- - Tuesday, April 12, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Over the last few days former President Bill Clinton displayed one of the salient weaknesses of our famously weak contemporary politicians. He did this even while reminding Americans of one of his rare lapses into true leadership, his 1994 bipartisan legislation to lower crimes rates, particularly in the inner city. When confronted by the low-information crowd known as the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, he wilted. It took him 24 hours, but eventually, after an eloquent defense of his 1994 leadership, he groveled, whimpering: “I almost want to apologize.”

Why apologize, Mr. President? The incarceration of criminals that followed that 1994 act saved many lives, made marginal neighborhoods livable, and allowed the residents of those neighborhoods to live productive lives. They could start climbing up the rungs of the ladder to the middle class. It was a great day for the republic. Moreover, you made the cities that those warring neighborhoods were in even better cities to live in. Why the retreat, Bill?

You said it yourself. In a speech last Thursday in Philadelphia, over the protests of dozens of BLM galoots you quite accurately stated: “Because of that bill we had a 25-year low in crime, a 33-year low in the murder rate, and because of that and the background-check law, we had a 46-year low in the deaths of people by gun violence.” You might have added for the enlightenment of the BLMers that in the three decades prior to your bipartisan bill violent crime had more than tripled. The cities were dangerous places to live. Moreover, thanks to other reforms of the period, the Census Bureau reports that the median family income for black Americans increased by 33 percent. The Republican Congress and the Clinton White House have a lot to brag about for their domestic achievement in those days.

Yet now the BLMers have completely drowned out the achievement of the 1990s. Last Thursday Mr. Clinton complained, “I don’t know how you would characterize gang leaders who got 13-year-old kids hopped up on crack and sent them out on the street to murder other African-Americans children.” To which the BLM posse merely mouthed slogans and waved placards proclaiming, “Black youth are not super predators.” “Black youth” refers to Hillary Clinton’s 1996 characterization of black gang leaders. She was not talking about “black youth.” No one was talking about black youths as “predators.” That is the BLMers’ lazy characterization.

Yet Mrs. Clinton has apologized to the BLM in the street for her reference to predators. Bill has backed down from his utterly accurate explanation of the extent of violence before the 1994 crime bill. Now the whole progressive movement is in retreat and accepting whatever black militants say about Bill Clinton’s 1994 law, which they say amounts to “mass incarceration.” If they succeed they will have us back in 1993 again. That is their idea of progress.

As I say, when confronted by the BLM crowd, Bill caved. So did Hillary when she accepted their claim that the 1994 law led to mass incarceration. All the evidence was with the Clintons. They were right. Crime rates in black neighborhoods have been lowered. Why are the Clintons denouncing their own legacy, which is to say, more livable black neighborhoods and more peaceful cities?

The answer seems to be that values among a constituency that the Clintons are courting have now changed. Along with the BLM crowd, black leaders are buying the notion that the 1994 law was aimed at black youth rather than thugs of all races. So Hillary and Bill Clinton are adapting to the values of 2016. This is leadership in the modern Democratic Party. Bend with the winds even if the winds are going to blow them away.

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is editor-in-chief of The American Spectator. He is author of “The Death of Liberalism,” published by Thomas Nelson Inc.

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