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Why Perry is the Frontrunner

[ 94 ] September 8, 2011 |

Perhaps the most telling moment in last night’s GOP debate was the crowd twice cheering the 234 executions Rick Perry has presided over. This would be grotesque enough if this high rate of executions was the product of a scrupulous criminal justice system. But as the case of Cameron Todd Willingham illustrates all too well, it is in fact possible for someone to get executed in Rick Perry’s Texas on the basis of no reliable evidence whatsoever, and not only will Perry let it go forward but he’ll quash any subsequent investigation. And Willingham is just the beginning — under his watch, Texas has executed juveniles, the mentally disabled, people guilty of “felony murder” (i.e. who didn’t kill anybody), and defendants with inadequate counsel. This is a record to be ashamed of, not one to boast about.

And yet, Perry was cheered. He has become the Republican frontrunner not in spite of being abominable, but in large measure because of it (although his continuing assertions that Social Security is a “Ponzi Scheme” will test the limits of this phenomenon.) It is a scary prospect indeed.  And and unlike on Social Security, his proud role as America’s Executioner Of People Who Sometimes May Even Be Guilty would if anything probably be an asset in the general election too.

Comments (94)

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  1. Malaclypse says:

    I’m astounded he has not run executions on pay-per-view.

  2. Njorl says:

    Those who cheered would be make a fine fascisti.
    “…wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross”

  3. Brian says:

    So, how many innocent people can be killed before it is “too many?” I mean, what’s the limit? I suppose an argument could be made that the “deterrent” effect of the death penalty might save more lives than the number of innocents who are executed, so some kind of cost/benefit analysis would argue for it (assuming one accepts that there is a deterrent effect. I don’t know for sure one way or the other), as long as we “save” more than we kill. But that seems stupid, for reasons I’m not smart enough to articulate.

    • Malaclypse says:

      So, how many innocent people can be killed before it is “too many?”

      Depends on the skin tone of the innocently executed.

    • John says:

      Better that ten innocent men are executed than that one guilty man should spend the rest of his natural life in prison.

    • Holden Pattern says:

      Hang ‘em all. They’re probably guilty of sumpin’ and if they ain’t, God will know His own.

    • herr doktor bimler says:

      I suppose an argument could be made that the “deterrent” effect of the death penalty might save more lives than the number of innocents who are executed, so some kind of cost/benefit analysis would argue for it

      That argument has indeed been made in more-guns-less-crime circles.

      • Jeremy says:

        I’ve seen that argument made by people who are otherwise quite liberal. It’s amazing our desire to see people punished, to the extent that we’d punish the innocent just to make sure we didn’t miss anyone.

        • Malaclypse says:

          to the extent that we’d punish the innocent just to make sure we didn’t miss anyone.

          But that’s the flaw – ever time you convict the innocent, you have let the guilt walk.

          • You just keep imprisoning more people and eventually you get ‘em. Duh.

          • mndean says:

            They’d kill a dozen people who never knew each other or been near the scene of the crime to execute the one who murdered a young blonde cheerleader who was all over the news. And be satisfied each time that “justice was done” i.e. came all over themselves each time they heard the prisoner was dead.

            And they’d never want to hear of the 12 dead innocents ever, ever again.

        • herr doktor bimler says:

          “Should your leisurely footsteps chance to turn in the direction of the public execution ground on the occasion of the next general felicity, your discriminating eyes will receive assurance that the feet of the depraved find no resting-place on the upright soil of Hooyang.”

          “It is indeed a matter for rejoicing that your penetrating gaze recognized the degraded miscreants who will thus be brought to an appropriate end.”

          A faint absence of agreement for the moment obscured the well-balanced
          exactness of the lawgiver’s expression.

          “If,” he remarked profoundly, “so sublime a principle as Justice should depend on so fallible a thread as a single human attribute, all feeling of security would be gone forever. The two misbegotten harbingers of shame who submitted this hard-striving person to the indignity of thrusting him down into a polluted stream will sooner or later meet with a fate that will be both painful and grotesque. In the meanwhile, the wholesome moral of retribution will be inculcated in the throng by two others (doubtless quite as abandoned in their several ways) demonstrating that authority does not slumber.”

      • piny says:

        in the aggregate, it doesn’t result in the murder of innocent people.

    • rm says:

      So, how many innocent people can be killed before it is “too many?”

      The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind; the answer is blowing in the wind.

      Sorry. I don’t mean this as snark, and I don’t think it’s a laughing matter. I hope it’s clear I mean this as bitter dark humor, because I really don’t know what civilized people can do about a movement that displays such pure evil. I’ve heard the sentiment many times, and I’ve read history, so I’m not surprised, but it’s still disgusting and sad.

  4. Fighting Words says:

    I hate to say this, but in a two party system, when the more liberal party supports the death penalty (I can’t remember the last Democratic Presidential candidate who was against capital punishment), we shouldn’t be surprised when members of the base of the more conservative party cheer when the numbers of executions are mentioned.

    I’m against the death penalty. But for some reason, most Americans believe in the death penalty (and yes, I know there is a difference between supporting the death penalty and gleefully cheering it on). And I have absolutely no idea on how to change that.

    • John says:

      I believe John Kerry basically opposes the death penalty, although he straddled a bit and said he supported capital punishment for terrorists during the 2004 campaign.

      • although he straddled a bit

        John Kerry?

        Nah, that can’t be right.

        You mean he hasn’t been “absolutely clear from the beginning?”

        • efgoldman says:

          Good thing nobody from Lowell holds a grudge….

          Have you lived there long enough to remember when he lost the 5th district house election to some non-entity GOBPer?

          • No, but I’ve read about it. Have you ever heard of the dirty trick that lost him the election?

            Kerry’s campaign had rented out space and gotten together the equipment for a big call center for get-out-the-vote calls on election day. The night before, his brother Cam gets a phone call: someone is vandalizing the equipment room in the building.

            He goes rushing down there, and finds the door locked – somebody else’s lock. He breaks open the lock…and at that moment, the police, who’d been called, bust in and arrest him for B&E.

            On election day, the Lowell Sun (Motto: Busting Unions Since 1879) runs the banner headline “Kerry Brother Arrested in Local Watergate.”

            Kerry goes on to narrowly lose the election.

    • Holden Pattern says:

      And this should in no way to be read as critical of the lesser evil strategy. Dems! Best party ever! Couldn’t do any better than them!

      • Scott Lemieux says:

        Thank God you continue to keep up the fight against the zero people who think that the Democratic Party is a perfect reflection of progressive values.

        • Holden Pattern says:

          My fight is with the defenders of all Dem shittery as strategery and failing strategery, “the best that could be done”.

          But don’t worry, I’ll check the box for Dems in any race that counts for my state in 2012, because palliative care for the death of the middle classe and civil liberties is better than the Republican preference for swift and painful death.

          I fully expect to be told that by doing so, I’ve forfeited my right to criticize the Dem leadership for their fecklessness and corruption, as the Dems yet again congratulate themselves for swinging far enough to the ever-moving right to pick up the mythical independent voter.

        • Anonymous says:

          Thank GOD we have foreigners all up in our business as if they were….ya’ know…actual citizens of the US or somethin’.

  5. IM says:

    Buzz Windrip. Greg Stillson.

    Life imitating art.

  6. Scott,

    I am stunned, stunned by your continuing effort to apologize for Obama by pointing out the shortcomings of his potential opponents.

    • actor212 says:

      Right? We should primary the President for Rick Perry and Mitt Romney!

    • Walt says:

      Okay, this is a stupid thing to say.

    • Bijan Parsia says:

      But what blogger will primary Scott? Loomis is too labor. Campos has the whole Law School Scam taint. SEK has the “sex in his office” scandal. Who will rescue us, Robert Farley, if not you! Strong on security, family man, executive experience (from your comment management)…the perfect dark horse!

      Publish a few trial balloon abortion pieces to see what happens…

      • Hogan says:

        I predict a “favorite son” run by Dave Noon. Just to get the ball rolling.

      • Malaclypse says:

        Can’t be Farley, as he has the “rogue demonologist” skeleton in his closet. Noon has been mean to lobsters. Only djw can save us.

        • Bijan Parsia says:

          I’m appalled, Malacypse, that you would fawn over the Great Blogger Disappointment that is Lemieux (whose failure to appropriately use the bully pulpit to will a better outcome for the 2010 election is directly responsible for the ongoing erosion of abortion rights in America, contrary to the lip service he throws to the progressive wing of the commentariat) by pointing out the failings of his opponents.

          Domonology is a perfectly respectable lifestyle and religious choice. As the constitution states:
          “but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public blogging position under the United States.” That includes not consorting with demons!

          • Malaclypse says:

            The revelation that djw is actually Lemieux is as earth-shattering as Donalde’s insight that Carl Salami = Tintin. May your expose be as widely read as his.

            Being a minor demon myself, I am sympathetic to your pro-demonology stance, but I feel a demonologist is not electable. Voting for a demonologist is every bit as pernicious as voting for Nader, and can only help the Greater Evil.

            • Bijan Parsia says:

              Being a minor demon myself, I am sympathetic to your pro-demonology stance, but I feel a demonologist is not electable. Voting for a demonologist is every bit as pernicious as voting for Nader, and can only help the Greater Evil.

              Isn’t helping the Greater Evil a plus for a demon?

        • Hogan says:

          I think you’ll find that’s a crab. A crab who had it coming.

  7. efgoldman says:

    Somebody brought up the Willingham case here, maybe 10 days-two weeks ago, and I said it wouldn’t hurt him in the primaries and might not hurt him in the general.
    I would like to have been wrong.

    • Njorl says:

      Just think – if Rick Perry is willing to execute the innocent for America, he’ll do anything for America. We couldn’t be in better hands.

    • McKingford says:

      I think if you did a Venn diagram, the circle that included anyone who would ever consider voting for Rick Perry would have precise zero of the people of the circle that expressed the slightest concern over Willingham.

  8. Julia Grey says:

    It is part and parcel of macho anti-intellectualism to not only be in favor of the death penalty but to demonstrate one’s shit-kickin’ lack of class by cheering the hangman.

  9. NBarnes says:

    So, the question here is, ‘What the hell is wrong with people?’

    I mean, it’s a serious question. Perry is odious, of course. But in a properly run world, Bush would have been seen as odious, too, and twice as much so in 2004. So… what the hell is wrong with people? What is so broken in people’s ‘who should I vote for?’-o-meter that people like Perry are legitimate candidates for President of the United States of America?

    • Murc says:

      Makes you long for the Gilded Age 1.0 Presidents who were merely feckless, unmemorable nonentities, doesn’t it?

      (Seriously, try and memorize the Presidents between Johnson and TR sometime. There’s some kind of magical memory thing going on that will actually cause them to vanish from your mind. Even menmonic songs don’t help.)

      • Warren Terra says:

        Unsurprisingly, people have made the attempt. They’re not obviously memorable.

        On there other hand, there is the Animaniacs song.

        • Njorl says:

          I try to keep the ones elected in a year ending in zero who died in office straight, and fill in the gaps, starting with their vice presidents.

          I think Grover Cleveland put a curse on whoever interupted his two terms. I’ve looked it up may times, but it won’t stick.

          • Hogan says:

            The other Harrison.

            • mark f says:

              Surprisingly Cleveland was able to defeat Benjamin’s re-election slogan, “I Made It!”

            • Njorl says:

              “The other” must be Benjamin. William Henry had the outstanding achievement of dying shortly after his inauguration.

              It doesn’t matter. I’ll forget it on my way home.

            • Murc says:

              o/~We are the forgotten Presidents o/~

              o/~You won’t find our faces on dollars or on cents o/~

              o/~There’s Taylor! There’s Tyler! There’s Fillmore and there’s Hayes! o/~

              o/~There’s William Henry Harrison! o/~

              “I died in thirty days!”

              • Karen says:

                Completely off-topic, but my son had to memorize the names of the first 16 Presidents this summer. I know have “Harrison Tyler Polk Taylor” stuck in my head like the chorus from an annoying song.

      • Hogan says:

        Let’s see, Union general, Union general, Union general, Union general, draft dodger, Union general, draft dodger, McKinley.

      • (Seriously, try and memorize the Presidents between Johnson and TR sometime. There’s some kind of magical memory thing going on that will actually cause them to vanish from your mind. Even menmonic songs don’t help.)

        Sort of like Matchbox Twenty.

        Try this: listen to a Matchbox Twenty song. Listen to any other song. Then try to hum the Matchbox Twenty song.

        They just drain right through your brain like a sieve.

      • rea says:

        the Gilded Age 1.0 Presidents who were merely feckless, unmemorable nonentities

        To give credit where credit is due, a few of them distinguished themselves in the areas of white supremacy and genocide.

    • efgoldman says:

      …what the hell is wrong with people? What is so broken in people’s ‘who should I vote for?’-o-meter that people like Perry are legitimate candidates for President of the United States of America?

      Not a single vote has been cast, and won’t be until late January/early February.
      While I understand that the TeaTards have long since all had shamectomies, its entirely possible that the odious Perry will follow in the footsteps of those famous preznits Giuliani and Fred Thompson.
      And if not, he has already planted the seeds of his own destruction. Book? What book?

  10. M. Bouffant says:

    Well, here’s the answer: “Why They Cheered
    Capital punishment brings out the worst in the liberal elite.”

    Taranto in the WSJ.

    • commie atheist says:

      Shorter Taranto: Lie-bruls’ intolerance to the bloodlust of Real Americans proves that they hate democracy. Also, AMERICA: FUCK YEAH!!!

  11. c u n d gulag says:

    Governor Perry, why should people vote for you?

    “Vote for me, “Yosemite Perry,” ’cause I’m da rootiness, tootiness, meaness, dumbass Hombre, north of the Rio Grandeeeeee! Whoopee!”
    Bang, bang, bangity, bang, bang, bang!!!

    What about qustionable executions, governor?

    “I’m da rootiness, tootiness, meaness, dumbass Hombre, north of the Rio Grandeeeeee!
    An’ what Ah do, Ah juss kill ‘em – an’ let God sort ‘em out!”
    Bang, bang, bangity, bang, bang, bang!!!

    What about your comments that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, Governor?

    “I’m da rootiness, tootiness, meaness, dumbass Hombre, north of the Rio Grandeeeeee!
    An’, we-yell, under mah system, if’n you already got your’n, you can keep your’n! But, fer you youger folk, if you ain’t got your’n yet, you ain’t gotta worry ’bout payin’ for none o’ his’n, and he ain’t gotta worry none ’bout payin’ none o’ your’n. ‘Cause your’n is your’n, and his’n is his’n, and never the two shall meet. Did Ol’ Davy Crockett pay fer Jim Bowies knife, ‘n did Jim Bowie pay fer Davey’s COONskin cap? Hell no! They was rugged Murikan individauliss’ ‘n they died fightin’ Mexicans at the Alamo, in the Wer fer Independence, fer your rights o’ freedom ‘n liberty. Ah thank ya fo yo tahm, and remembeh, vote for me – “Yosemite Perry!”
    Bang, bang, bangity, bang, bang, bang!!!

    And this is how the West was won, and how the election of 2012 can be won!

    Note: This is parody! I hope…

    • Anonymous says:

      In Texas, the death penalty can only be applied by a UNANIMOUS jury. Not a judge, not a majority of a jury and there are automatic appeals.

      And the governor, by law, must follow the verdict.

      So what?

      • DrDick says:

        And the governor, by law, must follow the verdict.

        Wrong as usual. The governor has the power to commute or pardon all sentences. This is Texas we are talking about here. Any prosecutor worth his salt could get a conviction of you grandmother for first degree murder and aggravated rape. Hell, boy, the poe-lees wouldn’t ha’ arrested ‘em and the prosecutor wouldn’t ha’ tried ‘em if’n they wasn’t guilty!

  12. Dang ol’, dang ol’, gotta bring back dang ol’ ‘lectric chair, be all bzzt bzzt bzzt click click bzzt bzzt.

    Tell you wut.

  13. Ari Kohen says:

    Thanks for this post, Scott, and for all of the posts you’ve done on Perry and the Willingham execution. I wrote a lengthy post on the subject of last night’s applause (it’s here: http://kohenari.net/post/9958478585) and my conclusion, ultimately, is that the people who applauded so vociferously are really just demonstrating the life of privilege in we which already know they live. We shouldn’t be surprised that these people don’t have a consistent argument to make about executions (it goes against thier professed religiosity, their fiscal conservatism, and their general distrust of government); it’s just a gut-level response about the virtues of putting down those people with whom they cannot/will not ever identify as like themselves in the most decisive respect. This is at the heart of the problem, I think, with political discourse today: one group has nothing whatever to say to the other because they do not conceive of them in any meaningful way.

  14. DrDick says:

    And and unlike on Social Security, his proud role as America’s Executioner Of People Who Sometimes May Even Be Guilty would if anything probably be an asset in the general election too.

    For far too many people in America, including pretty much all conservatives, this is a feature and not a bug.

  15. [...] question that the wingnuts love themselves some executions – guilt optional: Perhaps the most telling moment in last night’s GOP debate was the crowd twice cheering the 234 [...]

  16. Malaclypse says:

    Did I imply Willingham was not white, NormyTheDumb?

    People know about the innocent white guy executed. That does not actually disprove my point.

  17. Glenn says:

    This wasn’t directed at me, but I’ve never understood this line of criticism. Yes, the way I favor is the way I think “proper.” Anonymous, do you favor running things in a way you think improper?

  18. NBarnes says:

    Uh… are you going to propose that there are worlds that qualify as ‘properly run’ in which, despite being properly run, Rick Perry isn’t seen as an odious monster?

    I’d like to see you lay out that case.

  19. Glenn says:

    2010 US African-American Population = 12.6%

  20. Warren Terra says:

    I think you are missing the point. People may want the death penalty – heck, I’m reasonably liberal, and I want an idealized version of the death penalty, albeit that I’m pretty damn sure it won’t happen – but that’s a far cry from the sort of bloodlust in evidence when a state’s having executed twelvescore of its citizens is not somber evidence of the grim duty they must confront but rather cause for celebration.

  21. Jeremy says:

    But in those states you’re supposed to actually be guilty.

  22. Scott Lemieux says:

    include the death penalty for the most heinous of crimes.

    What does this have to do with the death penalty in Texas?

  23. NBarnes says:

    I would tend to argue that it’s the n hundred million people on the other side of the issue that are on the wrong side. I’m comfortable with the idea that I’m right, despite being in the minority of opinion.

    The fact that people WANT to have the death penalty widely applied, even at the cost of executing the innocent, is, in fact, pretty damning of those people, rather than an argument for their position.

  24. Glenn says:

    Wow, anon, with reasoning skills like that you could be the GOP frontrunner. Really, you should consider it. Perry is a bit too much of the elitist intellectual for the GOP, I think.

  25. Brian says:

    Oh please. Actual guilt is SO passe. I mean, if you can’t even use irrefutable evidence against it to keep yourself from getting killed after you were (now obviously wrongly) convicted, WTF value is there in “actual” guilt?

  26. efgoldman says:

    Apologies to you, Mal.
    I posted just before I left work, haven’t been back until now.
    Had I but known that I would have Fafner Supertroll out of deep in his cave, I’d have thought better of it.
    Sorry, sorry.

  27. Delurking says:

    Okay, I’ll bite. What do you think? We should leave no one at the wheel of this bus? Or is Mr. Jesus driving?

  28. firefall says:

    I’ve got a nice sword for sale, only used once …. ask for Siegfried :)

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