Thursday, April 11, 2013

Reason Discovers Rand Paul Is Not a Libertarian

It's about Rand being slick with words, which I have pointed out before. Matt Riggs at Reason explains:
At Sen. Rand Paul's speech to Howard University students Wednesday, the first round of applause went to the two student protesters who stood in front of the stage and unfurled a banner that read, "Howard University Does Not Support White Supremacy." The first round of applause for Paul came 10 minutes or so into his prepared remarks, when the junior senator from Kentucky said, "We should not have laws that ruin the lives of young men and women who have committed no violence. That’s why I have introduced a bill to repeal federal mandatory minimum sentences." Finally: clapping!

The line revealed a neat overlap between civil libertarians and Howard's Democrat-leaning African American student body. It was also something of an exaggeration.

The bill Paul introduced last month--called the Justice Safety Valve Act of 2013--isn't nearly so expansive as he led his audience to believe. While the act would allow "courts--in some circumstances--to sentence a person below the mandatory minimum if that sentence is too lengthy, unjust or unreasonable, or doesn’t fit the offender or the crime," it doesn't require judges to deviate from the mandatory minimum, nor does it entitle offenders who fit the above criteria to an alternative sentence. If it had passed a decade ago, a bill like Paul's would've empowered a federal judge to sentence 24-year-old small-time pot dealer Weldon Angelos to 18 years in prison, instead of the mandatory 55 he received. In other words, people are still going to have their lives ruined by the drug war if Paul's bill passes.

Don't get me wrong: The bill is a very big step in the right direction. But was it accurate for Paul to say, "I have introduced a bill to repeal federal mandatory minimum sentences"? No. And while I don't think that flub is anything to get upset about, it raises some red flags. Does Paul not understand the drug war? Or is he simply not as zealous as his civil libertarian supporters want him to be? Could both be true?[...]The takeaway? Paul seems to think some people should be imprisoned for drugs, though not for very long; and that other people should be forced into counseling. That's a standard position for both Democrats and Republicans at this point, but it's not the least bit libertarian.
(ht John Duncan)

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