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Press Release - Forbes Debates Himself on Crime and Punishment

January 17, 1996

New Attack Ad and Answers Play Fast and Loose with the Facts

Like the typical politician he claims to disdain, Malcolm "Steve" Forbes is on the airwaves today with a new ad that tries to explain away his opposition to tough "three strikes and you're out" mandatory life imprisonment for repeat violent criminals. But like so many of Forbes' risky ideas, it just doesn't add up.

Here are the facts. On September 30, 1995, Forbes told the Manchester Union Leader: "There has to be truth in sentencing. I don't believe in three strikes and you're out. I believe in one strike and you're out. If you are sentenced to 10 years, you will serve 10 years." That is the full quote that Forbes has never disputed.

Clearly, Forbes meant he was for truth in sentencing for first time offenders, but against three strikes mandatory sentencing laws. Despite his millions, Forbes can't escape the logic of his own words. He was talking about truth in sentencing for first time offenders -- the "one strike" he mentioned -- as his preferred approach to fighting crime. Forbes is 50% right. Bob Dole supports both ideas -- truth in sentencing and mandatory three strikes laws. Bob Dole is 100% right.

That reading of Forbes' comments is also consistent with the November 11, 1995 Monitor story that reported Forbes "does not agree with the 'three-strikes-and-you're-out' philosophy of justice."

Today the twisted story of Forbes and crime continues, with a Forbes aide telling the Leader "Steve Forbes supports mandatory life sentences for first offenders for violent crimes and he has said that many times." Apart from the question of exactly where he said such a thing, this again contradicts Forbes' original statement to the Union Leader "If you are sentenced to 10 years, you will serve 10 years." But 10 years imprisonment is clearly a felony sentence -- and a serious one at that. How can Forbes talk about a 10 year sentence for a serious felony at the same time he calls for a life sentence for the same kind of crime?

All this a case study of an eccentric, untested contender who is at a loss to even explain his own risky ideas. It may also account for why Forbes negative ratings have been growing as voters learn more about him.

Robert Dole, Press Release - Forbes Debates Himself on Crime and Punishment Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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