Cory Booker, superstar

Is it possible that the two smartest, sanest, funniest politicians in America are both black?

I’d heard that Cory Booker was Newark’s Barack Obama, and hearing him tonight in dialogue with a Chasidic rabbi he met at Oxford (!) I’m not sure which of whether the comparison is flattering to Booker or to Obama. (Possibly both.)

As I listened I was thinking, “We probably need someone white in between.” Seriously.

Most interesting substantive thing I heard: Booker started a program to encourage Newark men coming out of prison to be better fathers to their children. I would have guessed that to be a completely thankless task. But according to Booker it turned out that these felons harbored the aspiration to be good fathers, and were open to advice about how to fill the role. And that aspiration made them more willing than they might otherwise have been to get jobs and stop committing crimes. At least, the recidivism rate among them dropped like a stone.

Yeah, yeah, I want to know about the selection-bias problem and how the thing looks on an intent-to-treat analysis. But as told it seemed a completely plausible story, and a credit to someone’s imagination and powers of execution.

Another pleasant surprise: LA City Council President Eric Garcetti. I have a fairly strong anti-dynastic prejudice (Garcetti’s father was the DA here) and had lazily assumed that Garcetti was just another pretty-faced rich kid living on the family name and money. Wrong! Very funny, obviously very smart.

Both Garcetti and Booker were pushing the same line: “post-partisanship” doesn’t mean compromise in some mechanical sense, it means finding points of agreement with practical implications and working out those implications. The DADS program Booker talked about is funded by the Manhattan Institute.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: