This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," August 17, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
PAUL GIGOT, HOST: This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," Hillary Clinton kick starts the 2016 campaign, taking on the Supreme Court and state Voter I.D. laws.
Plus, Attorney General Eric Holder says the Justice Department will no longer enforce mandatory minimum sentences for some drug offenses.
And a federal judge strike downs New York's controversial Stop and Frisk Program, dealing a blow to big-city policing across the USA.
Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.
In a speech some see as the first of her 2016 campaign, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took aim this week at what she called an assault on voting, condemning the Supreme Court's June decision striking down key parts of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act and criticizing dozens of state Voter I.D. laws that she says restrict ballot access for minorities.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: In 2013, so far, more than 80 bills restricting voting rights have been introduced in 31 states. Now not every obstacle is related to race, but anyone who says that racial discrimination is no longer a problem in American elections must not be paying attention.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIGOT: Joining the panel this week, Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; Political Diary editor, Jason Riley; and senior editorial page writer, Collin Levy.
So, Jason, I may not have been paying attention but --
-- I know you have been paying attention. First of all, I think we can put aside the doubts about whether she is running for president.
I think that's a certainty. But since you have been paying attention, is there evidence of racial discrimination in voting access in America?
JASON RILEY, "POLITICAL DIARY" EDITOR: Well, what the evidence shows, Paul, is that black voter trends since 1996 show that black voter turnout has been increasing. And what's interesting is they've been increasing even in those states -- even as more and more states have been passing Voter I.D. laws. Some of the strictest in the country are in place like Indiana and Georgia and Tennessee. In 2012, black voter turnout in those states exceed white voter turnout. Last year's election, black voter turnout exceeded white voter turnout nationally for the first time in history. So where is the evidence?
GIGOT: What are the magnitudes here? What magnitudes are you talking about? Two-thirds of African-Americans voted. Over 66 percent in 2012.
GIGOT: And the white voter turnout is -- what? -- 64?
RILEY: It's low. Yeah, but it was --
GIGOT: What is the trend? You mentioned the trend since 1996 (ph). This is all Census Bureau data.
RILEY: And you mentioned Hillary in 2016. But I think this particular part of her speech might have been directed at next year's election, the midterm elections. What's going on here is Democrats are worried that without Barack Obama on the ballot, that black voter turnout may be down. I think this is an attempt to scare blacks to the polls by claiming that Republicans are trying to --
GIGOT: So there's politics going on here. Surprise, surprise.
But let's just get that fact out. What's the trend from 1996 in percentage of African-Americans, voting Americans, up 13 percent --
RILEY: It's up 13 percent.
GIGOT: -- from 1996 to 2012?
RILEY: Even in states with some of the strictest Voter I.D. laws in the country.
GIGOT: Now -- OK, so how do you respond to Democrats who say not -- what a surprise. We have the first African-American president on the top of the ballot the last two years. That won't happen when Barack Obama is no longer on the table.
RILEY: Well, the trend precedes Barack Obama. It goes back to 1996. So this is a trend that happened independent of Barack Obama.
Now, will it continue when he's gone? I don't know. But what we do know is that if Republicans are trying to disenfranchise black voters, they have been a doing a spectacularly bad of it.
GIGOT: So, Collin, Secretary of State Clinton said that North Carolina pushed through a bill that, quote, "Reads like the greatest hits of voter suppression," quote, unquote. She's talking about Voter I.D. laws; restricted early voting, for example; no more same-day registration. Is the goal here really voter suppression?
COLLIN LEVY, SENIOR EDITORIAL PAGE WRITER: No, of course, it's not. Look, a lot of this rhetoric is getting out of hand. You know what North Carolina did. They still allow provisional ballots if you don't show up with I.D. A lot of these --
GIGOT: You can vote -- oh, OK.
LEVY: Yeah. You're still allowed to cast a provisional ballot if you show up without I.D. We need remember here, too, on these Voter I.D. laws, going back to 2007, Justice John Paul Stevens, on the Supreme Court, already weighed in on these Voter I.D. Laws. And he said that requiring -- states requiring voters to show I.D. at the poll us withes not a great burden. So not only now has the Supreme Court ruled, you know, in the Voting Rights case this year, but you also have their imprimatur on some of these Voter I.D. laws. And that one was in Indiana.
DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: So, Paul, Hillary has embarked on this speech tour in which she talks about making government work again. But to pick on Collin's point about rhetoric getting out of hand, all of the examples that Hillary cited her speech -- and she did cite examples -- were in the South -- North Carolina, Mississippi, Texas, Florida, South Carolina. She is suggesting that, since 1965 and 2013, the white people in the South are irrevocably racist and cannot be trusted. Half of the country below the Mason-Dixon Line still cannot be trusted. And this is a person who wants to be president of the entire United States, and this is the basis on which she's going to run to turn out, as Jason suggested, black votes in the South.
GIGOT: So this is essentially about turnout --
HENNINGER: I think it's entirely about turnout, Paul. Look, in 2005, the Federal Election Reform Commission headed, by Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State Jim Baker, said that Voter I.D. laws should be promoted because they will enfranchise black voters. She's suggesting that no one could possibly disagree with her. Well, serious people do disagree with her on this.
GIGOT: Let me ask a political question, Jason. What is the benefit for Republicans pushing -- that's what they're doing -- a lot of these states that are pushing this are Republicans. Not universally, but North Carolina, the government flipped. State government flipped so Republicans pushed some of these laws. Are they getting much out of this politically, if the main impact politically is to drive Democrats to the polls?
RILEY: That would be the main impact politically but that's the greater good here and that is ballot integrity. The country -- particularly in a country as divided as this one is and when elections are so close. Ballot integrity matters. And we need these laws in place to make sure everyone's vote is counted.
GIGOT: Collin, is there a lot of evidence of voter fraud out there?
LEVY: You know, Paul, one of the things about voter fraud is it's very hard to track because you don't always catch it. And I think one of the things that people really need to be looking at here is the way that we're approaching this from the front end as opposed to trying to seek it out --
GIGOT: I see. Prevent it in advance --
GIGOT: -- by making sure that the people who are voting are actually registered or aren't taking someone else's name.
All right, when we come back, Eric Holder vows to curb mandatory minimums, saying too many Americans are going to too many prison far too long. Is he right? There's a debate ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The president has said it's time to take a pragmatic approach. And that's why I'm proud to announce that the Justice Department will take a series of significant actions to recalibrate America's federal criminal justice system. We will start by fundamentally rethinking the notion of mandatory minimum sentencing for drug-related crimes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIGOT: Attorney General Eric Holder announcing this week that the Justice Department will no longer pursue mandatory minimum sentences for certain non-violent drug offenders, a move the administration believes will reduce overcrowding in America's prisons and reduce race-based disparities in drug offenses.
So, in particular, Collin, the prosecutors are going to be instructed no longer to report the amount of drug possessed for drug offenses, which would not -- therefore not trigger mandatory minimum sentences. Do you agree with the attorney general?
LEVY: I do, Paul. Mandatory minimums have really become a high-cost, low- return proposition. I think they were created as a way to deter crime but it hasn't turned out that way. The vast majority of offenders, the single -- the biggest class of offenders now are drug offender in the prison system. Those prisons are 40 percent overburdened and they're now taking up 45 percent of the Justice Department's total budget. So that has become something that's really not paying off for taxpayers.
Now, you also mentioned the prosecutor issue. The other thing that mandatory minimums have done is they've taken away discretion that should be left to judges --
LEVY: -- and instead given it to prosecutors, which basically they have un-reviewable authority on sentences, which is inappropriate.
RILEY: Well, I think what's often lost here is how these laws impact law- abiding citizens in the ghettos where these criminals ply their trade. How does sending these thugs back to these communities sooner rather than later help people who are trying to raise their families in schools that are violent, with metal detectors and so forth.
The premise here is that black incarceration rates are driven by our drug laws, but that simply doesn't hold up. I mean, blacks are about 13 percent of the population, but they're about 37 percent of the incarcerated population. If you sent home all the drug dealers or all the drug offenders tomorrow, the black percentage of the incarcerated population would barely budge a percentage point. Drug offenses are not driving black incarceration rates.
GIGOT: But does it make sense to put away somebody for five years for marijuana possession, a relatively small amount of marijuana, when some states have legalized the drug?
RILEY: Paul, my sympathies are with the families, the law-abiding families in these communities --
GIGOT: I understand. I understand.
RILEY: -- that are struggling to get by. Sending these drug dealers, these convicted felons back to these communities does not help these communities. --
LEVY: But remember, we're --
RILEY: It does not help the law-abiding residents.
GIGOT: Go ahead, Collin.
LEVY: No, we have to remember here, we're talking about non-violent, low- level drug offenders. These are not a class of violent thugs.
GIGOT: Hold on, Jason. Let --
GIGOT: Let Collin finish, Jason.
GIGOT: Let Collin -- Collin, make your point.
LEVY: No, no one is talking about sending violent criminals back into these areas. That's not what this is about. You're talking about, right now, there is a safety valve provision on these mandatory minimums that Congress put through in 1994 for the lowest-level offenders. And what they're talking about now is basically expanding that. And what Eric Holder is talking about is creating a carve-out for low-level, non-violent drug offenders that's going to alleviate pressure on the prison system.
GIGOT: OK, Collin.
All right, Jason.
RILEY: It's often forgotten who was driving the push for these mandatory minimums back in the '80s. It was the Congressional Black Caucus. People like Charlie Rangel and --
GIGOT: What was the motive?
RILEY: -- that led the charge for mandatory --
GIGOT: What was the motive?
RILEY: -- minimums. The motive is because these criminals were making life hell in the communities of their constituents. The idea that these laws are racist in some way is just completely contrary to the facts of how we got here. We got here because people understood what these criminals did to their own neighborhoods. And so the idea that we should ease up on them -- these are soft-on-crime policies and they don't help law-abiding black people. That is where our sympathy should be.
HENNINGER: Let's try to put this in some historical perspective. These laws were passed in 1980 when there was a plague of crack cocaine, which caused an enormous amount of crime. There was a direct relationship between crack cocaine use and crime. Crack cocaine use has declined, and certainly among blacks as well. It's been replaced by marijuana, which is a much lower level drug. It doesn't cause that much violent crime.
I might add, though, that since politics responds to criminal -- to crime waves like this, we may be on the brink of another one. The Wall Street Journal reported just this past week that, what drug is on the rise again in cities? Heroin. That's awful. Heroin is a crime-related drug. And if we see criminal activity emerge again, we're going to see more pressure again for these kinds of laws.
GIGOT: Collin, you know -- you've been following these issues and you know that Congress has a couple of bills pending that would make the adjustments even beyond what Holder is proposing. Should he have waited to work with Congress to pass this?
LEVY: It would have been ideal for this to have happened in Congress. I think he probably wanted to jump ahead of it politically. But, again, Paul, we've already seen in states, on the merits, that reducing mandatory minimums has not had any increase on crime rates. 17 states have gotten rid of their mandatory minimums and seen crime rates continue to fall. So the general trend is the right one here.
GIGOT: Collin, last word. Thank you.
When we come back, a big setback for big-city policing as a federal says New York City's Stop and Frisk Program is unconstitutional. What it means for crime fighting across the country, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEW YORK CITY MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: This is a very dangerous decision made by a judge that I think just does not understand how policing works and what is compliant with the U.S. Constitution as determined by the Supreme Court. We go to where the reports of crime are. Those, unfortunately, happen to be poor neighborhoods and minority neighborhoods.
GIGOT: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg denouncing this week's federal court ruling that the NYPD Stop and Frisk Program violates the constitutional rights of minorities. Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled Monday that Stop and Frisk amounted to, quote, "indirect racial profiling." She appointed a federal monitor to oversee the program and ordered police officers in certain precincts to wear body cameras for a year.
All right, Dan, so what are the practical implications of this for policing?
HENNINGER: Well, let's just put a couple of facts on the table ahead of this. Well, one's an informal fact. Anyone who comes to New York understands that it is just a totally safe city. It's remarkable that a city of this size can be so safe.
Secondly, New York has the lowest murder rate now since the early 1960s, in large part, because of this policy, which Mayor Mike Bloomberg has had to fight to support for the entire last four years. He's been completely behind Commissioner Ray Kelly against this opposition. Now you have the judge's decision. We're having a mayoral election in the fall. Mike Bloomberg won't be there anymore. I think the practical effect, Paul, is that the police are going to step back a little bit on Stop and Frisk until this is resolved. And if a Democrat wins, they're not going to appeal this decision, which I think has no chance of surviving on appeal.
GIGOT: Bloomberg is going to appeal it, go to the federal Second Circuit, and it could go to the Supreme Court after that. But if a Democrat major is elected, a Democrat, none of them will appeal. Then --
RILEY: And another problem is that it could have a chilling effect on other police departments around the country. This could have reverberations outside of New York, which would be a shame. I mean, the problem here is the focus is on police behavior instead of black behavior, and that's where the focus should be. You know, blacks make up about 23 percent of New York's population but they're involved in 80 percent of the shootings.
Dan mentioned the homicide rates in the city over the years. We're talking, in the early 1990s, 2,000-plus a year. Last year, 400. I mean what we're talking about here is a policy that has helped save black lives. Most of this crime is black-on-black crime. Heather McDonald of the Manhattan Institute has run the numbers on this. She said something like 10,000 black and Hispanic men are alive in New York City who wouldn't be alive but for these policies.
GIGOT: But, you know, the critics -- Ira Glass, the American Civil Liberties Union -- argue that the rate of crime reduction, which is undeniable, that started in 1981 before Stop and Frisk even began, and the crime rate reduction has continued even as, in the recent years that NYPD has stopped or has reduced the number of Stop and Frisks.
Dan, how do you respond?
HENNINGER: Well, I guess you'd say ask them about that in Chicago --
-- or Detroit where the crime rate has certainly not fallen.
Look, crime is created -- is done by criminals, and criminals create -- the average real criminal would -- produces about 15, 16 crimes a year. As the late criminologist, James Q. Wilson, pointed out, if you don't want them to commit crimes, you have to take them off the street or you have to suppress them. I think that's an established fact of criminology. And if these cops in New York are going to step back, then I think the criminals are going to step forward. And it's not an experiment that I think any of us wants to take having lived in the city in the '70s and '80s.
GIGOT: Supreme Court has said, in a famous case, 1968, Terry versus Ohio, that cops can stop and frisk people with -- as long as they have a suspicion that a crime has been committed or will be committed or that the person might be armed. Does this decision go directly in the face of that?
RILEY: No. It's why she did not overturn the Stop and Frisk policy. She knew there was a Supreme Court precedent. But again, to the extent that the --
GIGOT: So she's going to micromanage it though?
RILEY: Exactly. Another monitor. I believe this will be the eighth or ninth monitor of the police department. But to the extent this results in less effective policing in these communities, it's going to cost black lives.
HENNINGER: Well, it has also enhanced these communities. Williamsburg in Brooklyn, the Bowery in New York, East Harlem have all been produced -- you know, they've become better neighborhoods since Stop and Frisk.
GIGOT: All right, Dan, thank you.
We have to take one more break. When we come back, "Hits and Misses" of the week.
GIGOT: Time now for "Hits and Misses" of the week -- Dan?
HENNINGER: Well, I'm going to give a miss to Bradley Manning, the U.S. Army private who was convicted for releasing something like 700,000 documents and diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks. You know, you've heard of death-bed confessions, Paul. This is kind a dead-bed resentencing apology. He's facing 90 years in prison. So he comes forth to say, I'm sorry I hurt people, I'm sorry I hurt the United States. I'm apologizing for the unexpected results of my actions. The last three years have been a learning experience for me. I think that apology had work add lot better if he said it earlier in the trial than now.
GIGOT: All right.
RILEY: I want to give a miss to critics of Paula Dean, celebrity chef. This week, a judge threw out the racial discrimination claims that have been filed against here in a lawsuit. Which means that a woman's career could be ruined not because she discriminated against people based on race but because she used a word to describe black people that black people use to describe one another all the time.
GIGOT: All right.
LEVY: Paul, I have a big miss to travel website, Trip Adviser, which this week ranked San Diego, California, as the country's best place for pizza. As a Chicago girl, this is serious outrage, an affront to all good taste. You might as well say that you can get the best sushi in the country in Kansas. Everyone knows that the best pizza in the country is in Chicago and New York City. And I think we should have a revote.
GIGOT: I don't know, Collin. I think the Kansasians are going to be upset. But, OK.
You don't credit Bradley Manning's --
HENNINGER: Not very much at all, Paul. I think he knew what he was doing and I think he's just trying to reduce that 90-year sentence he's facing. And I think it sends a good signal to people that are doing these things.
GIGOT: All right.
Remember, if you have your own "Hit or Miss," please send it to us at jer@FOXnews.com. And be sure to follow us on Twitter at JERonFNC.
That's it for this week's show. Thanks for joining us. See you right here next week.
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