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Commentary

Psaki Tries to Turn 'Defund Police' Back on the GOP After It Backfires on Dems

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One understands President Joe Biden’s administration doesn’t want to own the slogan “defund the police” ahead of a summer that’s predicted to be just as violent as last year. However, it might be a bit late to tie the slogan “defund the police” to the GOP.

When Biden adviser Cedric Richmond tried the tactic during an appearance on Fox News over the weekend, it was laughable. Instead of backing off of it, however, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Republicans didn’t vote for funding that “has been used to keep cops on the beat” — even when said funding was a minuscule part of the American Rescue Plan, the larded-up COVID-relief package passed along strictly party lines.

Richmond had made the remarks in question on “Fox News Sunday”: “Let’s talk about who defunded the police. When we were in Congress last year trying to pass a rescue plan — I’m sorry, not the rescue plan but an emergency relief plan for cities that were cash-strapped and laying off police and firefighters — it was the Republicans who objected to it,” he said.

“And in fact, they didn’t get funding until the American Rescue Plan, which our plan allowed state and local governments to replenish their police departments and do the other things that are needed.

“So look, Republicans are very good at staying on talking points of who says defund the police, but the truth is, they defunded the police, we funded crime intervention, and a whole bunch of other things,” he added.

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Richmond may be duplicitous, but he ain’t stupid. Last November, he told CBS News’ “Face the Nation” that the slogan hurt Democrats at the ballot box, even though he swore that’s not what they were doing — just “reinventing” policing.

“Some titles hurt,” Richmond said. “‘Defunding the police’ is a title that hurts Democrats, especially when the fact of the matter is nobody is calling for defunding the police. We’re calling for reinventing how we police communities in this country, how we do criminal justice.”

Well, that’s enough police reinvention via budgetary means for the moment. Now, it’s all Republicans’ fault!

At Monday’s White House media briefing, Fox News’ Peter Doocy brought the remarks up.

Should Democrats be held accountable for calls to defund the police?

“Something one of the advisers said this weekend, Cedric Richmond, he said, ‘Republicans defunded the police by not supporting the American Rescue Plan,'” Doocy noted.

“But how is it that that is an argument to be made when the president never mentioned needing money for police to stop a crime wave when he was selling the American Rescue Plan?”

“Well, the President did mention that the American Rescue Plan, they’ll — the state and local funding, something that was supported by the President, a lot of Democrats who supported and voted for the bill, could help ensure local cops were kept on the beat in communities across the country,” Psaki said.

“As you know, it didn’t receive a single Republican vote.  That funding has been used to keep cops on the beat.”

Doocy responded by noting that “at the time, that was sold as, ‘These local police departments might have a pandemic-related budget shortfall,’ not, ‘We need to keep cops on the beat because there’s crime wave.'”

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“I think that any local department would argue that keeping cops on the beat to keep communities safe when they had to, because of budget shortfalls, fire police is something that helps them address crime in their local communities,” Psaki said.

“The White House’s argument was: The American Rescue Plan is going to be $1,400 checks. It’s going to be vaccines, vaccinators. We’re — it’s going to put us on the path to beating the virus,” Doocy said.

“It did those things as well,” Psaki added. “It was a pretty good bill and piece of legislation.”

Good try there. Again, Psaki isn’t an idiot, but she’s hoping you are. What’s particularly shameless about this response is that this is the second time in less than a week the White House press secretary has used the same argument in response to a question from Doocy, Fox News’ White House correspondent.

Last Wednesday, Doocy questioned the White House’s logic that expanded employment opportunities (created through federal spending, natch) would nip that crime bud right off: “So the thought there basically that somebody, some criminal, who has been committing crimes with limited interruption or interference from police for the last couple of weeks or months is going to stop this easy life of crime if they have a summer job?”

Psaki responded that part of the president’s anti-crime agenda involves “specific guidance to communities across the country to ensure that they have funding to get more community police around the country, something that was supported by the American Jobs Plan, that was voted into law by Democrats just a couple of months ago. Some might say that the other party was for defunding the police. I’ll let others say that, but that’s a piece.”

Yes, she’ll let others say that — and then back them up uncritically when they do, as she did with Cedric Richmond.

There’s a reason this matters. As CNN reported last week, “[t]he post-reopening murder wave is about to become a major subject of conversation. Murders have gone up in 2021, and the summer — high season for homicide — is just getting started.” The New York Times reported in March that data showed an 18 percent jump in homicides over the first three months of the year. In 2020, meanwhile, America’s largest cities saw a 33 percent spike in homicides.

In Mayor Bill de Blasio’s New York City, former police officer Eric Adams — a moderate Democrat who’s strong on law and order — will likely be the winner in the Democratic primary for mayor, which means he’ll almost certainly be the next man to lead the city.

On Sunday, Axios reported that Republicans plan to hit the administration on the issue in the midterms next year, with an electoral blueprint which “argues that Biden Democrats are soft on crime, soft and ineffective on illegal immigration, and reckless and wrong with government spending.”

The numbers on the matter don’t look very good for D.C. Democrats, either.

In a May poll, 73 percent of respondents told Fox News they felt there was more crime nationally compared with last year, and 54 percent said they felt there was more crime in their communities. Another 72 percent said they had “a great deal” of confidence (36 percent) or a “fair amount” of confidence (36 percent) in law enforcement, which contrasts with a vision of Americans cowering in fear of our own police officers.

Similarly, a March poll conducted by USA Today/Ipsos found that only 18 percent of respondents supported the “defund the police” movement, with 58 percent outright opposing it. USA Today reported that only 28 percent of black Americans polled and 34 percent of Democratic respondents were in favor of the campaign.

“Defund the police” has backfired in spectacular fashion on Washington Democrats, in other words. The hour is too late for them to disown the poxed slogan, however — much less to pawn it off on the GOP under the cynical rubric that Republicans didn’t vote for Biden’s massive spending bills.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Birthplace
Morristown, New Jersey
Education
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture




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