Obama and the death penalty: He disappoints again

I’m trying. I really am. Hillary Clinton has conceded the nomination to Barack Obama, and as so many people keep telling me, he’s way better than that other guy, John McCain. But when I vote in November, I would love to vote for Obama and feel good about it, rather than … “meh, he’s o.k.”

But lately it seems that on issue after issue, Obama disappoints me. The latest came yesterday when he publicly announced his disagreement with the Supreme Court decision barring states from executing criminals guilty of child rape. Now don’t get me wrong — this is a horrible, despicable crime, and society should deal with those guilty of this crime in the strongest manner possible. But when the government starts killing people who didn’t kill, when we start killing people for crimes that do not involve murder, we begin a deep descent into a special place in Hell.

At a press conference yesterday, Obama said:

I think that the rape of a small child, 6 or 8 years old, is a heinous crime and if a state makes a decision that under narrow, limited, well-defined circumstances the death penalty is at least potentially applicable, that that does not violate our Constitution.

Obama agrees with Chief Justice John Roberts, Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas — all dissenters in this case.

WTF?

There are so many reasons why the death penalty is wrong. Even if you agree with it in theory, you must acknowledge the Chicago Tribune description:

Who gets a sentence of life and who gets death is often a matter of random luck, of politics, of geography, even a matter of racism. Mistakes can occur at every level of the process.

As a state Senator, Obama was a proponent of death penalty reform because he understood the many problems with it as a truly just sentence. From Talk Left:

While an Illinois state senator, Obama was key in getting the state’s notorious death penalty laws changed, including a requirement that in most cases police interrogations involving capital crimes must be recorded.

The changes enacted in 2003 reformed a system that had sent 13 people to death row, only to have them released because they were later determine to be innocent or had been convicted using improper methods.

“Without Barack’s energy, imagination and commitment I do not believe the very substantial and meaningful reforms that became law in Illinois would have taken place,” said author Scott Turow, a member of the state commission that recommended many of the changes.

Surely he understands that the problems were not unique to the state of Illinois. How can he now stand before us and say there should be more executions in this country?

I really am trying to like this guy, but he disappoints again. Because the guy who was supposed to be all about “change” looks more and more like the guy who’s walking down the middle of the road.

photo AFP/Getty Images

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17 comments

  1. Agreed. Dammit. Could the unapologetic liberal please stand up?

    They might be surprised to learn that they can be liberal AND get elected.

  2. Could the unapologetic liberal please stand up?

    “Here! I’m over here!”

    *raises hand, waves from Maryland*

  3. to be fair- and I have been accused lately of being most unfair- if he had said the opposite, McCain would have come down on him as a child rapist coddler…

    I don’t think there was a win in this court ruling. He should have stuck to being outraged by Exxon being excused of the 2.5 Billion dollar debt to Alaskans.

  4. This distressing … not to mention expensive. I think people who commit crimes like this should be locked away for the rest of their natural life. That would be a pretty harsh punishment for someone in their 30s, 40s or even 60s.

    The death penalty triggers mandatory appeals that cost taxpayers millions of dollars. It’s cheaper to just lock someone up for life.

    BAC

  5. Obama has always supported the death penalty in some form and I do hate that.

    I believe however that Hillary Clinton does as well?

    That does not at all ameliorate that he said this today.

    We lived in such a f*cked up culture. He would be raked over the coals as a child molester-lover. It is sick beyond sick.

    Not to sound like a pedantic Christian asshat (PCA from here on in) but if one were true to their Christian roots, something Obama likes to play, he would really have to examine this stance and talk about it clearly.

    As someone who was raped as a child I completely disagree with the death penalty for this crime.

    As a Catholic Christian (hopefully not too pedantic!) I completely disagree with the death penalty period.

    Yes I know I was lukewarm on Hillary and have supported Obama, but I have already written to him (ok like i know that is whispering in the wind, but i did, ok?) to express my displeasure.

    I frequently communicate with my elected representatives, which include Hillary Clinton on such matters.

    It just sucks.

  6. What a crappy comment for me to leave – especially after you said such nice things on mine. See, I am an old crank after all, maybe even a PCA!!

  7. Sara, but I thought Pony Man was all about taking the tough stands. He portrays himself (among other things) as a constitutional scholar. The fact that 5 Supreme Court Justices found it unconstitutional isn’t exactly leaving him to argue against it alone, after all.

    BAC, I agree with you that this will do nothing more than add to the population on death row who appeal and wait. And appeal and wait.

    FranIAm, I too am completely against the death penalty in all instances but didn’t mention it in the post because I didn’t want to trigger a thread of comments on the merits of the death penalty itself. This ruling expands the sentence to those who have not committed murder a whole new practice in our society. As much as I abhor “an eye for an eye” justice, this new idea of “your life for the really, really bad stuff you did” is just … outrageous. And don’t apologize for the comment. As usual, you simply gave me more food for thought!

  8. Obama is doing exactly what McCain did in the Republican primary; namely, trying to appeal to those groups he perceives he needs to in order to get elected. It’s called kissing ass and, yes, unfortunately, it’s part and parcel of American politics.

  9. Why just this morning on my drive to work, I was telling myself, “I will vote in this election, I will vote in this election…he must be better than McCain”.
    Sara: Pony man has no ponies?!
    My word, soon, I will have no dreams left!

  10. with this issue, you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t agree! no matter what he said he would be attached.

  11. Donald, I know. I guess I am just surprised at his gall to portray himself as a “new” kind of politician, only to see him fall right in line with all the rest of ’em.

    Yes we can … what?

  12. I’m staunchly anti death penalty and am sorry to see this. But as Donald says, if he came out against it you know the GOP would have a field day. Remember when Dukakis said he wouldn’t try to get the death penalty if his wife were raped and killed? It did him in.

  13. Mauigirl, I know, but Obama has a much different following than Dukakis did, and I was really hoping he would use that support to stand tough on his convictions. Of course it’s a minefield of a question, but I was hoping he would be smart and agile enough to tread through it for the sake of what is right.

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