CNN personality and former Obama administration official Van Jones praised conservatives and specifically President Donald Trump on Thursday for the work being done on criminal justice reform and to help the poor.
“I have to say something against my own interest here. Here’s the deal, the conservative movement in this country, unfortunately from my point of view, is now the leader on this issue of (criminal justice) reform,” Jones said during a panel discussion at the Conservative Political Action Conference outside of Washington, D.C.
“My problem is, I now have a conservative movement that for libertarian reasons, Christian conservative reasons, for fiscally conservative reasons is actually doing a great job on what should be my issue,” the well-known liberal activist added. “You are stealing my issue!”
— CPAC 2019 (@CPAC) February 28, 2019
Jones appeared at CPAC beside Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, which hosts the annual event.
The two worked with the Trump administration to help pass the First Step Act in December.
The legislation is intended to give those who have been incarcerated for non-violent crimes what Trump described as a “second chance at life,” through new sentencing guidelines and education and job-training programs designed to make their transition back into society easier.
Jones contended during the panel that neither Republicans nor Democrats have done enough to address the issues of poverty, addiction and criminal justice reform, yet gave Trump credit for taking action in all these areas.
“I have to say this, Trump on poverty did opportunity zones, on addiction did opioid package, and on criminal justice did First Step, and I’m here to say on those three issues, I will work with or against any Republican or any Democrat to help the people that need their party’s help for way too long. That’s why I’m here,” Jones said, drawing applause from the CPAC audience.
— CPAC 2019 (@CPAC) February 28, 2019
“At your best, the Republican Party and the conservative movement believes in the idea of liberty, which is limited government and the respect for individual rights and dignity,” the political commentator said.
“At our best, (Democrats) believe in the concept of justice: making sure that the little folks don’t get run over by the big folks.”
“I’ve never seen a bird fly that could with only a left wing. I’ve never seen a bird fly with only a right wing … We need each other,” Jones said.
Washington Examiner executive editor Philip Klein tweeted during the panel, “I give a lot of credit to @VanJones68 for coming to @CPAC to talk about criminal justice reform.
I give a lot of credit to @VanJones68 for coming to @CPAC to talk about criminal justice reform. And he’s being mostly well received. The consensus on this issue is a pretty stunning bipartisan development that’s received less attention in the dumpster fire that is U.S. politics.
— Philip Klein (@philipaklein) February 28, 2019
“And he’s being mostly well received. The consensus on this issue is a pretty stunning bipartisan development that’s received less attention in the dumpster fire that is U.S. politics,” Klein continued.
Schlapp noted that former Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry closed eight prisons in the Lone Star State, cutting the prison population (and thereby overall incarceration costs), and crime at the same time.
Jones pointed out Republican governors of Mississippi, Ohio, Georgia and South Carolina attained the same results instituting criminal justice reform.
“There’s a way we have been stereotyping each other and missing each other,” Jones concluded. “I shouldn’t have just found out all the good stuff that conservatives have been doing in prison ministries.”
“What I’m trying to say is as I’ve gotten to know more people working on this issue, my mind has been changed, my heart has been changed, my understanding of what we can do together has been changed, and that needs to happen more. That’s all I’m saying,” he added, which the CPAC crowd heartily applauded.
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