<< Where This Is Coming From, and Where It's Headed | Main | Way Beyond Unhinged >>

Where This Is Coming From, and Where It's Headed, Part II

| 1 Comment
In my last entry, I introduced Daniel Horowitz's analysis of the origin of the push for mass de-incarceration (called by the intentionally opaque name "sentencing reform"), and where the movement is headed.  I want to continue to explore the ideological anchors of "sentencing reform," and what they tell us about the movement's eventual destination.  (Hint:  Although sentencing reform has attracted some prominent libertarian allies, libertarianism is not its wellspring, nor liberty its goal):

Horowitz notes:

Given Obama's disregard for enforcing laws he dislikes and his aggressive desire to transform the country and dismantle law enforcement, this development [much greater use of clemency than in recent decades] should put goose bumps on anyone concerned with the rule of law, aka, most Americans outside of public policy circles. If Obama is this alacritous to sign a get-out-of-jail free card with 18 months left to his presidency, it's clear that this is the tip of the iceberg. 

This is, in an odd way, a bit unfair to Obama, who has disregarded laws he likes, not just those he doesn't.  He has, for example, repeatedly ignored ACA deadlines when it became clear that enforcing them as written would be politically inapt.

The more troubling question for our purposes, however, is what exactly lies beneath the tip of the sentencing transformation iceberg.

As we read more of the article, we begin to find out.

There is nothing stopping Obama from moving onto other categories of offenses [beyond drugs] and letting people out of federal prison carte blanche.  If he is willing to release tens of thousands of violent criminal aliens who don't even belong in this country, why would he have any compunction about releasing domestic criminals en masse? 

Indeed, courtesy of the liberal-leaning site Roll Call, the head of the mass clemency cat is already peeking out of the bag.

Horowitz then observes:

In fact, the threat of a mass criminal amnesty from Obama is more of a clear-and-present danger than almost any potential agenda item remaining on Obama's list to transform America. 

Much like his immigration amnesty, Obama has embarked on a campaign to delegitimize the laws he disdains by slowly but steadily refusing to enforce them.  Then he releases past offenders.  Finally, he threatens a mass amnesty if Congress declines to pass legislation along the lines of his priorities.

Let me add a word here about how Obama and his Justice Department  --  that would be the Justice Department that's supposed to honor and enforce criminal law  -- have instead regularly tried to delegitimize it. 

Part of it is by consistently seeing law through the lens of race.  Obama does not say exactly that law is a tool of white bigotry, but much of his body language (and some of his actual language) gets the message across.  We have seen this time and again  --  for example, when Obama reflexively (and, he later acknowledged, inappropriately) blamed the white police officer in the confrontation with black Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates; and when he said that Trayvon Martin, "could have been my son" well before all the facts of that episode were known.  Something very similar suffused Mr. Obama's remarks about the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Mo.  -- while ignoring the fact that the white police officer there, Darren Wilson, also could have been his son (in the humane sense Obama was attempting to invoke) and, unlike Brown, was acting in legal self-defense rather than stealing from the local convenience store. 

More importantly, isn't Barack Obama the President of, and responsible for executing the law in behalf of, all the people?  If he is, then why aren't all the millions of crime victims every year also his sons, and his daughters?  Why is there a press conference only when given with a one-sided ideological slant?  

Another part of Obama's attempt to delegitimize criminal law was on display in his visit last week to a federal prison.  One of Obama's most widely reported remarks thereafter was that "there but for the grace of God" go I.  The direct implication was that inmates wind up in prison because of luck  -- bad luck  --  rather than because of their attitudes, choices and conduct, and that the charging and sentencing decisions in their cases simply fell out of the sky.

It is difficult to imagine an accounting better designed to delegitimize law.  And, while without doubt luck plays a big part in life, it's also difficult to imagine an accounting that more thoroughly distorts how the criminal justice system actually operates.  It is not luck, but criminal behavior (generally although not always serious and repeat criminal behavior) that lands a person in prison  --  or, very often, because of the leniency, inefficiency and delay already built into the system, doesn't. 

Horowitz spells out how, when the President both envisions and publicly portrays the law as illegitimate and random, if not flatly racist, a great deal of bad news is on the way on the clemency front:

But unlike with immigration policy, Obama legitimately has plenary power to pardon criminals, pursuant to Article II Section II of the Constitution.  It is one of the few absolute powers of the president.  If Obama is willing to overturn immigration laws, over which Congress wields absolute power, he will have no problem fully exercising this rare constitutionally legitimate power.  Although his policy of pardoning entire classes of offenses, de facto overturning congressional laws, is clearly a violation of the spirit of the pardon power - which was intended to be used with discretion for individuals or for extraordinary times like during the Civil War and Vietnam draft dodging - no court will limit Obama's pardons no matter how far he takes them.

1 Comment

I don't think a mass clemency for federal criminals is in the cards---not because Obama wouldn't be opposed to it, but because the political risk is just too great. But a mass amnesty is entirely consistent with Obama's rhetoric to date. The real question to pose to Obama is he truly believes all this he spouts, why isn't he granting mass clemency?

Bill, you and I don't necessarily agree on clemency--but you are absolutely right on the pro-criminal Obama worldview.

Leave a comment

Monthly Archives