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“Cuddling Up To Criminals”: Criminal-Justice Reform At CPAC

Attendees wait in line to vote in the presidential straw poll at the American Conservative Union’s CPAC conference at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, on Thursday, March 3, 2016.

On Thursday, conservatives of all stripes descended on the Gaylord National Convention Center at the National Harbor in Maryland, just a few miles south of Washington, D.C. In recent years, the annual Conservative Political Action Conference has featured presentations on topics ranging from the future of the Republican Party to voter engagement to criminal-justice reform, which lately has gained support from the right side of the aisle.

This year’s panel on criminal-justice reform featured a debate pitting reformers Pat Nolan of the American Conservative Union and Ken Cuccinelli, the former attorney general of Virginia, against lock-’em-up apostle David Clarke, the sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, who’d famously compared Black Lives Matter protesters to ISIS terrorists.

“Folks,” Clarke began, “you’re not being told the truth when it comes to this criminal-justice reform and sentencing reform.” Clarke went on to tout the policies from the tough-on-crime era. “This led to record low numbers of crime, violent crimes, in your communities,” he said.

For conservatives who favor reducing the prison population, a popular talking point has to do with costs. The United States spends approximately $80 billion each year keeping people behind bars. For those fond of fiscal conservatism, that’s just more government spending that can be cut.

But Clarke dismissed the idea in his opening remarks. “All this is going to do, at best, is shift the cost from the federal government down to the state level,” he said. Citing high recidivism rates, he argued that re-offenders would be put into state prisons, forcing states to incur the costs. Of course, the overwhelming majority of prisoners are in state, not federal, prisons to begin with, so cost-shifting from the federal to the state level isn’t really an issue in the criminal-justice reform discussion—not that Clarke seemed to understand that.

Cuccinelli, who is a part of of the Right on Crime initiative—a campaign for conservative solutions to criminal justice—sang a different tune. “Over the last ten years, [Texas] has reduced both their budget for prisons and their crime rate by double digit percentages,” he said.

“It’s not the Californias and the New Yorks of the world, it’s the Texases, the Georgias, the Dakotas,” that are reforming their criminal-justice systems, he said—even though Texas and Georgia are in the top ten states with the highest incarcerations rates.

Nolan delivered a semi-impassioned defense of why the government should only prosecute certain crimes like rape, murder, and robbery and should target major drug traffickers as opposed to street dealers. Clarke interrupted him to demonstrate why nonviolent drug offenders deserve to be in prison for as long as possible.

“If you’re a struggling mom living in a slum or a ghetto in a city in the United States of America,” Clarke said, “and you’re doing everything that you can to keep your kid away from that dope dealer standing on the corner who’s out there every day … do you know that to get that guy off the street for as long as we can be allowed by law is a big deal for her?”

Though Nolan and Cuccinelli continued to make the case for shorter sentences for certain crimes as well as ways to reduce prison spending—a case that other Republican legislators are making as well—Clarke made clear that there was plenty of pushback from other conservatives. He name-checked four Republican senators who agree with him on the need to stick with the status quo. “Tom Cotton is right on this. Jeff Sessions is right on this. Orrin Hatch is right on this. Ted Cruz is right on opposing this Trojan horse.”

“I find it unfathomable that we would cede this [issue] back over to the left and to the Democrats,” said Clarke, “by cuddling up to criminals.”

 

By: Nathalie Baptiste, The American Prospect, March 4, 2016

March 7, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, CPAC, Criminal Justice Reform | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Six Years Later, Still In A Bind”: RNC Chair’s Broken Promise Caused 2016 Nightmare

Reince Priebus had an awkward morning.

The chairman of the Republican National Committee appeared before some of his biggest skeptics at the Conservative Political Action Conference, and all but conceded that Trump will be the nominee.

It was hard to watch.

Priebus walked onstage with Sean Hannity, and the pair plopped down in bright white chairs for a heart-to-heart about the state of the presidential race. They started with a fairly dry discussion of the RNC’s re-vamped role as a data-gathering organization, with Priebus insisting that the party was doing everything it could to replicate Obama’s 2012 voter-targeting successes.

In 2012, Priebus noted, the party was “embarrassed.”

(Would hate for anything embarrassing to happen this time around!)

Priebus then effectively put a stake in the heart of Rubio’s presidential hopes. According to reports, Rubio and his team are gearing up for a chaotic turn at the party’s convention this summer—that means they hope they can use back-room deals and horse-trading to help Rubio win the nomination, even if Trump or another candidate gets more votes than he does in the primaries. There’s an emerging consensus that this is the only way Rubio could become the party’s nominee. After all, he’s only won a single early state contest, the Minnesota caucuses. Not great.

But Priebus said he doesn’t think any machinations like that will work.

“I think a lot of this is early talk,” he said, alluding to Rubio’s strategy.

“I think the odds of a contested convention are very small.”

When Hannity pressed him further on the prospects of a contested convention, Priebus all-but-explicitly made a dig at Rubio.

“I would suggest that it’s better to win,” he said. “And it’s better to win races and accumulate delegates.”

There’s only one candidate who is on track to win the nomination the old-fashioned way, and last night he bragged about his penis size.

It wasn’t always this way for Priebus. He was hailed as a hero when he came into the position as Republican National Committee boss following the Tea Party-driven election of 2010. While the election results from that year were fantastic for the RNC, the committee had been rocked by a spending scandal—including a bill for nearly $2,000 at a bonage club in West Hollywood. Donors blamed then-chairman Michael Steele.

Six years later, it was Priebus who was in a bind.

Perhaps more significantly, though, Priebus telegraphed a wee bit of chagrin about his party’s undeliverable (and somewhat impossible) promises. Towards the end of their chit-chat, Hannity pressed Priebus on a fact that’s very ugly for the party: Its voters are pissed.

“You look at the state polls, exit polls in every state, there’s anywhere between 55 and 65 percent of Republicans that feel betrayed,” he said.

“On the issue of repealing and replacing Obamacare, on the issue of promising in 2014 to stop executive amnesty, there’s a feeling that Republicans didn’t fight, that they were too timid, that they were afraid they were gonna get blamed for a government shutdown. How does that —”

Priebus interrupted.

“Yeah, if I could singlehandedly repeal Obamacare, if I could, obviously, tear up executive amnesty, I would do it right here,” he said.

“But they had the power of the purse,” Hannity retorted.

“They do, but they also have the Constitution that provides for veto authority,” Priebus replied.

That might sound like a wonky discussion about the mechanics of Congressional funding. But the reality is that it went straight to the heart of why so many loyal, rank-and-file Republican voters are willing to support the guy with the little hands: because on immigration, the Republican Party has over-promised and under-delivered.

In the final week before the 2014 midterm elections, when Republicans were working furiously to defeat incumbent Democrat senators and regain control of the upper chamber, Priebus made a promise he couldn’t keep: He promised that Republicans would defund the president’s executive action protecting millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.

“While I can’t speak for the legislature, I’m very confident we will stop that,” he told a Tea Party group on a conference call. “We will do everything we can to make sure it doesn’t happen: Defunding, going to court, injunction. You name it. It’s wrong. It’s illegal. And for so many reasons, and just the basic fabric of this country, we can’t allow it to happen and we won’t let it happen. I don’t know how to be any stronger than that. I’m telling you, everything we can do to stop it we

That didn’t happen.

In the months after Republicans won back the Senate—thanks in large part to activists rallying behind the party’s anti-undocumented-immigrant rhetoric—nothing happened. Some conservatives in the House and Senate tried to partially defund Department of Homeland Security, and the House took a symbolic vote on it. But fears of a government shutdown kept Republicans from going all-in on the immigration question. So Priebus’s promised opposition never truly materialized.

At CPAC, people remember.

“Look, I’m not—I’m for—I—I—I don’t think you can, you can’t promise things that you can’t deliver,” Priebus said, stammering. “That’s clearly something that you can’t do.”

The crowd murmured and booed.

“As the chairman of the RNC I don’t get—I don’t have the authority to walk across the street and pass the bills singlehandedly,” he said, after Hannity tried to shush the riled-up crowd.

“The people elected—that’s what are primaries for,” he continued.

Gulp.

 

By: Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, March 4, 2016

March 6, 2016 Posted by | CPAC, GOP Presidential Candidates, Reince Priebus, Republican National Committee | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“No Is A Poor Answer”: Any Regrets Over The Terri Schiavo Fight?’

At last week’s CPAC event, Fox’s Sean Hannity asked former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), “Any regrets over the Terri Schiavo fight?” The likely presidential candidate responded that he has no regrets at all.

“[I]n this case, here was a woman who was vulnerable, and the court, because of our laws, didn’t allow her – they were going to allow her to be starved to death,” Bush said. “So we passed a law, Terri’s Law that was a year later ruled unconstitutional. I stayed within the law, but I acted on my core belief that the most vulnerable in our society should be in the front of the line. They should receive our love and protection. And that’s exactly what I did.”

The far-right audience applauded the answer, though Bloomberg Politics reports today that some social conservatives in Iowa are still bothered Bush didn’t defy the judiciary and ignore court orders.

Michael Schiavo, however, has a very different perspective.

Michael Schiavo was the husband of Terri Schiavo, the brain-dead woman from the Tampa Bay area who ended up at the center of one of the most contentious, drawn-out conflicts in the history of America’s culture wars. The fight over her death lasted almost a decade. It started as a private legal back-and-forth between her husband and her parents. Before it ended, it moved from circuit courts to district courts to state courts to federal courts, to the U.S. Supreme Court, from the state legislature in Tallahassee to Congress in Washington. The president got involved. So did the pope.

But it never would have become what it became if not for the dogged intervention of the governor of Florida at the time, the second son of the 41st president, the younger brother of the 43rd, the man who sits near the top of the extended early list of likely 2016 Republican presidential candidates…. Longtime watchers of John Ellis Bush say what he did throughout the Terri Schiavo case demonstrates how he would operate in the Oval Office. They say it’s the Jebbest thing Jeb’s ever done.

“It was a living hell,” Michael Schiavo told Politico, “and I blame him.”

Folks should read the whole report to get a complete picture, but there’s one angle to this story that often goes overlooked, and which Jeb will probably have to comment on sooner or later. Those who followed the story at the time probably remember the gist of the heartbreaking controversy: Terri Schiavo spent a decade in a vegetative state. Michael Schiavo eventually decided it was time to remove his wife from the feeding tubes that were keeping her alive, and he went to court to get approval to allow Terri to die naturally.

Jeb Bush intervened and a political circus ensued.

What I’d forgotten about was that Terri Schiavo’s death did not end the controversy. In the summer of 2005, a few months after Schiavo passed, Jeb Bush asked a prosecutor to investigate whether Michael Schiavo called 911 too slowly 15 years earlier.

In other words, based on nothing, Florida’s then-governor kept pushing the Terri Schiavo controversy, even after she was gone, suggesting foul play may have been a factor in her case. Is it any wonder Michael Schiavo blames Bush for turning his life into “a living hell”?

It fell to Florida’s state attorney to tell Bush there was simply no evidence to substantiate the allegations.

“Any regrets over the Terri Schiavo fight?” is a good question. “No” is a poor answer.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 6, 2015

March 7, 2015 Posted by | CPAC, Jeb Bush, Terri Schiavo | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Strength, Toughness & Resolve Is All It Takes”: On Display At CPAC; How The Presidential Primary Makes GOP Candidates Simple-Minded

The Conservative Political Action Conference is always guaranteed to produce head-shaking moments, as one future presidential candidate after another tells the crowd of activists what they want to hear, and then some. It’s a concentrated version of the long Republican primary process, with everything that characterizes contemporary American conservatism cooked down to its viscous essence over the course of a few days.

You may have already heard about Scott Walker’s comments yesterday at the conference, in which he made an analogy between his fight to crush unions in Wisconsin and the fight against ISIS and other terrorist groups. I’ll get to that in a moment, but first I want to look at something Marco Rubio said this morning, because they go together in a way that tells us a lot about what we’re going to be hearing from these candidates for the next year and a half.

Speaking from the CPAC stage, Rubio said that “if we wanted to defeat [ISIS] militarily, we could do it.” But we haven’t done that, because President Obama “doesn’t want to upset Iran.” I’m sure many in the crowd nodded their heads. First you have the implication that despite the thousands of air strikes we’ve launched against ISIS, we’re not really trying to defeat them, and that doing so would be simple if only Obama had the backbone. But he won’t, because he’s so solicitous of another of our enemies, Iran. If you know that this president is a Muslim-coddling, terrorist-sympathizing weakling, it makes perfect sense.

But in reality, Iran, a Shiite country, despises the Sunni extremists of ISIS. ISIS threatens the government of Iraq, which is Iran’s ally (or lapdog, depending on how you look at it), which is why Iran has sent troops there to fight the terrorist group. Eliminating ISIS is exactly what Iran wants us to do.

Perhaps Marco Rubio understands that, and if given the chance he’d revise his comments. But doing so wouldn’t play too well with the people whose votes he needs, because it would be an acknowledgement that — guess what — things can get pretty complicated in the Middle East. We can be trying to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons yet still have shared goals with them when it comes to another issue.

That simplifying impulse is what got Walker in trouble, too. When he said yesterday in answer to a question about ISIS, “If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world,” the problem wasn’t, as many people said, that he was comparing Wisconsinites exercising their free speech rights in opposing his efforts to crush unions to brutal terrorists (he clarified later that that isn’t what he meant to say). The problem was that he was arguing that serious problems, whether it’s your own constituents who disagree with you or a terrorist organization, have essentially the same solution: strength, toughness, resolve. That’s all it takes, and he’s got it. He may not know a lot about foreign affairs, but he doesn’t need to know a lot about foreign affairs.

This is hardly new in the GOP. In 1964, Ronald Reagan said in a speech supporting Barry Goldwater, “They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong. There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right.” Republicans have seldom veered from the conviction that in foreign affairs in particular, there are nothing but simple answers.

The trouble is, we’ve seen where that gets you. George W. Bush knew in his gut that every problem had a simple answer. Just as Rubio sees Iran and ISIS in a fictional alliance, Bush thought that Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda must have been working together, because they’re all Bad Guys, right? And once we show our strength and resolve, the problems will melt before us. We all know how well that worked out.

Try to imagine a Republican presidential candidate who saw the world as a complicated place where sometimes we have to choose between bad options, being strong only gets you so far, and you have to consider the possibility that your actions could have unintended consequences. Would he be willing to say that to his party’s primary voters? Or would he tell them that actually, the answers are all simple, if only we have the courage to see them clearly and act?

I think we all know the answer to that. Campaigns in both parties are seldom going to be full of nuanced exploration of policy issues. But the GOP primary campaign forces its contenders to be particularly simple-minded, whether that’s who they really are or they’re just pretending.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, February 27, 2015

March 3, 2015 Posted by | CPAC, Foreign Policy, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Three Legs Of The Conservative Stool”: The ‘War On Women’ Is The Latest War That Republicans At CPAC Want To Win

All political movements, to some extent, sound nonsensical to outsiders because groupthink elides the needs for certain connective thoughts to be voiced aloud. CPAC, a celebration of orthodoxy among a bullet-point-equipped faithful who all try to sound more stridently like everyone else than anyone else, magnifies this tendency to maddening degrees. Two separate subjects are mentioned with the causal relationship omitted. Facts appear without context; good things are named as though good outcomes inevitably eventuate. When cause-and-effect statements appear, they aren’t much better.

By this process, you can arrive at a conclusion like this: To win the War on Women, you better put a ring on it.

At CPAC, conservatives dedicated an entire panel to “The Future of Marriage.” One could be forgiven for assuming it tackled the issue via the sub-topic “Gays, and the Ickiness Thereof,” because that was the default assumption among those attending CPAC as part of an ongoing More Jaded Than Thou contest. Instead, the panel bypassed halting marriage equality and went straight for a return to celebrating a time when women had few stable life opportunities outside of marriage.

Heritage Foundation vice-president Jennifer Marshall signaled the need for conservative candidates to “be indivisible” on the matter of the “very interrelated” three legs of the conservative stool – marriage, small government and a stable economy. What a weird stool. Why these three things? Why not neighborhood bowling leagues, usury and the gibbet?

Marshall answered that question by explaining that “the sexual revolution has made relationships between men and women much more challenging”. Naturally, as polyamory and bed hopping have had very little effect on bowling or usury. Still, it was an important statement to make, because it implied that women had been complicit in the destabilization of their economic security.

Heather MacDonald of the Manhattan Institute – employer of such luminaries as Iraq War stooge Judith Miller, invariably wrong William Kristol and racist hack Charles Murray – was willing to go even further than Marshall in placing the blame for women’s economic travails on alienation from “the family” and then further blaming women’s thoughts for turning women against where they belong.

“Feminists have taken over college campuses. They run the bureaucracy. People are losing the vocabulary to say fathers are essential,” she said. “I predict there’s going to come a time when Father’s Day is hate speech because you’re dissing a lesbian couple.” Piles of unsold real, comfortable Wrangler Jeans clogging up landfills. Tasteful Methodist sex harnesses going unsold at tasteful Methodist sex harness shops. Ships teeming with rear spoilers for family sedans being turned away from the nation’s harbors. A chilling vision of dadless things to come.

Nonetheless, vague problems demand vague solutions. Thus MacDonald advised 2016 Republican candidates: “If you want to eliminate poverty overnight, you can wipe it out by having stable, two-parent households.” (Note the weaseling inclusion of “stable.”) After all, we determine income inequality by households, so take two people living together in poverty, marry ‘em, and presto! No more poverty. Statistical problems go away if you stop gathering statistics. That only sounds nutty if you don’t already know that global warming isn’t real because thermometers lie.

That more or less made sense if you’d listened to the previous hour’s explanations that everything is bad in the inner city, and too many urban folks don’t get married, so, like, the two things are connected, man. Meanwhile, according to MacDonald, “The most affluent members of American society are still getting married.”

Shortly after this, Wade Horn, former assistant secretary for children and families, weighed in with the observation that marriages save money and diversify productivity because “marriages allow for economies of scale and specialization” within the household. (For those scoring economies of scale at home, presumably because specialization has made one of you an actuary: economies of scale good when you are married to someone; bad when buying prescription drugs for nations.) When your bridesmaids give you bewildered looks at the altar, point at your groom and cross their eyes while miming throwing up, just hold your hands apart to show how much he scales your economy.

To a cynic, that might read like a heartless thought. But do you know what’s really heartless? Government. “Children need their mothers and fathers. There is no government program that can possibly substitute for the love and guidance and sense of place in the world that parents provide,” MacDonald explained. “What we’re seeing now in the inner city is catastrophic. Marriage has all but disappeared. When young boys are growing up, they grow up without any expectation that they will marry the mothers of their children.” And she’s right; people who think government will love you or your abandoned children are idiots. The Department of Love has been a failure since 1967, and large faceless institutions will never care for human beings no matter how well they claim to mean. Those “inner city” people shouldn’t have been trying to hug America. They should have hugged something more practical like each other and that smiley face from Wal-Mart.

But if these problems and solutions got too specific for you, there was always Kate Bryan of the American Principles Project and moderator of “The Future of Marriage in America” panel. Sometimes it’s all just The Culture. The Culture — the Great Silent Chobani — depicts marriage as negative. Example: “The old ball and chain.” Why, if we could just get rid of this expression that zero non-horrible people have used unironically for at least a generation, we could have this thing licked in no-time. Women, inequality, stability, stools, the Whole Chobani. Good talk, everyone.

 

By: Jeb Lund, The Guardian, February 28, 2015

March 2, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, CPAC, War On Women | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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