Joe Biden once again took the germ of a good idea — and botched it by reductioing his own absurdum. ABC News correspondent Linsey Davis challenged Biden on his criminal justice reform plans to release inmates convicted of drug use, referring to criticisms from Cory Booker that Biden’s plan won’t go far enough. Oh yeah, Biden seemed to say? He began expanding his vision of reform until it reached the stage where “nobody should be in jail for a nonviolent crime.”
DAVIS: Thank you, Senator Klobuchar. You all believe that the war on drugs has put too many Americans behind bars. Vice President Biden, you have a plan to release many nonviolent drug offenders from prison. Senator Booker says that your plan is not ambitious enough. Your response?
BIDEN: Well, first of all, let me say that, when I came back from law school, I had a job with a great — a big-time law firm. I left and became a public defender because my state was under siege when Dr. King was assassinated. We were occupied by the National Guard for 10 months.
I’ve been involved from the beginning. As a young congressman — as a young councilman, I introduced legislation to try to keep them from putting a sewer plant in a poor neighborhood. I made sure that we dealt with redlining; banks should have to lend where they operate, et cetera.
The fact of the matter is that what’s happened is that we’re in a situation now where there are so many people who are in jail and shouldn’t be in jail. The whole means by which this should change is the whole model has to change. We should be talking about rehabilitation.
Nobody should be in jail for a nonviolent crime. As — when we were in the White House, we released 36,000 people from the federal prison system. Nobody should be in jail for a drug problem. They should be going directly to a rehabilitation. We build more rehabilitation centers, not prisons.
We — I’m the guy that put in the drug courts to divert people from the criminal justice system. And so we have to change the whole way we look at this. When we put people in prison, we have to equip them that when they get out — nobody who got in prison for marijuana, for example, immediately upon being released — they shouldn’t be in there; that should be a misdemeanor. They should be out and their record should be expunged. Every single right should be returned.
When you finish your term in prison, you should be able not only to vote but have access to Pell grants, have access to be able to get housing, have access to be able to move along the way. I’ve laid out a detailed plan along those lines. And the fact is, we’ve learned so much more more…
DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Vice President.
BIDEN: Thank you.
Nobody, eh? Not even Wall Street fraudsters who steal millions from retirement accounts? You’ve won Bernie Madoff’s vote, if he had one, Mr. Vice President. Congrats!
How about those who lie to investigators? Cheat the IRS? Conduct lobbying for foreign nations without properly disclosing those connections? Congratulations again, Mr. Biden — you’ve just won Paul Manafort’s vote!
And let’s face it, Andrew McCabe’s too, but that was probably already in the bag.
Violent crime is not the only crime that requires significant penalties, as even a moment’s thought would make clear. Espionage rarely involves violence on the part of the spy, for instance, but can lead to the destruction of a nation’s defenses. Embezzlement can ruin companies and wipe out hundreds or thousands of jobs or retirement accounts. Public corruption undermines the necessary trust in institutions needed in a self-governing republic. Perjury does the same for the justice system, and so on and so on. There are many, many examples of people belonging in prison for significant periods of time despite having committed no violent act themselves.
This has always been Joe Biden’s problem: he’s a mile wide but only an inch deep. He’s a BS artist as a politician, inclined toward resumé inflation and only having a passing familiarity with issues. When pushed, Biden reacts not by calmly and rationally explaining the nuances but by doubling down on claims. He’s become the eminence grise of the Democratic Party for three reasons, and three reasons only:
- He’s old and has been around for nearly 50 years, thanks to voters in Delaware.
- Barack Obama needed a supposed foreign-policy expert in 2008 after booting the issue of Russia invading Georgia
- They don’t have anyone else who qualifies for that role.
This is precisely the kind of gaffe Biden makes on a regular basis, and you can bet we haven’t seen the last of them.