Here is still more evidence that the New York Times will analyze everything Trump does only in the most cynical political terms.
Reporters Annie Karni and Maggie Haberman immediately put President Trump on the defensive by reducing his administration’s bipartisan criminal justice reform plan to raw political cynicism in Friday’s edition: “The White House Subject Was Criminal Justice. The Subtext Was the Election.”
President Trump on Thursday took another turn advertising his administration’s work on criminal justice, one of the only bipartisan achievements he can campaign on and an issue he hopes will win over at least some African-American and centrist white voters.
Mr. Trump praised the First Step Act, as the law is known, as one of his major accomplishments. It was the third time he has commemorated it at the White House, where he also announced new government initiatives intended to encourage businesses to hire former inmates.
He said that the Bureau of Prisons would work with employers to have jobs lined up for inmates upon their release, and that the Labor Department was awarding $2 million to states to support fidelity bonds, which help underwrite companies that hire former prisoners.
The president singled out Kim Kardashian West, the reality television star who has become a high-profile advocate for reducing criminal sentences, who sat in the audience sandwiched between his daughter Ivanka Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, for pushing the administration to tackle the subject.
It’s galling that the Times, after complaining for years of Republicans using tough-on-crime, gun-rights, anti-gay-marriage stances as “wedge issues,” are now calling reforming the system a “wedge issue”! The GOP literally can not win — blamed for being both hard on crime and for now being in favor of justice reform.
But advocates criticized the White House for using criminal justice as a wedge issue. They say the administration has underlined the former vice president Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s support of the 1994 crime bill instead of working to ensure Republican backing for legislation that prohibits federal agencies and contractors from requiring job applicants to disclose criminal records and ensuring the Justice Department does not undermine the First Step Act in the appropriations process.
It remains to be seen how Mr. Trump can capitalize on his support for the legislation, as his advisers have told him to do, to change the perceptions of voters who have a long list of policies and statements by the president that appear to rub salt into the country’s wounds about race.
Mr. Trump has never apologized for spending tens of thousands of dollars on full-page newspaper ads calling for the return of the death penalty to punish the black and Latino teenagers, known as the Central Park Five, who were wrongfully accused of raping a white woman in Central Park in 1989. Instead, he doubled down. And since taking office, he has stoked racial tensions, elevating the voices of white nationalists when he appeared to defend their actions during a violent confrontation with liberal protesters in Charlottesville, Va.
The Times passed the megaphone to a hostile, mocking Democrat.
Asked what constituency might be moved by Mr. Trump’s focus on criminal justice, Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster, said it was limited to “the Kardashians. I’m not actually sure beyond that.”
One piece of modest legislation was unlikely to paper over the president’s past record, he said.
“It’s hard to be the second-chance guy when you are separating families, deporting people who have been here without committing a crime, and routinely undermining legal efforts to address police misconduct,” Mr. Garin said.