December 7, 2007

Hate Crime Expansion Dropped

The hate-crime expansion legislation that Ted Kennedy attached to the military spending authorization bill has disappeared, thanks to a veto threat by the White House. The suddenly-relevant and somewhat ascendant Bush administration forced a conference committee to drop the controversial amendment, with House Democrats unwilling to force a confrontation they would lose with the President:

House and Senate negotiators yesterday nixed a measure to expand hate-crime protections, removing it from a Pentagon policy bill that is now likely to pass both chambers by wide margins.

Negotiations on the defense authorization bill had bogged down, with House Democratic leaders worried that they did not have enough votes to pass the bill if it included the hate-crime measure. The bill, which has been vigorously supported by gay rights groups, would have extended hate-crime protections to victims based on gender, sexual orientation or disability. ...

House Democrats already faced a loss of support from many liberals in their caucus who would not support the Pentagon policy bill because it did not include withdrawal timeline provisions for the Iraq war. Many Democrats from conservative districts were afraid to engage in a showdown with President Bush on the bill over the hate-crime measure.

The notion of hate-crime categories is noxious enough without tying it to funding for military operations. The Senate couldn't pass it as a stand-alone bill, so Kennedy tried to force the White House to eat the amendment. Instead, Bush faced down Kennedy and made them retreat again on another high-profile campaign promise.

The entire category of hate crimes should offend Americans. It attempts to criminalize thought processes in a manner that smacks of political correctness and thought-policing. The criminality of murder springs from the loss of life, not from the motive. Regardless of whether a husband hates a wife or a stranger hates a minority, murder remains murder, assault remains assault, and all should be vigorously prosecuted regardless of apparent bigotry or lack of same.

Congress shouldn't expand hate-crime categories; they should eliminate them. Crimes like murder, assault, and the like don't belong under federal jurisdiction in any case. The states have jurisdiction over these crimes, unless someone can prove a violation of the Constitution, which usually applies to such crimes committed under color of authority. The federal authorities need to focus on truly federal issues, such as counterterrorism, national security, interstate commerce, and other issues that fall directly within their Constitutional mandate.


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