Moving to wrap himself in a popular issue already embraced by his likely Republican opponent, President Clinton on Tuesday advocated amending the Constitution to enshrine the rights of crime victims.
Without endorsing a specific measure, Clinton said that a victims’ rights amendment should ensure that crime victims or their survivors be told of court dates involving their cases, informed of the release of a defendant, paid restitution and allowed to speak at sentencing or parole conferences.
Victims’ rights thus joins a litany of election-year issues that Clinton has embraced to show toughness on crime and friendliness to the family. In the past three days, he endorsed a national registry to track sex offenders and expressed support for more flexible working hours to allow parents to attend school conferences and other family business.
In the White House event Tuesday, Clinton cited the broad constitutional protections accorded criminal defendants and argued that victims were entitled to comparable rights.
“Today the system bends over backwards to protect those (accused of crimes) who may be innocent, and that is as it should be,” Clinton said. “But it too often ignores the millions and millions of people who are completely innocent because they’re victims, and that is wrong.”
Former Sen. Bob Dole, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, endorsed the amendment last month, leading to an administration review that produced Tuesday’s announcement of qualified support.