Continuing on the theme of how Bernie Sanders keeps pushing Hillary Clinton further and further to the left, one of the more bizarre spectacles of the season has been blowing up in the former Secretary of State’s campaign. During a speech this week, a protester showed up with a sign which quoted a very dusty old line from the Hillary oppo file. Back in the nineties, then First Lady Clinton gave a speech in support of her husband’s 1994 crime bill. Viewed in the context of the Black Lives Matter era and the rise of the Social Justice Warriors, the words ring rather harshly in progressive ears. (Washington Post)
“They are often the kinds of kids that are called ‘super-predators,’ ” Clinton said in 1996, at the height of anxiety during her husband’s administration about high rates of crime and violence. “No conscience, no empathy, we can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel.”
The last part of the quote was written on a large, hand-lettered sign that Williams held up as Clinton spoke to her donors and supporters.
Clinton took note of the sign and read it aloud, squinting to read it and apparently unaware that it was her own quote.
Since Hillary was attacked on the question, the press dutifully trudged off to go ask Bernie Sanders about it. His campaign was quick to note that he had problems with it as well.
In a statement, Sanders’s campaign manager Jeff Weaver said that Sanders voted for the 1994 crime bill to protect provisions embedded in it that preserved the assault weapons ban and included domestic violence protections for women.
Weaver noted that Sanders criticized mass incarceration at the time that the bill was being considered.
It no doubt says something about the interesting times we’ve lived to see when leading candidates for the presidency can be challenged on a bill designed to reduce crime levels and immediately drop into apology mode for supporting it. And yet that’s precisely what both Sanders and Clinton seemed to be doing. Before the dust had even begun to settle, WaPo editorial board member Jonathan Capehart landed a response from Hillary, giving her a chance to cover her tracks. Rather than piling on the criticism of Clinton for saying something which was so very obviously true, Capehart first excuses what she said and then points out that Sanders joined 187 other Democrats in voting for the crime bill.
No one would question Sanders’s commitment to justice before or after he voted for the crime bill. Nor should anyone do the same to Clinton, who didn’t even have a vote. Sure, her words sting in the light of 2016, but they should not blind anyone to what she did before and after she uttered those 42 words in the span of 12 seconds…
Pushing Clinton on her past statements as Williams did is eminently fair. What isn’t fair is ignoring what Clinton promises to do to fix the glaring problems unleashed by a bill Sanders voted for and Clinton’s husband signed into law.
In subsequent tweets, Capehart summarizes the piece and continues to highlight the fact that Sanders voted to pass the legislation. Normally I wouldn’t give more than a passing glance at yet another minor food fight between Sanders and Clinton, but this one really seems to highlight precisely how far over the rainbow we’ve gone during the Democratic primary. We are now at the point where the two leading candidates are being measured on how willing they are to attack the passage of the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. While we don’t often sing a lot of praise for Bill Clinton in this neck of the woods, that bill was near the top of the short list of positive accomplishments during his presidency. (Along with working with the GOP to nearly balance the budget briefly.) It put 100,000 new cops on the streets, provided roughly $6B for new enforcement programs and nearly $10B for new or upgraded prisons. Crime rates over subsequent years plummeted and it proved to be one of the single most successful anti-crime initiatives in modern history.
And now the crime bill is being viewed as the root cause of problems in mass incarceration. The mind doth boggle. None of these protests seem to address the fact that the people being incarcerated were actually breaking the law. But that’s what the Democrats are choosing to run on this year, so best of luck to them. This will make for a spicy conversation in the fall, I can assure you.