No one can be blamed for fretting the last week or so that the temptations of backlash politics compounded by the tendency to back away from anything the president or Hillary Clinton have embraced might endanger the hard-won conversion of most Republican politicians to at least some interest in criminal justice reform. And now on Fox News we have an attack on HRC on this subject from none other than the 2012 Republican presidential nominee (per Think Progress‘ Carimah Townes):

I was concerned that her comments smacked of politicization of the terrible tragedies that are going on there [in Baltimore]. When she said we’re not going to have mass incarcerations in the future, what is she referring to? We don’t have mass incarcerations in America. Individuals are brought before tribunals, and they have counsel. They’re given certain rights. Are we not going to lock people up who commit crimes?” he asked.

Aside from the snarky pretense that Mitt doesn’t understand how the word “mass” is being used in this context, it’s a rather different argument than, say, the one Rand Paul made in suggesting her interest in criminal justice reform is a day late and contradicts her husband’s policies.

For many Republican Establishment types, of course, an argument that can sideswipe both Hillary Clinton and Rand Paul is ideal.

But I do wonder what’s going on here. Is Mitt being clueless, or is he instead ahead of the curve in denouncing a big change in sentencing policies, sort of like he was in the 2012 cycle when he came out for “self-deportation?” I really hope that is not the case.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.