On Tuesday, President Joe Biden delivered a fiery speech at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania. He started off well enough. He blasted “MAGA Republicans” and their “sickening” attacks on the FBI that came after the bureau raided the Mar-a-Lago property of their orangey-white nationalist overseer.
He also took a shot (so to speak) at gun nuts who think the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution doubles as a Bible verse.
“For those brave right-wing Americans who say [the Second Amendment] is all about keeping America independent and safe, if you want to fight against the country, you need an F-15,” Biden said. “You need something a little more than a gun.” (Oh sh^t! Shots fired! Again—so to speak.)
But then Biden’s speech took a turn. He reminded us that he’s a politician first and a person who’s interested in the truth of a matter second. He decided, like many politicians before him, to obfuscate what is actually meant by “defund the police.”
“Want to feel a sense of security? That’s what my crime plan is all about. You know, I call it the Safer Americans Plan. And both your members of Congress voted for it. It’s based on a simple notion. When it comes to public safety to this stage, the answer is not defund the police. It’s fund the police,” Biden said.
Meanwhile, Biden’s speech came as police appeared to be continuing to kill Black and brown people with impunity. For instance, the president pushed his “fund the police” agenda hours after police in Columbus, Ohio, shot and killed Donovan Lewis within one second of seeing the 20-year-old unarmed Black man in his bedroom at around 2 a.m. Police apparently mistook his vape pen for a gun.
As the New York Times noted in 2020—when “defund the police” became an activist rallying cry—”Calls to defund police departments are generally seeking spending cuts to police forces that have consumed ever larger shares of city budgets in many cities and towns.” It’s not a call to abolish the police. (That’s a separate rallying cry, actually.) It just means not giving them more power than they need.
But Biden is a politician and politicians don’t typically dabble in nuance. Talking points for political furtherance is an elected official’s game, and speaking against defunding without being clear on what defunding entails is just a good strategy. Who cares about the truth?
It’s also worth mentioning that hours before Biden’s Pennsylvania speech, a Black man, Donovan Lewis, was shot and killed by a police officer in the neighboring state of Ohio while police were executing an arrest warrant. He was shot as soon as a cop opened his bedroom door. He was armed with nothing but a vape pen. To be clear, defunding the police would not have stopped that from happening—I’m just saying it indicates that we need to take a closer look at how policing is done. Opponents of the call to defund make it clear that they’re not even interested in doing that much.
It’s also worth mentioning that one of the first times Biden championed a bill that give police officers more power was the 1994 crime bill, and, well, we know how that turned out for the Black community.
One could easily argue that he’s at it again.
From the National Review:
Biden has requested $35 billion in the 2023 fiscal year budget to fund the police and services that address the causes of crime. The “Safer America Plan” also calls “on Congress to require background checks for all gun sales and ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.”
“I’m determined to ban assault weapons in this country! Determined,” he said.
Biden then noted the recent mass shootings across the country, including in Buffalo, N.Y. and Uvalde, Texas, saying “more children die from guns than active duty police and active duty military personnel combined.”
Sounds like policy that might help combat one American problem and potentially exacerbate another all packed into one bill.
Or maybe it’s all just a political dance.