- - Thursday, October 6, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Fact-checking has become such a growth industry in the media that sometimes busy fact-checkers overlook the obvious, such as Tim Kaine’s attempt to rewrite his history as mayor of Richmond. He boasted in his debate with Mike Pence that he had cut Richmond’s frightening murder rate in half by relying on “community policing.” His record, as he presented it, sounds good. But he knew better.

In 1994 Richmond had the second highest major-city homicide rate in the country and it looked to be getting worse. Richmond seemed to be morphing into the Chicago of the South. Three years later the National Rifle Association, working with other groups and an aggressive U.S. Attorney, helped develop what became “Operation Exile” to make sure that every gangbanger, felon and anyone else who used a gun in the commission of a crime would be prosecuted in federal court.

The NRA publicized the program with print and radio ads, signs on buses and billboards promising prosecution, and if convicted, a visit of five years in a federal prison. The program worked, proving that the way to reduce “gun crime” is to prosecute and jail criminals, not harass the law-abiding citizens who own guns.

Mr. Kaine became mayor that year, thanks to “Operation Exile,” and the murder rate was cut by more than 30 percent. The next year it was cut another 22 percent. The new mayor quickly decided that “Project Exile” was working, and became its champion. When he ran for governor in 2005, he portrayed himself as the tough on crime candidate and took credit for making Richmond safe again. He even praised the National Rifle Association.

But successful or not, “Operation Exile” was scrapped by Bill Clinton’s Justice Department. Eric Holder, then the deputy U.S. attorney general, said “Operation Exile was a waste of time and besides, the way to punish thugs who use guns to commit crime is to take guns away from everybody. Mr. Holder borrowed this strategy from the Fearless Fosdick school of crime-fighting, illustrated in the comics pages by a police detective assigned to prevent someone from eating a can of poisoned beans planted in a supermarket by a particularly nefarious evildoer. Fearless patrolled the supermarkets and shooting, with a tip of the hat, everyone he saw picking up a can of beans. No one died of bean-poisoning, but dozens died of lead-poisoning at the hand of Fearless.

Critics of “Operation Exile” complained that it was putting too many black and brown evildoers away, and when Hillary chose Mr. Kaine as her running mate some of her colleagues worried that the choice might offend the leaders of the “Black Lives Matter” movement. Mr. Kaine then rewrote a little history, still taking credit for eliminating crime in Richmond but attributing his success to the sensitivity training he ordered for Richmond’s cops. This is just the sort of exaggeration and prevarication that fact-checkers are supposed to catch, but telling the inconvenient truth about someone you like can be hard to do.

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