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Harry Reid: crazy like a fox

Not many people remember this, but the hate crimes bill headed for President Obama's signature this afternoon was supposed to ride there on a rather innocuous piece of tourism legislation earlier this year. Instead, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) changed tactics and attached it to the Defense Department reauthorization bill, ticking off the White House -- and me.

Senators had been angling to add a dozen new F-22s to the defense fleet, despite Obama's very clear veto threat. The nation neither needs nor can afford the fighter jets. So, when Reid announced that he was going to toss the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into the mix, I thought he was crazy. Military projects are as hard for members of Congress to resist as the gun lobby. But resist they did. Reid proved crazy like a fox. The defense authorization passed and will be signed this afternoon in the Rose Garden, weather permitting.

Shepard and Byrd were murdered in 1998. Byrd was African American and dragged to his death on June 7, 1998, by three men, two of whom were known white supremacists. Shepard died on Oct. 12, 1998, five days after two men who targeted him because he was gay severely beat him and left him for dead tied to a wooden fence near Laramie, Wyo. Texas did not have a separate hate-crimes statute at the time, but prosecutors were able to turn to the FBI to pursue federal hate-crimes charges based on race. Texas had a separate, but weak hate-crimes statute at the time, but prosecutors were able to turn to the FBI to pursue federal hate-crimes charges based on race. Federal prosecution would have been possible only if the victim was prevented from exercising a federally protected right, such as voting or going to school. The new law voids that requirement. Wyoming didn’t have a hate-crimes law either and still doesn’t today. And because sexual orientation was not a federally protected class, local officials weren’t able to turn to the federal government. In addition to Wyoming, 18 states do not have a law addressing hate crimes based on sexual orientation.

By adding sexual orientation, gender and gender identity to the list of protected classes in the 1969 federal hate crimes statute, violent acts against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people could lead to federal prosecution and enhanced penalties. Some critics say this law will allow the Justice Department to prosecute people for thought crimes. Never mind that the statute explicitly states that it cannot be used to abridge free speech or religious expression. Translation: a homophobic rant from a member of the clergy in a place of worship will not land him or her in court.

Reid's successful strategic switcheroo is one of the reasons Obama will deliver remarks from the East Room of the White House tonight to commemorate the signing of the hate crimes law. The main reason, though, is Matthew's mother, Judy. In the 10 years and 16 days since her son's murder, she pushed and prodded to protect others from violence based on their sexual orientation. Her patience, perseverance and strength in getting this landmark legislation to become law must also be celebrated today.

By Jonathan Capehart  | October 28, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
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Next: Obama's paralysis on Afghanistan

Comments

These unwanted and unneeded F-22s cost $350 million each. So, even though hate crime legislation is long overdue and sorely needed, it will cost taxpayers $4.2 billion.

Thanks, Senator Reid. What a genius.

Posted by: OliverKlozov | October 28, 2009 6:34 AM | Report abuse

Shame about the welfare-as-usual for those defense contractors. That'll be $30 from each American taxpayer (thank you for your continued business). That would have covered a generous co-pay for half of America to get an annual physical checkup - potentially heading off serious developing conditions that would cost the health care system bigger amounts down the line.

It is good the hate crimes legislation passed however.

Anyone know if Nevada in particular gets the windfall of those contracts? Or maybe it was just the usual horse-trading that made that happen.

Posted by: B2O2 | October 28, 2009 6:45 AM | Report abuse

The congressional system for passing legislation is very much in need of reform. When such a neccessary piece of law can only be passed by smuggling it out as a "rider", there is something deeply wrong. An act of Congress should be coherent and not be used as a means to "horse-trade" as it's so quaintly called. It's no wonder that constituents cannot understand how their representatives vote.

The U.S. government needs to learn something about parliamentary democracy.

Chris Brown in Hamburg

Posted by: chrisbrown12 | October 28, 2009 7:07 AM | Report abuse

I think you all are missing the point of Jonathans editorial. The hate crimes bill will be signed into law, because Reid knows how the Senate works. Sometimes we all have to look through what would have been passed anyway, ( more military spending) and see the greater good that was attached so it wouldn't fail. And a big thank you to Judy Sheppard, she proved that perseverance from just a regular citizen will always win out.

Posted by: mattsmith535 | October 28, 2009 7:21 AM | Report abuse

I have never seen the impact of hate crime legislation. It would be useful to cite examples of longer more severe sentences or changes in criminal behavior resulting from it.

In the of James Byrd, two of the three murderers were sentenced to death, the driver to life without parole. In Shephard's case both murderers received two consecutive life sentences. It is hard to imagine tacking on five years or another life sentence or an additional death penalty would affect criminal behavior.

Posted by: krush01 | October 28, 2009 7:31 AM | Report abuse

Rather than be praised for his "tactics", Reid should be condemned for his utter disrespect. Disrespect of the military who would have been "thrown under the bus" for political reasons if anyone fought this addition to the bill and it was voted down. Disrespect for the American people by not allowing this legislation to be debated and voted on on its own merit, thus dismissing the people's right to object through their elected officials. And disrespect of the process of legislation, relegating it to political chicanery and manipulation. If a law states that murder is bad and you would get a set amount of time based on the crime itself, why would you say that killing a gay man is more heinous than killing a pregnant woman? Is the life of a white teenager less relevant than the life of a black teenager? This is, after all, the thrust of hate crime bills. And yes, it is a law that is based on what the criminal thought, and as such opens the door for more thought crime legislation. Neither Reid's actions nor this hate crimes legislation should be praised. They should both, in fact, be soundly decried.

Posted by: patchedit8 | October 28, 2009 7:34 AM | Report abuse

LOL - Hate crimes? Good thinking, Big Brother. Orwell must be spinning in his grave.

Isn't the spotted owl a protected class too?

Posted by: avrwc2 | October 28, 2009 7:41 AM | Report abuse

Reid a genius? Seems like he can't even count (votes in the Senate for health care). If you are a Rep (I am), you gotta love it when folks tout Pelosi and Reid as leaders and smart people. Riiiiggghhht.

Posted by: mmourges | October 28, 2009 8:24 AM | Report abuse

The point of the story was those fighters weren't added to the bill. Read much?

And the health care bill he put up will work one of two ways. Either one - Snow or Lieberman - will cave, or the public option will be curtailed or dropped, the House will pass it and then in reconciliation it will be restored. I don't know why Reid wants the job, it's thankless, but stupid he's not.

Posted by: jonthes | October 28, 2009 8:48 AM | Report abuse

Where does it say the planes were stripped from the bill?

I can read just fine and did not get that impression at all. My impression is that the hate crime bill was in trouble, until Reid attached the defense appropriation to it. His calculation was that, because the planes were added to the mix, Senators would not vote it down, and he was able to drag the hate crime piece along.

That's fine, as far as it goes, but is it worth $4.2 billion?? My only point.

Posted by: OliverKlozov | October 28, 2009 9:26 AM | Report abuse

I seldom see eye to eye with my good buddy Jonathan, however, this time I do.

Relax Capehart, no need to get excited, hell will freeze before you win me over to your side. Some things in life are a constant.

Posted by: Spartann | October 28, 2009 9:32 AM | Report abuse

Hey OliverKlozov...

Capehart's wording does make it difficult for some to understand the Senate removed the F-22s from the bill... if you look again at the 2nd paragraph , at the end of the sixth line you will see the beginning of a 4 word sentence, "But resist they did".... That's Capehart's way fo saying the planes were left outta the bill. If you need it really spelled out to you, I suggest you google the subject, info concerning the scrapping of the F22s is all over the web.

Posted by: Spartann | October 28, 2009 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Reid's "genius" will be proved inadequate when he has to obtain a job either either a liberal think tank or the Obama administration in 2011.
Reid is on par with Pelosi for hie intelligence level.
Does hate crime ever pertain to black on white crime, by the way? You know, most inter-racial crime is the result of black thugs assaulting white victims.

Posted by: sperrico | October 28, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

I stand corrected, and am happy to be wrong.

Posted by: OliverKlozov | October 28, 2009 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Should we reward people for assaulting a person who is not gay?

Posted by: Matt2009 | October 28, 2009 10:16 AM | Report abuse

The TARP passed without reading.
The STIMULUS passed without reading .
The CAP and TRADE passed without reading.
The HEALTHCARE will pass without reading
and our messiah gets NOBEL PRIZE without......................
What kind of world are we in ?

Posted by: yonasolo | October 28, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

I am so proud of Reid and our other responsible congressman. They throw a few billion of our hard earned dollars around to buy the votes to pass a meaningless law. If somebody hates me and beats me to a pulp, it is wrong and they go to jail. But if I am gay and somebody hates me and beats me up, the feds get to send them to jail as well as the local government. I am so proud to be a tax-paying American. What would we do without Reid setting such a good example for us.


Posted by: rwyoung | October 28, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

This is a perfect example of how childish our stupid legislators really are. If they had any brains or character they could have passed a separate bill on hate crimes by itself. Or is that not as important as the other bills that they do not read anyway. That bill should have passed long ago....murdering someone based on race and / or sexual orientation should have been at the top of the other senseless bills these clowns pass all the time. What does that say about our society ??

Posted by: JUNGLEJIM123 | October 28, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse

I'm laughing at myself a bit now, but wondering if I should be frowning at Capehart's proofing staff. I just heard on the radio that - as several posters have said above - the F-22 waste did not happen.

I now see some past perfect progressive verbs in Capehart's piece that I did not see before. Is he trying mess with my head? :)

Important thing is we didn't shell out 4B for something we didn't need.

Posted by: B2O2 | October 28, 2009 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Does hate crime ever pertain to black on white crime, by the way? You know, most inter-racial crime is the result of black thugs assaulting white victims.

Posted by: sperrico | October 28, 2009 9:53 AM

What a racist pig you are. Poor repressed white people. Things are SO stacked against them that it is heartbreaking. LOL!

Posted by: smh3477 | October 28, 2009 12:11 PM | Report abuse

All violent crimes are hate crimes, and prosecuting the perp after the fact is not going to protect the victim at the time of the act. If the penalty for murder in general is not enough of a deterrent to keep it from happening; what affect will calling it a hate crime have?

While I am certainly opposed to bigotry and violence, I believe this is simply grandstanding. Somebody murdered in the act of a robbery, or killed fighting in an ill-advised war, is just as dead, and their family is just as devastated, as somebody murdered for any other reason. Why don't they get an extra shot at the perpetrator?

Posted by: risejugger | October 28, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

14th Admendment, Section 1 All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

I believe hate laws give preference to specific classes and I oppose them because of that fact alone. Will I a white middle class American receive equal protection of hate laws?
If the answer is no then the law is unconstitutional.

Posted by: txnintn | October 28, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Does hate crime ever pertain to black on white crime, by the way? You know, most inter-racial crime is the result of black thugs assaulting white victims.
Posted by: sperrico | October 28, 2009 9:53 AM
What a racist pig you are. Poor repressed white people. Things are SO stacked against them that it is heartbreaking. LOL!
Posted by: smh3477

---------
Does this qualify as a hate crime? on January 2007 in Knoxville TN, 5 blacks including a woman, are charged with the murder of white couple. After shooting and killing the white male, his penis was cut off, the woman was raped multiple times, murdered and then her breasts were cut off.

Using your logic, these were just poor white people and the poor black people are repressed so it's not a hate crime.


Posted by: txnintn | October 28, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Yes, Jonathan Capehart is right to a certain extent Sen Majority leader Reid is crazy like a fox - like a deceitful, manipulative fox corrupting our judicial system to conform to the ever expanding or changing demands of politically correct, official victim groups.

The Mathew Shepard Hate Crime Prevention act has been snuck through attached to the obscene $680 billion defense authorization act - what does a Hate Crime Bill have to do with National Defense? Not much, but not much of the $680 billion defense budget actually gets used to defend our nation - it's all for Neo Con wars in the Middle East.

As for the Hate Crime prevention act itself - it's supposedly will make it a serious, federal HATE CRIME to shoot someone with a gun or throw a firebomb at someone if the motivation is based on bias regarding race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or religion....

Are there people in Washington or anywhere in America walking around thinking that it is currently legal to try to murder someone because of a motive of bias?

Ahh, but Hate Crime Law proponents say that these Hate Crime attempted assaults and murders are special cases, much more destructive to communities than other types of (assaults, murder) crimes not motivated by bias, thus America needs special Hate Crime Laws, special prosecutors, lots of special stuff to stop...

HATE.

OK, but since I live in Chicago where we led the nation last year in total murders and are on tract again to be #1 again this year and I note that about 99% of these murders don't fall in to the narrow categories of politically incorrect HATE CRIMES - am I supposed to feel safe, and secure knowing Chicago's thugs, gang bangers, murderers are not "haters"? I guess our murder and mayhem in Chicago must be "love crimes".

Hey Jonathan Capehart, Harry Reid, Eric Holder, ADL, SPLC, LaRaza - maybe you could take a break from corrupting America's criminal justice system and come down to some of the neighborhoods where Obama was doing his community organizing - maybe you could get some real life experience with real life crime - name crime against you - but understand, these wouldn't be HATE CRIMES.

:-)

Posted by: jackellisvb | October 28, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Leviticus 20:13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

I believe if a homosexual refuses to do away with his sinful ways, that hatred against them, including violence upto death, is the expected occurance according to God's own words.


All man's laws must comply with God's laws or else they are not legitamate.

To make a law against hating homosexuals, when such hatred MIGHT result in there changing their hearts and opening themselfs to the healing Grace of Jesus is the WORST THING that can be done to the homosexuals salvation.

Posted by: SavedGirl | October 28, 2009 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Securing protections for orientation > phasing out F22s

Although Reid's a tool for making it a binary decision.

Posted by: Crucialitis | October 28, 2009 4:45 PM | Report abuse

I believe if a homosexual refuses to do away with his sinful ways, that hatred against them, including violence upto death, is the expected occurance according to God's own words.


All man's laws must comply with God's laws or else they are not legitamate.

===

Not everyone follows the rule of God. Nor should they have subscribe to your personal flavor of faith.

++
"To make a law against hating homosexuals, when such hatred MIGHT result in there changing their hearts and opening themselfs to the healing Grace of Jesus is the WORST THING that can be done to the homosexuals salvation."
---
This is pure absurdity, and the pinnacle of hypocrisy
So, the healing grace of God includes beating homosexuals to death? No wonder the secular headcount is rising.

+++

"Leviticus 20:13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them."
---

In the same book, he also says you shouldn't eat four-legged birds:

11:20 All fowls that creep, going upon all four, shall be an abomination unto you.

Leviticus says a lot of crazy things and all of them are open to interpretation. Freedom of religion means the freedom not to practice it as well.

Posted by: Crucialitis | October 28, 2009 5:23 PM | Report abuse

What those of you quoting scriptures here just don't get is that the scriptures have NO bearing on legislation. There is a separation between religious beliefs and law for a very good reason, so one group cannot be discriminated against by another (like you would discriminate against gay people).

And to those trotting out the nonsense about hate crimes laws being 'thought policing'.... yawn... that is just a tired GOP lie that will not fly. Read what the law says before trotting out the lie blindly, OK? It's not for their twisted thinking that bigots can be prosecuted, but if that was their motivation in assaulting a gay person.

I find it sad that there would not have been enough votes for this legislation to pass without being attached to the defense bill, but at least it was attached and it did pass...

Posted by: CKNJ | October 28, 2009 5:30 PM | Report abuse

I never cease to be amazed at the willingness of people to shoot their mouths off even though they have no idea what they're talking about. Hate crimes laws increase penalties when victims are targeted because of a trait--race, sexual orientation, etc.--not because they are a member of a minority group. If straight white males are targeted because of their race, sex, and sexual orientation, they are victims of hate crimes under this legislation. In fact, the leading U.S. Supreme Court decision on hate crimes laws involved the prosecution of black youths for attacking a white guy. All this whining and ranting about one group getting a benefit that the other group isn't getting is based on complete ignorance about how hate crimes laws work.

Posted by: uh_huhh | October 29, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Nor is the all-crimes-are-hate-crimes slogan persuasive. If you're killed in the crossfire of a drug crime, you weren't targeted because of hatred for your group. If you are attacked by your spouse in a crime of passion, you were targeted because of some idiosyncratic dysfunction in your marriage, not because of hatred for your group. If you were killed in the commission of an armed robbery, you were not targeted because of hatred for your group. On the other hand, when a serial killer was on the loose in the Midwest several years ago and was deliberately targeting Asian people and gay people, everyone in the area who was Asian or gay was living in fear for days on end because they too were potential victims of this rampaging bigot. It was a form of group-based terrorism. And while it was going on, straight white males could prance around without a care in the world because they weren't in the gunman's cross-hairs. It isn't about the individual killed or the individual's family. It's about the terrorism against the entire group targeted by the bigoted killer.

Posted by: uh_huhh | October 29, 2009 1:34 PM | Report abuse

The punishment for murder is life in prison or death sentence. Just what does "hate crime" add to that. And since when does the Constitution say we can punish people for what they THINK? Its what they DO. Whatever your intention behind the capital crime - its the action that should be punished not the mental intent. How sad -- and in order to get this pandering piece of legislation, we get to pay how much for airplanes we don't need?

Posted by: humbleandfree | October 29, 2009 6:47 PM | Report abuse

The reason for singling out hate crimes is that hate crime is akin to terrorism. The point of terrorism is not just to kill the actual victims but to paralyze the targeted community with fear. The point of hate crime, on a small scale, is the same: to warn all other members of the hated group that the haters could come after YOU next.

Ordinary crime is either personal or random. An angry or demented acquaintance harming me is an assault against me alone; an ordinary street thug grabbing my purse is an assault against nobody in particular. But hate crime targets an entire class of people. The goons who beat up Matthew Shepard and tied him to a fence, and the goons who dragged James Byrd Jr. behind a truck, were sending a deliberate, explicit signal to blacks and gays everywhere that they are being uppity and should watch out because they might be next. That's why hate crime is a unique and distinct threat to society and needs to be prosecuted with all available resources -- federal as well as state and local.

Posted by: herzliebster | October 30, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse

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