Joe Biden is Not a Progressive on Crime Issues

Joe Biden is bad on crime issues.

Joe Biden brought us the Rave Act and has been a supporter of increased rights for law enforcement and wiretapping. Here's his voting record on issues of import:

  • Voted YES on loosening restrictions on cell phone wiretapping. (Oct 2001)
  • Voted YES on prohibiting same-sex marriage. (Sep 1996)
  • Rated 60% by the ACLU, indicating a mixed civil rights voting record. (Dec 2002)(Note: he improved in subsequent years.)
  • Rated 36% by NARAL, indicating a mixed voting record on abortion. (Dec 2003) (Note: he improved in later years.)

He also introduced this doozy of a bill:


Biden's new bill would make it a federal felony to try and trick certain types of devices into playing your music or running your computer program. Breaking this law--even if it's to share music by your own garage band--could land you in prison for up to five years.

Another example: Remember the Rave Act, which he pushed through as an add-on to the Amber Alert bill. (More here.)

Don't be fooled by his cocaine penalty equalization act -- it's also a "cocaine kingpin" act that ratchets up penalties and funding for the prosecution of the war on drugs.

He won't vote to cut off funding for the War in Iraq.

What did he do about the crisis of AIDS in Delaware's prisons?

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    i'm going out on a limb here, (none / 0) (#1)
    by cpinva on Thu Dec 13, 2007 at 12:58:58 PM EST
    and guessing VISTA was not available on the streets of moscow, two months before it was released in the US. not because it wasn't actually available, but because no self respecting pirate would bother wasting scarce, allocable resources to steal it.

    btw, don't tell BTD about this jeralyn, it'll destroy his fantasy.

    links (none / 0) (#3)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Dec 14, 2007 at 12:05:07 AM EST
    must be in html format or they skew the site and I have to delete the entire comment. Please use the link button at the top of the comment box.

    I've never met him and have no personal animosity towards him. I've followed and written about his positions for the past ten years and he's very bad on crime issues, in my opinion. I'll continue to state that.  He might be the only Democrat I could not in good conscience support.

    My bad (none / 0) (#7)
    by shelbinator on Fri Dec 14, 2007 at 11:38:49 AM EST
    Feel free to delete the original comment.  Corrected one follows:

    You're being pretty selective with your numbers.  Biden's 36% rating from NARAL was for 2003 only; he got 100% for 2002, 100% for 2004, 100% for 2005, and 100% for 2006.  Witness exhibit A. He also followed that 60% ACLU rating with 86%, 92%, and 75% for the 108th-110th Congress, according to their scorecard. And of course "Joe Biden has an 80% lifetime rating from the ACLU, the second-highest of any 2008 presidential candidate (only Dennis Kucinich, at 89%, has him beat)" according to
    this article. But don't let those facts trouble you.

    And I don't know what the heck his NARAL record, or his voting to fund the deployment of critical life-saving hardware to a war that Congress as a whole can't get George Bush to shut down, has to do with being good or bad on crime.  (Don't mind that Biden is the only candidate in either party with a solid plan to shut down this war with any kind of political solution so we can begin to bring our troops home.)   Why do you even introduce such off-topic issues if you're talking about crime?  I think it's just indicative of a personal gripe you have with the man.


    Numbers Don't Add Up (none / 0) (#4)
    by SoonerThought on Fri Dec 14, 2007 at 08:19:39 AM EST
    I did some checking on Sen. Biden's NARAL record, and aside from 2003, I don't see anything in the last few years to indicate Biden is some sort of enemy of reproductive rights.
    He received the following scores on NARAL Pro-Choice America's Congressional Record on Choice:
    2006: 100 percent, 2005: 100 percent, 2004: 100 percent, 2003: 36 percent, 2002: 100 percent.
    As for his crime record, I think he is very strong on crime. Certainly in 30 years in the senate you're going to find something he did that is not to your liking, but in the totality of his record, I like Biden. I also think the main thing that keeps him in the "second tier"--his lack of easy access to lobbyist cash--is a major reason he can be trusted.

    this is a hatchet job (none / 0) (#5)
    by Susan in Iowa on Fri Dec 14, 2007 at 09:47:05 AM EST
    You misrepresent the NARAL rating as already addressed by others.  If you have to take one year out of an otherwise excellent record, and use that to try to make the point that the record is bad, your point is dishonest and not worth making.  And how is his record on choice, or the Iraq war, relevant to crime?  

    Most of your links are self-quoting, and in none of these discussions do you make any effort to look at the other side of the question. We are supposed to take your word for it that these bills are bad.  Crime is also bad, even if you are a progressive.  Is there any argument to be made in favor of any of this legislation, or is Biden just a Bad Man?

    On the Iraq War, Biden is the only candidate with a plan.  The others keep slipsliding around between saying that there would still be troops there in 2013, to saying they would end it right now, which simple logistics make impossible.  It would take months to get troops and equipment out of there, even if no one were shooting at them.  Biden's plan is the only one to try to avoid genocide as we are leaving.  In the meantime, he has been consistent in funding the troops while they are there, especially in overcoming the Bush administration's resistance to providing MRAP armored vehicles, which save lives.

    I have met all the candidates in Iowa, most of them more than once.  Biden is a sincere, passionate, bright man with years of experience in foreign policy and a lot of really good ideas on the domestic front.  I especially like his record of being an advocate for women.  He and Chris Dodd are the stand-out choices in the field.

    I linked to his voting record (none / 0) (#6)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Dec 14, 2007 at 10:29:57 AM EST
    on the issues. You can view it here.

    That's good that NARAL only gave him a poor rating one year and that the ACLU has rated him higher in later years. Thanks for pointing that out. I'll add a note to that effect in the original post.

    On Iraq, in his own words, on Meet the Press:

    MR. RUSSERT: If, in fact, the president does not accept a firm withdrawal date, will you vote to cut off funding?

    SEN. BIDEN: . . . I will vote, as long as there's a single troop in there that we are taking out or maintaining, either way I will vote for the money necessary to protect them, period.

    His record on crime is the one I care about and it's bad.

    Context matters (none / 0) (#8)
    by Susan in Iowa on Fri Dec 14, 2007 at 01:26:50 PM EST
    I care about crime, too, and Biden's crime record, as shown at the link you provided, is generally a good one.  

    I do not agree with every vote he cast in his career, but what is important to me is the arc of his career, and his substance as a person.  He has shown his commitment to a sane foreign policy, the environment, civil rights, campaign finance reform and lots of other issues I care about, by voting "right" for the most part, year in and year out.  He is one of the least wealthy people in Congress, showing that he is probably not on the take.  He answers questions about what he will do without hedging or consulting his pollster.  And he has genuine compassion for people, whether they are in the room with him or in Iraq.  

    In his own words on Meet the Press he explained very well the realities of the Iraq War funding.  Anyone who cares to follow the link you provided can read for themselves.  The short quote you used does not convey the meaning of what he said.

    In summary, cutting off funding with 51 votes will not end the president's ability to wage war.  But failing to fund the vehicles that Biden fought for, and the Bush administration fought against, will mean that more kids get killed and maimed.  Their sacrifice is too much to ask in support of a symbolic vote to cut off funding that will not end the war.  

    Biden has skin in the game.  His son Beau, who will be in our area tomorrow, will be going to Iraq.  Biden himself has been there 8 or 9 times, to see and hear for himself what is going on.  

    He cares about our own troops and also about Iraqis, who are human beings too, and whose world has been destroyed by our stupidity and arrogance.  He has said clearly, however, that if the Iraqis do not take the chance at political reconciliation offered by the Biden plan or something similar, that he would begin removing troops as quickly as possible in January of 2009, because they would just be fodder for the civil war in that circumstance.

    But if your voting issues are the ones that you cited above, by all means vote for someone else.  How did the other four senators and former congressman stack up on thoase votes?

    You can search the archives (none / 0) (#9)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Dec 14, 2007 at 01:34:46 PM EST
    Over the past 5 1/2 years, I've detailed just about every candidate's positions on crime.

    Also, since you are new here, I should point out that my crime positions come from being a criminal defense lawyer, not a Democrat. I judge them in terms of who most protects the rights of the accused and yes, the convicted (think habeas and wrongful convictions and the death penalty.) No Democrat is where I want them to be on all of these issues (except perhaps Kucinich who has no chance.) But  Biden has struck me as overly law and order. His sneaky work with the Amber Alert bill and support of expanded wiretapping over the years really troubles me.


    as to his son Beau (none / 0) (#10)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Dec 14, 2007 at 01:48:05 PM EST
    He's also a former federal prosecutor who is currently the Attorney General (top cop) in Delaware. The apple doesn't fall....???

    I am new at commenting, not reading (none / 0) (#11)
    by Susan in Iowa on Fri Dec 14, 2007 at 03:04:44 PM EST
    I have read your blog but never commented before.  I think I found it through reading FDL a lot.  I did not like the trashing you gave Biden and thought it was unfair.  I still do.  

    I care about crime, particularly care about domestic violence, and have served on the board of a women's shelter.  Joe Biden is a committed advocate for women who have been victimized by this intimate and terrible crime, and he has taken steps to help them through legislation.  

    He has been a strong supporter of rehabilitation as well.

    Being a federal prosecutor used to be an honorable job, until the Bush administration.  So is being a defense lawyer.  Your last shot is really disappointing, coming from a lawyer.

    Domestic violence crimes (1.00 / 1) (#12)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Dec 14, 2007 at 03:19:16 PM EST
    belong in the state courts, not the federal. He is a one man band for the over-federalizing of state crimes which is damaging to our system and our federal courts.

    Check out his own website for his crime record. It's all about more cops, more FBI agents, more DEA agents, more everything to overburden our federal criminal justice system.

    Yes, his bills including some prevention funding but  they don't make up for his wrong-headed attempts to ratchet up already tough penalties  and over-criminalize and incarcerate.

    From the Violent Crime Control Act of 1994 to his current ominbus crime bill for 2007, he's not my candidate on criminal justice issues.


    Biden has a balanced approach (none / 0) (#13)
    by Susan in Iowa on Fri Dec 14, 2007 at 05:43:33 PM EST
    Perhaps there is nothing I could say that would affect your opinion, since you are so expert in the criminal justice system and I am not, and your mind is so firmly made up.  But I will respond anyway in the hope that you could see a bit of the other side of the argument you are making.

    Your first link takes us to this statement from Biden:  "...Any police chief will tell you that we simply can't arrest our way out of the crime problem.  Instead we have to focus on a three prong approach of prevention, enforcement and prisoner reentry."  

    This is hardly a one-dimensional approach, and you concede that he has tried to address at least the first two of these prongs, albeit inadequately in your view.  As to the third prong, one of Biden's strongest supporters in Iowa is Paul Harrison, a former prisoner who established a group to help prisoners reintegrate after release, and who has advised Biden on legislation.

    I have a hard time understanding how "more cops" is bad, when community policing has helped so many communities reduce crime through prevention strategies.  Too few cops is bad.  Exhibit A: Blackwater in New Orleans.

    Even in my small rural community of fewer than 500 people, crime is an issue that affects people's real lives, and they care about it.  We are dealing with domestic violence, poverty, hungry children, and people generally living on the edge of life.  Our only law enforcement consists of occasional patrols by the county sheriff, which the town has a hard time paying for.  Forget the niceties like being able to keep people from doing 50 in a 25 zone through a neighborhood with young children.  If two crises happen at once in this county, one has to wait.  

    My neighbor across the gulch turned out to be a meth dealer and went to prison, leaving a young daughter.  When he got out, he left.  Math dealers have made houses unliveable, harmed their children, and ruined everything they touch.

    We have struggled with having several sex offenders living here.  They have been driven out of larger communities by onerous state contact laws.  Each state and town tries to outdo the others in the severity of the prohibitions, until only little rural towns are left where these people can live.  When ours became a haven for them, we passed an ordinance too, in self-defense.  Their crimes range from youthful silliness to serious, but they are all treated the same under the law, and young parents are frightened by them.  

    We have a teeny library with internet access, and the librarian recently had to deal with young kids being contacted by online predators.    

    I am a personal fan of the Biden-sponsored legislation that made it harder for deadbeat dads to cross a state line and avoid child support.

    Biden understands that these are real concerns and hardships, at the same time as he extends a hand to people who have made mistakes and paid for them.  He is no testosterone-fueled hard ass like Rudy Giuliani, but he could run a credible campaign against America's Mayor on these issues, and talk about them from knowledge.  


    VAWA (none / 0) (#14)
    by sulis on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 12:10:23 AM EST
    Actually the Violence Against Women Act focuses much more on funding and capacity-building for communities than it does on creating more federal remedies.  Biden has been a huge champion of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, of women's shelters and of community-based solutions.  You may fairly criticize his record on crime generally, but the criticism of VAWA is not fair.  This legislation has brought resources to rural communities, civil legal assistance to victims and created a response to domestic violence and sexual assault in communities all across the country and in Indian Country.  His legislation on the effects of armed conflict on women and girls is also quite important.  Have your opinion, of course, but on VAWA its wrong headed.