Monday, November 2, 2015

O'Reilly: Talking Points Gas

Tonight, Bill O'Reilly began his program by asking, "Why is President Obama releasing thousands of hard drug dealers?" He then claimed that he would give the "real reason" why. O'Reilly started his "talking points" segment by saying the "liberal point" of view is that prison sentences for drug offenses have not been "just" and that prisons are just "too expensive."

But, O'Reilly says, the "real reasons" drug offenders are being released at "the behest of Obama" are as follows: 1) The left believes police target African Americans 2) Many liberals want to legalize all drugs and 3) Obama thinks rehabilitation is better than incarceration. O'Reilly concludes that the "acceptance and promotion" of "the drug culture" is shameful.

For starters, both parties, in both chambers of Congress concluded that the old 100 to 1 disparity in crack to powder cocaine sentencing (which O'Reilly never mentions specifically) was ineffective and unfair. O'Reilly has yet to explain, with any degree of detail, why all of those Representatives and Senators were wrong. Second, the concerns about the costs of mass incarceration are far from merely being a "liberal" / "left" concern. The world is changing around Mr. O'Reilly and he is either completely unaware of it, or in an impressive tsunami of denial.

O'Reilly's legalize-all-drugs straw man would be more impressive if every drug offender in the federal prisons was about to be released, but that is simply not the case. O'Reilly just doesn't get it. It's not about drugs per se. It is about intelligent pursuit of policy goals, fairness and proportionality in sentencing. It's about locking up young, first-time, low-level, non-violent offenders for decades - if not life - while first degree murderers in the same cells may walk after 13 years.

O'Reilly's strategy to avoid the pitfalls of such specifics is, essentially, to take the sloppy position that ALL drug offenses are, by definition, "violent." That someone of a conservative slant would take this position is stupefying. If there is anything worse than over-criminalization of the law and the expansion of the nanny state, it is overly broad construction of serious legal concepts.

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