As someone who cares mightily about restoration of our country to conditions under which my grandchildren live and flourish, I have carefully assayed the dueling claims of Senator Clinton and Senator Obama to lead the nation. Senator Clinton proclaims a decisive advantage in experience that notably bears responsibility for some damaging policies as well. During my time on the bench, I saw the largest incarceration boom in the nation's history even as crime rates slowed. The 1995 "tough on crime" legislation sponsored by the Clinton White House, for which the First Lady lobbied, expanded the federal death sentence and gave fiscal incentives for states to legislate "truth in sentencing" laws. The Administration also supported a federal "three strikes" law patterned after California's that overwhelmed prisons and legislations that pushed youthful offenders into adult institutions.
The cumulative result of the policies was a generation of young men and women, heavily tilted toward minorities, which suffered more severely than their crimes warranted. Credible researchers and political leaders later repudiated these policies for their costliness, ineffectiveness in improving public safety, and devastating impact on families and minority communities. Since then Senator Clinton has shown reluctance to support retroactive application of the sentencing reductions for those in prison for crack cocaine violations whose penalties have since been drastically cut by the U.S. Sentencing Commission.
Senator Clinton's career, in my view, is that of a cautious and expedient legislator. Her ambivalent attitude toward the Iraq war -- particularly her failure to read the critical intelligence report before voting to authorize military action -- gives me pause when considering her claims to leadership and change.
I am impressed with Senator Obama's record. His well-documented years organizing and unifying poor communities in Chicago give him first-hand knowledge of conditions on the ground that a new President will surely need in tackling the still intractable issues of race and poverty. He has been an unwavering supporter of women's right to choose, despite the Clinton campaign's repeated misstatements of his record. He has played a leadership role in Illinois for children's health insurance and tax credits for working class families. As someone whose career has been in law enforcement, I especially admire his unremitting honesty and respect for law. His opposition to the Iraq war at a time when political leaders overwhelmingly supported it reflects sound judgment.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Clear Policy Differences
Though the title is unfortunate because we (I) have had enough of people speaking for entire demographics, Particia Wald's "Speaking for the Older Women: On Obama and Clinton" (Huffington Post) is worth reading, emailing, thinking about. Here's a tidbit, but, really, read the whole thing: