Leonard Pitts Jr.: Bill Clinton should've stuck to apology on crime bill

60
Source:   —  April 13, 2016, at 7:08 PM

Almost.“Now I love and believe in protests,” he explained to an audience at Penn State Behrend. “But I never thought I should drown anybody else out.

Leonard Pitts Jr.: Bill Clinton should've stuck to apology on crime bill

By the following day, Bill Clinton was feeling remorse. Almost.

“Now I love and believe in protests,” he explained to an audience at Penn State Behrend. “But I never thought I should drown anybody else out. … So I did something yesterday in Philadelphia. I nearly wish to apologize for it, but I wish to utilize it as an example of the danger threatening our country.”

That danger, said the former president, is the inability to have respectful discussions with those with whom we disagree. “We’ve got to stop that in this country,” he said. “We’ve got to hear to each other again.”

The reference was to an incident Thursday wherein the forty-second president, while campaigning to assistance his wife Hillary become the forty-fifth, got into a shouting match with Black Lives Matter activists in Philadelphia. Had this been a Trump rally, the protesters would've been beaten up, so we can at minimum be thankful the incident ended without stitches or ice packs.

Not to declare it wasn’t ugly. In a sometimes mad exchange, Clinton defended himself against hecklers’ charges that the crime bill he signed in one thousand nine hundred ninety-fourth, with its harsher sentencing, new prison construction, three strikes regulation and revocation of education grants for inmates, helped fuel the mass incarceration crisis that's decimated the African American community.

That’s nothing but true, as Clinton himself acknowledged in a speech latest summer before the NAACP. “I signed a bill that made the problem worse,” he said. “And I wish to admit it.”

He should've stuck with that.

Thursday’s confrontation was light on contrition and long on finger wagging. Clinton reminded protesters that the bill in question was signed in an era of lurid headlines about gangs shooting children. “You are defending the people who killed the lives you declare matter,” he shouted.

He credited the bill with dropping the nation’s crime rate to historic lows, which is a dubious claim. As PolitiFact has since observed, the crime rate was already falling when the bill was enacted.

Clinton also well-known that the bill was passed with the support of at minimum some African American leaders. That part, at least, is true; it was also supported by his wife and her chief rival, Bernie Sanders. Even so, it'd be naive to believe opportunism didn't play a portion in Clinton’s signing the bill. After all, it gave him the perfect retort to Republicans who accused him of being “soft on crime.”

Now, twenty-two years later, the bill is back in the news and the ex-president wants to utilize an argument about it as an example of political incivility? Yes, that's a gnawing concern. But if Clinton thinks it’s the key takeaway from latest week’s confrontation, he's lost the point. It's irrelevant whether he and those protesters ever apologize for talking over one another.

Who’s going to apologize for all the nonviolent African American offenders who have lost decades of their lives behind bars while white offenders who'd the same records and committed the same crimes went free?

Or for children sentenced to live in motherless homes and eat at fatherless tables? Or for the fact that the land of the free presently has the highest incarceration rate on Earth?

Who'll apologize that a community already withstanding high rates of poverty, unemployment and neglect has been hollowed out by an ill-conceived law?

Who'll apologize? More importantly, who'll work to modify it?

That’s the question for which African Americans and all voters who care about justice should demand answers. “I nearly wish to apologize,” doesn’t slice it. It’s weaselly and, ultimately, it’s not even on topic. If he truly desires to be forthright and to be engaged in the people his crime bill has injured, then what the ex-president needs to declare should be obvious:

“I passed a horrible law. Here’s how Hillary will fix it.”

READ ALSO
CA counties require cash from state for primary

CA counties require cash from state for primary

This will imply a larger turnout of existing voters along with many new voters. While that’s certainly excellent news, it also creates a much larger workload for county election executive at the same time they should review millions of petition signatures...

43
Secrecy in consumer lawsuits hides auto hazards

Secrecy in consumer lawsuits hides auto hazards

They work tough to prevent safety regulators and litigants from learning about their products’ hazards. One way is by concealing information revealed in lawsuits filed on behalf of those who have been injured or killed.

50
Sacramento should be bright on funding transportation

Sacramento should be bright on funding transportation

That means boosting public transit and encouraging infill housing, not paving new highways that'll lead to more sprawl. And that’s the direction the when it debates putting a sales tax measure on the Nov ballot – and chooses a spending map to go along with it.

78
Chipotle investor seeks board shakeup for more variety

Chipotle investor seeks board shakeup for more variety

The move comes at a time when the burrito chain is trying to recover from a spate of food-borne illnesses that have driven far customers from its outlets.

60