Biden Slams Liberals, Tells Democrats to Get Tough on Crime

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s decision Thursday on a local crime law sends a national message to his fellow Democrats about how he thinks they should deal with Republican criticism of the nation’s rising crime rates.

Democrats have focused primarily on police reform since the George Floyd protests reignited a national debate about race and law enforcement three years ago, but rising violent crime rates and growing perceptions of unease in big cities have spurred a chorus of strategists and party officials to call for a tougher approach to countering Republican attacks.

Biden – who has a history of pushing for tougher crime laws – has tried to bridge the Democratic divide, but was forced to choose sides this week when he said he would not allow the Washington administration to enact laws that would reduce some criminals’ sentences clauses.

“If Republicans thought President Biden was going to give them a wedge issue in 2024, they were wrong,” said Democratic strategist Liz Smith, a veteran of former President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign and architect of the rise of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “It will be very difficult to label him as soft on crime after he has been accused of defunding the police and reducing sentences for crimes such as carjacking.”

Nothing focuses the mind of a White House candidate up for re-election like an incumbent with just 17 percent of the vote, as Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot did Tuesday in the city’s crime-focused mayoral race.

The DC bill offered a number of complications. The Democratic-controlled city council passed sweeping criminal reform, but then the mayor, also a Democrat, vetoed it. The council overrode her veto.

But D.C.’s unusual existence as not fully independent from the federal government means Congress can override any law change. A Republican-led bill received the support of about 30 Democrats in the House and is now expected to pass the Senate with a handful of Democrats, forcing Biden to either sign it or veto it. Democrats, who have increasingly pushed to let D.C. govern itself, called on Biden to veto it, saying it is not the federal government’s place to set local criminal law. But Biden disagreed.

“I support the state of DC and home rule — but I don’t support some of the changes the DC Council has put forward over the Mayor’s objections — like reducing the penalties for carjackings,” the president he said on Twitter.

The White House is planning an all-out effort to portray him as tough on crime and try to erase any Republican advantage on an issue that has put many Democrats on the defensive.

Next week the president will seek increased funding for his Safer America Plan, aimed at crime prevention and policing, in the 2024 budget proposal, according to a White House official. Biden is also expected to continue to publicly highlight his criminal record.

The White House is preparing to step up its criticism of Republicans on crime more generally, with plans to highlight some Republican efforts to cut the Justice Department’s Community Policing Services, or COPS Program, opposition to an assault weapons ban and calls for defunding of the FBI. The White House plans to argue that by proposing to return federal spending to 2022 levels, for example, Republicans would cut funding for crime-fighting programs.

The effort will be similar to how Biden talked about crime on the campaign trail during last year’s midterm elections, the White House official said.

“Congressional Republicans must commit here and now to join President Biden — not stand in his way — in fighting the rising crime rate he inherited,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates said. “Their long-running campaign to defund law enforcement in the name of ideology could not be more antithetical to the country.”

Biden’s decision blindsided congressional Democrats, most of whom recently voted to let the D.C. law stand — especially since the administration indicated last month that the president would take the opposite position — and is widely seen in from a political lens.

“It’s smart policy. He was running on a sawmill,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, told reporters on Capitol Hill. “You don’t want to run away from the mayor of DC.”

Veteran Democratic strategist James Carville, who was a top strategist for Bill Clinton when he successfully overcame long-held perceptions that Democrats were soft to win the presidency during the height of the crack epidemic in the 1990s, said his move Biden is good. step, but that the party must do more.

“It shows you how powerful this issue has become. Look what happened in Chicago. Look what happened in San Francisco. Wherever you turn,” Carville said, referring to the ousting of Lightfoot and former San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin in a recall election last year.

Crime largely disappeared from national politics while rates were at historic lows during much of the 2000s and 2010s, but Carville said politics changed when they began to return during the pandemic, though which are still not as high as they were in the 90s.

“This is a front and center issue and it’s one that we should, by any measure or statistic, be ahead of — but we’re not,” he said of Democrats.

Biden’s move put himself in the uncomfortable position of drawing praise from Republicans and criticism from House Democrats, the vast majority of whom are now officially voting against overturning the controversial criminal reform, which could be used against them in GOP attack ads.

“Biden just hung the House Democrats out to dry. It’s incompetence bordering on hilarity that they waited until dozens of them walked on it,” said Matt Gorman, a Republican strategist who has worked on House campaigns. “Crime is only gaining prominence as an issue. It looks like Biden, apparently running for re-election, is telling his party to wake up.”

The Republican-controlled House passed the measure to overturn the D.C. law with the support of just 31 of the 212 Democrats in the chamber.

Democrats control the Senate, but D.C.-related issues get a special fast-track vote, and several Democrats — and not just the usual suspects like West Virginia’s Joe Manchin — have said they will vote with Republicans to overturn the law.

Democrats like New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and California Rep. Pete Aguilar blasted Biden on Twitter for undermining self-government in the capital, while non-voting US House Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton called her “a sad day for DC home. rule.”

“With crime on the rise nationwide, most senators do not want to be seen as supporting criminal justice reform,” Holmes Norton said in a statement.

Tellingly, however, few national Democrats gave a full defense of the criminal law itself, focusing instead on D.C.’s ability to govern itself without federal interference.

Violent crime is rising nationally and in big cities, the main base of support for Democrats, as inner cities struggle to recover from the pandemic.

Last fall, Gallup found that a record 56 percent of Americans said crime had increased in their area — the highest increase since the pollster first began asking the question in 1972. A new survey in January found that 72% of Americans expect crime to continue to rise this year.

Urban residents reported a 15 percentage point drop in their perceived quality of life from last year in deep blue New Jersey, according to a new Monmouth University poll, while suburbanites said their quality of life remained stable.

In D.C., home to both local and federal lawmakers who look into crime, homicides are up 30 percent from last year.

Last month, Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minnesota, was attacked in the elevator of her Washington apartment building by a man with 12 prior assaults on his record.

In an interview with a local radio station last week, Craig criticized some reform-minded Democrats on crime, pointing to a failed 2021 ballot measure in Minneapolis to abolish the city’s police department and replace it with a new agency as an example. .

“There are people who, in my view, have been reckless with their words over the last few years,” he said. “If we have to choose as a nation between social justice and public safety, we all have lost. We have to choose both.”

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