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July 1, 2008

Hey, big spender: John McCain's ambitious (and expensive?) crime-fighting agenda

The headline of this news report effective summarizes a big crime speech that Senator John McCain gave today: "McCain Talks Tough on Crime at Sheriffs' Convention."  The full text of McCain's speech is available here, and it has lots and lots of interesting aspects.  There some love for President Reagan's "focus[] on vigorous enforcement and stricter sentencing," and some hate for the Supreme Court's opinion in the Kennedy child rape decision in which, according to McCain, the Justices "substituted their judgment for that of the people of Louisiana."  (Notably, while bashing the Supreme Court for this opinion, Senator McCain leaves out the fact that a Reagan appointee wrote the Kennedy opinion, and that 3 of the 5 Justices in the Kennedy majority were Republican appointees.)

Though I could say a lot about all the intriguing aspects of Senator McCain's crime speech, I find most interesting his willingness to pledge federal dollars for ambitious crime-fighting programs.  Here are just a few snippets of the speech that suggest a President McCain is ready and willing to spend federal tax dollars on various crime-fighting initiatives:

To meet all of these [new crime] challenges, and others, you will need assistance, critical resources, and new technologies that often only the federal government can provide....

To protect our energy supply, air and rail transport, banking and financial services, we need to invest far more in the federal task of cyber security....

[A]s president, I will expand the Criminal Alien Program. We will require that the federal government assume more of the costs to deport and detain criminal aliens -- because this is a problem of the federal government's own making....

Ex-convicts need more than a few bucks and a bus ticket out of town.  Many will need job training, a place to live, mentors, family counseling, and much more. Beyond government, there are churches and community groups all across our country that stand ready to help even more. And these groups will have the committed support of my administration.

There is a lot more to the speech than just these pledges of federal support, and I encourage everyone to read the full text of the interesting speech and provide other reactions in the comments.

July 1, 2008 at 10:14 PM | Permalink

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Ex-convicts need more than a few bucks and a bus ticket out of town ...

will need job training: for jobs nobody will give them.

a place to live: under a bridge, in another state.

mentors: who pass the flyers around and keep the online database up-to-date.

family counseling: of a, now, non-existent, family.

and much more: in investing far more in the federal task of cyber security ...

Patriot Act, Iraq, Afghanistan ... yadda, yadda.

I hope you in the USA have learned.

Vote for the lesser of two evils.

Nigel.

Posted by: Dr Nigel Leigh Oldfield | Jul 2, 2008 1:40:42 AM

... and, if I have been a little too subtle;

"Anger and bitterness -- that can build up. But true forgiveness says, 'I forgive you, and it's over.'"

"Unless we change our approach over the next four years, these released prisoners are likely to reoffend in very high numbers, committing millions of new crimes and finding millions of new victims. And we need to be as committed in preparing them for freedom as we were in taking that freedom away."

"This was the spirit of the Second Chance Act of 2007, a law designed to make the walk out of prison, past the gates and razor wire, a one-way journey."

But not for RSOs, oh no ... they must carry the weight of his hyperbole and propaganda, for, if he does not believe it, for all, does he believe it at all?

Nigel.

Posted by: Dr Nigel Leigh Oldfield | Jul 2, 2008 2:01:16 AM

Big Spender is right! What ever happened to small government conservatism or federalism? (I don't mean federalist's "Kill 'em all let God sort 'em out brand of federalism, but the actual concept of state autonomy.)

Why should the feds pay for local communications equipment or overtime for local drug cops?

How will the call for "increased penalties" jibe with overstuffed prisons for which we already can't find enough guards? (After a recent riot at a federal prison in Texas, it came out the prisoner to guard ratio was 89-1 at the time of the incident.)

The assumptions behind the speech are A) Everything we're doing now on crime works great, B) the feds should pay for expanding and supplying local law enforcement, and C) judges suck and should never exclude evidence.

I'm sure it went over well given the audience.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Jul 2, 2008 7:09:19 AM

I find it fascinating that the people of LA deserve to have their decisions defended in the S Crt, but the people of DC don't. I mean, obviously McCain is supporting a political position with his speeches, but can't we at least be subtle? Crazy activist judges on the Supreme Court are making the world completely unsafe for children after the perfectly rational exercise of authority by the LA legislature. Sober reflective judges on the Supreme Court are making the world safe for the citizens of DC after the crazy irrational usurpation of authority by the DC Council (or whatever they have).

Posted by: talithajd | Jul 2, 2008 10:15:38 AM

Rules for Candidates:

When Talking to -

Law enforcement conference - Promise to be tough on crime and introduce new crime initiatives.
Religious groups - Talk about new faith based initiatives
Teachers Unions - Support more Federal funding for local schools, add mandated educational programs
Local Government Officials - Promise Federal money for infrastructure.
Technology Industry - Stress the need for government programs to gather, store and sort information

We will have the best government money can buy

Posted by: beth curtis | Jul 2, 2008 10:30:39 AM

talithajd:

The difference is that the text of the Second Amendment specifically mentions, and as Scalia shows, embraces, the right to keep and bear arms, whereas the text of the Eighth Amendment does not specifically ban, or imply a ban, on the death penalty for child rape.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 2, 2008 10:38:55 AM

beth curtis:

How very cynical you are. And how very correct.

"We will have the best government money can buy."

Which is why Senator Obama opted out of public financing after saying he'd take it. He can raise a whole lot more outside the public finance system. More power to him, but I wish he would have just laid it on the line instead of doing the fancy dance.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 2, 2008 10:46:33 AM

"Senator McCain leaves out the fact that a Reagan appointee wrote the Kennedy opinion, and that 3 of the 5 Justices in the Kennedy majority were Republican appointees.)"

Sen. McCain also left out the fact that every single Democratic appointee on the Court voted on the side of the child rapist.

That aside, I can't help but think that Sen. McCain's approach is unimaginative. The word "rehabilitation" does not appear even once in his speech. Would it have killed him to mention it? What's needed is a systematic study of the best rehabilitation programs in the country (the most important criterion being the recidivism rate) and then to introduce them more widely. I don't believe that somehow, rehabilitation is incompatible with tough sentencing. I think it is possible to make a case to law enforcement about the benefits of reducing recidivism.

Finally, Prof. Berman previously noted that Sen. McCain's idea of model justices includes Roberts and Alito but excludes Scalia and Thomas and speculated that perhaps it has something to do with the latter duo's position on Blakely v. Washington. This speech seems to confirm that view. Since the next most likely retirement is an ardent supporter of Blakely and since scotusblog statistics show that Justice Alito (and, to a lesser extent, Roberts as well) is far friendlier to the prosecution than the defense, if Sen. McCain is elected, Blakely will probably be assigned to a small corner in the Court's attic and will never be heard from again.

Posted by: realist | Jul 2, 2008 11:06:22 AM

Bill Otis wrote: "The difference is that the text of the Second Amendment specifically mentions, and as Scalia shows, embraces, the right to keep and bear arms, whereas the text of the Eighth Amendment does not specifically ban, or imply a ban, on the death penalty for child rape."

You've got to be kidding me. Notice how you expressed the right you seek to protect at a high level of generality and the right you seek to derogate at a high level of specificity? That makes for good propaganda, but pathetic legal analysis. At any rate, we know why you post here, so at least you're consistent.

Posted by: DK | Jul 2, 2008 11:23:33 AM

DK:

You can take responsibility for your lies before moving on to anything else.

"Bill Otis...strenuously opposes and actively advocates against social welfare programs and universal, single-payer health insurance."

You will of course back this up with a quotation from me that says anything at all about "universal, single-payer health insurance."

I'll wait.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 2, 2008 11:47:14 AM

Bill:

No worries. On the other post, I happily accepted your full embrace of universal, single-payer health insurance and look forward to your advocacy of it. I would never have figured you for somebody who would be supporting Nader or McKinney this election, but you sure proved me wrong!

Posted by: DK | Jul 2, 2008 12:44:58 PM

I guess I am a cynic.

I do have a problem with the two pronged solution of Tough Sentencing and Rehabilitation. Tough sentencing is of course relative. It's meaning is only defined by the experience and opinion of the individual considering it.

Rehabilitation can potentially be much more oppressive. We only need to consider the confinement of dissidents in mental hospitals in the Soviet Union in the 20th century. When you are sentenced to rehabilitation, it ends when it is determined you are rehabilitated. This is a sentence with no definition. The financial considerations of the rehabilitation providers assures that longer is better.

Another reason that this alternative to prison is a threat is that rehabilitation may be mandated when there is not enough evidence to convict. It just gives the appearance of thoughtful compassion.

Another thought about the speech - I cannot believe that McCain has a great understanding of the nuances of Blakely v Washington. It is even more inconceivable to me that he would sort out the justices.

This is not to say that a sharp speech writer is not sending a message to the like minded.

Posted by: beth curtis | Jul 2, 2008 12:52:57 PM

beth curtis's points about rehabilitation are well taken. (though raising the specter of the Soviet Union for a country that provides cable TV, nutritionist-designed meals, and conjugal visits to criminals is a bit too much) The problem about being a cynic is that they tend to be a bunch of chirping critics (no offense intended) who offer no solutions of their own. Unless one is about to claim that a prison population of 2 million+ combined with a high recidivism rate are not problems, otherwise, some solution is obviously necessary. Personally, I think focusing on the recidivism rate to judge the effectiveness of rehabilitation programs is a reasonable starting point.

I'm not suggesting that McCain parsed through the Apprendi-Blakely line of cases to arrive at his current position. He has legal advisers, and I suspect he's simply mouthing off what his legal advisers are telling him. (We know that former Sen. Fred Thompson is a close friend of his and I can't help but notice that Thompson, like Alito, is a former prosecutor.)

Posted by: realist | Jul 2, 2008 1:19:26 PM

Senator McCain mentions the Constitution twice and both times are to attack the judicial branch.

No mention of his oath to uphold the Constitution. No mention of his audience's oath to uphold the Constitution. No mention of Congress's oath to uphold the Constitution. No mention of a president's oath to uphold the Constitution.

Reasonable minds can disagree on Constitutional interpretation and on if there should be the death penalty for child rape, but it is disingenuous at best to claim "[t]here is nothing in our Constitution to contradict that view" as if the Kennedy decision had no constitutional basis at all, as if there is no cruel and unusual clause at all.

The Constitution is not the foundation of our country under Senator McCain's rhetoric. It is nothing but a wedge.

Poll Finds Only 33% Can Identify Bill of Rights

Here are some disturbing statistics from a National Constitution Center survey: more American teenagers know the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air than know the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (94.7% to 2.2%), know which city has the zip code “90210″ than the city in which the U.S. Constitution was written (75% to 25%), and more American teenagers know the star of the motion picture “Titanic” than know the Vice President of the United States (90% to 74%). “Only one-third of Americans can name the three branches of government, but two-thirds can name a judge on American Idol,” said Sandra Day O’Connor during her closing keynote address for last weekend’s 5th annual Games For Change Conference hosted by Parsons The New School For Design. The former Supreme Court Justice took the opportunity to talk about a project she has been working on to change those rather sad facts, an online digital game called “Our Courts”, geared at teaching civics to middle-schoolers. hat tip

Being a constitutional scholar, Senator Obama should raise the Constitution to national awareness. I Call on him to raise it to the point of a new Enlightenment. Call on him to make it so interesting that people will carry the Constitution like they carry their Bibles or cell phones and are eager to debate anyone who is willing on its vitality and interpretation. Call on him to garner an interest in the text of the Constitution itself and annotated versions.

Ideally, citizens would not have to rely on politicians or the media to tell them what the Constitution means, but would be able to cite and quote the clauses themselves and maybe even be able to quote case law .

Justice O’Connor's “Our Courts” should be the tip of an Enlightenment iceberg.


Posted by: George | Jul 2, 2008 1:31:51 PM

DK:

You can't vindicate one lie by telling another.

First you said, "Bill Otis...strenuously opposes and actively advocates against social welfare programs and universal, single-payer health insurance."

That is an outright lie. Of course you can prove me wrong by quoting any post of mine in which I "strenuously oppose and actively advocate against" what you term "universal, single-payer health insurance."

So let's see the quotation. No dodging and weaving. Let's see the quotation.

After I told you what you already knew -- namely, that I had never said any such thing -- your reaction is to claim that THAT constitues my "full embrace of universal, single-payer health insurance."

Good grief. Can you even hear yourself?

In fact I have never said that I support or oppose this off-topic government health plan you keep talking about. The reason you don't produce a quotation from me is that there is none. The whole thing is your fabrication.

As I say, you can't vindicate one lie by telling another. What you can do, however, is expose your mind-boggling dishonesty.


Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 2, 2008 4:26:03 PM

What we need is more pardons for the truly deserving. It seems that a second chance act would have addressed this! Nigel is very correct when he says Job training for jobs that no one will ever give them.

- 10 years and still waiting on a pardon in NC!

Posted by: BS | Jul 2, 2008 4:28:49 PM

Bill Otis wrote: "In fact I have never said that I support or oppose this off-topic government health plan you keep talking about."

Oh, how disappointing. Then why don't you tell us now?

(And it isn't off-topic. Universal, single-payer health insurance that fully covered every American for mental and physical health would reduce the crime rate by orders of magnitude more than the death penalty, which has a negligible effect, if any at all.)

Posted by: DK | Jul 3, 2008 12:30:18 AM

DK, and socialized medicine works so well where . . . .

Posted by: federalist | Jul 3, 2008 12:35:31 AM

federalist cares more about the well being of dogs than of people.

Posted by: George | Jul 3, 2008 2:46:44 AM

DK:

You quote my telling you that, "I have never said that I support or oppose this off-topic government health plan you keep talking about."

You then say, "Oh, how disappointing. Then why don't you tell us now?"

Is this your way of admitting, grudgingly and belatedly, that you lied when you said several days ago that "Bill Otis...strenuously opposes and actively advocates against social welfare programs and universal, single-payer health insurance"?

And then lied again when you claimed -- in response to my pointing out that I'd never said any such thing -- that I "full[y] embrace[d] universal, single-payer health insurance"?

Why would you now need to ask me to say what my position is when, according to your earlier unequivocal statements, I have already done so?

Is that because your earlier statements were lies?

Yes or no.

In fact you just fabricated positions on this health plan and attributed them to me, knowing full well that I had said nothing on the subject and that you were making it up. Isn't that what actually happened?

Yes or no.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 3, 2008 9:27:56 AM

So you won't tell us whether you support or oppose the crime-fighting measure of comprehensive, universal, single-payer health insurance?

Posted by: DK | Jul 3, 2008 1:23:28 PM

DK:

Why should I tell you? What need would there be for that? You already stated my position, twice. You can't read your own posts?

Of course both times you were lying.

Now quit dodging and answer the question. I'll go over it again so there won't be any confusion:

You point-blank fabricated positions on this health plan and attributed them to me, knowing full well that I had said nothing on the subject and that you were making it up. Isn't that what actually happened?

Yes or no.

You want answers from me, you answer the questions previously asked of you.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 3, 2008 3:34:36 PM

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