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March 26, 2008

Is ignorance bliss as Campaign 2008 ignores crime and punishment issues?

Writing here in The New Republic, Robert Gordon has a notable commentary entitled "Criminal Intent: The presidential candidates need to stop ignoring America's crime problem — and start considering innovative solutions."  Here is how the commentary begins:

Here's a funny thing about this presidential campaign season: Two crime dramas — "The Wire" and "Law & Order" — have gotten more attention than actual crime.  Twenty years ago, with the crack epidemic peaking, George Bush rode to victory using Willie Horton against Michael Dukakis.  Now, with the violent crime rate one-third lower, Republicans no longer try to paint Democrats as soft on crime, and Democrats no longer feel the need to prove themselves tough on the issue.  Campus shootings in Virginia and Illinois have barely registered politically, and President Bush's evisceration of aid to local cops has received little attention on the campaign trail. Even Rudy Giuliani, who made his name fighting murder and mayhem in New York, included nothing on crime among his major campaign planks.

Although the end of law-and-order demagoguery is welcome, America still has a crime problem — or, rather, two crime problems.  On one hand, the crime drop of the 1990s has ended, without delivering real relief to many communities.  For example, while murder is down dramatically in New York and Chicago, homicide rates in Baltimore and Detroit are about the same as in 1995 — and 25 percent higher than New York's rate at its 1990 peak. In many inner cities, violence and the fear of violence remain central facts of life that drive away jobs, small businesses, and successful families. Overall, the country's homicide rate is still three times higher than England's or Australia's, and twice that of Canada. According to the University of Chicago's Jens Ludwig, crime costs the United States on the order of $2 trillion a year.

At the same time, America's incarceration rate — the highest on earth — continues to balloon. According to a recent report from the Pew Center on the States, one in 100 U.S. adults is now behind bars, the largest percentage in our history.  The racial imbalance is even more disturbing: One in 106 white men is in prison, compared to one in 15 African-American men.  Overall, our incarceration rate is four times higher than it was in 1980, and more than five times that of England or Canada.

This commentary makes an astute observation about the apparent eagerness for the 2008 campaign to ignore crime and punishment issues.  However, the essay fails to take Bill Clinton to task for transforming the Democratic Party into a party that has — in my view, wrongly — concluded that "law-and-order demagoguery" is essential to winning elections. 

Though this commentary starts by noting the Willie Horton ad that played a role in the 1988 Bush-Dukakis election, it fails to highlight that Bill Clinton in 1992 and throughout his presidency (directly and indirectly) urged Democrats to be involved in "law-and-order demagoguery."  It is against this backdrop that it was so telling and so sad that Senator Hillary Clinton this year was the only Democrat to speak out against the retroactivity of the crack guidelines.  That choice, in my opinion, showed that Senator Clinton still believe that electoral success (even against fellow Democrats) is to be achieved through "law-and-order demagoguery."

Give these realities, it may be an good that so far none of the major Presidential candidates are talking about crime and punishment issues.  The Clintonian approach now seems to be to use these issues as a wedge to beat up on fellow Democrats, and that approach likely ensures that we get policies and politics (at least at the national level) that contribute to both the crime problems that the TNR piece discusses.   

Some posts on crime and punishment and the 2008 campaign:

Cross-posted at PrawfsBlawg

March 26, 2008 at 09:39 AM | Permalink


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Funny how Willie Horton is always portrayed as a dirty trick. The reality is that Mike Dukakis supported a furlough program which allowed violent criminals weekends off, and innocent people paid for that kindness to criminals. People literally begged Dukakis to end the program, including, if memory serves me correctly, the parents of the teen who was savagely killed by Horton. One wonders too how all of the people who criticized the use of the ad would feel if it were their relative who got raped in front of her husband.

I understand that a lot of people think our justice system is overly punitive. Perhaps. But let's not forget the absolute inanity that predated how we do things now. A murderer like Horton should never ever see the light of day. But Dukakis supported a program that foisted him and others like him upon society. The arrogance of that baffled me in 1988--it doesn't any more. People like Dukakis think their cherished ideas about social justice or whatever are more important than people's safety--so much so that they are willing to loose these animals back on the streets.

Bush punched Dukakis in the mouth. It was a fair shot.

Posted by: federalist | Mar 26, 2008 11:14:27 AM

Furlough programs were common in many states. They were a means of keeping order. Whether they worked or not, or whether they subject the “community” to unnecessary risks from “those people” is a matter of contention.

The Horton commercials not necessarily considered a dirty trick, but the objections are: 1) they were not really produced or aired by the campaign; and 2) they took things out of context. Now, taking things out of context is par for the course, and candidates will – and should – do this as much as they can get away with. These days, however, it is harder to do this when campaigns and blogs can respond a lot faster.

But, your statement that “Bush punched Dukakis in the mouth. It was a fair shot.” Is simply untrue, since a PAC, rather than the campaign produced and paid for the commercials.

Posted by: S.cotus | Mar 26, 2008 11:54:58 AM

S.cotus, surely a legally trained mind such as yours knows that not all furlough programs were the same.

As for the PAC/Bush distinction--that's true, but a lot of people pin Horton on Bush 41.

Posted by: federalist | Mar 26, 2008 12:31:59 PM

Of course not all programs were the same. (I would be shocked if they were.) But what bothers some people is that whoever made the commercial didn't put the Horton issue in context of programs at the time. Instead, they just looked whatever "results" they could come up with, which was: dangerous black man released by liberal Greek kills white people in suburbs or something like that.

But, whatever. The non-lawyers buy just about any line that anyone (not even the candidate) sells them, so I blame Dukakis (or his sympathetic PACs) for not fighting back with an equally out of context line about Bush.

Posted by: S.cotus | Mar 26, 2008 1:27:36 PM

The book to read on the William (not Willie) Horton disaster is David C. Anderson's Crime & the Politics of Hysteria: How the Willie Horton Story Changed American Justice. It details the facts about the furlough programs (begun in MA by the previous Republican governor), the bureaucratic bungling of Horton's furlough, the horrific rape, and the teen's murder, including the weak case that Horton committed it (but was involved in capital murder). No one comes out looking good, and it's a cautionary tale and warning to anyone seeking to use community supervision as an alternative to incarceration. Bad assessment, poor supervision, and lax enforcement of rules made the tragedy all but inevitable. Hanging it on Dukakis was always unfair and partisan, but, as was noted above, he had it in his power to challenge the framing and assumed the rationality of voters. Which is why he went back to MA.

Posted by: Michael Connelly | Mar 26, 2008 2:24:04 PM


I think President Clinton was "going with the flow" my recollection is that support for "tough on crime" policies has been bipartisan for a very long time. Recent efforts to replace "tough on crime" with "smart on crime" do not appear to have resonated with the voters.

I also have doubts about the $2 trillion estimate for the cost of crime. In 2005 there were 14.1 million arrests and the estimated cost per arrest using the $2 trillion figure is $141,800 per arrest which seems to me to be too large.

So far we have been getting sound bytes (mandatory, minimums, crack/powder cocaine disparity, too many non-violent persons in prison, and disproportionate confinement of minorities) from the candidates on CJ issues.
All we know is that the candidates have heard of these issues and they may or may not think something should be done about them.

During the Iowa caucuses some of the candidates were asked good questions about CJ issues by members of the public (in some cases these turned out to be a test of glibness on the part of the candidate). The MSM in general avoids such questions and the candidates tend to ignore written questions from CJ interest groups or respond with vague generalities.

I have been asking congressional candidates how they plan to end the war on drugs and so far all I get are astonished looks.

Posted by: John Neff | Mar 26, 2008 2:33:44 PM

Well, I thought that the impetus for mandatory minimums came from a rather conservative Harvard Professor named James Q Wilson - or was it Lloyd Ohlin.

The Willie Horton ad was a phenomena that enhanced the victim's rights movement and also came out of the victim rights movement. At that time we had not had two decades of the "benefits" of mandatory minimums. We had not incarcerated one out of every 100 people. No real statistics, but it is likely that presently about half of those incarcerated are there for non-violent life style offenses.

Anyway, this sentencing appealed to every political spectrum - the left for more equality and the right for tough on crime. We are seeing the results, and paying for them $.

Someone may know, but I think that Alan Dershowitz and Edward Kennedy collaborated on enacting them one night over dinner. The campaign began.

Posted by: beth curtis | Mar 26, 2008 2:53:35 PM

Mike Connelley,

As I recall, I think you're spinning here. The Mass. Supreme Court ruled that the furlough program applied to people of Horton's ilk, which was a surprise to everyone. Dukakis resisted efforts to revise the statute to deal with the problem posed by the court's decision.

By the way, literally thousands of people have been killed by those who killed, went to prison, and then killed again. People like beth can snark all they want, but we needed to deal far more harshly with violent felons like Horton. And in Massachusetts, Horton was not even close to the only problem. Felons routinely did not come back on time.

And, to this day, I don't think Dukakis ever apologized to the raped woman or her husband.

Posted by: federalist | Mar 26, 2008 3:34:18 PM

Why should Dukakis apologize? He didn’t rape her. Unless you are arguing that Horton isn’t responsible for his actions, you are just making some partisan argument.

But, hey, while we are on the subject, maybe we should all be apologizing for any harm that might have come to anyone because of failed policies. For example, poor people are known to be violent. I don’t see any apologies for failed inner-city school systems that can be said to cause the violence. Heck, it is rare to think of the last time a prosecutor apologized for charging someone, who was later convicted of a felony on weak facts.

Literally millions has been made by the victims rights industry on the backs of our civil rights and often at the expense of real victims. Horton was simply considered a source of revenue for the victims rights industry.

Anyway, I like the fact that people are still about to milk Horton. I hope the Obama campaign finds a scary white guy that steals people 401(k)s in the middle of the night to scare people with.

Posted by: S.cotus | Mar 26, 2008 4:25:41 PM

Gosh, Of course I wasn't precise enough. I agree, violent crime needs to be punished, and people who kill should not be released to kill again. I was talking about the genesis of Federal mandatory minimums. I did not mean to imply that violent criminals should not be in prison.

Certainly life style crimes are not violent. We've morphed these harsh penalties considerably. Federal mandatory minimums keep non-violent drug offenders in prison far longer than Willie Horton.

Posted by: beth curtis | Mar 26, 2008 4:31:04 PM

Beth, when you say "non-violent", do you mean dope pushers? If so, that's sophistry.

Posted by: federalist | Mar 26, 2008 5:24:25 PM

S.cotus, where did you go to law school? Wherever it was, it failed you.

"Why should Dukakis apologize? He didn’t rape her. Unless you are arguing that Horton isn’t responsible for his actions, you are just making some partisan argument."

No, Dukakis did not rape her, but he vetoed a bill that would have stopped first-degree murderers with years left on their sentences from getting weekend passes. One of those first-degree murderers raped someone. Pointing out Dukakis' actions and their consequences (and Dukakis' apparent lack of remorse) is not arguing that Horton isn't responsible for his. SFB.

Posted by: federalist | Mar 26, 2008 5:28:16 PM

The drug war has to end. It is that simple. The end of the drug war will reduce government spending dramatically.

Even our diversion programs are ineffective. Someone with a serious drug problem is unlikely to be able to pay for the costs of the program when they are first arrested, and prosecutors are often unwilling to extend the offer a second time (if the statute even permits it).

We should also consider the potential impact the drug war has on violent crime. The nation seems to have forgotten Al Capone and the rise of the FBI and its relationship to prohibition. That failed experiment was relatively short-lived, compared to the disaster of the drug war.

I wonder when the high costs of this experiment will finally result in the dismantling of the drug war project. Efforts to reform at the state level are vigorously opposed by the ONDCP, which spends taxpayer money to oppose state innovation at every turn. The drug war remains our last serious commitment to the enforcement of a victimless crime. But until members of the Washington elite are prepared to have a sober discussion on drug policy reform, there will be no meaningful reform in the criminal justice system.

Posted by: Alec | Mar 26, 2008 8:12:13 PM

Well, unlike you I went to law school and unlike you I don't vote or care for politics. So, you will have to excuse me if I don't personally fault a politician for everything bad that occurs on his watch due to other people's evil.

Posted by: S.cotus | Mar 26, 2008 8:35:05 PM

Nice pivot, S.cotus. I don't think that holding a politician responsible for the consequences of a hare-brained idea (i.e., letting first-degree murderers get weekend passes) is remotely close to "fault[ing] a politician" simply because something bad "occur[red] on his watch."

But back to my previous point, SFB, pointing out Dukakis' responsibility does not obviate Horton's. You know, it really is a simple concept, something analogous to what you should have learned in first year torts--criminal behavior of a third party can be foreseeable, and there can be a duty imposed to take steps to prevent it. Now, Dukakis is obviously not liable for Horton's actions, but it is pretty well-established that people can be held liable (i.e., at fault) for "other people's evil." And it's pretty foreseeable that bad things are going to happen when you give weekend passes to imprisoned first-degree murderers. Dukakis either was too stupid to realize this, or more likely, he thought that he was being enlightened, damn the consequences.

Like I said, your law school failed you. Your ability to reason leaves a lot to be desired. Your ability to pivot is top-notch though.

Posted by: federalist | Mar 26, 2008 8:56:50 PM

federalist, you have a very small brain. I cannot believe that you want to hold someone responsible for following the law. Dukakis in no way would have known if someone will commit a crime. Jeez, you should apologize for all the stupid comments you have made because it had made people take the time out to correct you. Get a life....

Posted by: | Mar 26, 2008 10:17:36 PM


Guess what, genius, Dukakis vetoed a bill that would have ended weekend passes for first-degree murderers. So yeah, I can hold him responsible.

Your comment that "Dukakis in no way would have known if someone will [sic] commit a crime" is beyond silly. When you give weekend passes to murderers, mayhem is bound to result.

Posted by: federalist | Mar 26, 2008 10:27:17 PM

Demagogue: n. - a person who addresses a genuine problem and proposes a solution that the Politically Correct crowd disagrees with.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Mar 27, 2008 12:42:24 AM

The sentence "For example, while murder is down dramatically in New York and Chicago," jumped out at me as I read the above article. I can't say why New York's murder rate is down dramatically but I can about Chicago. Mayor Daley tore down the projects and many of those inhabitants migrated to the South and North Suburbs. Now communities like Harvey, Chicago Heights, East Chicago Heights, Waukegan and others are experiencing murder and gangs that are taxing their resources to handle the overload. Mayor Daley likes to take credit for this murder reduction while not noting the fact that it was at the expense of his neighbors. The Chicago Police have several incidents of late caught on tape of police beating citizens at will while on duty and off duty including a brutal beating of a bar maid by an off duty cop. Shootings of school children on the other hand is weekly and in full view of police who are stationed at certain schools because of high gang activity.

Posted by: scotirish | Mar 27, 2008 5:14:42 AM

"Mayor Daley likes to take credit for this murder reduction while not noting the fact that it was at the expense of his neighbors."

This seems to be a growing trend in this country, with courts banishing people and residency restrictions pushing 'undesirables' to someone else's backyard. Politicians are getting so bold with the idea they publically state that was their intentions.

Posted by: Mark | Mar 27, 2008 6:55:02 AM

Don't just blame Bill Clinton, Doug, for the Dem's sell out on these topics. The late Ann Richards rode into office in Texas in 1990 on a tuffer than thou platform to triple Texas' prison capacity. (She also talked some about treatment, but the prisons got fully budgeted and somehow the treatment never did).

A political campaign client once told me that all politicians who must win general elections (as opposed to gerrymandered reps) run to the center on crime. So Ds run to the right, like Bill Clinton and Ann Richards, and Rs are more likely to run to the left.

That means people with political momentum in, say, federalist's direction, are typically Democrats, ironically, while those with momentum in reformers' direction are often in the GOP.

Speaking of which, haven't commenters here figured out that federalist is just trolling, intentionally trying to take every conversation as far off topic as possible? He never addresses Doug's actual points. Responding to trolls only encourages such behavior.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Mar 27, 2008 8:29:16 AM

Just the economics of sentencing has made it political - aside from ideology. The number of people employed in the criminal justice industry has increased at the local, state and federal at an alarming rate during the last 20 years.

None of these folks are interested in reform that will impact their employment and power. Although they are perceived to be law and order types, they are really influenced by the economics of this issue. They are government employees, and members of public employees unions, and tend to financially support democrats.

Posted by: beth curtis | Mar 27, 2008 9:07:44 AM

Federalist, Your idea of reasoning is simply finding someone to blame for political reasons and repeating it over and over. Moreover, your entire reasoning behind blaming a politician for the volitional acts of a person is this: “I don't think that holding a politician responsible for the consequences of a hare-brained idea...” No analysis. No underlying philosophy on personal culpability or the role of the state. Then you babble on about where we went to law school. (But don’t worry, I don’t blame bush for sending 4,000 soldiers to their death in Iraq.)

Mar 26, 2008 10:17:36 PM, If everyone spent all their time apologizing, there would be no time left to have any fun.

Kent, Can you name a single person in here that attempts to justify anything as being “politically correct.” Instead, I think that you accuse others, whose reasoning about the best “policy” differs from your own of formulating those positions not based on a reasonable approach to a difficult problem but based on some adherence to an ideology that you can’t explain. You would have a very difficult time proving this. You would have to explain why someone’s position is not what he says it is, and then show how his actual position is formed by some controlling force.

Posted by: S.cotus | Mar 27, 2008 10:16:01 AM

Person who calls himself "Supreme Court of the United States": My comment was not based on a criticism of anyone else's position or the reasoning by which they reached it but rather on reflexive labeling those who disagree as demogogues, even though their positions are equally well reasoned and based on thoughtful work such as that of James Q. Wilson.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Mar 27, 2008 11:35:12 AM

Kent, I don’t like the term “demagogue” because it is hard to define. In general it refers to one that appeals to the public by baiting their fears, emotions, etc. I don’t really see the problem with this, because appealing to urges, emotions, fears, and all that is exactly what people do in making arguments. In general, however, when making arguments to “intellectuals” we need to cover up those arguments with a veneer of logic and make the arguments in the language of lawyers: using precedent, authority, citations, and often we need a table of authorities at the beginning. So, I would say that most good lawyers have a bit of a demagogue in them somewhere. (Present company included – simply because of your use of the word “demagogue.”)

But, I think there is some merit to the argument that there exists a class of people that, indeed, baits the non-lawyers with visions criminals “getting off” on technicalities and “liberals” letting dangerous black men out of jail to rape everyone in the suburbs. This is done for political purposes, and while I find it racist and disgusting, I realize it is par for the course, and my respect for the first amendment is too great, and I have internalized its values too much, that I don’t want to do anything about it. Strangely enough, when it comes to actual policy issues (e.g. how to spend allocate and run government), these people draw a blank. Actually running something is much harder than Monday-morning quarterbacking.

There also exists another class of people that really likes the idea of putting people in jail. For any reason. Usually these are “true believer” prosecutors, and, I would say, make up about 20-30% prosecutors in the country. They simply believe that the ultimate good is served when they put someone in jail. Regardless of the law, facts, equities, or anything else. For a long time. This might be because they are on an ego-trip. Or, in other cases, it is because of cynicisms. They are probably most comfortable talking to the above-mentioned folks, because they need a cheering section.

Posted by: S.cotus | Mar 27, 2008 11:54:59 AM

I think federalist is innocent, meaning he only repeats what he was taught by Gingrich, Delay, Rush Limbaugh and so many others. He believes what he posts because he believed them and their "principles."

Kent knows he is using propaganda and every one his posts calls for fact checking.

This is why crime and punishment is political more than strictly legal. Take for example America's War on Sex: The Attack on Law, Lust and Liberty .

Posted by: George | Mar 27, 2008 12:14:14 PM

George, I agree regarding Federalist. However, regarding Kent, I see his posts as often cast in legal language, but his positions are informed by pure politics. There is nothing wrong with this. After all, someone has to defend (in legal terms) political positions.

For lawyers outside DC it is strange to see this, because most of the time we are so convinced that the law has a life unto itself and doesn’t start from political decision-making.

Posted by: S.cotus | Mar 27, 2008 1:26:12 PM

OK S.ccotus, one more time, SFB: Mass. Supreme Court holds that first-degree murderers are eligible for weekend passes. Mass. legislature pass bill that would have ended this nonsense. Mike Dukakis vetoes the bill. First degree murderer Horton, on a weekend pass, rapes a woman in front of her then fiance. Dukakis therefore shares some responsibility, as his veto was a cause in fact of this awful crime. I can explain it to you--I cannot understand it for you.


Posted by: federalist | Mar 27, 2008 4:03:50 PM

You have not explained it to me. Bills are vetoed or signed for many reasons. Unless you are arguing that he vetoed the bill (which you don’t seem to have actually read or even have a copy of, instead you prefer to rely on things you see on TV or the internet) in order to cause someone harm, then you just disagree with his political judgment. It is fine to disagree with his political judgments, but that doesn’t mean someone is legally or even morally culpable.

But, of course, if we were going to go down that road, we could say that the president is responsible for the deaths of American soldiers in Iraq. We could even say that every crime that occurs in the US is the fault of some policeman or prosecutor that didn’t put the perpetrator in jail as soon as they were born. Indeed, I guarantee you that most criminals show some signs of criminality at an early age.

Oh, heck, we can probably blame legislatures enacting any statute that provides for anything other than a life sentence if any single one of the people that eventually gets out hurts anyone.

Posted by: S.cotus | Mar 27, 2008 5:40:10 PM

S.cotus, it's happening.

Collecting DNA from Innocent Children to Prevent Crime

Posted by: George | Mar 27, 2008 5:53:29 PM

Sorry. Not sure how that happens. Corrected link:

Collecting DNA from Innocent Children to Prevent Crime

Posted by: George | Mar 27, 2008 5:55:52 PM

Your posted article is a little off center:

1. It is in England;
2. It is the stated preference of a cop.

This isn’t actually happening.

Personally, I think we should impose a “non-DNA collection tax.” This way, the deserving will be able to buy their way out of giving a DNA sample, whereas the poor will have to give a DNA sample, because it is just a matter of time before a poor person commits a crime. The poor are truly a threat to the US.

Posted by: S.cotus | Mar 27, 2008 5:59:40 PM

Would that include bank robbers with enough cash?

It isn't happening?

As Franklin said, "Well begun is half done."

Posted by: George | Mar 27, 2008 6:07:30 PM

You are dense, S.cotus. One does not have to know precisely what was going on in Dukakis' brain when he decided to veto the bill that would have ended furloughs for first-degree murders in order to make a moral judgment about his veto. And you don't have to think that he had the purpose of getting people harmed in order to make that judgment. All you have to do is make an evaluation that Dukakis' pigheadedness risked (for no good reason) the lives of the citizenry.

In any event, Dukakis was literally begged by victims' families to end this silly and dangerous practice. (Perhaps, S.cotus, you don't get the obvious problem with giving furloughs to murders who have years left on their sentences. That wouldn't surprise me. You see the dangers in babies, but not in adult murderers.) Dukakis, to his everlasting discredit, dismissed those concerns, and presto, what was precisely foreseeable (i.e., one of these animals committing serious crimes while on a weekend pass) happened.

Of course, you spout some inanity about locking babies up. As if that is remotely similar to my point. Like I said, SFB, your law school failed you. Or more likely, you failed yourself.

As for Bush's responsibility, since you brought that up, he is responsible for the Iraq war and the casualties thereunder. He made the choice. I happen to think not a bad one, and there is a lot of debate on that. But a decision like that, with lots of competing ideas and imperfect information is, by far, different from decisions to foist murderers on the population. And by the way, S.cotus, Dukakis wound up signing a bill passed years later that ended furloughs for the Hortons of the world.

Posted by: federalist | Mar 27, 2008 7:02:51 PM

"And by the way, S.cotus, Dukakis wound up signing a bill passed years later that ended furloughs for the Hortons of the world."

Study Says 53,000 Got Prison Furloughs in '87, and Few Did Harm

Here is the kicker:

"Mr. Bush said early in the campaign that he had no problem with furlough programs in general. More recently, he has criticized the concept, saying they represent 'liberal thinking' that reflected more concern about the rights of criminals than the rights of victims."

Posted by: George | Mar 27, 2008 8:01:15 PM

George, you get to share the dunce cap with S.cotus. Furlough programs are not necessarily bad--they can be an effective tool for rehabilitation and ensuring that convicts have a smooth transition to society. Furlough programs that let first-degree murderers get weekend passes when they have years to go on their sentences are just plain dangerous. If you go back and read what I have to say, you'll notice that I allude to these points.

As for Bush 41's comment, so what? A politician engaging in a little unnuanced rhetoric--heaven forbid. I'd rather that than condescending speeches about people with "untrained ears".

Posted by: federalist | Mar 27, 2008 8:27:16 PM

"In 1976, however, Mr. Dukakis refused to sign legislation that would have barred such prisoners from receiving furloughs, and would have required a number of other restrictions on the furlough program."

Why didn't they draft a bill he would sign and why should it be all his fault that they didn't? If he is responsible, so is the legislature. No, the legislature is responsible for not redrafting the bill or for not over riding his veto. And are you trying to say now that the "liberal thinking that reflected more concern about the rights of criminals than the rights of victims" meme did not wipe out furloughs altogether? Indeed, it is precisely that meme that got us the biggest prison industry in the world.

It worked for Bush and worked well, but its day has come. It is not Dukakis that matters now, it is the survival of this meme and all the damage its done.

Posted by: George | Mar 27, 2008 9:32:41 PM

One of the problems with your arguments, Federalist, is that you replace serious discourse with insults such as “stupid” and “dunce.” This is why it is difficult to have a relationship with a non-lawyer.

I don’t think anyone would seriously hold Bush morally responsible for the war. It isn’t as if he lied about anything. I don’t. In fact, with 4,000 dead I know we are closer to victory then we were with only 3,000 dead.

You can make all the moral judgments you want. I don’t care. Your kind (i.e. non-lawyers) doesn’t run the country, so your judgments have little impact on anything. See, if you were a lawyer you would have provided reasoning as to why he was at fault and that would have convinced people. But, since you are not you just say declare it to be true.

Posted by: S.cotus | Mar 27, 2008 10:06:39 PM

"In fact, with 4,000 dead I know we are closer to victory then we were with only 3,000 dead."

Cute. Snarking about war dead. Nice touch, S.cotus, real nice touch.

Posted by: federalist | Mar 27, 2008 10:30:30 PM

Nothing snarky about that. If you disagree, explain why.

Posted by: S.cotus | Mar 28, 2008 6:18:09 AM

Regarding federalist, Grits hit it right on the head.

Regarding Kent, I see him as being the equivilent of a think tank or a commercial - a paid spokesman for a particular viewpoint whose posts need to be taken with a grain of salt. But just because he's a shill for a particular viewpoint doesn't make him any (or much) different from any other attorney - and he's pretty honest about being as shill (although his his organization does have a misleadingly vague name). But that just means he's an effective advocate - I don't agree with him much, but he seems like a good attorney for his cause.

As for Willie Horton - even Lee Atwater admitted it wasn't fair to Dukakis (after his boy was safely in the White House, of course) and he was responsible for it. It was hardly a new playbook - people have been doing that sort of thing in campaigns in the US since the 1800 election between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. The modern use of "law and order" to play upon people's racial fears arose out of someone who I doubt anyone would dispute is a demagouge - namely, George Wallace in the 1960s (although using fear of crime as a veiled form of bigotry first appeared in the 1840s with the "Know Nothing" party and perculated under the surface in anti-immigrant, White supremacist, and pro-temperance groups up until the 1920s when it burst out into the open and then went underground during the Great Depression to reemerge during the civil rights movement). Nixon picked up on it in 1968 with the Southern Strategy to avoid losing Republican votes to Wallace (which also cemeted the Republicans moving their base from the northeast and midwest to the south). The Republicans continued to use fear of crime for the next 20 years, until they met Bill Clinton who turned the Democrats to the right on crime (and other issues) in 1992. Of course, Clinton was pandering, but he was also doing what came naturally to a boy from Arkansas whose political mentor, William Fulbright did the politically expedient thing about civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s.

Posted by: Zack | Mar 28, 2008 12:14:22 PM

Zack, Atwater's confession doesn't make it so. Dukakis vetoed a bill which would have ended furloughs for first degree murderers. He deserved to be called out on that arrogance.

I fail to see how my original post was not germane.

Posted by: federalist | Mar 28, 2008 2:29:28 PM

Federalist writes, "I fail to see how my original post was not germane."

Perhaps, then, you should find a dictionary and look up the word "germane." In fact, why don't you make it Black's Law Dictionary - you could use a copy.

As is almost always the case, federalist, your posts here don't address Doug's arguments or positions at all. You saw a reference to the Willie Horton episode and just went off on your own misguided tangent that has nothing to do with Doug's points in the post.

My beef isn't with you, federalist, since you honestly don't seem to understand the difference between insult and argument, or why such behavior is obnoxious and counterproductive. But I don't understand why others would stoop to argue with you, much less do so in post after post.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Mar 28, 2008 2:54:58 PM

"But I don't understand why others would stoop to argue with you, much less do so in post after post."

For every post I make in response to federalist's stuff, a corporate sponsor donates $10 to the NLG.

Posted by: S. COTUS | Mar 28, 2008 4:21:56 PM

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