By Richard CohenThe
Tuesday, March 4, 2008; Page A19
What if the White House phone rang in the middle of the night and the president was told that one in every nine black men ages 20 to 34 was behind bars? What if the red phone rang at 3 a.m. and the president was told that among black men 18 or older, the figure was one in 15? If the president was like any of his (or her) predecessors, he’d pull the blankets over his face and go right back to sleep.
The hypothetical 3 a.m. phone call, used by Hillary Clinton in a campaign commercial last week, strongly suggests a foreign policy crisis in “a dangerous world.” Lord knows there could be such a thing. But also last week, the Pew Center on the States issued a report on incarceration rates — high for the nation as a whole but astoundingly high for young black men — that was its own sort of wake-up call. Yet, predictably, as a news story it had the briefest of shelf lives. On to Prince Harry and his merry adventures in Afghanistan.