Joe Biden

Biden Tries To Gloss Over His Long History of Supporting the Drug War and Draconian Criminal Penalties

The Democratic presidential nominee cannot escape one of his major legacies.

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During his ABC "town hall" last night, responding to a question from moderator George Stephanopoulos, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden agreed that it was a "mistake" to "support" the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. At the same time, he defended parts of the law, including the Violence Against Women Act, funding to support "community policing" by hiring more officers, and the now-expired federal ban on "assault weapons." He also implied that the real problem was not so much the law itself but the way that states responded to it. "The mistake came in terms of what the states did locally," he said.

Both the question and the answer were highly misleading. First, Biden did not merely "support" the 1994 law; he wrote the damned thing, which he has proudly called "the 1994 Biden Crime Bill." Second, as much as Biden might like to disavow the law's penalty enhancements now that public opinion on criminal justice has shifted, he was proud of them at the time. Third, the 1994 crime bill is just one piece of legislation in Biden's long history of supporting mindlessly punitive responses to drugs and crime.

Biden is trying to gloss over a major theme of his political career. "Every major crime bill since 1976 that's come out of this Congress—every minor crime bill—has had the name of the Democratic senator from Delaware, Joe Biden," he bragged in 1993. Now he wants us to believe his agenda was limited to domestic violence, community policing, and gun control.

"Things have changed drastically" since 1994, Biden said last night, noting that "the Black Caucus voted" for the crime bill, and "every black mayor supported it." In other words, now that black politicians and Democrats generally have rejected the idea that criminal penalties can never be too severe, Biden has shifted with the winds of opinion. But as Sen. Cory Booker (D–N.J.) noted during a Democratic presidential debate last year, that does not mean we should forget Biden's leading role in the disastrous war on drugs and the draconian criminal justice policies that put more and more people in cages for longer and longer periods of time.

"The crime bill itself did not have mandatory sentences except for two things," Biden said. He mentioned the law's "three strikes and you're out" provision, which required a life sentence for anyone convicted of a violent crime after committing two other felonies, one of which can be a drug offense. He said he "voted against" that provision, which is not exactly true. While he did express concern that the provision was not focused narrowly enough on serious violent crimes, he voted for it as part of the broader bill.

In any case, Biden did not just go along with the crime bill's punitive provisions; he crowed about them. Like a crass car salesman hawking a new model with more of everything, he touted "70 additional enhancements of penalties" and "60 new death penalties—brand new—60." He denounced as "poppycock" the notion, which would later be defensively deployed by Bill Clinton and Biden himself, that "somehow the Republicans tried to make the crime bill tougher." Biden bragged that he had conferred with "the cops" instead of some namby-pamby "liberal confab" while writing the bill.

As for "what the states did locally," the law was designed to increase incarceration. It provided $10 billion in subsidies for state prison construction, contingent on passage of "truth in sentencing" laws that limited or abolished parole. "What I was against was giving states more money for prison systems," Biden said last night. But that is simply not true. As FactCheck.org noted last year, "Biden did support $6 billion in funding for state prison construction, but not the $10 billion that was part of the final bill."

Despite Biden's implication that he was not a fan of mandatory minimums, he zealously supported them in previous legislation, including the Anti–Drug Abuse Acts of 1986 and 1988. The latter law included a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for anyone caught with five grams of crack cocaine, whether or not he was involved in distribution.

As Biden explained it on the Senate floor in 1991 while holding up a quarter, "we said crack cocaine is such a bad deal that if you find someone with this much of it—a quarter's worth, not in value, but in size—five years in jail." To be clear: Biden was not marveling at the blatant injustice of that punishment. He was touting his anti-drug bona fides.

Biden also supported a sentencing policy that treated crack cocaine as if it were 100 times worse than cocaine powder, even though these are simply two different ways of consuming the same drug. Under the 1986 law, possessing five grams of crack with intent to distribute it triggered the same five-year mandatory minimum sentence as 500 grams of cocaine powder; likewise, the 10-year mandatory minimum required five kilograms of cocaine powder but only 50 grams of crack.

Because federal crack offenders were overwhelmingly black, while cocaine powder offenders were more likely to be white or Hispanic, the rule Biden supported meant that darker-skinned defendants received substantially heavier penalties than lighter-skinned defendants for essentially the same offenses. "We may not have gotten it right," Biden conceded 16 years after he helped establish the 100-to-1 rule. Five years later, during an unsuccessful bid for his party's 2008 presidential nomination, he introduced a bill that would have equalized crack and cocaine powder sentences.

The distinction between smoked and snorted cocaine "was a big mistake when it was made," Biden admitted in a speech he gave just before entering the presidential race in 2019, nine years after Congress approved a law that shrank but did not eliminate the sentencing gap. "We thought we were told by the experts that crack…was somehow fundamentally different. It's not different." The misconception, he added, "trapped an entire generation."

These are just a few examples of Biden's enthusiasm for coming down hard on people who dare to defy the government's arbitrary pharmacological decrees. You can read more about that here.

Nowadays, Biden opposes the mandatory minimums and death penalties he championed for decades. But his current position still reflects his commitment to using force against people engaged in peaceful conduct that violates no one's rights.

"I don't believe anybody should be going to jail for drug use," Biden said last night. "They should be going into mandatory rehabilitation. We should be building rehab centers to have these people housed."

While Biden considers that approach enlightened and humane, there is no moral justification for foisting "treatment" on people who do not want it and may not even be addicted. That policy strips people of their liberty, dignity, and moral agency simply because they consume psychoactive substances that politicians do not like. Biden, who in the late 1980s was saying "we have to hold every drug user accountable," now wants to lock drug users in "rehab centers" rather than prisons. If that looks like an improvement, it is only because Biden's prior record is so appalling.

NEXT: Before TMZ and Page Six, America Turned to Walter Winchell for Gossip

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    2. Further evidence that the mass media is protecting and propping up Biden
      Two of his townhall “regular folks” were planted dem operatives.
      One of the questioners at the ABC-hosted event was Nathan Osburn, a former speechwriter for the Obama White House. Osburn specifically worked for the Office of Public Affairs at the Commerce Department under the Obama-Biden administration and at the Small Business Administration. Osburn’s profession was listed as “communications” on the ABC town hall graphic and his city was listed as Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Osburn was quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer earlier this year as “a former Obama administration speechwriter” who had created a “Philly for Pete group” aimed at boosting former Democratic presidential primary candidate Pete Buttigieg. And the LGBTQ Victory Institute listed Osburn as a senior speechwriter for the Small Business Administration in an article praising the Obama-Biden administration for its LGBTQ hiring practices.
      Another questioner at the town hall was Mieke Haeck, who ABC presented as a physical therapist from State College, Pa, Haeck is also the wife of Ezra Nanes, a high-profile Democrat in Pennsylvania who in 2018 ran a campaign challenging Republican state Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman. Nanes is currently an at-large member of the Centre County Democratic Committee. Centre County is the county in which State College resides.

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  2. Biden first arrived in Washington DC like half a century ago. It’s understandable if he’s made occasional missteps during his lengthy career. Here’s what matters now: Biden is much more likely than Drumpf to implement our benefactor Charles Koch’s open borders agenda.

    #ImmigrationAboveAll

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  3. >>We should be building rehab centers to have these people housed.

    and re-Neducated.

    1. I see we have a negative nelly in sector two

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  4. ‘That policy strips people of their liberty, dignity, and moral agency,’ so a DNP plank, as it matches their others nearly perfectly?

  5. Biden bragged that he had conferred with “the cops” instead of some namby-pamby “liberal confab” while writing the bill.

    Being old enough to remember when Democrats didn’t pander to the progressives and Marxists is a curse.

  6. “Of course I’m Pro-drugs! My kids does every drug under the sun before midnight and twice more before 3am! I’m just glad I’m a sawmp person or he’d have landed in jail YEARS ago!”

    1. But he would look like a Mormon compared to some of the Kennedy kids

      1. What? He screwed and drowned MULTIPLE interns at Chappaquiddick?

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    2. Ironic eh? Hunter could have been an Admiral by now save for Pop’s draconian drug laws.

  7. He also voted for wars in the Middle East the defense of marriage act the patriot act and every other bad law were still dealing with today. The guy is a fucking loser. But shreiky thinks we need him cause trump and modi are bad white supremacists who hate immigrants.

  8. Biden marched with Dr. King, eagerly watched two men have sex in the middle of the street with his father, and beat the living daylights out of Corn Pop to take back the public pool for the people. He always, always, always supported the rights of pre-pubescent children to change their gender. Always. And he was always against prison. Always. And, if you do not believe any of this shit, then you’re not black.

    1. eagerly watched two men have sex in the middle of the street with his father

      This part is ambiguous. Did the two men have sex with his father, or did Joe watch with his father?

      1. You’ll know after the election.

        1. Thanks to both of you for the much-needed levity.

  9. Biden is an old dog and not great at articulating his positions. The important thing is that there is broad agreement among Democrats and even Republicans for major reform so I’d expect some major gains under a Biden administration. If not I’ll be screaming bloody murder.

    1. If not I’ll be screaming bloody murder

      Hahaha, the hell you will. A shill like you? Not a chance.

    2. We’ve already had reforms under Trump. Obama spent 8 years putting medical marijuana patients in federal penitentiaries. Trump’s DOJ doesn’t. Biden brags about putting hundreds of thousands of people in federal prisons for possession. Trump signs criminal justice reform legislation to ameliorate the damage Biden did. You are a fucking idiot.

    3. Lord of Strazele
      October.16.2020 at 2:32 pm
      “Biden is an old dog and not great at articulating his positions…”

      Biden is a tired, senile POS who never held a job in his life and (like you) has no principles at all. He’s spent his entire career slopping at the public trough, weathervaning to whatever view would get him re-elected.
      And you are a stinking pile of lefty pile who will invent any lies at all in the hopes of glossing over the train-wreck which is Biden.
      Fuck off and die, pod.

      1. He really is to blame.

    4. Democrat party= Party of slavery

      1. A dem would say they were the party of full employment.

        1. Prisoners with jobs.

    5. Hey, remember when President Choom did absolutely fuck-all about legalization of medical marijuana? The son of a bitch could have simply rescheduled it, but when push comes to shove, the last thing he’ll ever do is agree to reduce the power of government at any level. Commies are likely that, don’t you know?

      BTW, remember how Biden vehemently protested the teleprompter-in-chief’s failure to end the drug war? Yeah, me neither.

      -jcr

  10. Why is Biden glossing over that he is the #1 drug warrior and the architect of our contemporary carceral state? It’s not hurting him one bit with libertarian magazine editors.

    1. Favored 3 to 1 by Reasonoids. Go figure.

    2. Why did God’s Own Prohibitionists standpatters keep the “Death to Plant Leaves” planks in their First Responders™ platform? The Dems deleted all of their prohibitionist crap after LP spoiler votes covered the gap with over a million votes left over in 2016. Who has the learning disability?

      1. Do you think that kind of phrasing is clever? It isn’t. Your recent commentary efforts are undeserved and unwarranted. Did you know that?

        1. Oooo looky dere, the faeces-flinging Jesus dishing out opprobrium from behind a mask!

          1. Once again, you make no sense. You don’t sound clever. You sound like an idiot desperately trying to sound clever with bizarre references and phrasing.

            You’re also a bigot.

  11. Biden Tries To Gloss Over His Long History of Supporting the Drug War and Draconian Criminal Penalties

    You misspelled “Lied Like A Motherfucker”.

    1. Is it lying if he legitimately doesn’t remember doing any of those things?

  12. If you wanted to make a “systemic racism” ticket, Biden/Harris would be the perfect representation.

    1. Haha. I know, ain’t it wild?

      They gotta be fuckin with us. It don’t make no damn sense.

    2. On Southpark, “Token” is a boy.

  13. “The mistake came in terms of what the states did locally,” he said.

    If they hadn’t a done what I told them not to do . . .

  14. I thought his point about how far more people are in state prisons than federal prisons was weird – was it just me? The feds don’t have the same police power that states do. Most crimes are state crimes, most trials are state trials, and, therefore, most sentences are served in state facilities. What am I missing?

    It seemed like a swing-and-a-miss at private prisons.

  15. This single issue is the most significant reason I will never, ever vote for Biden.

  16. It’s not just Biden. At the government website the Legislative History of the Anti Drug-Abuse Act of 1986 (https://tinyurl.com/yylxs4yh) page 33, the page before Goldwater suggests repealing the drug laws and Biden calls him a Libertarian, does not follow from the page labeled 32. The discussion airing the fact that cocaine abstinence causes no withdrawal symptoms and is neither addictive nor narcotic is clumsily elided and pp. with Bayes numbers 13960 through 13971 are down the memory hole. The House version of the 1988 drug prohibition bill was blocked on September 26. The past is being altered as we watch!

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  18. OK, but did he say anything about his kid pimping his sorry ass as a sitting VP top every jackoff foreign agent with access to some serious bucks?

  19. Thanks for researching and writing this Jacob.

    This is why nobody who considers themselves a libertarian should vote for Biden/Harris.

    Trump and Pence are far more libertarian than Biden and Harris.

    1. +1000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000

    2. “And if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. Now tell me what you know”

      Groucho Marx

      Calling Trump and Pence anything remotely like a libertarian is like calling a fish more like a dog than a horse.

      There is an actual libertarian running for president. She is on the ballot in all 50 states. She needs our support to get out the message that we will not be ignored nor drowned out by the republicrats.

    3. “Libertarian” as National Socialists go, you mean.

    4. “Don’t vote for Stalin, Hitler is far more libertarian!” Because there are NO other options.

  20. Joe Biden : Make America Docile Again

  21. Biden’s almost 80 years old and the decline in mental faculty is visible. He works for like 3 hours and then hides in a basement. Depending on what happens with these revelation, we may be looking at an indicted president elect in January.

    He’s either the most compelling case against early voting or a prime example of how media covers for their preferred candidate. Probably both.

    1. Works for 3 hours then hides in the basement.

      Which is not a bad thing in a president actually. Maybe show up at diplomatic dinners and smile a lot.

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  22. Old, corrupt, and senile.

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  24. Joe’s loss of memory in codifying Sharia law shouldn’t be held against him, it’s been a long time and the man can’t remember one moment from the next.

    That’s the problem with Joe’s campaign, when asked a question it maybe days before he’s told what to say.

  25. First and foremost, Joe is a democrat and he will tow the party line. Dems have a much better on police restrictions than Republicans who want to arm them and turn them into a militia force for Republican governors. You can’t deny any of that. Democrats have their negatives but compared to republicans on criminal reform they are much better, unless you like police boots on your neck. However the current incarnation of the Reason crowd seem to be just republicans hiding in the hinterlands of libertarian-ville and don’t get the concept that individual liberty trumps the police state dogma of the right against victimless crimes like drugs and prostitution.

    1. I disagree with virtually everything you said there. Just as a matter of fact. Joe.. I will absolutely ban Fracking..Joe, I will not ban Fracking…Joe…I want to put super predator’s in Jail. Joe, I never said that. Joe…I fought with Corn Pop…Joe…who’s Corn Pop. I don’t know where this guy stands on ANYTHING. Voting for Joe is like putting your head between your legs and hoping to be kicked.

      1. Biden’s tanks for whatever he’s told to or whatever he’s paid the most money to support.

    2. Nothing you say about the Democrats is true, at that’s why you don’t have a *shred* of evidence to support *any* of your claims. Both parties have appalling records at the federal level, I see no significant difference. If you say the Democrats are a little better I say the difference is microscopic and insignificant. I will note the following incontrovertible fact: 99% of these police murders occur in cities in which Democrats have controlled the executive and legislative branches for decades if not centuries. There are many reasons this is true, but two of the main reasons are: 1) City Democrats are hopelessly corrupt and have been since the beginning. The cops know where “the bodies are buried” are use that fact to blackmail the Democratic mayors and councils. They are permitted to talk a good game about police brutality as long as they do nothing about it. 2) The Democrats own the unions and the unions own the Democrats, and that includes the police unions that make sure that police are never held accountable. They right thing to do is to disallow police unions, but unions won’t allow city Dems to do that. Joe Hill, ya’ know.

      Finally, you have exposed yourself as either a liar or someone who knows absolutely nothing about Reason’s positions on the drug war and sex work. You’ll only find articles here that support decriminalizing all drugs and sex work, and you will find many, many such articles. Find me an exception or go home.

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    1. Joe’s loss of memory in codifying Sharia law shouldn’t be held against him

  27. Let’s see who will win this election. You can also check this

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  30. In a world that now has Drugs are good, smoking Cigarettes’ is bad, where Criminals are Misunderstood, and Crime is a state of mind,
    where Christian Religion is the Devil of society, and “Science” is a reason to hate anyone that has faith.
    Joe Biden has become the torch bearer of all of these things… Where will be in 4 years..
    Just a guess, Everyone will pay more for everything, that’s a given since Joe has said so. Electricity will be a rarer commodity as it now is in California, and Everyone will be scratching their heads how we got there. DJT is not a perfect person, but at least, you know where he stands on things. I can’t and I don’t think anyone can say that about Joe B.

  31. It is kinda funny to hear people on a libertarian board bashing Biden’s son for his past use of recreational drugs. Ok the shady business deals I can see.

    1. > It is kinda funny to hear people on a libertarian board bashing Biden’s son for his past use of recreational drugs.

      He never fucking stopped using drugs and we had a crackhead influencing US foreign policy. Let me guess, Hunter smoking crack on Air Force 2 over Chinese airspace was The Libertarian Moment. What a stupid time to be alive.

      1. And old Joe helped send thousands of young black men to prison for the same things he made sure his son would never be legally accountable for.

    2. Being libertarian doesn’t mean you can’t criticize someone for stupid, destructive, sleazy behavior. Being libertarian means Not advocating for a prison sentence for said behavior.

      Hunter Biden is still a huge piece of shit crackhead. He just shouldn’t go to prison for it

  32. As long as Godfather Joe is getting half the take from Fredo Hunter, he doesn’t appear to be all that committed to hard time for crack addicts in his personal life. For Hunter he seems to have favored an intensive rehabilitation plan centered around internships at corrupt Ukrainian oil companies and therapeutic junkets to China to harvest billions in graft for the benefit of the Biden crime family.

  33. Just thinking out loud here, but does the USA have an extradition treaty with Ukraine?

    If they indict the Bidens, wouldn’t it be Trump’s legal duty to send them there to stand trial?

    -jcr

  34. Gardy was essentially convicted the day he was arrested, and his trial is only a formality. The dumb and desperate cops trumped up the charges and fabricated the evidence. The prosecutor knows this but has no spine and is up for re-election next year. The judge is asleep. The jurors are basically nice simple people, wide-eyed at the process and ever so anxious to believe the lies their proud authorities are producing on the witness stand.

    — from “Rogue Lawyer”, by John Grisham

    Reason writers are truly appalling. They claim to have libertarian principles, but they can’t bear to suffer the frowns of their leftist peers in the NYT and other leftist media elites. As a result, Reason is missing *the* story of the century, relegating it to minor mentions here and there. That story is of course the *orgy* of censorship of conservative voices by left-leaning media organizations and platforms. You have variously suggested that it’s not a big deal, or it’s approximately equal on both sides, or it happens but the big issue is the attempt to repeal section 230.

    Censorship is *the* big issue, dwarfing all others, no matter how much you pretend otherwise. It is much more thorough than you make out, encompassing censorship by financial platforms, crowd-funding platforms, social media platforms, hosting platforms … almost every conceivable service, online or not. Almost all of it is directed against conservative voices. It should be the only story you cover. The amazing result is that Reason is no longer the voice of freedom of speech it once was. Instead, it has now shifted to Andrew Torba and his hideous, vile, cesspool of racism and anti-semitism, Gab, and to Reclaim The Net, and to other far-right voices. You are now
    little more than effete whiners making sure you have your seat at the Starbucks secure before you poke your head up to see the lay of the land.

    You’re nothing less than a traitor to your professed beliefs, because you have a platform to make a difference and you choose to dilute the anti-censorship message amongst all others. Censorship is bad, sure, but what about our high-school student government candidate Jo Jorgenson! And don’t forget, Orange Man bad! And open borders! And crypto heroes! So much to write about, all equally important.

    You are ignoring media censorship for he most pathetic of reasons: because you want to maintain your viability for future employment at these leftist media outlets. You don’t dare cross the line that will make you unpalatable to the NYT. Effectively they are now censoring you, and you don’t even realize it! Well, you’ll find out that you have failed to successfully walk the knife’s edge between libertarianism and coziness with potential authoritarian leftist media employers. As you tiptoe around the censorship issue they are becoming more and more extreme. If not already then soon enough any association with Reason will be seen as disqualifyingly “right-wing”. You will have compromised your values for nothing. The only way they might hire is if you confess your crimes and report for re-education. Congratulations on become irrelevant.

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