I’ve been hard – I’d say appropriately so – on John Kerry recently. I’ve also tried to acknowledge intermittently the moments of political courage when he’s rejected the DLC mantras by hewing to the left of where Bill Clinton ran in 1992. The major one of these areas, as I see it, is crime. I’d say it speaks well of the electorate that even after Clinton’s eight-year concession to counter-productive right-wing assumptions on crime, Kerry could run on a promise to attack crime by funding Head Start rather than more prisons, intimate concerns about the drug war, and only somewhat scale back his opposition to the death penalty – all without seeming to lose any support. Another issue where Kerry deserves some measure of credit, apparently, is gay marriage. Turns out his position, shameful as it was, wasn’t as shameful as Bill Clinton’s would have been. But don’t take it from me:

Looking for a way to pick up swing voters in the Red States, former President Bill Clinton, in a phone call with Kerry, urged the Senator to back local bans on gay marriage. Kerry respectfully listened, then told his aides, “I’m not going to ever do that.

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In a speech yesterday to the Urban League perhaps most notable for the cuts to shots of Al Sharpton trying to keep a straight face, Bush asked for the Black vote and listed questions the Black community should be asking. “Does blocking the faith-based initiative help neighborhoods where the only social service provider could be a church?” Nobody’s blocking them, we’re demanding they be held to the same regulatory standards as everyone else doing business with the government. “Does the status quo in education really, really help the children of this country?” No it doesn’t – so we need more funding, not less. “Does class warfare — has class warfare or higher taxes ever created decent jobs in the inner city?” Well, the question of who’s really perpetrating the class warfare aside, the fact that no Republican President in the past century has created as many jobs as any Democratic President might be more than a coincidence. One of these questions was whether we should be “making excuses” for drug-users. Maybe Bush could learn something from another Republican who’s recently concluded that it’s his party that should be asking itself some tough questions about drugs:

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) yesterday touted drug treatment as an alternative to prison for nonviolent offenders as he launched a panel designed to coordinate Maryland’s fight against substance abuse. “As regard to treatment, I believe in it,” Ehrlich said during a morning visit to a parole and probation office in Gaithersburg. “We know treatment works. The facts are treatment works.”

Ehrlich introduced Andrew L. Sonner, a retired judge of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals and former Montgomery County prosecutor, as chairman of his new Maryland State Drug and Alcohol Abuse Council. The panel is intended to oversee the efforts of county drug and alcohol abuse councils that were established by the General Assembly. The signature provision of the law seeks to divert nonviolent drug offenders into treatment rather than prison. The bill, which called for spending $3 million to set up treatment programs, passed in this year’s session with widespread bipartisan support. It is expected to save money on incarceration.