Category: Barack Obama

Post-election rant exposes white liberal naivete

By Alan Bean

Tim Wise is taking heat for an anti-Tea Party, post-election screed that has been popping up on a host of Lefty websites. 

The basic idea is that, last Tuesday notwithstanding,  American conservatism has one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel.  Here’s the gist:

I know, you think you’ve taken “your country back” with this election — and of course you have always thought it was yours for the taking, cuz that’s what we white folks are bred to believe, that it’s ours, and how dare anyone else say otherwise — but you are wrong. (more…)

Osler: Obama’s Mercy Dearth

If Barack Obama can reduce the crack-powder disparity, why hasn’t he issued a single pardon? 

Mark Osler, a law professor, former federal prosecutor and Friends of Justice board member, poses this question in an op-ed published Sunday in the Dallas Morning News.  I hope I’m wrong, but I think I know the answer.  Like most Democrats, our president fears that a show of mercy will make him look weak.  So, like Bill Clinton before him, Obama maintains the pious fiction that the criminal justice system never errs or overreaches.  Hopefully, the next two years will see more action on the pardon front.

 Mark Osler: Obama’s Mercy Dearth

12:00 AM CDT on Sunday, November 7, 2010 

Former federal prosecutor Mark Osler teaches at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minnesota. He previously taught law at Baylor University for 10 years

On Oct. 28, the White House announced that President Barack Obama had earlier in the month denied 71 pardon requests and 605 petitions for commutation of sentence, while granting none. Nearly two years into his term, Obama has issued exactly zero pardons and no commutations, a sorry record that distinguishes him from nearly all of his predecessors. (more…)

The ‘southern strategy’ and the 2010 election

It is perfectly normal for the minority party to score impressive gains in an off-year election.  But it could be argued that the almost unprecedented success of the GOP in Tuesday’s election is an extension of a trend that has been unfolding since the civil rights era.   

In the early 1960s, it was virtually impossible for a southern Republican to win election for any post.  Memories of “Yankee misrule” replete with “carpetbaggers” and “scalawags” made the Party of Lincoln anathema in the South during the first half of the 20th century.  As this article from the New York Times reminds us, Roosevelt’s New Deal was popular in the Jim Crow South, largely because FDR accommodated southern racists.  (more…)

The Justice Department’s “No Pardon” policy

By Alan Bean

Thanks to Doug Berman for alerting me to this hard-hitting critique of the Justice Department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney.  Samuel Morison’s comments originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times. 

Here’s the heart of his critique: “Having spent more than 10 years as a staff attorney in that office, I can say with some authority that the prevailing view within the Justice Department is that the pardon attorney’s sole institutional function is to defend the department’s prosecutorial prerogatives. There is little, if any, pretense of neutrality, much less liberality. On this parochial view, the institution of a genuinely humane clemency policy would be considered an insult to the good work of line prosecutors.”

A no-pardon Justice Department

President Obama should rely more on his own moral judgment than the Justice Department’s in making clemency and pardon decisions.

By Samuel T. Morison

November 6, 2010

The Times’ well-intentioned Oct. 30 editorial bemoaning that fact that President Obama hasn’t yet granted any pardons or commutations, in which the editorial board correctly notes that the president is “aided in such decisions by the Office of the Pardon Attorney in the Justice Department,” betrays a profound misunderstanding of the role the pardon office plays in the clemency advisory process. In particular, The Times writes, “Ideally, presidents would give great deference to the pardon attorney’s recommendations and take a liberal view of the clemency power, exercising it often and on the basis of clear standards.” (more…)

The folks who swing elections

By Alan Bean

According to this article in the Washington Post, Republican attempts to demonize House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have been unsuccessful . . . until this election year.

Let me say up front that I have no opinion of Ms. Pelosi one way or the other.  I find her nervous smile unconvincing, but I don’t blame her for smiling or for being nervous.  What interests me here is the power of oft-repeated talking points in hard financial times.  Ms. Pelosi’s job is primarily to negotiate behind the scenes while trying to rally Democrats behind the party line.  She isn’t responsible for shaping policy; she’s a cheerleader and a professional compromiser.  That’s her role.  So why have her “strongly disapprove” numbers risen from a modest 17% to a startling 41%. 

Two reasons: one, times are tough and voters are always inclined to blame the folks in power; two, Republicans and Tea Party activists have been telling us that Pelosi is a very bad person.  We aren’t told why she is bad; apparently it’s supposed to be self-evident.  That’s how the demonization game  works.  If you argue that Speaker Pelosi is a child of hell because she supports specific legislative initiatives, you shift attention from personality to policy.  Republicans realize that, when times are tough, you simply point the finger and scream, “this lady consorts with Satan!” (more…)

Democrats and the Drug War

By Alan Bean

New York Times columnist Charles Blow asks why Democrats have shown such loyal support for a drug war that targets one of its core constituencies.  Here’s the salient quote:

“It is, in part, callous political calculus. It’s an easy and relatively cheap way for them to buy a tough-on-crime badge while simultaneously pleasing police unions. The fact that they are ruining the lives of hundreds of thousands of black and Hispanic men and, by extension, the communities they belong to barely seems to register.”

Exhibit A is the Obama administration’s staunch support for the Byrne Grant program.  The Tulia drug sting (which created Friends of Justice) was funded with Byrne money.  This partly explains why George Bush made drastic cuts to the program–it had embarrassed the Lone Star State.  Barack Obama knows that most Byrne funding is channelled into statistic-generating narcotics programs that (a) lock up disproportionate numbers of poor black men and (b) do absolutely nothing to address the harms associated with drug abuse. 

Tragically, support for the drug war has always been a cheap way for democrats to play the tough-on-crime card.  (more…)