Saturday, August 02, 2008

Barack Obama on crime

Stanley Kurtz has an excellent (and lengthy) article on "Barack Obama's Lost Years" in the Weekly Standard. Excerpts appear below but please read the entire article when you get a chance:

We've heard a good deal of late about Ayers's Weatherman terrorism back in the 1960s and his lack of repentance….Obama has dismissed Ayers as just "a guy who lives in my neighborhood." Yet several Obama-Ayers connections are known: Obama's 1995 political debut at the home of Ayers and his wife (and fellow former terrorist) Bernardine Dohrn, Obama's joint service with Ayers on the board of the \ Woods Fund of Chicago, a couple of appearances with Ayers on academic panels, and what the New York Times called Obama's "rave review"…of Ayers's book on juvenile justice….

For all the attention, the actual content of Ayers's 1997 book, A Kind and Just Parent, as well as the political context of Obama's interest in it, have so far passed unremarked.

…Ayers's radicalism pervades his book on Chicago's juvenile court system.

The book also virtually defines the phrases "liberal guilt" and "soft on crime."
Ayers opposes trying even the most vicious juvenile murderers as adults. Beyond that, he'd like to see the prison system itself essentially abolished.

… Ayers argues that prisons artificially impose obedience and conformity on society, thereby creating a questionable distinction between the "normal" and the "deviant."
Given his decision to recommend Ayers's book in the Tribune, it's fair to say that Obama is at least broadly sympathetic to this perspective. When Obama offers examples of ill-conceived legislation, he often points to building prisons: Instead of uilding another prison, why not expand health care entitlements?

The most intriguing thread linking Obama, Ayers, and crime, however, runs through Ayers's wife, Bernardine Dohrn…. Dohrn...regularly and energetically opposes "get tough" crime laws. Ayers draws on his wife's wisdom in A Kind and Just Parent, and Dohrn, like her husband, publicly presents her work on juvenile justice not as a repudiation of her youthful radicalism, but as a continuation of it.

…Obama was one of only three Illinois state senators to vote against a proposal making it a criminal offense for convicts on probation or on bail to have contact with a street gang. A year later, on a vote mandating adult prosecution for aggravated discharge of a firearm in or near a school, Obama voted "present," and reiterated his opposition to adult trials for even serious juvenile offenders. In short, when it comes to the issue of crime, Obama is on the far left of the political spectrum and very much in synch with his active political allies Ayers and Dohrn.

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