Friday, April 8, 2016

Talk to the hand

We haven't heard much from Big Bill on the campaign trail, but he ran into a little war of words with Black Lives Matter in Philly last night.  The guy is sadly a shadow of his former self, no longer able to make the stirring pitches that were his hallmark on the campaign trail in '92 and '96.  The guy could promise you the moon and make you believe it.  Now, he is just a hoarse cheerleader for his wife.

Surprisingly, there hasn't been much talk of Bill as "First Lady."  You figure he will have an influential role in the White House if Hillary is elected, something that eluded him 8 years ago.  The two have had plenty of time to go over what their roles would be if they got the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. again.  Would Hillary give him a cabinet position or make him Secretary to the United Nations, as Frank did Claire in House of Cards?  We can only speculate.

Bill seems to have had a change of heart on many issues, but not his signature crime bill.  This was what BLM protesters were trying to call his attention to before he compared them to thugs and basically said they weren't worthy enough to be named in the same breath as John Lewis.  Funny thing is that Lewis himself has been supportive of Black Lives Matter, although he has questioned their tactics at times, preferring they not act like firecrackers.

It was the 1994 crime bill that led to massive incarceration like we had never seen before in this country.  Clinton claimed at the time there wasn't much he could do to soften it, as the Republicans had made it one of the major points of their Contract with America.  He strong-armed the Congressional Black Caucus, including John Lewis, into accepting his lesser-of-two-evils version, saying the alternative was much more draconian.  Maybe so, but when Democrats elected him in 1992 they expected him to fight for Democratic principles, not blithely abandon them as he did throughout his tenure.

Any study of the crime bill notes the terrible mistakes that were made, particularly when it came to mandatory sentencing.  Obama has insisted on the end to mandatory sentences as part of a major overhaul of our penal system, but that is not likely to be accomplished this year.  That leaves it up to the next President to address the issue.  We certainly can't expect a Republican president to take on the penal system.  They seem to think everything is hunky dory the way it is, so that leaves it up to Hillary or Bernie to tackle this thorny issue.

Hillary has said she would dismantle parts of the crime bill, ending private prisons and incarceration for low-level offenders.  But, she really hasn't addressed the systemic racism that exists in our law enforcement system, which is the prime motivating issue that drives Black Lives Matter.  Bill didn't answer this question either, preferring to talk over his protesters rather than listen to them.

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