If President Trump’s base understood that he is talking like a weak-kneed milquetoast on crime, at least when compared to Joe Biden, then Trump would have no chance at reelection.

Yet that’s exactly what Trump is doing, even if he is acting more out of ignorance than weakness.

The problem isn’t that Trump helped broker, and then signed, a law that reduced prison sentences for nonviolent offenders while expanding efforts aimed at rehabilitating former prisoners. For the most part, that law is a good one.

Instead, the problem is that Trump is criticizing Biden for helping usher into law a 1994 crime bill while his campaign team asserts the 1994 law unwisely “led to mass incarceration.” The latter allegation is barely true, and only with caveats. More important, the law Trump castigates is one about which Biden and all the law’s supporters should boast, not apologize. The law played a large role in cutting the nation’s violent crime rate in half. If Trump thinks that’s a bad thing, he’s a woolly-headed liberal in a way that makes the former vice president look like a smart, tough-on-crime conservative.

This column explored that crime bill in some detail two weeks ago. It helped finance more police (a good thing), along with more prison construction in order to alleviate inmate overcrowding. And in two very well-aimed ways, it aimed to keep violent offenders, especially proven repeat offenders, behind bars rather than on the streets where they could terrorize innocent citizens.

Trump wrongly claimed that his new First Step Act “helped fix the bad 1994 Bill.” It did nothing of the sort. Not even close. Trump’s law reduced sentences for nonviolent offenders. The 1994 law was aimed at violent offenders. Trump’s law, thank goodness, did not materially reverse any key provisions from 1994. To the extent that the 1994 law did increase incarceration, as per the claim from the Trump campaign, it directly imprisoned only heinous offenders, exactly those criminals we should all want to be imprisoned….

[The full column is here.]


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