McCain Recommends Mentors as Gang Violence Fix
By Michael D. Shear
PHILADELPHIA -- The question for Sen. John McCain at a town hall meeting here was one of those softballs that Republicans historically use to demonstrate their law-and-order toughness: What are you going to do about teen gangs?
But McCain's answer was anything but law-and-order tough.
"I'm going to have to work very hard to make sure they know that there's a better life," McCain began his answer to the question, which focused on violence among teens on the streets of Philadelphia. The question was asked by a woman who introduced herself as a mentor to young people.
McCain cited good news that violent crime overall is down across the country, but said that is "small consolation" for cities where murders and other violent crime is up.
But the Republican presidential nominee did not talk the way many Republican candidates do about the need for a crackdown on gangs, or tougher prison sentences or a need to enforce gun laws. (The answer might have been different had former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani been the nominee. The former mayor repeatedly talked about crackdowns on crime.)
Instead, McCain repeated his belief that gang members "need mentors. I think they need role models" and related a story about a program run by a Baptist college in Arkansas. "We've go to have mentors."
"We've also got to give them an opportunity and a path and away out," he added. "Some of these gangs have now become almost international ... incarceration has sometimes made them worse criminals when they get out than they are when they went in."
Like many politicians, McCain linked the gang problem to illegal drugs, and noted the need to "secure our border" to stem the supply of drugs. But even there, he declined to say he would push for tougher drug sentences, saying instead that "we've got to do a much better job
of educating young Americans."
Crime is not one of the 14 issues that McCain lists on his campaign website.
Web Politics Editor
June 11, 2008; 1:35 PM ET
Categories: John McCain
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