Criminal Justice

Bill Clinton Claims His Wife 'Was the First Candidate' to Talk About Sentencing Reform

It's true, if you don't count Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, or Jim Webb

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Columbia University

While researching this week's column about the 1994 crime bill, I noticed another dubious statement that Bill Clinton made during his speech in Philadelphia last Thursday. Talking up his wife's credentials as a criminal justice reformer, the former president claimed "she was the first candidate, the first one, to say, 'Let's get these people who did nonviolent offenses out of prison.'" She was the first candidate to say that only if you don't count Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, or Jim Webb, all of whom were not only talking about criminal justice reform but sponsoring or signing legislation aimed at reducing the prison population before Hillary Clinton started highlighting the issue at the end of last April.

Paul, Perry, and Webb have dropped out of the presidential race, while Cruz seems to be retreating from his support for sentencing reform. But Clinton's Democratic rival, Bernie Sanders, has taken a bolder stance on criminal justice reform than she has, joining Paul in calling for the abolition of mandatory minimum sentences and sponsoring legislation that would repeal the federal ban on marijuana.

In any case, it simply isn't true that Clinton was the first candidate to say too many nonviolent offenders are serving too much time in prison. "We welcome her to the fight," Paul said after Clinton's first big speech on criminal justice reform. While Bill Clinton noted that "a lot of Republicans agree" about the need for sentencing reform, he made it sound as if they are following her example, instead of the other way around.

Clinton never showed much interest in criminal justice reform until about a year ago, and even then her position was pretty vague. While she has filled in some of the blanks since then, she is still dealing with the fallout from supporting her husband's tough-on-crime agenda, which he and she both concede contributed to what they now perceive as the problem of "mass incarceration." She cannot overcome suspicion of her sudden interest in this issue by pretending she was talking about it all along.

NEXT: Brickbat: Sacrificing for Their Country

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  1. She cannot overcome suspicion of her sudden interest in this issue by pretending she was talking about it all along.

    Sure, but most voters won’t be suspicious in the first place.

    1. She doesn’t have to.

      No one who is suspicious was going to vote for her anyway and nobody who is going to vote for her has been paying attention to her record – or they wouldn’t be voting for her.

  2. Most voters don’t care about sentencing reform. To include most black voters.

  3. Fear not, cynics. She’ll drop the issue like a hot potato once in office. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’d veto, based on some bullshit she had put in, any legislation Congress would send to her desk. But fear not, cynics. Congress ain’t moving on the issue to send dick to her desk anyway.

    1. Congress ain’t moving on the issue to send dick vag to her desk anyway.

      Hurrrrrr see what I done there????

      1. Needs more shitty nicknames!

        /Mike M.

  4. she is still dealing with the fallout from supporting her husband’s tough-on-crime agenda,

    To be fair it wasn’t actually his agenda. He never really had much of an agenda, per se. It was more that he ran around looking for parades to jump in front of. They called it ‘Triangulation’. He used it to take issues away from the republicans.

  5. All Clinton statements are dubious.

    1. You misspelled ‘mendacious’.

      1. You misspelled “complete bull shit”.

  6. Aw, come one. He meant she’s the first true Scotsman candidate to bring up sentencing reform.

  7. Those who control the media and academia control the past.
    Those who control the past control the future.

  8. Is there really anyone out there whose vote/candidate is not set in stone already? Bernie is not going to win over Hillary supporters, Cruz will not win over any of Trump’s, etc.

    In the general people are going to vote their party if they bother to vote.

    There is really only one wild card here: The stupid party seems determined to make sure that as few of their base show up as possible.

    1. “‘Hand the Dems complete control forever’ ?. Yeah, *that’s* the ticket!”

  9. I don’t remember that hag saying shit about Sentencing Reform in 2008, when Ron Paul was basically the only one talking about it (not sure, but maybe Dennis Kucinich also talked about it in ’08?). And she sure as shit never raised that concern in 2012 when Chocolate Nixon was running for his second term.

    Someone seriously needs to tell Bill to sit down and shut his fucking pie-hole.

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