President Obama stands up for second chances

Last week, on Monday, July 13th, President Obama announced that he would commute the sentence of 46 Federal prisoners, non-violent drug offenders who he believed were serving punishments disproportionate to their crime.

In his Facebook video to explain his decision, the President noted:

“These men and women were not hardened criminals, but the overwhelming majority had been sentenced to at least 20 years.

I believe that at its heart, America is a nation of second chances. And I believe these folks deserve their second chance.”


Barack Obama signing clemency grants to convicted non-violent drug offenders with disproportionate sentences, July 2015. (Credit: The White House)

Barack Obama signing clemency grants to convicted non-violent drug offenders with disproportionate sentences, July 2015. (Credit: The White House)

Obama’s decision is not a singular event, but part of a series of events throughout his presidency aimed at bringing awareness to some of the broken parts of the American criminal justice system.

Since taking office, Obama has commuted 89 men and women serving time, 76 of whom were nonviolent drug offenders.

On Tuesday, July 14th, President Obama addressed the NAACP on the need for reform in our criminal justice system.

The Marshall Project notes, “no sitting president has ever publicly spoken at such length and in such detail as Obama now has about the persistent problems of crime and punishment in this country.”

Obama’s no-holds-barred speech touched upon everything from the over-sentencing of non-violent drug offenders to racial injustices in the criminal justice system to the school-to-prison pipeline to the detriments of solitary confinement.

He offered specific and necessary reforms to improve our criminal justice system, such as lowering or eliminating mandatory minimums and addressing crime prevention at the community level. (Check out more details here.)

Then, on Thursday, July 16th, Obama became the first sitting president to ever visit a Federal prison. There, he met with six, non-violent drug offenders who explained their hopes for the future and the obstacles they’ll have to overcome as they eventually re-enter American society.

Obama’s recent push to call attention to the failings of our justice system may just be working.

While there is still a wide divide between philosophies on justice and a general overuse of rhetoric which calls for politicians to be “tough on crime”, there is currently bipartisan support for bills in the House of Representatives and the Senate which would reduce the number of low-level drug offenders in prison by reforming prison sentencing and creating pathways for early release.

During his speech to the NAACP, Obama made an impassioned plea that all Americans should pay attention to if they desire to make common sense changes to make our criminal justice system more fair and effective.

“While the people in our prisons have made some mistakes, and sometimes big mistakes, they are also Americans. And we have to make sure that as they do their time, and pay back their debt to society, that we are increasing the possibility that they can turn their lives around.”


Obama’s legacy as a feminist

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and daughters Malia and Sasha, April 5, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and daughters Malia and Sasha, April 5, 2015.
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Many observers of President Obama — and even those who are not-so-observant — have noticed his recent energy and boldness as he enters into the final year-and-a-half of his second term as President.

From Obama’s unforgettable eulogy at Charlestown to his Supreme Court victories, Obama’s last two years in office are shaping up to be events that our children will read about in history books.

This past Thursday, while holding a press conference geared towards talking about Iran, Obama was asked about Bill Cosby’s Medal of Freedom. Although he could not comment directly on an ongoing investigation and indicated the medal would not be taken away because there was no precedent in place to do so, he left no questions about his thoughts on the events. President Obama stated matter-of-factly:

“If you give a woman, or a man, for that matter, without his or her knowledge a drug and then have sex with that person without consent, that’s rape. And I think this country, any civilized country, should have no tolerance for rape.”

This comment represents the latest in Obama’s recent fearlessness to partake in social commentary, but also represents the latest in an entire presidency marked by bold feminist statements and policies.

Only a week after his inauguration in 2009, President Obama was depicted on the front cover of Ms. magazine wearing a t-shirt stating “This is what a feminist looks like.”

Since then, he has made waves by putting science toys in the girls section at a Toys for Tots drive, overseen the entrance of women into combat roles in the US military (albeit slowly), used his executive power to adopt family-friendly policies for staffers in the White House, and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 was the first bill he ever signed into law.

It shouldn’t be an anomaly to have a politician stand-up and speak-out for women, a demographic that composes over half of the nation’s population, but it is.

At a time when “old men” seem to make up a majority of our country’s politicians and a super-majority of the people who feel called to speak out about what a women’s bodies, it is refreshing to have a respectful, common sense president like Obama.

When the dust settles and the history books are being written, Obama’s feminism might be one of the aspects of his presidency for which Americans can be most grateful.

In 2008, Clinton attacked Obama for gun control support

But in 2015, Clinton is attacking Bernie Sanders for insufficient gun control support. Let’s track the intense flip-flopping, solely meant to destroy rival Democratic nomination candidates, both times.

Now (Washington Post, July 9, 2015):

“I’m going to speak out against the uncontrollable use of guns in our country because I believe we can do better,” Clinton said Tuesday in Iowa City.

A few days earlier, she said in Hanover, N.H.: “We have to take on the gun lobby. . . . This is a controversial issue. I am well aware of that. But I think it is the height of irresponsibility not to talk about it.”
Gun control is one of the few issues on which Clinton has a more left-leaning record than Sanders, who represents a rural, pro-gun-rights state and has voted in the past for legislation to protect the firearms industry. Although Clinton has not attacked Sanders by name, by invoking guns she makes an unspoken contrast.
Despite his mixed voting record, Sanders did support the 2013 background-check bill and ­assault-weapons ban. And on the stump, he is trying to sound more forceful. He notes that “guns in Chicago and Los Angeles mean a very different thing than guns in Vermont and New Hampshire” but says — as he did two weeks ago in Bow, N.H. — that the next president must “come forward with a common-sense proposal on guns.”

In the Democratic field, former Maryland governor Martin O’Mal­ley has the strongest record in favor of gun control. He supported an assault-weapons ban as mayor of Baltimore in the early 2000s and then signed one into law as governor in 2013, along with a suite of gun restrictions that stand as among the nation’s toughest.
Howard Wolfson, for many years a top Clinton aide before going to work for Bloomberg, said Clinton’s avoidance of guns in 2008 should not be mistaken for a lack of interest in gun control.

In Indiana, “Clinton mailing attacks Obama on guns” – Ben Smith for Politico – May 4, 2008

Hillary Clinton has re-opened her sharp attack on Barack Obama’s position on guns, with a mailer in Indiana that seeks to raise questions about him with both supporters and opponents of gun rights.

The mailing — perhaps the sharpest-edged of Clinton’s five negative mail pieces in Indiana — casts him as a typical politician, saying different things to different audiences. It also revives his damaging comments in San Francisco that small town people cling to guns.
The piece is particularly striking coming from Clinton, who has been seen for most of her career as a firm advocate of gun control, but more recently has emerged — without dramatically shifting her stance on specific issues — as a defender of the Second Amendment who fondly recalled being taught to shoot by her grandfather in Scranton.

So which is it?

Is she now the candidate who “told people” in conservative states she “was for the 2nd Amendment, in order to get their votes” as her 2008 mailer alleged of Sen. Obama?

No, Mr. President. TPP is not “progressive”.

“TPP will end up being the most progressive trade agreement in our history” – Pres. Obama

The Globalist rebuttal:

The progressive movement, which Teddy Roosevelt helped champion a century ago, broke up business monopolies. It also promoted fair market competition, reformed taxation and gave voters a direct say on many issues. Furthermore, the progressive movement added protections against abusive labor practices, defended natural resources and reformed the business-captured U.S. Senate.

In this day and age, a progressive would also be someone who will make sure that trade deals are fair and balanced – instead of basically handing the keys to the trade castle to the U.S. multinational corporations, as Mr. Obama has largely done with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

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