clinton is thinking in broad terms. Unlike the Brits, who treat Tony Blair as a pariah these days, Americans do not necessarily think it outrageous that a former head of government should become rich.

And please, please, let us put mental health back at the top of our national agenda.” It took decades, obviously, to create the “incarceration generation” Mrs. Martin O’Malley, who planned a similar left-populist campaign against Clinton, finds himself on the defensive over his law-and-order policies as mayor of Baltimore in the early ’90s.

Chris Christie and Scott Walker, of New Jersey and Wisconsin respectively, and former governors Jeb Bush (Florida) and Rick Perry (Texas), also are talking up reform measures that would scale back mandatory sentencing laws and seek alternatives to locking up nonviolent offenders. Clinton didn’t offer much by way of policy proposals, apart from body cameras for police and “community mental health centers.” “I don’t know all the answers,” she said. “That’s why I’m here—to ask all the smart people in Columbia and New York to start thinking this through with me.” But she was clear about the goal of turning many prisoners loose: “It’s time to change our approach.

As Dara Lind notes at Vox, Clinton nevertheless attacked her rival Barack Obama as soft on crime because he thought some of those penalties were too harsh. In the speech, she promises to make sure that “federal funds for state and local law enforcement are used to bolster best practices, rather than to buy weapons of war that have no place on our streets.” She calls for body cameras on all police—a major goal of the “Black Lives Matter” movement—supports better, “swifter” probation programs, and stresses help for mental health patients. “You and I know that the promise of de-institutionalizing those in mental health facilities was supposed to be followed by the creation of community-based treatment centers. Some of these are diplomatically phrased and some less so, like this tweet from longtime criminal justice journalist Liliana Segura, now writing for the Intercept: Whenever a politician suddenly flip-flops on an issue, especially after decades spent on the other side, it makes sense to wonder whether the conversion is genuine.

We need a true national debate about how to reduce our prison population while keeping our communities safe.” The Democratic Party’s core policy agenda in a post-Obama—and post-Obamacare—era is resolving the ills of poverty, inequality, substance abuse, and the broken criminal justice and mental health systems. A month after Clinton decried “an unacceptable increase in incarceration,” her campaign tried to undermine Obama by citing his criticism of mandatory minimums. Hillary figured in conservative demonology as the radical power behind her husband’s throne and got blamed for the failure of an allegedly overly liberal Clinton administration health insurance proposal; so she remade herself as a centrist. In 1994, he signed an omnibus crime bill that included some popular measures, such as a ban on assault weapons and stronger laws against domestic violence.

Clinton’s position on her husband’s crime policies—that they were appropriate back then but maybe went a little overboard—rankles activists who were resisting the war on drugs when Bill Clinton was escalating it. A Hillary Clinton who believed she needed working class whites to win is not a Hillary Clinton who would embrace this agenda for police reform, or use this rhetoric. No, this Clinton clearly believes that she needs to reconstitute the Obama coalition to win, and to do that, she’ll push forward on key issues for black Americans, Latinos, young women, and other members of the Obama electorate.

On Wednesday, Clinton offered criminal justice reforms that implicitly repudiate tough federal sentencing laws that her husband signed, and she lavishly praised David Dinkins — the one-term Democratic mayor of New York whose perceived failures to control crime paved the way to his election defeat by Republican Rudy Giuliani in 1993. His conclusion: “If this is the Hillary Clinton that hits the campaign trail for the next 18 months, she’ll be a far more formidable candidate than the halting speaker who struggled to articulate a raison d’être in 2008.” About the politics of Mrs. Meanwhile, she has almost been silenced on President Barack Obama’s proposed free-trade agreement with 11 Pacific Rim nations — itself possibly a last vestige of Democratic pro-business centrism.

They also said that he counted on “structural dependence” – the notion that black voters were unlikely to vote for the GOP candidate anyway, to allow him leeway to take positions that would signal to white voters that he could stand up to black leaders. Yet labor and other liberal interest groups are trying to establish opposition to free trade as the post-Obama party line — it’s a key issue for Sanders. One such instance was his condemnation of the rapper Sister Souljah over comments she made two months after the L.A. riots that seemed to dismiss the slayings of some white people during the six days of violence. In her remarks Wednesday, Hillary Clinton scolded “those who are instigating further violence in Baltimore … setting back the cause of justice.” But she seemed to stand with protesters who, during the past several months, have demanded action on dismantling mass incarceration, building trust and respect between police and citizens and better education and economic opportunities for poor communities.

As political scientist Jonathan Bernstein wrote for the Washington Monthly in 2012 (and Jamelle Bouie of Slate pointed out on Twitter yesterday), research shows that campaign promises are actually a lot more important than you might think: Jeff Fishel looked at campaigns from John F. Our elected officials at every level need to pass the right laws and spend enough money to truly address the underlying reality of endemic racism in our country 50 years after the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. She does not seem to have introduced any bills in this area, although she did continue to support more cops on the street and longer prison sentences (for sex offenders and violent criminals motivated by bigotry).

She enjoys the backing of a vast network of elected officials, donors and hangers-on; the chance to elect the first female president will induce many Democrats to swallow their ideological misgivings. Not b/c he was wrong but b/c times change.” (We gather that means she has another speech in the works renouncing her husband’s support for Internet freedom.) I learned this firsthand as a young attorney just out of law school—at one of those law schools that will remain nameless here at Columbia. In yesterday’s speech, she referred to “measures that I and so many others have championed to reform arbitrary mandatory minimum sentences.” But the only example she cited was her cosponsorship of 2007 legislation aimed at reducing crack cocaine sentences.

The likely effect — and intent — of a Sanders challenge is to push both Clinton’s campaign and her administration, if there is one, further left, thus consolidating liberal control of the party. What he found was that presidents invariably attempt to carry out their promises; the main reason some pledges are not redeemed is congressional opposition, not presidential flip-flopping. One of my earliest jobs for the Children’s Defense Fund . . . was studying the problem then of youth, teenagers, sometimes preteens, incarcerated in adult jails. The risk, for Clinton and the Democrats generally, is that they over-interpret the country’s mood, which is increasingly culturally liberal — but still deeply skeptical of federal competence and trustworthiness. “Democratic activists will need to reconcile the public’s desire for smaller government with their own progressive impulses,” Sosnik warned. The question, of course, is what counts as a promise — political insiders and the media are often quick to dismiss things like Clinton’s Columbia speech as campaign rhetoric, and that shapes what history remembers as a commitment.

The Clinton Foundation—which seeks to reduce childhood obesity, lower the cost of HIV drugs and other good things—has announced that while Mrs Clinton is running for office it will accept donations only from foreign governments that are already funding programmes. But when advocates think a politician has promised them something, it gives them an opportunity to put public pressure on that politician when she doesn’t deliver. Political scientists are not sure whether that level of participation will continue once Obama’s name is no longer on the ballot, but the challenge for Clinton will be to minimize any drop-off. Why not let currently imprisoned crack offenders seek new sentences under the current rules, thereby reducing penalties that pretty much everyone now agrees are unjust?

Not just because Clinton has made the commitment, but because she’s sent a powerful signal to other Democrats (and even some Republicans) to treat police reform as a mainstream issue. But immigrant activists did, and they resorted to increasingly public protests to hold him accountable — by calling on him to both champion reform and to take executive action. Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, told conservative radio that he saw “every appearance that Hillary Clinton was bribed to grease the sale of, what, 20% of America’s uranium production to Russia,” and that e-mails were later erased to cover up the scandal. The bill’s 12 cosponsors include four Republicans, two of whom, Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), are vying to oppose Clinton in next year’s presidential election. Democrats loyal to the Clintons closed ranks, telling media outlets that partisans are confecting allegations out of nothing, and that all charges will prove unfounded.

In addition to making shorter crack sentences retroactive, the bill would cut mandatory minimums for various drug offenses in half, eliminate the mandatory life sentence for a third drug offense, and expand the “safety valve” for low-level, nonviolent offenders. But even the closest thing Bill Clinton’s offered to an apology (in an essay book from the Brennan Center about reducing mass incarceration) is still along the lines of “a good thing that went too far”: We acted to address a genuine national crisis. There would appear to be a feedback loop here: The high crime of the 1970s and 1980s heightened public vigilance and led to tougher crime policies, of the sort Mr.

But if she means what she says about putting aside partisan differences to “restore balance to our justice system,” she should be happy to “work together” with political adversaries such as Paul “to get the job done.” One problem with this is that the specific claim is wrong: putting more police on the streets did have some effect on the stunning drop in crime we’ve seen since 1994, but not much, and especially not with violent crime. During the tough-on-crime era, however, the opposite was the case: if you cared about black America, it was assumed that you should care about fighting the crime and illegal drug use that was devastating black communities.

A majority of the Congressional Black Caucus voted for the 1986 law that created the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine; Congressman Charlie Rangel, in particular, championed the bill and other anti-drug measures. But Dinkins’s term also saw repeated outbreaks of disorder and rioting—in Flatbush (Brooklyn) in 1990, Crown Heights (Brooklyn) in 1991 and Washington Heights (Manhattan) in 1992. Tragedies allow us to ride our hobby horses and to repackage the same arguments we were advancing before the first stone was thrown and the first fire set.”—E.J. This quarter was only the fourth in 60 years on record with three or more snowstorms sufficiently severe to be rated by the National Climatic Data Center’s Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale (NESIS).

The historical relationship between weather and first-quarter growth suggests that weather may have reduced annualized growth by about a full percentage point this quarter. . . . This observation at least partially reflects generally worsening weather over the past decade, which may not yet be accounted for in seasonal-adjustment algorithms. Meanwhile, WSJ.com reports that “a new regulation from the Chinese Meteorological Administration bans amateurs and enthusiasts from publicizing their own weather reports, saying that only official authorities are allowed to offer such forecasts.” The president must be envious. (Carol Muller helps compile Best of the Web. Thanks to Ethel Fenig, Macrena Sailor, Michele Schiesser, Bob Roenigk, David Hallstrom, Alan Jones, Debbie Wells, John Schoenecker, Miguel Rakiewicz, Jeff Bliss, Todd Crampton, John Tierney, Irene DeBlasio, Kris Tufts, Dave Nemzek, John Williamson, Kyle Kyllan, Bruce Goldman, Darin Zimmerman and Michael Murk.

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