It took a while to happen, but during the second round of the second Democrat presidential primary debates Wednesday evening, former Vice President Joe Biden’s troublesome past finally came barreling back to haunt him with a vengeance.
About halfway through the debate, CNN moderator Jake Tapper brought up the topic of criminal justice reform and asked the former VP specifically about his own plan to address the issue. Though just to be clear, President Donald Trump is already addressing the issue.
“Mr. Vice President, [fellow 2020 contender] Sen. [Cory] Booker called your new criminal justice reform plan, quote, ‘an inadequate solution to what is a raging crisis in our country,’ unquote. Why is Senator Booker wrong?” he asked.
Biden replied by outlining some of the details of his plan: rehabilitation for drug offenders, education opportunities for prison inmates, job/education opportunities for parolees, etc.
But when given the option to respond to the former VP’s plan, Booker noted that nothing Biden proposes or does in the present can make up for the sins of his past.
Listen to the whole exchange below:
“Mr. Vice President has said that, since the 1970s, every major crime bill — every crime bill, major and minor, has had his name on it,” Booker said.
“And, Sir, those are your words, not — not mine. And this is one of those instances where the house was set on fire and you claimed responsibility for those laws. And you can’t just now come out with a plan to put out that fire. We have got to have far more bold action on criminal justice reform.”
In 1994, then-Sen. Biden helped write the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, a bill that led to the incarceration of an untold number of minorities. Both his competitors in the Democrat primaries and President Donald Trump have used this fact to portray him as someone whose legislative career has been a great bane to the black community in particular.
Anyone associated with the 1994 Crime Bill will not have a chance of being elected. In particular, African Americans will not be able to vote for you. I, on the other hand, was responsible for Criminal Justice Reform, which had tremendous support, & helped fix the bad 1994 Bill!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 27, 2019
When given the option to respond to Booker’s criticism, Biden tried to attack the senator’s own record on criminal justice as per his own past as the mayor of Newark, New Jersey. But this angle of attack wound up backfiring on the former VP with more velocity than a shotgun.
“[I]f you want to compare records — and, frankly, I’m shocked that you do — I am happy to do that,” the senator responded to roaring applause and laughter from the audience.
“Because all the problems that he is talking about, that he created, I actually led the bill that got passed into law that reverses the damage that your bills that you were, frankly — to correct you, Mr. Vice President — you were bragging, calling it the Biden crime bill, up until 2015.”
This line was so savage it inspired the sharing of memes on social media:
— Black Women Views (@blackwomenviews) August 1, 2019
— S. Fitzpatrick (@beautifulflawz) August 1, 2019
“YOU WANT TO COMPARE CRIMINAL JUSTICE RECORDS MR. VICE PRESIDENT AND I’M SURPRISED THAT YOU DO.” pic.twitter.com/QubV2VQXQE
— dunder mifflin, this is diane (@dianelyssa) August 1, 2019
— J (@J26626373) August 1, 2019
However, the New Jersey senator wasn’t done yet.
Given the option to respond again, Biden tried again to attack the senator’s own history.
“[T]here was nothing done for the entire eight years he was mayor, there was nothing done to deal with the police department that was corrupt,” he said. “Why did you announce on the first day a zero tolerance policy of stop and frisk and hire Rudy Giuliani’s guy in 2007, when I was trying to get rid of the crack cocaine disparity?”
That’s when Booker dropped his second zinger.
“Mr. Vice President, there’s a saying in my community, you’re dipping into the Kool-Aid and you don’t even know the flavor,” he said to another round of raucous applause and laughter.
“You need to come to the city of Newark and see the reforms that we put in place. The New Jersey head of the ACLU has said that I embraced reforms not just in action, but in deeds.”
“Sir, you are trying to shift the view from what you created. There are people right now in prison for life for drug offenses because you stood up and used that ‘tough on crime’ phony rhetoric that got a lot of people elected but destroyed communities like mine. This isn’t about the past, sir. This is about the present right now. I believe in redemption.”
Sure, but the evidence suggests that Booker believes in “redemption” a tad too much …
According to Vox, the senator doesn’t just want to offer “redemption” to non-violent offenders; he wants to offer it to dangerous, violent felons as well.
“As it stands, the majority of people in state prisons are in for violent crimes. Given that some reformers have aimed to cut the overall prison population by 50 percent, at some point the number of people in prison for violent crimes will need to be reduced as well,” a Vox report published earlier this year reads.
“When I asked Booker about this in 2016, he acknowledged the problem, questioning whether long prison sentences for violent offenses are worthwhile and noting the well-established research that people, including violent offenders, mostly age out of crime.”
Tell that to the victims of Albert Flick, 77 …
Albert Flick was convicted in 1979 of fatally stabbing a woman 14 times, but was released after 25 years and later said by a judge to be “too old” to kill again. Last year, he killed again. https://t.co/ntiKpgNw0C
— KHOU 11 News Houston (@KHOU) July 21, 2019
The fact is there’s a thin line between the types of legitimate criminal justice reform efforts that the president has pursued and the types of “let them run free” efforts Booker seems to support.
While it’s true that Biden’s past vis-à-vis criminal justice isn’t so great, Booker’s future vis-à-vis is the same — a “utopia” where violent criminals are treated with kid gloves, apparently — doesn’t look so nice either. Just saying.
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