There has long been the effort to position those against the death penalty as being soft, weak and otherwise, shall we say, unsteady in times of change. We all remember a defining moment the Dukakis election bid when the candidate was asked what his reaction would be if his wife got raped and murdered (correct answer: “I’d kill the person who did it and then I’d kill you for asking that question.”).
John Kerry was asked a somewhat related question about the connection between his views on the death penalty and what should be done to someone like Osama bin Laden. Kerry responded: “That status of war led me to find it impossible to suggest I wouldn’t want to blow Osama bin Laden’s brains out and treat him as an enemy.”
Predictably, the Bush team suggested that Kerry’s expressed desire to remove by force the innards of Osama’s noggin is somehow a flip flop from his opposition to the death penalty. Of course, this is nonsense. First, we’re comparing a war (as repeatedly defined by the Bushies) and the U.S. justice system. But there’s more to this debate than that.
One can be tough, violent and aggressive and still be opposed to death penalty. I am against state-sponsored executions for a variety of reasons. Yet, that in no way should lead one to believe that there aren’t plenty of people who I would absolutely love to kill; and I would consider doing-so to be one of the joys of being a private citizen as opposed to, say, a court of law.