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That Word “Lawless,” I Do Not Think…


Andrew C. McCarthy, sunk appropriately to the bottom of the wingnut welfare barrel at Pajamas Media, is outraged!

Attorney General Eric Holder announced today that dozens of lawyers will be reassigned to the Justice Department’s pardon office in anticipation of a surge of applications from drug offenders for reductions in their sentences — applications the Obama administration has signaled it would look upon favorably. This exercise is another transparent usurpation of legislative power by the president. The pardon power is just the camouflage for it.

This is just pure gibberish, on a par with conservertarian defenses of Shelby County. The pardon power, a core executive power at the time of the founding, is right there in Article II and everything. You cannot “usurp” legislative powers by using explicitly delegated powers, even if you use them in ways Andy McCarthy doesn’t like by freeing some prisoners of the War on (Some Classes of People Who Use Some) Drugs.

The pardon power exists so that the president can act in individual cases to correct excesses and injustices.

So it’s being used particularly appropriately here.

The Obama administration is philosophically opposed to mandatory minimums in the federal penal law, especially in the narcotics area.

I wish!

The Justice Department is filled with racialist ideologues and pro-criminal rights ideologues (they tend to be the same people) who have long contended that the drug laws are racist. This is another of those absurd arguments that finds racism based on unintended consequences rather than racist designs.

Leaving aside the question-begging about whether the consequences are “unintended,” I’m sure the people of color locked up in prison for drug offenses in grossly disproportionate numbers will be happy to hear that racism doesn’t exist unless it is a matter of self-conscious, purposeful racism on the part of legislative drafters.

The mandatory minimums for crack (“cocaine base”) crimes are more severe than for

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powder cocaine (which was called “cocaine hydrochloride” back when I was a federal prosecutor). Many crack distributors are black and Hispanic, while many powder cocaine distributors are white — although there are plenty of whites in the former category and minority dealers in the latter.

Shorter Andy McCarthy: since not literally everybody prevented from voting by a literacy tests was African-American, the laws weren’t racist.

It has been argued for decades that this disparity is unjust. As a matter of racism, this claim is frivolous. As a matter of logic, it is not: crack is rightly punished more severely because it is more addictive and ruinous. For a long time, though, crack was punished at a 100:1 ratio to powder coke (e.g., the 10-year mandatory minimum kicked in at 5,000 grams, or 5 kilos, of powder coke but only 50 grams of crack). It is perfectly constitutional for Congress to do this, but it is not sensible — crack may be worse than powder coke, but not a hundred times worse.

So the Obama administration’s actions here — which are perfectly constitutional and wise — should be beyond reproach. Glad we’ve settled this! It must be said that the War on (Some Classes of People Who Use Some) Drugs is getting exactly the quality of representation it deserves here.

[HT Andrew.]

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