For Biden and Adams, a meeting of like minds on gun crime
Last summer, Eric Adams declared himself the “face” of the Democratic Party, preemptively grabbing the national spotlight months before he took office as mayor of New York. That spotlight fell directly on Mr. Adams on Thursday, as he hosted President Biden for a summit on public safety.
For Mr. Adams, the moment marked a high-profile opportunity to push for federal aid in the fight against gun violence, following a spike in shootings – including the recent killing of two on-duty police officers – which alarmed many New Yorkers.
But for President Biden and other National Democrats, the trip had bigger political implications. It came as Mr. Biden faces pressure to implement police reforms, while simultaneously confronting Republican efforts to caricature his party as weak in dealing with crime – all in a mi election environment. -mandate that already looks brutally difficult for the Democrats.
Hours before the president’s visit, the Biden administration ordered every U.S. attorney’s office nationwide to increase resources to bolster local violent crime efforts, citing New York’s Partnership Against Crime. armed violence as an example of effective collaboration.
The Department of Justice also launched a new training program for prosecutors pursuing charges against so-called ghost guns, firearms that are easily assembled from kits but are not regulated by federal laws on fire arms.
The president’s trip was seen by some at the White House as a chance to show that Mr. Biden grasps the urgency of responding to violent crime, according to current and former administration officials.
“The answer is not to defund the police,” Biden said as he spoke at New York Police Department headquarters on Thursday. “It’s to give you the tools, the training, the funding to be partners, to be protectors.”
Some Democrats have said that Mr. Biden’s decision to spend the day along with Mr. Adams, a former police captain who fought against police brutality, as well as Governor Kathy Hochul, would accentuate that message, even as others warned against elevating brutal police tactics.
“I am very pleased that President Biden understands how important it is to stand with the Mayor of New York at this time and with Americans across the country who feel public safety is a primary concern,” said Representative Kathleen Rice, a Democrat from Long Island. His party recently suffered staggering losses on its own turf as Republicans hammered out powerful, if sometimes misleading, arguments about crime.
Many National Democrats say Mr. Adams offers a model for connecting with voters who are concerned about both crime and tackling police misconduct. How long that enthusiasm lasts will ultimately depend on how he governs, and the mayor has already faced several significant controversies, including over his hiring decisions.
For now, he appears to be forging a symbiotic relationship with Mr. Biden, with whom Mr. Adams said he has spoken four times since winning the primary last summer.
They are, as the president might say, simpatico in some of their relatively moderate political instincts. Their campaigns were fueled by multiracial coalitions of working class voters. And as Mr. Biden faces sinking approval rate and a languid legislative agenda, Mr Adams exuded the heat, calling the president “my friend.”
During the election campaign, they both rejected the “defund the police” movement while promising reforms to the criminal justice system.
“Having a very radically practical way of dealing with gun violence as we deal with police reform, I think that’s an important message for the whole country, and I think the president shares that,” Ms. Adams in an interview. “We really focused on reforming the criminal justice system, but while we were doing that reform, we took our eyes off of public safety.”
Mr Biden – who spoke at the funeral of a New York police officer in 2014 – has long prided himself on connecting with both law enforcement officials and communities who fear violence policewoman. Like Mr. Adams, he does not view the considerations of these constituencies as mutually exclusive.
David Axelrod, the veteran Democratic strategist, noted that communities affected by excessive force were also concerned about violent crime.
“There is real concern in these communities, and Adams speaks about it,” he said. “During the campaign, these supporters were Biden’s strongest supporters.”
But in office, the two leaders were repeatedly tested by the harsh governmental and political realities on these issues. To be sure, gun violence and homicide rates in New York City and nationally are far below the totals of the early 1990s, and national polls show that while many Americans are deeply concerned about rising rates of crime, other problems are more pressing.
Yet gun violence has increased dramatically amid the pandemic, and nowhere have the public safety challenges been clearer recently than in New York, where Mr. Adams recently unveiled far-reaching plans to fight against gun violence after a series of high-profile incidents that unfolded during his first month in office.
Aspects of Mr Adams’ proposal, including an anti-gun police unit – a revamped version of the undercover anti-crime units that were disbanded in 2020 after the murder of George Floyd – have sparked pushback. And he’s drawn heavy criticism from the left on other issues, including a decision to increase police sweeps on the subway and his approach to New York’s bail law.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, expressed concern about a “prison- and police-centric policy” and stressed the need to address the root causes of crime.
“We risk reverting to a 1990s, quote-unquote, ‘tough on crime’ rhetoric, where policies can be deployed to give the impression that we are responding to public safety, but could in fact potentially make these problems worse. even though they might play well politically,” she said in an interview on Monday.
The next day, in a meeting Mr. Adams held with the congressional delegation, he said he directed Ms. Ocasio-Cortez to his ideas about preventing conditions conducive to crime and responding to violence.
“We don’t hear people on the left talking right now about what we should be doing,” he said.
Regarding concerns about a return by Democrats to adopting “tough on crime” attitudes, Adams pointed out that in the 1990s he fought police brutality as an officer and activist.
The new administration of New York City Mayor Eric Adams
“We are not going to return to the era of the muscle police. But we also cannot go back to the era of 2,000 homicides a year,” he said.
Lauren Hitt, spokeswoman for Ms Ocasio-Cortez, declined to comment on the delegation’s meeting, but said the idea that progressive lawmakers weren’t pressing anti-violence initiatives was “just plain wrong”. highlight a push last summer for investments in an anti-violence program in the Bronx for example.
Mr. Biden, for his part, also faces pressure from some civil rights leaders who want to see a more vigorous push for police accountability, after a major congressional push for a national overhaul of police failed. the police.
“Take it back piece by piece,” Reverend Al Sharpton urged.
But there seems to be little momentum to do so in Congress.
That’s one of the reasons the administration is preparing a police reform executive order, an early draft of which included a provision that would tighten use-of-force standards for federal law enforcement officers. laws. White House officials say they are still reviewing the order.
Mr Biden also urged police departments to spend stimulus funds to retain officers and called on Congress to increase federal grants for law enforcement by $300 million and another $200 million for community violence intervention programs in its budget proposal. He discussed those community-driven efforts with local Queens leaders later Thursday.
For many Democrats, the idea that Mr. Biden is soft on crime is absurd. He spent much of the 2020 primary explaining his pivotal role in the 1994 Crime Bill that many experts now associate with mass incarceration, before defeating law and order messaging. Republicans in the general election.
But Republicans managed to brand other Democrats as anti-law enforcement that year, and they’re repeating those efforts now, though many top Democratic officials have rejected wide-ranging efforts to cut budgets. of the font.
“If you’re not ready to stand up and speak out against this ‘defund the police’ movement within your own party, you own it,” said Rep. Tom Emmer, chairman of the Republican campaign arm of bedroom.
He had warmer words for Mr. Adams.
“He understands that we have the government to make sure he protects people and their property,” Emmer said. Asked about Mr Adams’ claim that he is the new face of the Democratic Party, Mr Emmer replied: “I hope so”, before warning that it was at the start of the mayor’s term.
Mr. Emmer’s posture shows why many more moderate Democrats feel comfortable embracing Mr. Adams’ message of public safety.
Representative Josh Gottheimer, a Democrat from New Jersey, invoked Mr. Adams by name as he unveiled a bipartisan measure that proposes investments in small police departments, noting Mr. Adams’ commitment that public safety and justice should go hand in hand.
“I hope the president will echo what Mayor Adams said,” Gottheimer said. “There are areas where I think we can find a lot of bipartisan agreement.”