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Spitball, or High Fastball?

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Interesting; I’ve always thought of Bernie Shaw’s death penalty question to Mike Dukakis as more of a high fastball than a spitball. Dukakis could (and did) strike out on the question, but he also could have hit it out of the park, all while staying true to his anti-death penalty principles. Everyone in the audience and at home understood that Shaw had stepped outside the bounds of polite discourse, but Dukakis failed to recognize this in time, and answered it as a straight policy question. He could have followed Shaw out of bounds and given an answer that acknowledged that the question was emotionally exploititive, while at the same time pointing out that making an important policy decision based on such an appeal is a very bad idea. Dukakis could have said something like this:

Sure, I’d like to take the guy apart myself. But that’s why we don’t let victims serve on juries, or as judges. And if we can’t come up with a justification for a punishment beyond raw anger, then we need to seriously consider why we have it on our books

Indeed, that’s pretty much the answer I expected Dukakis to give, and I remember being immensely pleased when he flubbed it (the message of the Republican Party was then and is now particularly appealing to fourteen year old boys; why anyone else supports the Republicans is a mystery to me). On the other hand, Paul is right to call out Bernie on his pretension to Murrow status. Murrow is relevant because he made a contribution on questions of genuine policy import, not pointless sideshows like the death penalty.

Cross-posted to TAPPED.

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