August 15, 2007


Obama's caution on drug sentencing (Derrick Z. Jackson, August 15, 2007, Boston Globe)

[T]he US Sentencing Commission, created by Congress in 1984, has long said the system is not working and reaffirmed in April that the 100-to-1 ratio "significantly undermines" sentencing reform.

Obama asked if he could make a "broader" point. "Even if we fix this, if it was a 1-to-1 ratio, it's still a problem that folks are selling crack. It's still a problem that our young men are in a situation where they believe the only recourse for them is the drug trade. So there is a balancing act that has to be done in terms of, do we want to spend all our political capital on a very difficult issue that doesn't get at some of the underlying issues; whether we want to spend more of that political capital getting early childhood education in place, getting after-school programs in place, getting summer school programs in place."

Obama claimed, "I'm not suggesting it's an either/or but I'm suggesting that an even higher priority for me is getting young men and increasingly young women to stop getting involved in the drug trade in the first place. And that's going to require pretty heavy lifting. That's going to require some billions of dollars of expenditure that aren't there right now."

By asking an open question about spending "all our political capital" on eliminating the 100-to-1 ratio, that raises the possibility he will spend little or none on it. By talking about a "broader" prescription of early childhood school programs -- which means nothing to a 17-year-old in jail-- Obama risks flashing a losing card of being nonconfrontational.

President Clinton tried that a decade ago and lost.

Funny, in the real world Bill Clinton is the only recent Democrat to win, precisely because he refused to Mau-Mau on issues like this and ran as a Law-and-Order candidate in the Nixon mold.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 15, 2007 8:09 AM

Bill Clinton "won" because of Ross Perot.

Posted by: erp at August 15, 2007 8:21 AM

Didn't the enhanced penalties for crack come about because Jesse Jackson and others like him pushed for them, because of the damage crack was doing in the black community? I seem to recall seeing a Phil Donahue episode sometime in 1986 or so on that very topic.

Posted by: Mike Morley at August 15, 2007 8:43 AM

Bill Clinton didn't "win" he won fair and square. The way George H.W. Bush so aggravated his base as to allow a third party challenger isn't Clinton's fault. You sound like a current-day Democrat going on about how George W. Bush stole the election.
And Orrin's right - Clinton did run as a law-and-order candidate. Remember that mentally handicapped guy he executed?

Posted by: Bryan at August 15, 2007 1:14 PM

And he bitch-slapped Sistah Souljah to Jesse Jackson's face, with the specific intent of showing white people he was a cracker.

Posted by: oj at August 15, 2007 4:10 PM

Had Perot not hated Bush so much that he'd spend many millions of his own money to make sure he wasn't re-elected, Clinton wouldn't have "won." Unlike dems, what I'm saying is a statement of fact, not my opinion. Bush didn't steal the 2000 election as was proven over and over again by vote counts conducted by those who would have liked to see Gore the winner.

Posted by: erp at August 15, 2007 4:29 PM

Bill Clinton let Ricky Rector die, because he had to get some crime cred. But then he tried to slip Lani Guinier past us, and put Bill Lann Lee in the DOJ. And then there are Ginsburg and Breyer, those notorious anti-crime jurists (not to mention the lower court appointments).

He was no crime-fighter, just an opportunist who needed to beef up before the election. Nixon ran that way, and pretty much governed that way. Clinton ran that way, and then did a 180. Just like his campaigning on China - he castigated Bush for cozying up to the PRC leadership, and then took their money for the next 8 years (while selling them way too many secrets).

erp - Bryan is right. Let it go. Bush probably would have beaten Clinton 51-49, but perhaps not. It's easy to forget how much the nation just did not like him, and how much the GOP had given up on him by early 1992. 41 didn't really want to win, and somewhere between early '90 and late '91, I think he decided he didn't like the job.

Posted by: jim hamlen at August 15, 2007 4:44 PM

Onset of hyperthyroidism probably contributed to Bush's indifference in 1991-92.

Posted by: George at August 15, 2007 4:55 PM

You're confusing governance and candidacy.

Posted by: oj at August 15, 2007 7:04 PM

Also, hyperthyroidism and WASPishness, although those two are hard to tell apart.

Posted by: Ibid at August 15, 2007 8:41 PM

Bill Clinton spent 8 years confusing governance and candidacy.

Posted by: jim hamlen at August 15, 2007 10:23 PM