Leader of Racist Group Which Radicalized Dylann Roof Contributed To Republicans

In an update to the recent post on Dylann Roof and the Republican problem with racism, The Guardian reports “The leader of a rightwing group that Dylann Roof allegedly credits with helping to radicalise him against black people before the Charleston church massacre has donated tens of thousands of dollars to Republicans such as presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Rick Santorum.”

The three have said they will either be returning the donations or, in the case of Rand Paul (who may have learned a lesson from his father’s problems), donating it the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund.

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Hillary Clinton’s Insufficient Repudiation Of Her Previous Right Wing Views On Crime And The Drug War

Hillary Clinton Crime Speech

The recent events in Baltimore, leading to the indictment of six police officers, have demonstrated the failure of the war on drugs and overly-aggressive police action. Hillary Clinton gave one of her typical speeches based upon the direction the wind is blowing, lacking details or any real sense of conviction, and failing to go far enough. It is a good thing that to some degree she her repudiated previous views, but for most opponents of the war on drugs and the Clinton’s right-wing approach to crime, this was too little and too late.  Jacob Sullum, who covers “the war on drugs from a conscientious objector’s perspective,” wrote Why Hillary Clinton Lacks Credibility On Criminal Justice Reform.

For critics who have long argued that our criminal justice system puts too many people behind bars for too long, Clinton’s words of outrage were welcome. But they were also hard to take seriously given her history on this issue. While condemning overincarceration, she glided over her own role in promoting it and exaggerated her efforts to correct it. She referred only obliquely to the war on drugs, which has played an important role in sending nonviolent offenders to prison. And three decades after the prison population began the dramatic climb that she now considers shameful, Clinton offered almost 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.

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. The ‘three strikes and you’re out’ for violent offenders has to be part of the plan. We need more prisons to keep violent offenders for as long as it takes to keep them off the streets.” The Clinton administration gave us all that and more, bragging about building more prisons, locking up more people (including nonviolent offenders) for longer stretches, opposing parole, expanding the death penalty, putting more cops on the street, and implementing a “comprehensive anti-drug strategy.”

In a 2001 report, the Justice Policy Institute (JPI) noted that Bill Clinton “stole the ‘get tough on crime’ show” from Republicans by “consistently support[ing] increased penalties and additional prison construction.” The highlight of his efforts was the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which subsidized cops and prisons, restricted gun ownership, expanded the use of the death penalty, created new mandatory minimum sentences, and added to the list of federal crimes, which were already too numerous to count. 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. The number of federal prisoners doubled under Clinton, rising more than it did during the previous 12 years under his two Republican predecessors.

By the end of his second term, Clinton seemed to be having second thoughts about this incarceration binge. “We really need a reexamination of our entire policy on imprisonment,” he told Rolling Stone in October 2000. “There are tons of people in prison who are nonviolent offenders.” Seven years later, while seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, Clinton’s wife expressed similar qualms. “Mandatory sentences for certain violent crimes may be appropriate,” she said during a debate in June 2007, “but it has been too widely used.”

During another debate that December, Clinton was asked whether she regretted how “your husband’s crime bill…has affected the black community, or do you stand by that?” Both, apparently:

I think that the results not only at the federal level but at the state level have been an unacceptable increase in incarceration across the board, and now we have to address that….There were reasons why the Congress wanted to push through a certain set of penalties and increase prison construction, and there was a lot of support for that across a lot of communities because…the crime rate in the early ’90s was very high. And people were being victimized by crime in their homes, in their neighborhoods and their business. But we’ve got to take stock now of the consequences, so that’s why…I want to have a thorough review of all of the penalties.

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. A month after Clinton decried “an unacceptable increase in incarceration,” her campaign tried to undermine Obama by citing his criticism of mandatory minimums.

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. Here is how Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, put it in a Huffington Post essay on Wednesday:

“Even as I rejoice at this outbreak of bipartisanship on a cause to which I’ve devoted my life, I must admit it also brings up feelings of anger and disappointment at the failure of Hillary Clinton, and other candidates, and so many other ostensible leaders to acknowledge that they were willing and even eager proponents of the very policies that produced America’s records-breaking rates of incarceration. The laws and policies we embraced back in the 1980s and 1990s, they’re all saying in one way or another, were the right thing at the time—but now we just need to roll them back now that times have changed.

“But the drug war policies of that era were never justifiable, and the evidence overwhelmingly indicates that they did far greater harm than good. No policy that results in the highest rate of incarceration in the world, and the highest in the history of democratic nations, is justifiable. And no policy that generated such devastating consequences for African American citizens and communities can or should ever be excused as a necessary response to the drug and crime problems a generation ago.”

Sullum noted Clinton’s lack of interest in reform as a Senator. I’d add that she was too busy collaborating with Rick Santorum, Sam Brownback, and others in The Fellowship. Instead of calling for reform of the criminal justice system, she was busy backing both the war in Iraq and the war  on drugs, and busy pushing to make flag burning a penalty and for censorship of video games. Of course it is not rare for Clinton, after years of being on the wrong side of an issue, to finally come around. Quite often she as learned from her mistakes, but not until long after the damage was done. While it is common for Clinton to be to the right of the Democratic Party, on this issue she is even to the right of some Republicans:

Clinton is late to this party, and endorsing reforms backed by Republicans such as Paul, Cruz, and Lee would highlight that fact. Paul’s office responded to her speech by noting that “Hillary Clinton [is] trying to undo some of the harm inflicted by the Clinton administration” and “is now emulating proposals introduced by Senator Rand Paul over the last several years.” The press release cited five criminal justice bills Paul already has introduced this session, addressing mandatory minimum sentencesasset forfeiturerestoration of felons’ voting rightsexpungement of criminal records, and police body cameras. “We welcome her to the fight,” it said.

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Marijuana, Needle Exchange Programs, And Clinton’s Cultural Conservatism

Clinton Marijuana

Following recent posts about Lincoln Chafee talking about running for the Democratic nomination I began looking to see if there are any other issues where the two have major differences besides Clinton’s support for the Iraq war, which he has been attacking Hillary Clinton on. which he has been attacking Hillary Clinton on. I was pleased to see that back in 2011 Chaffee called for a reclassification of medical marijuana from a Schedule I controlled substances, which puts states which have legalized medical marijuana at odds with federal laws.

Three years later, Martin O’Malley took this a step even further, signing a bill decriminalizing marijuana, while opposing outright legalization. Hillary Clinton, as would be expected from her overall cultural conservatism, has lagged behind the country, and the Democratic Party, on both legalization of marijuana and medical marijuana.

On a related issue, Clinton’s opposition to needle exchange programs, while certainly not a major issue, was also an early issue in the 2008 nomination battle which differentiated the political philosophies of Clinton from the more liberal Barack Obama. Martin O’Malley, who is also moving well to the left on economic issues, signed a bill allowing needle exchange in Maryland. Clinton and Obama also differed in 2008 on reforming sentencing for violation of drug laws. While Obama’s record on the drug war has certainly been mixed, I would hate to see a move further to the right under Clinton.

Clinton’s cultural conservatism and promotion of conservative causes has often been traced to her membership in The Fellowship while in the Senate. From Mother Jones in 2007:

Through all of her years in Washington, Clinton has been an active participant in conservative Bible study and prayer circles that are part of a secretive Capitol Hill group known as the Fellowship. Her collaborations with right-wingers such as Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and former Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) grow in part from that connection…

That’s how it works: The Fellowship isn’t out to turn liberals into conservatives; rather, it convinces politicians they can transcend left and right with an ecumenical faith that rises above politics. Only the faith is always evangelical, and the politics always move rightward…These days, Clinton has graduated from the political wives’ group into what may be Coe’s most elite cell, the weekly Senate Prayer Breakfast. Though weighted Republican, the breakfast—regularly attended by about 40 members—is a bipartisan opportunity for politicians to burnish their reputations, giving Clinton the chance to profess her faith with men such as Brownback as well as the twin terrors of Oklahoma, James Inhofe and Tom Coburn, and, until recently, former Senator George Allen (R-Va.). Democrats in the group include Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor, who told us that the separation of church and state has gone too far; Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) is also a regular.

Unlikely partnerships have become a Clinton trademark. Some are symbolic, such as her support for a ban on flag burning with Senator Bob Bennett (R-Utah) and funding for research on the dangers of video games with Brownback and Santorum. But Clinton has also joined the gop on legislation that redefines social justice issues in terms of conservative morality, such as an anti-human-trafficking law that withheld funding from groups working on the sex trade if they didn’t condemn prostitution in the proper terms. With Santorum, Clinton co-sponsored the Workplace Religious Freedom Act; she didn’t back off even after Republican senators such as Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter pulled their names from the bill citing concerns that the measure would protect those refusing to perform key aspects of their jobs—say, pharmacists who won’t fill birth control prescriptions, or police officers who won’t guard abortion clinics.

Clinton has championed federal funding of faith-based social services, which she embraced years before George W. Bush did; Marci Hamilton, author of God vs. the Gavel, says that the Clintons’ approach to faith-based initiatives “set the stage for Bush.” Clinton has also long supported the Defense of Marriage Act, a measure that has become a purity test for any candidate wishing to avoid war with the Christian right…

The libertarian Cato Institute recently observed that Clinton is “adding the paternalistic agenda of the religious right to her old-fashioned liberal paternalism.” Clinton suggests as much herself in her 1996 book, It Takes a Village, where she writes approvingly of religious groups’ access to schools, lessons in Scripture, and “virtue” making a return to the classroom.

As noted in the above excerpt, Clinton’s affiliation with the religious right was seen in her support for the Workplace Religious Freedom Act, a bill introduced by Rick Santorum and opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union for promoting discrimination and reducing access to health care, along with her promotion of restrictions on video games and her introduction of a bill making flag burning a felony. Her social conservatism is also seen in her weak record on abortion rights, such as supporting parental notification laws and stigmatizing women who have abortions with the manner in which she calls for abortion to be “safe, legal and rare.”

(Links to additional material added on April 19)

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Republicans Spared Boehner Because God Told Them To

If you believe some people, God takes as great an interest in the Republican Party as he does in Notre Dame football. The Washington Post described how John Boehner managed to remain in power despite opposition in his own party:

Barely 36 hours after the caustic New Year’s Day vote, Boehner faced a coup attempt from a clutch of renegade conservatives. The cabal quickly fell apart when several Republicans, after a night of prayer, said God told them to spare the speaker.

Boehner’s opponents might have remembered that God’s support for Boehner as Speaker does not necessarily preclude his support for additional people to move on to be Speaker. Before the last election, God wanted Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Perry to run for president.

I actually find this more disturbing than a politician telling the public that God wants them to run. Perhaps they might pick up some votes, but we hope that the candidate doesn’t really believe this.  In the case of the Republican revolt against Boehner, it appears we actually had members of Congress change how they voted for Speaker because either they believed God told them to spare Boehner or because they believed others when told that this is God’s will.

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For Once Rick Santorum Is Right–Smart People Will Not Be On His Side

For once Rick Santorum is right:

“We will never have the media on our side, ever, in this country,” Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, told the audience at the Omni Shoreham hotel. “We will never have the elite, smart people on our side.”

Rick Santrorum also attacked the libertarian wing of the Republican Party at the Values Voter Summit. If he was criticizing them for not really supporting freedom I would go along, Santorum had other objections:

“When it comes to conservatism libertarian types can say, oh, well you know, we don’t want to talk about social issues,” Santorum said. “Without the church and the family, there is no conservative movement, there is no basic values of America.”

The real issue isn’t necessarily one of values, but opposition to the authoritarian right’s desire to use government to impose their values upon others and make decisions which should be left to the individual in a free society. A large percentage of liberals have rather conservative, heterosexual, marriages and life styles. The difference is that we don’t condemn others and don’t desire to use use government to impose any one life style upon others.

Smart people will not be on their side. They have Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and more recently Mitt Romney. Smart people generally know better than to side with these people who oppose science, promote Voodoo economic ideas which are as faulty as their pseudo-science, and oppose the ideas which this nation was founded upon–including the formation of a secular government with separation of church and state.

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Pete Hoekstra Now Pandering To Birthers

My lunatic former Congressman is at it again. Pete Hoekstra, who has already been pandering to the Tea Party, is now going after the support of the Birthers. The Detroit Free Press reports:

At a tea party gathering in Lapeer earlier this month, U.S. Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra said he’d like to create a federal office in Washington that would verify that presidential candidates meet the minimum requirements to hold the office.

“This is not brain surgery. It should be an FBI person, maybe a CIA person,” said Hoekstra, a former Republican congressman from Holland, during the meeting in response to a question from the audience about Obama’s citizenship. “If you want to run for president, you’ve got to go with the proper documentation and get it certified that you meet the qualifications to be the President of the United States.”

Hoekstra also said that the issue became moot when U.S. Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican candidate for president, declined to make it an issue during the campaign.

“I’d love to give you an answer and say I’m going to fight it and beat it and win it. But it wasn’t fought in 2008 and we lost,” he said.

Democrats jumped on the comments as being out of touch and out of the mainstream.

“You can’t get much further outside the mainstream than calling for the creation of a birther office staffed by the CIA and FBI,” said state Democratic Party chairman Mark Brewer. “Our leaders should be focused on creating jobs, not on creating a new federal bureaucracy to comb through birth certificates.”

The Hoekstra campaign said this afternoon that Hoekstra believes that President Obama is a U.S. citizen.

In the past Hoekstra has done things such as claiming (along with Rick Santorum) that WMD was found in Iraq long after even the Bush administration conceded it did not exist, divulge military secrets on Twitter, use scare tactics when there was talk of moving prisoners from Guantanamo, play politics with the attempted terrorist attack on a flight coming into Detroit in 2009, and running a blatantly racist ad during the Superbowl.

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Mitt Romney Remains A Weak Candidate, Except Among The Very Religious

Last night’s primaries, occurring after Rick Santorum left the race, turned out to give pretty much the same picture as when there was more of a contest: Mitt Romney will be the nominee, but many Republicans would prefer to vote for someone else. Smart Politics points out the weakness of Romney’s victories:

Over the last 40 years there have been nearly 80 contests in which the presumptive Republican nominees played out the string after their last credible challenger exited the race.

In every one of these contests, the GOP frontrunner won at least 60 percent of the vote, even when ex- and long-shot candidates remained on the ballot.

But on Tuesday, Romney won only 56 percent of the vote in Delaware and 58 percent in Pennsylvania, home to Rick Santorum who dropped out on April 10th.

While Romney avoided the embarrassment of winning with a mere plurality, never has a presumptive nominee won a primary contest with such a low level of support at this stage of the race with his chief challenger no longer actively campaigning.

Clearly the author doesn’t consider either Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul to be a credible challenger, and the assumption looks valid. Even Newt Gingrich has realized this, dropping out of the race. While Ron Paul’s chances at winning are still the same as at any other point in time,  zero, it will be interesting to see if he manages to receive more primary votes as the last candidate standing, allowing him to take a larger block of delegates to the convention than would otherwise occur.

Jimmy Carter says that, while he would prefer Obama, he would feel comfortable with Romney:

“I’d rather have a Democrat but I would be comfortable — I think Romney has shown in the past, in his previous years as a moderate or progressive… that he was fairly competent as a governor and also running the Olympics as you know. He’s a good solid family man and so forth, he’s gone to the extreme right wing positions on some very important issues in order to get the nomination. What he’ll do in the general election, what he’ll do as president I think is different.”

I would refer Carter to yesterday’s post on this subject. There is certainly a reasonable chance that Romney is more moderate than he now claims to be. It is really impossible to tell what opinions Romney has, or if he even has any, considering the way he can sound sincere while taking either side of any issue. Unfortunately Romney has painted himself into a “severely conservative” corner and will have difficulty moving out. Even should he prefer more moderate positions, it is hard to see him resisting the wishes of a far right wing Congress, which is the most likely result should conditions in the fall favor a Romney victory.

It is clearly far too early to predict who will win. Polls now favor Obama, but they can change by November. I am encouraged by Obama’s strength in most of the battleground states, although he is likely to lose some states he won in 2008. Republicans who were encouraged by a narrow Romney lead in Gallup’s daily tracking poll will not want to see that Obama has jumped to a seven point lead. I suspect that this is more a measure of the uncertainty among many voters as opposed to a major change in positions, but does emphasize the weakness of Romney as a candidate.

Gallup has also found that the usual partisan breakdown along religious lines still holds in a race between Obama and Romney:

Mitt Romney leads Barack Obama by 17 percentage points, 54% to 37%, among very religious voters in Gallup’s latest five-day presidential election tracking average. Obama leads by 14 points, 54% to 40%, among the moderately religious, and by 31 points, 61% to 30%, among those who are nonreligious.

If this is viewed purely based upon religion, the results might not make any sense considering Obama’s religious views. There are two additional factors in play. Many Republicans are still fooled by the attacks from the right wing noise machine, with a meaningful number still believing Obama is a Muslim. The other factor is that the concern among many on the religious right is not whether a candidate is religious but whether they will use government to impose their religious views upon others. In this case, perhaps the religious right has a better understanding of the outcome of a Romney presidency than Jimmy Carter shows.

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Recapping The Day’s Top News:

Rick Santorum pulled out today. That’s the closest he’ll ever come to anything which sounds like birth control.

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Santorum Suspends Campaign; Romney Nomination Inevitable

It is time for Romney to shake his Etch A Sketch. Rick Santorum has suspended his campaign.  Most likely he realized that it is better to get out now as opposed to being humiliated by a loss in Pennsylvania.

Gingrich is still in but his campaign appears dead. Even Herman Cain is dropping Gingrich for Romney. Ron Paul is still in the race, running ads attacking the other Republican opponents, but he remains with zero chance of ever winning the nomination. It was already pretty clear, but in case anyone had any doubt it is now as certain as it can be before the conventions that the general election will be Romney vs. Obama.

May the honest, consistent man with integrity win.

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Quote of the Day

“Last night Mitt Romney went three for three by winning the primaries in Maryland, Wisconsin, and Washington, D.C. Not to be outdone, Rick Santorum went three for three by offending women, atheists, and Latinos.” –Jimmy Fallon

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