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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Thursday, July 03, 2003


critique of Dean's death penalty stance

posted by Aziz P. at Thursday, July 03, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
Richard Cohen finds fault with Dean's infamous MTP appearance - but does so in a substantive way, without focusing on the inane issue of whether 7% error in the number of troops is "egregiously wrong". Cohen writes:

Dean once opposed the death penalty, citing "two reasons. One you might have the wrong guy, and, two, the state is like a parent" -- it ought to set an example. He also said, "I truly don't believe it's a deterrent." That's three reasons, but never mind. Then, on account of two horrific crimes, Dean's thinking underwent an evolution. "I came to realize because of the Polly Klaas case and because of similar other cases that sometimes the state inadvertently has a hand in killing innocent people because they let people out [of prison] who ought never to have been let out."

Granted, that was the case with Klaas, the 12-year-old California girl who was abducted, sexually attacked and murdered back in 1993. Her killer, Richard Allen Davis, had a long criminal record and was out on parole when he committed the crime. But none of his previous crimes were for death penalty offenses. Dean could argue that Davis should never have been free and deserved to die because of what he did to Klaas, but not for anything he did before. Davis didn't slip the noose. There was no noose for what he had done.

... Going on about felons getting out of jail and then killing, say, "15- and 12-year-old girls," he added, "That is every bit as heinous as putting to death someone who didn't commit the crime."

In all my years writing about the death penalty, I have never heard any politician admit that he would countenance the death of an innocent person in order to ensure that the guilty die. Dean is maybe the first to acknowledge the unacknowledgeable. For that, I suppose, he ought to be congratulated. But by equating the murder of one individual by another with the murder of an innocent person by the government -- the unpreventable with the preventable -- he has casually trashed several hundred years of legal safeguards.

It's a pleasure to see someone disagree with Dean for actual reasons, not foolish ones. Of course, his sound motivations doesn't mean he is wrong - it's obvious that Dean is not saying that we should execute people as a preventive measure even when they haven't committed a execution-worthy crime. However, Dean definitely did a poor job of making that distinction in the interview.


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.