Attorney General Eric Holder announced yesterday that the Department of Justice plans to pursue a “fundamentally new approach” to American law enforcement — which happens to be, actually, a much more positive development than the other Obama-administration “fundamental transformations.”
While the administration is a bit late to the party, given the criminal-justice reforms that numerous conservative governors have already implemented at the state level, a number of his proposals deserve support on their merits. Holder couched the new proposals in the tired, dishonest argument that our criminal-justice system is deeply unjust and racially biased. He plans to implement his changes with, in part, the administration’s penchant for unilateral policy changes and aversion to working with Congress.
But making these changes is the role of Congress. Obviously, the Department of Justice should faithfully enforce the laws of the United States, not look the other way and ignore the facts of a given investigation. The department is endowed with prosecutorial discretion, but that should be used to prioritize resources, not ignore — and effectively repeal — the laws as Congress has written them, the kind of basic distinction that is lost on this administration.
Holder noted and praised the work of a bipartisan group in Congress, including Senators Dick Durbin, Patrick Leahy, Mike Lee, and Rand Paul, to pass reforms of mandatory-sentencing laws. That is fine and good — let them work to pass new laws.
Unfortunately but not surprisingly, Holder depicted a criminal-justice system that is biased by race. Many of the policies that should be reformed now, and that have led to such “disparities,” were enacted, with broad support and the best intentions, to address an overwhelming crime wave that beset America. Those policies ought to be modified where they have been excessive and ineffective — and the Left and Right agree on a number of instances where this is the case. The U.S. Congress and states have much work to do, and it shouldn’t be preempted by executive fiat.