Rob Portman: Stop the war on drugs

“President Obama recently announced that he would grant clemency to hundreds of non-violent drug offenders,” Portman is set to say Tuesday in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute. “That may be within his power, but it’s like placing a Band-Aid on a deep wound. It may cover up the problem of prison overcrowding today, but it doesn’t address the deeper problem that drives recidivism.”

Portman’s words come as crime, punishment, and drugs emerge as a rare and unlikely point on which Democrats and Republicans in Washington are finding common ground. Conservatives like Portman, troubled by the vast federal spending on jails and seeking a distinctly conservative approach to crime and poverty, have found allies in Democrats and civil libertarians who have long argued for a less punitive approach to illegal drugs.

Portman’s speech lays out a plan to fight poverty using what he calls “constructive conservatism.” In the speech, the Republican senator describes that as a “bottom up” approach that lets communities develop plans to fight poverty, prove their results and then spread those ideas across the country with the help of federal grants and other assistance.