A message to Oprah: Criminals will come for anyone
When philanthropist Jacqueline Avant, the 81-year-old wife of music executive Clarence Avant, was murdered in her Beverly Hills home, Oprah Winfrey said: “The fact that this has happened, her being shot and killed in her own home, after giving, sharing and caring for 81 years, has shaken the laws of the universe. The world is upside down.”
With all due respect to Winfrey, it is not the criminals who are shaking “the laws of the universe” but those who choose to deliberately weaken or eradicate the rule of law that’s necessary for Americans to have a reasonable expectation of personal safety in our society.
Oprah Winfrey has proven to be a good, caring person. She has helped thousands of people and undoubtedly will help many more. She is one of America’s rare, self-made billionaires and there is much to admire about her personal story. Born to an unwed teen mother, she lived for years in poverty. Because of her dysfunctional childhood, her “street-cred IQ” remains high. Winfrey also has proven her intellectual horsepower across a broad spectrum of interests.
It is for those reasons and more that I believe she understands the root causes for crimes — even homicide — more than she may articulate at the moment.
Two truisms come to mind when it comes to heinous crimes such as homicide. The first is that criminals “hunt where the ducks are.” The second, perhaps more relevant truism is: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
Over decades, Winfrey has made it clear that she tends to support candidates who are Democrats or progressives, and that is her right as an American citizen.
But as one who also grew up in poverty and dysfunction, and then went on to work in the White House for two Republican presidents, I have come to believe that neither political party truly cares about the American people and many politicians are in the game to perpetuate their party’s self-interests and their own. It’s much better, in my opinion, to support the best person for public service when one can be found.
I say all of that to remind everyone that it’s mostly Democrats or progressives who are in favor of defunding police and are incessantly criticizing law enforcement. They’re also the ones who have been looking to eliminate cash bail and set a “what you can steal dollar amount before you are jailed” standard.
It’s no shock, then, when such progressive movements reach the ears of criminals and the two truisms kick in. Criminals will take note of reduced police forces or voluntary retirements by officers who are tired of being vilified. Criminals realize that the response time for officers remaining on the force might be slower, for those reasons and more. And that’s when the other truism — “Hunt where the ducks are” — comes into play. For some criminals, the question then is: “Where do the wealthiest and most vulnerable of ducks live?”
Oprah Winfrey is among celebrities who have their own security details, and her bodyguards hopefully will protect her from any crime. But many celebrities or people of wealth do not have security details.
It is more than fair to debate meaningful “criminal reform,” but at what price?
With regard to some of the recent high-profile “smash-and-grab” crimes at stores in Los Angeles, 14 suspects were arrested. All 14 were quickly released because of Los Angeles County’s “zero bail” policy. Said one of the victims of a smash-and-grab crime: “The idea of a no-bail or low-bail environment only emboldens and perpetuates a systematic problem. It’s getting worse and it’s rapidly, rapidly, deteriorating.”
More shockingly, violent crime in the Los Angeles area is skyrocketing. Even just mid-year, homicides were up 22 percent since 2020 and shootings had increased by 59 percent.
So it seems critical, while talking about police reform and criminal sentencing reform, to acknowledge that we do need strong, responsible police forces; that the rule of law must matter; and that certain criminals will take advantage of any opening that weakens the walls of safety.
None of this should surprise Oprah Winfrey. If she wants her world righted and the “laws of the universe” restored, then she and other powerful progressives must also speak out in defense of those who protect us and the laws they uphold. Her experienced, thoughtful voice is needed — and it’s one that matters.
Douglas MacKinnon, a political and communications consultant, was a writer in the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and former special assistant for policy and communications at the Pentagon during the last three years of the Bush administration.
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