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March 1, 2022

Will Prez Biden say anything about any criminal justice matters during his first State of the Union address tonight?

As is this blog's focus, I tend to focus most of my attention during presidential State of the Union addresses on whether the President focuses any attention on criminal justice issues.  More often than not over the nearly 20 years of this blog, I come away disappointed (but not especially surprised) that no mention gets made of the issues that are central to this blog. 

But, providing a notable reminder of the different world we lived in not all long ago, it may at this moment be worth recalling that Prez Trump in SotU 2018 talked about "reforming our prisons" and need to "get much tougher on drug dealers" and in SotU 2019 gave considerable attention to criminal justice reform after having just signed the FIRST STEP Act.

Circa early 2022, with a war on-going in Europe and and a pandemic and economic worries still very fresh at home, I would be quite surprised if any criminal justice reform issues get serious mention tonight.  That said, this is technically the first SotU since George Floyd's murder touched off nationwide protests about police practices, and we still appear to be in the midst of an increase in murders in many parts of the country and in the midst of an increase in public concerns about crime more generally.  In addition, I do expect Prez Biden to say many good things about his new SCOTUS nominee, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, and that might necessarily include comments about he rich criminal justice professional background.

So, dear readers, do you think Prez Biden will say anything about criminal justice matters tonight?  Do you think he should and if so, what should he say?

March 1, 2022 at 09:29 AM | Permalink


Could we see a paragraph or two? Maybe. The SoTU is a very long speech with a laundry list of legislative items. It's become the U.S. equivalent of the speech from the throne that opens sessions of parliament in Commonwealth countries.

Of course, the key difference is that the speech from the throne represents the intended plans of the majority party which means that many of the items in those speeches actually become law or policy. The SoTU represents the wish list of one official. So while mention may garner attention to some issues, what really matters is whether the members of Congress actually make a serious effort to follow-up on those mentions. The folks over at 538 have a chart on how many of the items mentioned in the SoTU actually become law and the percentage is rather dismal. In today's politics, mention in the SoTU may actually hinder the chances of significant legislation passing by making the idea part of the president's agenda (which then becomes anathema to folks in the other party) and takes it out of behind the scene negotiations between legislators who, for different reasons, see a need for change.

Posted by: tmm | Mar 1, 2022 10:28:15 AM

He should be explaining how Hunter got away with tax evasion and lying on a gun purchase application.

Posted by: Federalist | Mar 1, 2022 10:48:52 AM

Here's something he could say:

"The surge in murder over the last two years was unprecedented, and was the surge in drug overdose deaths. We cannot in conscience simply look away from these lethal problems, which disproportionately harm black people. Fortunately, we know how to do better. When I was Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee during Bill Clinton's presidency, we adopted and advanced policies with strong bi-partisan support that, over the next 20 years, helped to dramatically reduce crime. We succeeded once with these sober and realistic approaches and we can do so again. I challenge Congress to restore the path to success -- and to safer, more habitable communities -- that we followed not so long ago."

Chances that he will say this, although every word is true, = 0. The strong pro-criminal element on the Left won't permit it.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 1, 2022 5:47:16 PM

He actually got somewhat close to what you suggested, Bill. Your Georgetown party connections sure are strong.

Posted by: Doug B. | Mar 1, 2022 10:25:09 PM

Doug --

Ron Klain and I go to the same gym.

Well, not really. But when you've been hanging around this town as long as I have, you get to know lots of people.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 1, 2022 11:26:45 PM

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