Loretta Lynch: The Good And The Not So Good

January 30, 2015  |  

Police Brutality

I’m going to be honest: I’m really surprised the topic has been broached in Congress at all.

More specifically, when Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) asked Lynch about her thoughts on what could be done to bring law enforcement and the community together again, she said:

In my experience, these tensions are best dealt with by having discussions with all parties so that everyone feels that their voice has been heard,” she continued on her statement by adding, “With respect to our brave law enforcement agents, we ask so much of them. We ask them to keep us safe. We ask them to protect us even from ourselves. And we ask them to do it often without the resources they need to be safe and secure themselves. Many of our community residents, for a host of factors, feel disconnected from government today. And when they interact with law enforcement, transfer that feeling to them as well. Even if they are there to help.”

Erm, what? That’s not what’s happening.

I have to say that her comments wreak of paternalism and victim-blaming, which really rubs me the wrong way. Folks who are out in the street, yelling Hands Up, Don’t Shoot and holding Black Lives Matter signs, aren’t like emotionally disturbed orphan children lashing out at their humble caregivers. They are average citizens with justifiable grievances over the unwarranted police assaults, shootings and killings, which have mostly gone unpunished in a court of law.

At the very least, I expected her to give adequate lip service to reassessing law enforcement policies and procedures. However, her testimony on the issue didn’t sound like she believes in the validity of police brutality at all. This might be indicative of not only what we can expect out of the attorney general’s office, but also a clear sign of how much attention the Obama Administration will likely give the issue during the remainder of his term.

Voting Rights

Lynch had a much more conciliatory answer to Minority Whip Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), who inquired about her views on the state of voting rights today. As we know, a number of states have passed voter identification requirements, which many believe are sly ways to suppress the vote.

Lynch said that she believes individual states have both an obligation and responsibility to regulate the voter rolls, however she also wants to have “conversations” about “practices and procedures to ensure everyone gets to vote, while protecting the integrity.”

Solitary Confinement:

Durbin also took a moment to ask Lynch her feelings on the often inhumane and psychologically damaging treatment of the incarcerated in solitary confinement. For those unaware, the Center for Constitutional Rights, has labeled solitary confinement as torture and “exposure to such life-shattering conditions clearly constitutes cruel and unusual punishment – in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

Lynch once again mentioned a willingness to have further “discussions” about both the constitutionality and the overall implementation of the punishment.

Death Penalty

Sen. Lindsey Graham (Republican-S.C) asked her straight up if she supports the death penalty, to which Lynch said she believes that it is “an effective penalty.”

I know that this issue is pretty polarizing so I’ll just leave it at that…

Marijuana

In short, Lynch is no friend of Chronic.

When asked by Graham if she planned on using prosecutorial discretion when it came to federal marijuana laws enforcement, Lynch said: “Marijuana is still a crime on a federal level. And it is still a crime to not only to posses, but to distribute under the federal law.”

That’s right: in spite of various states either legalizing or decriminalizing small amounts for recreational use, Lynch said that her office would continue to enforce federal statutes of marijuana laws, including money laundering. This is important as a number of legal marijuana dispensariesy have had trouble finding financial institutions to hold their money as it is illegal for banks to launder in drug money.

Moreover, when Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) asked if she agreed with President Obama that marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol, Lynch replied, “Well senator, I certainly don’t hold that view, and don’t agree with that view of marijuana as a substance. I certainly think that the president was speaking from his personal experience and personal opinion – neither of which I am able to share.”

Mass incarceration

There were even more promises of further conversations when both Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn) raised questions about incarceration, particularly about using her office to support programs and legislation which would help to address recidivism, drug and alcohol abuse and the mental health needs of the incarcerated. Sen. Franken also wanted something called Veteran courts.

On all accounts, Lynch said that she would review the latest research and would talk to each representative further. But again, nothing really concrete.

As you can see, it is a mixed bag. At the very least, we are getting a good prosecutor who will prosecute efficiently. But in spite of the constant affirmative during the hearing that she planned on being independent of the White House, I don’t really think she is a boat rocker. For some, who are okay with the status quo, that might a be a good thing. This includes President Obama. But for many of us, who were looking for someone more progressive, I think we might have to wait a little longer.

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