<< On the Death Penalty, Truth Spars with Arrogance | Main | When Early Release Gets a Pass >>

Q: How Many Lies Can Get Packed into One Paragraph?

A:  I don't know, but former Obama Administration Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates is making a pitch for the record.

She has an opinion piece in today's Washington Post.  I may go through more of it later; for now, I just want to look at the first substantive paragraph, which is regrettably representative of the deceit running through the entire piece.  Ms. Yates begins her analysis with this:

All across the political spectrum, in red states and blue states, from Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) and the Koch brothers to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and the American Civil Liberties Union, there is broad consensus that the "lock them all up and throw away the key" approach embodied in mandatory minimum drug sentences is counterproductive, negatively affecting our ability to assure the safety of our communities.

Where to start?
First, the "broad consensus" supposedly in favor of sentencing "reform" does not exist. There is a consensus in the Democratic Party and among pro-criminal advocacy groups such as the ACLU.  There is no consensus anywhere else, certainly including the Republican Party.  Yes, a small segment of Republicans, notably libertarians and some evangelical-leaning members, favor the program.  Almost all the rest of the Party opposes it, as do the American people (see below).

It is for this reason that sentencing reform packages, including the one Ms. Yates frenetically backed when she was second-in-command at DOJ, did not even get to the floor of either house of Congress  --  not in the last Congress and not in the Congress before that. One such measure, the Justice Safety Valve Act, did not so much as get a vote in its own Committee, notwithstanding that the Committee's then-Chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy, was the bill's chief sponsor.

Second, the key fact that Ms. Yates never mentions is that our citizens aren't scared of crime, and still less are they being spooked by Attorney General Sessions and his supposedly inflammatory rhetoric.

Instead, a year and a half ago, well before Sessions came to the Justice Department and before even the extent of the present sharp increase in violent and drug-related crime became clear, polling showed that Americans overwhelmingly disapprove the Yates let-'em-out-early program, and instead, by a 2-1 margin, think the government isn't doing enough to keep drug dealers off the street.

The odds that Ms. Yates does not know about the real state of public opinion are the same as the odds I'll be contributing to the Georgia Senate campaign she's very likely fanning with pieces like this  --  pieces that pander to her Party's left flank.  

Third, Ms. Yates' bland and opaque reference to sentencing "reform" is telling.  We're all in favor of "reform," right?  Everything we do can be improved, right?  

The problem Ms. Yates is concealing with this vague, Happy Face language is that what she's proposing, if called by its correct name, is sentencing reduction.  It would be broad-based and very significant reduction for thousands of drug felons, and would come on top of the tens of thousands of reductions now underway courtesy of past actions of the Sentencing Commission.

Fourth, while our citizens aren't scared of crime, they are concerned about it, as well they should be.  It is now well known  --  indeed, explicitly admitted by Ms. Yates' key ally, the Brennan Center in New York  --  that violent crime, and murder specifically, is up in America's 30 largest cities by double digit amounts in each of the last two years.

That would happen to coincide with the years in which Ms. Yates was Deputy Attorney General.  No, she is not personally responsible.  But the fecklessness and loss of nerve seen in her pet ideas are.

Fifth, mandatory minimum sentences are not the "lock them all up and throw away the key" approach Ms. Yates claims in her intentionally incendiary and false language (tell me again who's fear mongering?).  Only a small minority of federal drug offenders are even eligible for mandatory minimums over ten years (ten years being an odd version of "throwing away the key"), and most even in that small group escape MM's via either prosecutors' substantial assistance motions, the statutory safety valve, or lenient charging decisions in unusual cases (which Attorney General Sessions' policy explicitly continues to allow).

Finally for the moment, Ms. Yates' assertion that the increased use of incarceration associated with mandatory minimum sentencing (and enhanced punishment generally) "negatively affects our ability to assure the safety of our communities" is just breathtakingly false.  As Ms. Yates can't help knowing, the opposite is true.  Our communities, and especially minority communities, are far safer today than they were in the Seventies and Eighties, when the naive policies to which Ms. Yates seems so devoted held sway.  Indeed, as Ms. Yates slyly admits late in her article, the nation has about half the crime rates today that in had a generation ago  --  an improvement brought about by precisely the Sessions-backed policies Ms. Yates would repudiate.

It's hard to believe, but true, that all this baloney is just in a one-sentence paragraph.

Leave a comment

Monthly Archives