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December 4, 2007

More questions about Clinton's opposition to crack guideline retroactivity

This post at the Drug War Chronicle blog asks "Is Rudy Giuliani Shaping Hillary Clinton's Stance on Drug Laws?".  The post notes that Clinton's team has defended her opposition to the new crack guidelines being retroactive by citing Giuliani's apparently similar position.  Here is the potent end to the potent post:

We must now ask ourselves to what extent Hillary's other drug policy positions have been shaped by Rudiphobia.  When she raised her hand in opposition to marijuana decrim, was that for real? Was there a little Giuliani in a devil suit whispering in her ear, threatening to tell the swing voters what a hippie she is?   Will she backtrack on medical marijuana and needle exchange if Giuliani says he disapproves?

We can spend eternity smashing minority communities with our drug war hammers at the behest of authoritarian demagogues like Rudy Giuliani. And if no one speaks up, that's exactly what will happen.  So if Giuliani wants to publicly embrace racist drug war politics, let him.  The antidote to the "soft on drugs" label is to stop looking over your shoulder and start speaking with conviction.

Some recent related posts:

UPDATE:  I now see that Celeste Fremon has picked up on this issue in this post at The Huffington Post.  I will remain intriguing to see if this issue continue to have traction since, as detailed in this item from Politico, suggesting that "one of Clinton's real vulnerabilities [is the] perception that she's driven by polls, not conviction."

December 4, 2007 at 11:26 AM | Permalink


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Professor, I wouldn’t draw any conclusions on this.

Some basics: First of all, unlike some other candidates, Hillary is capable of seeing nuance. Second, nuance is not what wins you elections.

Right now, Hillary is not the president and has limited power to effectuate a “Crack guidelines fix.” Likewise, campaigning on a “pro-retroactivity” platform probably isn’t the most effective (since most retroactivity arguments require at least some understanding of criminal sentencing and therefore nuance.)

So, Hillary gives a muted “law and order” response. If elected she will deal with problems as they emerge. For now, there is absolutely no reason to act like you would like her to.

Posted by: S.cotus | Dec 4, 2007 11:38:09 AM

"Is Rudy Giuliani Shaping Hillary Clinton's Stance on Drug Laws?"

This is a disingenuous spin on the observation that Hillary Clinton is thinking beyond the Democratic primary when she makes her speeches, and preparing to deal with the person she expects to emerge from the GOP primary.

If Giuliani's position resonates with the voters, people should think about that.

Posted by: | Dec 4, 2007 11:47:28 AM

Like most lawyers, I don’t really care what the voters think. They are too easily manipulated, and most of them would rather watch TV than intellectually engage an issue.

Whether Gulliani, Thompson, Hillary, Obama, etc. can make a message “resonate” with the voters by properly delivering it. This is a matter of timing, media releases, and design. It has little to do with “justice,” or even legal analysis.

Posted by: S.cotus | Dec 4, 2007 12:48:47 PM


Going after Hillary for her stance on this one issue (assuming that it's truly her stance) reminds me of some of the more ideolgically driven voters in the Republican Party, who go after Giuliani because of his relatively liberal views on gay marriage, abortion, and immigration.

You never get everything you want in a candidate. That's just life. The Republicans aren't getting everything they want in their candidates either.

If crack retroactivity is THE dispositive issue for you, then of course you couldn't support Hillary. But it seems like an odd choice for a dispositive issue, given Hillary's other strengths as a candidate and her other generally liberal positions.

Mind you, I won't be voting for her in any event, but I don't hold it against her that she has learned from her husband's success. If the past fifty years have taught us anything, it's that the country cannot be governed from the left (thank goodness). The two center-left Democratic presdents in that time, JFK and Clinton, mostly succeeded. The two others, LBJ (with his unaffordable, gargantuan Great Society) and Carter (cowering before the Ayatollah) failed -- indeed they were essentially hooted out of office. So Hillary is posing, at least, as a centrist, showing that she's learned history's lessons.

Does this make her opportunistic? Sure. Does it make her, on the other hand, shrewd? Also sure.


Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 4, 2007 12:49:09 PM

Bill: Though I am not a single-issue voter, I use this blog (as the title suggests) to provide single-issue analysis. I have a host of views on a host of candidates on a host of issues, but I think I provide a service to readers (and improve my own insights) by being focused on sentencing issues in this setting.

On the sentencing merits, I am concerned with principle here, not shrewdness. Moreover, I actually think it is not shrewd for Clinton, who is still right now a VERY long way from the general election, to be taking positions on justice-related legal issues that echo the Bush DOJ and Giuliani.

Of course, time will tell if she is shrewd. For now, I am content to simply spotlight my belief that, at least on this sentencing issue, she is being unprincipled.

Posted by: Doug B. | Dec 4, 2007 2:18:30 PM

"but I think I provide a service to readers (and improve my own insights) by being focused on sentencing issues in this setting."

- indeed you do, that's why I enjoy reading.

Posted by: Stiff | Dec 4, 2007 7:29:49 PM

I'm a bit surprised that some of the commenters assume that Hillary's answer is merely for the election, but as president her "truer" and more liberal feelings would carry the day. If the comparison is to Bill, the conclusion is way off. Bill did not give one law and order answer during the election only to govern more liberally - his actual policies once elected were highly punitive. He railed against the crack-cocaine disparities and mandatory minimums during his last week in office after doing nothing about them for eight years. If that's Clintonian strategy, then we should take Hillary at her word and not assume she's just saying something prudent to get elected. If you agree with her answer, fine, but don't delude yourself into thinking she's a sheep in wolf's clothing.

Posted by: tbf | Dec 5, 2007 11:17:20 AM

I ,as a concered citizen stand strongly behind the crack law going retroactive.I beleive in ones rehabilitation back into society.We as tax payers should have a strong say so about who is benefiting for the money that is spent to keep inmates locked down or should I say retained,Because they are sure not being reformed while incarcerated. This is coming from the Atlanta Federal prison.(student,tax payer,and prond parent).

Posted by: isokea allen | Dec 5, 2007 7:46:54 PM

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