Sunday, July 19, 2009

Compassionate Conservatism In Action

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It's not often you read of the good works of George W. Bush in the Inquirer. That said, it's probably a first that he was mentioned in a nice tone in the Arts and Entertainment section. The arts community has generally hated Bush for his politics, policies and the fact that it was a prerequisite to suffer from BDS to be accepted among ones peers in that chosen vocation.

Now that he's gone, we're starting to hear of the good he did in the world including his phenomenal effort to rid the African continent of HIV and, now, his support in releasing a rapper--John Forte--from federal prison:

His reemergence - which continues with shows tomorrow at World Cafe Live and Friday at the XPoNential Music Festival in Camden - came through the efforts of two unlikely champions: singer Carly Simon, who is Taylor's mother, and Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R., Utah).

But if Hatch, who has called Forté "a genius," and Simon, who says that working for the reduction of the musician's sentence "became my calling," were the midwives at Forté's rebirth, the delivery-room doctor was even more improbable.

In one of his final acts as president, George W. Bush on Nov. 24, 2008, commuted Forté's sentence. A little less than a month later, Forté walked out of the Federal Correctional Institution in Fort Dix a free man.

...For a good part of his life, he wasn't. He spent seven years and eight months "away" - first in a federal prison in Texas, then in Loretto, in western Pennsylvania, and finally in Fort Dix. He was moved there in 2004, thanks to Hatch, not only a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee but also a songwriter. Simon, a Democratic fund-raiser, says she turned to Hatch in frustration after getting little assistance from the other side of the aisle.

In a 2006 letter obtained by the Salt Lake Tribune, Hatch did not deny that Forté was guilty of a crime, but argued that the artist should be freed in part because "he was no risk to society, because he was not a drug-user. And frankly, he's a genius." Hatch, who could not be reached for comment for this story, obtained privileges for Forté to have a guitar, which he taught himself to play in prison. Forté has called Hatch a "superhero of a mentor to me."
Emphasis mine.

Note that no Democrat would aid Simon nor Hatch in getting this man released from prison. I suspect it was simply because they feared being called soft on drugs while ignoring the fact that our drug laws are draconian. Sen. Hatch and President Bush had no such qualms. They had the personal and political guts to see the right thing done and damn the consequences.

I suspect we'll see more stories like this in the future as the good Bush did was overshadowed in the venomous world of partisan politics and the media's constant barrage of ridiculous charges and downright hatred has finally subsided.

Exit question: If it had been Ted Kennedy or John Kerry championing the release of this man, would he be a household name now?

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