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“Hypocrisy Watch”: When Bernie Sanders, Conventional Politician, Called For Still More Mass Incarceration

Could Bernie Sanders be starting to look ever so slightly like just another pol? Not to his besotted legions, of course. For them, nothing can tarnish the great man. But for other voters, the past week may mark a turning point in the way he’s perceived.

I have three events in mind. First was the Hillary-is-not-qualified business. Yeah, he walked it back fast, but not before he grossly mischaracterized what Clinton had said on Morning Joe and then went out and raised money off of his own mischaracterization! Far be it from me to suggest that the righteous one ever reads a poll, but I bet he does, and I bet his were showing that the controversy was killing him.

Second was the Vatican dust-up. What really happened there, who knows. But if your behavior leads two Vatican officials to start cat-scratching each other on the record, you have not won the morning. Given that he’s apparently not meeting with the Pope, I have no idea at this point why he’s even going. We all get that it’s a pander for Latino votes in New York, but why not just spend that time meeting actual Latino voters?

But third and biggest by far is Sanders’s continuing hypocrisy regarding the 1994 crime bill. Hypocrisy is a strong word. Is it fair? Well, he’s been going around for months criticizing both Clintons on the bill. But of course, as we know, he voted for it. And as we learned Sunday from Clinton surrogate John Podesta on ABC, Sanders boasted as recently as 2006 that he was tough on crime because he supported the ’94 bill.

Say what you want to say about the bill. It was really bad in many respects. It did help contribute to mass incarceration, especially of young black men. These arguments weren’t secrets at the time. Many people made them. In the House, about one-third of Democrats voted against the bill, most of them liberal or African-American (or both) critics of the bill on exactly these grounds. So Congressman Sanders was sitting on the House floor, or in the Democratic cloakroom, being exposed to these arguments, and he still voted for it.

He says it was because of the provisions that cracked down on violence against women. Fine; laudable, even. But if he gets credit for the good parts, don’t Bill and Hillary get that credit, too?

The story gets worse for Sanders. Over the weekend, an excerpt of remarks Congressman Sanders had inserted into the Congressional Record in 1995 started making the rounds. A debate was raging at the time about the crack-powder cocaine sentencing disparities (black people were more often arrested on crack charges, for which the sentencing guidelines were much harsher). The U.S. Sentencing Commission had recommended to Congress that it eliminate the disparity (PDF). It meant that Congress should do so by lowering the guidelines for crack so that they’d be equal to those for powder. Most Democrats, of course, supported this change.

Sanders? Well, he wanted to eliminate the disparity—but by raising the powder guidelines to those for crack! Here are the salient sentences, from the Record of Oct. 18, 1995, tweeted over the weekend by James E. Carter IV, President Carter’s grandson:

“This Congressman thinks that drugs are a scourge on America, and I strongly believe we must fight cocaine use in any form. We should be addressing the fairness issue by raising the punishment for powder cocaine, not lowering the sentence for crack offenses. I am deeply disturbed that this was not given as an option today.”

Well, I’ll give him this much. The Sanders option would have eliminated the disparity. But it would have done so by throwing millions more people behind bars for years, ruining that many more lives, black, white, and otherwise. It’s totally at odds with Sanders’s rhetoric, which I agree with by the way, about how we need to give young people from difficult circumstances more opportunity. Bernie wanted to give young people from all circumstances less opportunity. He may never have used the word “superpredators,” but he sure seems to have believed in their existence.

Why was Sanders such a law-and-order type? It’s hard to know, since of course he never talks about it and now says just the opposite, with all that imperious moral thunder that some find bewitching and others bothersome or bewildering. But this excellent Yahoo! News piece from early February lays the record out. He even voted against a bill in 1995 that would have established separate drug courts and taken steps to demilitarize police departments, preventing them from using any money in the act in question (which failed) for the purchase of Army-style tanks or aircraft.

It’s hard to imagine that crime was raging across the state from Burlington to Brattleboro. Maybe it was, by Vermont standards. Or maybe he just believed it was. But if he did believe it, he ought to just say so and explain why.

Hillary Clinton’s record on these matters is compromised as well. But at least the Clintons acknowledge error. Bill said last summer that the crime bill made mass incarceration worse. Hillary, in her first major speech of her campaign, also last year, ducked mentioning the crime bill by name but clearly spent parts of the speech criticizing it.

The Clintons, quite imperfect the both of them, live in a world where things are complicated, history advances and changes, and you have to rethink and explain. Sanders lives in a world where no explanation is ever required of him. Clinton has a week to change that.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, April 12, 2016

April 14, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Crime Bill 1994, Hillary Clinton, Mass Incarceration | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Faith’s Mysterious Ways In The 2016 Campaign”: The Politics Of White Evangelicals Are Evolving

The 2016 election is transforming the religious landscape of American politics.

It’s hard to imagine a Democratic presidential candidate receiving a mid-campaign invitation to speak at the Vatican.

But on Friday, Bernie Sanders put out word that on April 15 he’ll attend a gathering of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. Both Sanders and Hillary Clinton, his front-running rival, have regularly praised Pope Francis.

And on the day of Sanders’s announcement, Francis released “The Joy of Love.” The groundbreaking document signaled what can fairly be called a more liberal attitude toward sexuality and the situation of divorced and remarried Catholics.

The pope didn’t change church doctrine on gay marriage but was offering another sign that he’s pushing the church away from cultural warfare and toward a focus on poverty, economic injustice, immigration and the plight of refugees.

On the Republican side, the conservative evangelical movement is divided over Donald Trump’s candidacy. Many of its leaders have denounced him in uncompromising terms they usually reserve for liberal politicians.

One of his toughest critics has been Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. “Can conservatives really believe that, if elected, Trump would care about protecting the family’s place in society when his own life is — unapologetically — what conservatives used to recognize as decadent?,” Moore wrote early this year in National Review.

He added: “Trump’s willingness to ban Muslims, even temporarily, from entering the country simply because of their religious affiliation would make Jefferson spin in his grave.”

Such denunciations are good news for Ted Cruz, who began his campaign at Liberty University, an evangelical intellectual bastion, and had hoped to unify evangelical conservatives.

But in primary after primary, Trump has won a large share of self-described “born again” or evangelical voters, particularly in the South. In the Southern-inflected Super Tuesday contests in March, his showings in Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama were exceptionally strong.

Evangelicals made up 77 percent of Alabama’s Republican primary electorate, and Trump carried them 43 percent to 22 percent over Cruz. Among non-evangelicals, Trump beat Cruz 41 percent to 18 percent, with roughly a third in this group casting ballots for either Marco Rubio, who has since dropped out, or John Kasich.

Even in defeat in Wisconsin on Tuesday, Trump did about as well among evangelicals (he won 34 percent of their ballots) as among non-evangelicals (36 percent).

In one sense, it is not surprising that the politics of white evangelicals are evolving. Their social issue frame and the most important institutions in their movement were created in the late 1970s and 1980s. But this year’s developments do suggest, as Elizabeth Bruenig (now of The Post) argued in the New Republic, that “the old-fashioned model of reaching evangelicals no longer appears functional.”

Robert Jones, chief executive of the Public Religion Research Institute (and with whom I have collaborated), sees many evangelicals now as “nostalgia voters.” Writing in the Atlantic, he said they are animated less by “a checklist of culture war issues or an appeal to shared religious identity” and more by an anger and anxiety arising from a sense that the dominant culture is moving away from their values.

A backlash around race, which led many white Southern evangelicals toward the Republicans in the 1960s even before the rise of the religious right, also appears to be at work. It is conjoined with opposition to immigration. And evangelicals, like other Republicans, are split by class and their degree of religious engagement.

Were Cruz to secure the Republican nomination, traditional patterns of white evangelical voting might well reassert themselves.

But with Pope Francis lifting up what can be called social justice Christianity, cliches that religion lives largely on the right end of U.S. politics might finally be overturned.

This view was already flawed, given, for example, the long-standing activism of African American Christians in the politics of economic and racial equity. Clinton especially has been engaged with black churches from the outset of the campaign.

Her own deep commitment to her Methodist faith and its social demands is central to her identity. It could be the key to solving her much-discussed “authenticity” problem, because faith is a powerfully authentic part of who she is.

In the meantime, a Jewish socialist presidential candidate will head off to the Vatican to make a case about climate change and social justice quite congenial to Francis’s outlook.

In today’s American politics, religion is working in mysterious ways.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, April 11, 2016

April 12, 2016 Posted by | Evangelicals, Faith, Pope Francis | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Vatican To Trump”: It’s Not ‘Personal,’ It’s Religion

The Vatican on Friday tried to tamp down a firestorm ignited by Pope Francis’ comments assailing Donald Trump’s views on U.S. immigration as “not Christian”, assuring the Republican presidential front-runner that it was not a personal attack or attempt to influence the U.S. campaign.

Francis told reporters during a conversation on his flight home from Mexico on Thursday, “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.”

Trump has said if elected president, he would build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border to keep immigrants from illegally entering the United States.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told Vatican Radio the pope’s comments, in response to a reporter’s question on Trump, were an affirmation of his longstanding belief that migrants should be helped and not shut out. He said the pope believed people “should build bridges, not walls”.

“In no way was this a personal attack, nor an indication of how to vote,” Lombardi said.

Trump, who leads Republican candidates in opinion polls, lashed out on Thursday, dismissing the pope’s remarks as “disgraceful” for questioning his faith.

“If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS (Islamic State), which as everyone knows is ISIS’ ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been president,” Trump said.

Later, during a television appearance, he rowed back, calling Francis “a wonderful guy.”

EXCHANGE MAKES HEADLINES

The extraordinary exchange between the billionaire real estate developer and leader of the world’s 1.25 billion Roman Catholics, which occurred days before Saturday’s Republican nominating contest in South Carolina, was headline news around the world.

On Friday, New York’s Daily News gave it the front page. Against a backdrop of an image of Trump, a headline blared: Anti Christ! The New York Post ran a front page photo of Trump and the pope wearing boxing gloves with the headline: Trump & pope: Bible belters.

It was unclear what, if any, effect the tussle might have on the vote in South Carolina, a conservative state that is home to many evangelical Protestant Christians.

Patrick Hornbeck, chairman of the department of theology at Fordham University in New York, said on Thursday that Francis’ words were not surprising given the poverty he had just seen in Mexico.

“There is very little common ground between Pope Francis and Donald Trump,” Hornbeck said. He predicted the pope’s words on electoral politics would have little effect on any U.S. Catholics who liked Trump as a candidate.

At a CNN town hall in Columbia, South Carolina, on Thursday night, Trump said he had “a lot of respect” for Francis but that the pope had been influenced by hearing only Mexico’s side of the border issue. The pope’s statement also had been exaggerated by the media, he said.

“I think he said something much softer than it was originally reported by the media,” Trump said.

Earlier on Thursday, Thomas Groome, director of the Boston College Center on the Church in the 21st Century, said Francis’ comments were entirely in keeping with his focus on mercy.

“The pope is commissioned to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s his job,” Groome said. “So when he was asked a direct question, he gave Trump the benefit of the doubt, he said we have to be sure he said this, but if he said this, it is not Christian.”

 

By: Emily Flitter, The National Memo, February 18, 2016

February 20, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Pope Francis, Religion | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Build Bridges, Not Walls”: It Has Come To This; Donald Trump Vs. The Pope

Donald Trump is aiming ever higher on his list of political enemies. The latest: Pope Francis, who has suggested that Trump is “not Christian” — to which The Donald has responded that Francis will only wish he had been president “if and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS.”

During a phone appearance last week on the Fox Business Network, Trump first responded to the various calls by the leader of Catholic Church for compassion on behalf of Latin American immigrants.

“So I think the pope is a very political person and I think that he doesn’t understand the problems our country has,” Trump said, alleging that the successor to St. Peter was being manipulated. “And I think Mexico got him to do it because Mexico wants to keep the border just the way it is because they’re making a fortune and we’re losing.”

But this Thursday morning, ABC News, a reporter asked the Holy Father if “a good Catholic vote for this man?” as the Holy Father was on a plane back to Rome after his tour of the U.S.-Mexican border.

“Thank God he said I was a politician, because Aristotle defined the human person as ‘animal politicus.’ So at least I am a human person,” responded the esteemed Bishop of Rome. “As to whether I am a pawn — well, maybe, I don’t know. I’ll leave that up to your judgment and that of the people.”

He continued: “And then, a person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the gospel. As far as what you said about whether I would advise to vote or not to vote, I am not going to get involved in that. I say only that this man is not Christian if he said things like that. We must see if he said things in that way and in this I give the benefit of the doubt.”

This got Trump pretty fired up, judging from his statement Thursday afternoon:

DONALD J. TRUMP RESPONSE TO THE POPE

If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, which as everyone knows is ISIS’s ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the Pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been President because this would not have happened. ISIS would have been eradicated unlike what is happening now with our all talk, no action politicians.

The Mexican government and its leadership has made many disparaging remarks about me to the Pope, because they want to continue to rip off the United States, both on trade and at the border, and they understand I am totally wise to them. The Pope only heard one side of the story – he didn’t see the crime, the drug trafficking and the negative economic impact the current policies have on the United States. He doesn’t see how Mexican leadership is outsmarting President Obama and our leadership in every aspect of negotiation.

For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful. I am proud to be a Christian and as President I will not allow Christianity to be consistently attacked and weakened, unlike what is happening now, with our current President. No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith. They are using the Pope as a pawn and they should be ashamed of themselves for doing so, especially when so many lives are involved and when illegal immigration is so rampant.

Donald J. Trump

Next up: Donald Trump will allege that Pope Francis has a birth certificate in Argentina — and it’s got a different name written on it!

Update:: Trump has now read the statement aloud, at a rally in South Carolina

 

By: Eric Kleefeld, The National Memo, February 18, 2016

February 19, 2016 Posted by | Christians, Donald Trump, Pope Francis | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Footnote”: Sorry, Atheists Can’t Go To Heaven After All

A Vatican spokesperson is walking back remarks Pope Francis made last week suggesting that atheists and people of other faiths who do good deeds are also redeemed “with the blood of Christ,” a statement that seemed to contradict Catholic teaching that “outside the church there is no salvation.”

After lauding Francis’ ability to speak in a “language that everyone can understand,” the Rev. Thomas Rosica issued a corrective to the pope’s homily and suggested that, basically, people misunderstood the pope.

In a message delivered on Vatican Radio last week, the pope said: “The Lord has redeemed all of us… not just Catholics. Everyone!” Adding, in case there was any confusion: “Even the atheists. Everyone!” In response to the homily, Rosica wrote that, while the pope is a gifted speaker, Francis was not rewriting theological doctrine when he made his inclusive remarks:

Pope Francis has no intention of provoking a theological debate on the nature of salvation through his homily or scriptural reflection when he stated that “God has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone!” […]

This means that all salvation comes from Christ, the Head, through the Church which is his body. Hence they cannot be saved who, knowing the Church as founded by Christ and necessary for salvation, would refuse to enter her or remain in her. At the same time, thanks to Christ and to his Church, those who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ and his Church but sincerely seek God and, moved by grace, try to do his will as it is known through the dictates of conscience can attain eternal salvation.

By: Katie McDonough, Assistant Editor, Salon, May 28, 2013

May 29, 2013 Posted by | Religion | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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