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How Republicans Should Respond to Obama's Guest at the SOTU Address

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BuzzFeed tells us that Pres. Obama will have, among his guests at the State of the Union address, a convicted securities swindler and former international fugitive, Ms. Sue Ellen Allen.  Ms. Allen will not be introduced as a person wrongly convicted.  Instead, she will be introduced, it appears, to illustrate the "compassionate side" of the President's criminal justice reform package.  It seems that, after her release from seven years of incarceration, Ms. Allen frequently returns to prison to help less fortunate inmates get an education and prepare to re-integrate after release.

Efforts like this are all to the good  --  but not if the real purpose of showcasing Ms. Allen is to divert attention from less heralded heroes of our criminal justice system. Those would include, for example, crime victims who have overcome the injury and loss inflicted on them by dishonest or violent people; thousands of police whose proactive work has helped so dramatically drive down national crime victimization (now about half what it was 25 years ago); and prosecutors who bring justice to the wrongdoer and, in so doing, the beginnings of an understanding that makes rehabilitation for him possible.

The Republican response to Obama's address will be delivered by Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina.  After the break, I suggest some guests Gov. Haley might have with her to illustrate these central themes in criminal justice  --  themes Mr. Obama seems prepared to walk past.
For example, Gov. Haley could invite Philadelphia Police Officer Jesse Hartnett, who was shot several times last week in a premeditated attack by ex-con and ISIS adherent, Edward Archer  --  a man who, in a more serious system, would have been in jail for his numerous prior offenses (as shown here).

Gov. Haley could invite the mother of nine year-old Tyshawn Lee, intentionally murdered in Chicago in a drug gang's retaliation against Lee's father.  Much has been done to combat drug-related violence  --  murder rates are less than half what they were at their peak  -- but continued progress will not be possible if what is advertised as "criminal justice reform" turns its back on the people and resolute programs that helped bring us the substantial success we've had.  It is worth Gov. Haley's time to make a point of this.

Gov. Haley could invite the federal prosecutor who last year successfully brought the case against, and obtained a death sentence for, multiple terrorist murderer and child killer Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.  That would be Assistant US Attorney William D. Weinreb of the District of Massachusetts.  In a hostile academic and media environment, and facing one of America's most liberal venues, Mr. Weinreb convinced a unanimous jury to impose the only punishment that fit the crime.  Bringing justice to victims is every bit as praiseworthy as offering possible rehabilitation to victimizers.

To be the President's guest of honor at the State of the Union is a special reward, and is often used, as it will be in this instance, to make a point about where the President wants our criminal justice system to be headed.  It will restore a desperately needed balance for Gov. Haley to show how much serious business we have yet to do in the fight against crime.  It would be particularly encouraging for the Governor to showcase the heroes and the human stories about the real, hard work that was needed to get us where we are  -- work  we dare not disrespect or abandon if we want to keep headed for more safety, rather than settle in to a new crime wave. 

2 Comments

FWIW, another guest in the First Lady's box during the SOTU will be Seattle's Chief of Police Kathleen O'Toole, who was formerly the Commissioner of Boston P.D. She's the first woman to hold each of those posts.

My hat is off to you for doing the toughest cases for the prosecution in a jurisdiction that is not known as extraordinarily prosecution friendly.

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