On Wednesday night's Democratic debate, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NY) sparred on issues of racial justice and on each other's records, each trying to cast themselves as a champion of civil rights.
"We have treated issues of race and poverty and addiction by locking people up and not lifting them up," said Booker. "Since the 1970s, every crime bill, major and minor, has had his name on it. And those are your words, not and this is one of those instances where the house was set on fire, and you claimed responsibility for those laws. And you can't just now come out with a plan to put out that fire."
"The bills that the president — excuse me, the future president, that the senator is talking about, are bills that were passed years ago and passed overwhelmingly," said Biden. "Since 2007, I, for example, tried to get the crack powder cocaine disparity eliminated. In 2007 you became mayor of Newark, and you had a police department that you went out and hired Rudy Giuliani's guy and you engaged in stop and frisk. You had 75 percent of those stops reviewed as illegal; the Justice Department came after you for saying you were engaging in behavior that was inappropriate, and then, in fact, nothing happened. The entire time you were mayor."
"I'm glad he endorsed my presidency already," chuckled Booker. "It's no secret I hired a police department with problems, but the head of the ACLU has already said that I put forth national accountability. Mr. Vice president, I didn't interrupt you. Please have respect, sir. We have a system right now that's broken. And if you want to compare records and I'm shocked that you do, I am happy to do that. Because all the problems that he is talking about that he created, I actually led the bill that got passed into law that reverses the damages that your bills that you were bragging calling it the Biden crime bill up until 2015."
"The bill that he talks about is a bill in our administration we passed," said Biden. "That's the bill that passed. And the fact of the matter is, secondly, there is nothing done for the entire eight years he was mayor, there was nothing done to deal with the police department that was corrupt. Why did you announce on the first day a zero-tolerance policy of stop and frisk and hire Rudy Giuliani's guy in 2007 when I was trying to get rid of the—"
"There's a saying in my community, that you're dipping into the Kool-Aid and you don't even know the flavor," said Booker. "You need to come to the city and see the reforms we put in place. The head of the ACLU said that I embraced reform not just in action but in deeds. You are trying to shift the view from what you created. There are people right now in prison for life, for drug offenses because you stood up and used that tough on crime phony rhetoric that got a lot of people elected but destroyed communities like mind. This isn't about the past. This is about the present right now. I believe in redemption. I'm happy you evolved. But you offer no redemption to the people in prison right now."