CNN commentator Van Jones, a man who was forced out of the Obama White House after an avalanche of faux conservative outrage, appeared at the Conservative Political Action Conference today alongside a murderers’ row of racists, dipshits, and racist dipshits for a rather bewildering reason: to praise conservatives for doing the bare-ass minimum on criminal justice reform.
Alongside White House senior advisor (and boy who is tall for his age) Jared Kushner, Jones played a key role in passing some criminal justice reforms last year with the First STEP Act. While that law was woefully inadequate given the magnitude of problems with the criminal justice system as a whole, it was admittedly better than what we had before.
That does not, however, justify Jones giving the bulk of the credit for reform to opportunistic right-wingers, effectively giving a big slap in the face to the many activists and advocacy groups who have been tirelessly working for decades for reform at all levels.
Speaking during an appearance with massive dumbass Matt Schlapp that was moderated by the Daily Caller’s Saagar Enjeti, Jones said this dumb thing, and then went off on a tangent where he credited “the conservative movement” with being “the leader”on criminal justice reform.
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“Here’s the deal. The conservative movement in this country—unfortunately from my point of view—is now the leader on this issue of reform,” Jones said. “You look at Mississippi. A rock-ribbed, totally conservative former jailer is the governor there, Gov. [Phil] Bryant. Gov. Bryant has cut the prison population and crime at the same time. [Former] Gov. [Nathan] Deal in Georgia cut the prison population and crime at the same time....what you’re seeing now are Republican governors being tough on the dollars, tough on crime, and shrinking prison populations, and showing the rest of the country that it can be done.”
“My problem is that I now have a conservative movement, that for libertarian reasons, Christian conservative reasons, and fiscally conservative reasons, is doing a great job on what is supposed to be my issue,” Jones added, laughing. “You are stealing my issue.”
While it’s true that some conservative states are starting to come around on issues of reform, it’s important to remember how things got so bad in the first place: by both Democrats and Republicans adopting a punitive view of criminal justice in the first place. When the Obama administration took some unilateral steps to try to make the whole system less bad—from the cops and the courts to the prisons—many of those reforms were thrown out the window under President Donald Trump’s first attorney general, Jeff Sessions. (By the way: Sessions’ successor, William Barr, was partially responsible for pushing many of those same awful policies in the first place. We’ve now come full circle.)
Not to mention: during the Obama administration, there were similar bipartisan efforts to pass criminal justice reform. Those efforts died at the time, as a 2016 New York Times piece catalogued, because some Republicans refused to hand Obama a victory, others opposed getting rid of mandatory minimums, Trump was running a Nixon-style law and order presidential campaign, and—most importantly—Mitch McConnell was and still is a huge coward. So conservatives’ “great job” on this issue can be boiled down to political opportunism on the part of elected Republicans, as well as the Democrats’ failure to right their wrongs of the 80s and 90s the last time they had a unified government.
In case Jones thought he might be able to push the needle a little further, though, CPAC attendees reminded him very quickly where, exactly, he was.
Just kill me.