Well, here we go again. Last week, in a big White House event, President Trump announced support for a worthy bipartisan package of criminal justice reforms.
The effort, spearheaded by a coalition of right and left, would shorten mandatory minimum prison terms for some nonviolent drug offenses. It would reduce the “three strikes” penalty from life behind bars to a less punitive quarter-century locked away. In other cases, it would return to judges crucial discretion to determine how long a convicted felon serves. Finally, it would retroactively apply reforms to correct glaring disparities in punishment between powdered cocaine and crack — possibly leading to early release of hundreds of incarcerated individuals.
“It’s the right thing to do,” said the President, correctly.
Cross your fingers. We’ve seen this reality TV show before. First, in a grand public gesture, Trump announces his openness to resolving a long-standing policy problem. Then, as complexities and political rifts emerge, he throws a wrench or two or three in the gears, and it all falls apart.
We saw it with immigration reform. We saw it with guns. Commitment, confusion, cold feet. Repeat.
Within hours of the White House event, Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker raised “concerns” over the package. Then hard-right Sen. Tom Cotton whipped up Senate opposition. Then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced his own doubts.
The President is the only elected official in Washington capable of herding together leaders of both parties, focusing on a goal and achieving it. If he cares to do so.
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