Booker should look at his own record on criminal justice
WASHINGTON – With the second Democratic primary debate days away, Sen. Cory Booker and former Vice President Joe Biden are already trading barbs in an argument that will likely continue on the debate stage next week.
Biden pushed back Wednesday on Booker’s comments calling him the “architect” of mass incarceration after the former vice president introduced his criminal justice plan earlier on Tuesday. Biden helped write the 1994 crime bill, which critics have said targeted and impacted mostly communities of color.
“Cory knows that’s not true,” Biden told reporters during a campaign stop in Dearborn, Michigan, Wednesday, adding that people should look at Booker’s record while mayor of Newark, New Jersey.
“His police department was stopping and frisking mostly African American men,” the former vice president continued. “If he wants to go back and talk about records, I’m happy to do that. But I’d rather talk about the future.”
‘Catfight’: Kellyanne Conway mocks Tulsi Gabbard ‘not qualified’ comments on Kamala Harris
‘When we vote, we win’: Presidential candidates court black voters at NAACP convention
Both men — along with eight other 2020 Democratic contenders — will be part of the second night of the upcoming Democratic primary debate on July 30 and 31 in Detroit. Booker will be standing right next to Biden throughout the evening.
The former vice president on Tuesday outlined his new criminal justice plan in New Orleans. The rollout also came ahead of Biden speaking at the national NAACP convention in Detroit on Wednesday, as well as next week’s debate.
Last month, Biden was criticized by Sen. Kamala Harris during the first Democratic primary debate, with Harris calling out the former vice president for opposing federally mandated busing to integrate schools while he was in Congress. Biden later said he was not prepared for that moment.
Biden, who has maintained frontrunner status in early polling about the sprawling 2020 Democratic primary field, also had a tense exchange with Booker over the past couple weeks.
The New Jersey Democrat hit Biden for his comments on working with Democratic segregationists at the start of his time in the Senate. Booker called on Biden to apologize for those remarks. Initially, the former vice president refused and instead called on Booker to apologize.
Earlier this month, Biden did eventually apologize during an event in South Carolina.
“I’m sorry for any of the pain of misconception that caused anybody,” he said.
Booker later said that he still felt disrespected by the exchange.
Biden, Harris and Booker are — like the rest of the 2020 Democrats — vying for the crucial bloc of African American voters. Booker and Harris are the only two black candidates in the 2020 race. Biden, however, has been leading with black voters in polling.
On Wednesday, Biden also claimed that Booker objected to federal interference from the Justice Department to hold the Newark Police Department accountable. He went on to challenge Booker “or anyone else to tell me how he has a better plan than I have for moving from here.”
And Booker did exactly that on Tuesday — saying Biden’s plan “falls short of the transformative change our broken criminal justice system needs.”
“Joe Biden had more than 40 years to get this right,” Booker said in a statement. “The proud architect of a failed system is not the right person to fix it.”
Booker said that any comprehensive criminal justice plan must “include the legalization of marijuana, an overhaul of policing practices, ambitious use of presidential clemency power to right past wrongs, and reinvestment in the communities that have borne the costs of mass incarceration.”
“Our next president must both heal our country from decades of racist and unjust policy, and put forward a sweeping vision for how we can rise together,” Booker said. “Joe Biden’s plan doesn’t do that.”
An interactive guide: Who is running for president in 2020?
What we learned from Mueller: Seven hours, zero bombshells and everyone declares victory
Biden’s criminal justice plan would reverse several aspects of the 1994 crime bill, including endorsing ending the stricter sentencing terms for offenses involving crack versus powder cocaine and ending the federal death penalty.
The former vice president’s campaign also pushed back on Booker’s recent attacks, saying that due to next week’s debate format, “we thought we would begin to respond now.”
“To his credit, more recently, Booker has been a leader in criminal justice reform,” the Biden campaign’s statement also said. “For decades, Joe Biden has been working on criminal justice reform.”
It is unclear whether the tense back-and-forth between the two generations of Democrats will continue on the debate stage next week.
But Booker’s campaign manager, Addisu Demissie, was quick to respond to Biden’s latest rebuke.
“‘For decades, Joe Biden has been working on criminal justice reform,'” Demissie wrote in a tweet, quoting from the Biden campaign’s statement.
“That’s the problem. And that’s the tweet,” he concluded.
Contributing: Associated Press
Like what you’re reading?: Download the USA TODAY app for more