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May 6, 2015

"On Criminal Justice Reform, Ted Cruz Is Smarter Than Hillary Clinton"

The title of this post is the effective title of this piece by Jacob Sullum appearing last week at Reason that captures my reaction to two of the notable essays in this fascinating Brennan Center publication titled "Solutions: American Leaders Speak Out on Criminal Justice."  Here are excerpts from Sullum piece explaining why criminal justice reforms might reasonably be more excited by the prospect of a Prez Cruz rather than another Prez Clinton:

The Brennan Center [book] ... features worthy and substantive contributions from, among others, Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), not to mention nonpoliticians such as UCLA criminologist Mark Kleiman and Marc Levin, founder of Right on Crime.  Even New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is not exactly thoughtful on the subject of, say, marijuana legalization, has some interesting things to say about bail reform.  And then there are former President Bill Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who either support policies that contribute to overincarceration and excessive punishment, fail to acknowledge their past support for such policies, or have nothing specific to say about how to correct those policies....

Hillary Clinton ... notes that as a senator she supported shorter crack sentences (as did almost every member of Congress by the time a bill was enacted in 2010).  But unlike Paul, Booker, and Cruz, who describe actual pieces of legislation they have either introduced or cosponsored, Clinton is decidedly vague about what reforms should come next.

Clinton wants us to know "it is possible to reduce crime without relying on unnecessary force or excessive incarceration," which may sound wise but is actually a tautology. Instead of unnecessary force or excessive incarceration, she suggests, "we can invest in what works," such as "putting more officers on the streets."  Clinton, her husband, and Joe Biden all seem to agree that you can never have too many cops.  She also mentions "tough but fair reforms of probation and drug diversion programs," along with more money for "specialized drug courts and juvenile programs."  That's about as specific as she gets.

Clinton fills out the essay with platitudes and self-aggrandizing references to Robert Kennedy and "my friend" Nelson Mandela.  She also name-checks "Dr. King."  Possibly all three of these men have something to do with criminal justice reform, but if so Clinton never bothers to elucidate the connections.  It is sad that the Democratic Party's presumptive presidential nominee would offer such a shallow discussion of a subject on which Democrats are supposed to be more enlightened than Republicans. By contrast, three less prominent Democrats — Booker, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, and former Virginia senator Jim Webb — contributed essays that are actually worth reading.

Clinton's essay is especially embarrassing compared to Ted Cruz's.  Although Cruz is not as passionate, active, or ambitious on criminal justice reform as Rand Paul is, his essay includes succinct and informed discussions of the bloated federal criminal code, the leverage that mandatory minimums give prosecutors, and the virtual disappearance of trial by jury in criminal cases, along with specific reforms to address these problems.  Democrats who think Hillary Clinton is savvier or smarter than Cruz may reconsider after reading these essays side by side.

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May 6, 2015 at 10:57 AM | Permalink


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Clinton has a reason to be conservative, so to speak, when writing these things. So, is it totally moronic on some level to talk about Cruz being "smarter" or "savvier" when writing these things. And also, those interested in criminal justice reforms might not like some of the conservative aspects of the Cruz platform. If, e.g., reproductive rights of those in the criminal justice system matters to you or something.

Cruz is a smart guy and his legal career is duly noted. So, when he writes on these issues, I'm sure he can be smart. Clinton can find some smart criminal justice person to write her stuff too. There are people out there who can give Cruz as good as he can. So, you know, this sort of putdown is tiresome on some level.

Posted by: Joe | May 6, 2015 11:14:33 AM

It's not inconsequential to me when the public servants who make the policy will not do an honest evaluation of the results of their efforts. Not even acknowledging the harm that has been do to families and the federal budget is myopic.

Posted by: beth | May 6, 2015 10:16:18 PM

Is it a choice between Hillary and Cruz? Is that a choice and not an echo? We should ask Phyliss Schlafly to chime in.

Posted by: Liberty1st | May 6, 2015 10:31:51 PM

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