Background: Crime has become a regular presidential campaign theme, from the "law and order" campaigns of Richard M. Nixon and George C. Wallace in 1968 to George Bush's use of Massachusetts murderer Willie Horton in 1988. Democrats often have been painted as too liberal on the issue.
President Bush supports the death penalty. He has expanded the FBI and has declared war on drugs, even giving the military a role. He contends that more prisons are needed. His Administration issued tough federal sentencing guidelines that limited a judge's discretion and had the effect of lengthening prison terms. Bush's response to the Los Angeles riots included an expansion of his experimental "weed and seed" program, which attempts to get criminals off the streets in high-crime areas, then to "seed" the area with social programs.
Patrick J. Buchanan has made law and order a focal point of his campaign. He called the Los Angeles riots "a police problem, pure and simple" and said that urban programs will not remedy the rioters' lack of morality. He supports the death penalty and says that "prisons are not for rehabilitation, but for punishing criminals" and keeping them away from other people.
Bill Clinton supports the death penalty and, during his tenure as Arkansas governor, four murderers have been executed. He calls for a national crime strategy that would create a "police corps" by giving college graduates the opportunity to pay off their federal student loans by working in law enforcement. He wants to expand federal aid for communities to fight crime. He supports community-based policing and drug treatment on demand. He says that authorities should be tougher on white-collar crime and environmental criminals.
Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr. opposes the death penalty, saying it is arbitrary and unjust. During his two terms as California governor, he signed a range of anti-crime bills, including the "use a gun, go to prison" law. However, he says that prisons are not the answer. "Every prison that's built causes the need for another prison two-thirds as large because of the 60% recidivism rate," he says. "If we took that money and invested in children and child care and Head Start and jobs, we would see this country prosper and flourish."