The Glib Factor - Segment 1: The Ultimate Punishment
By A. D. Freudenheim

16 October 2000

Texas Governor and Republican presidential candidate George Dubya Bush seems to be under the mistaken impression that upholding the law, even endorsing the law, of capital punishment for capital crimes is equivalent to taking pleasure in those same deaths. He is, if you will pardon the pun, dead wrong. Wrong? Christ, how could he be wrong? Christ, in fact, would probably be a good person to ask, though I doubt the answer he'd give would meet with much approval in America today.

A long hallmark of death penalty advocacy has been clarity of purpose. The death penalty should be meted out judiciously. It should be considered, if not exactly "fair," then fair in the context of the crime that was committed. It should be dispensed with the full understanding that it is the most serious punishment available to us. And it should be performed with the understanding that, the law and whatever societal rights notwithstanding, it is still the taking of another human life.

Governor Bush betrayed his limited understanding of the depth of this sentiment in his debate with Al Gore last Wednesday, by appearing to rejoice at the fact that the men who murdered James Byrd Jr. would be receiving "the ultimate punishment."

Never mind that his campaign later corrected the Governor's mistaken facts - only two of the three are (possibly) going to die for their crimes, while the third will get life in jail. Wishful thinking on his part about Criminal Number 3. Never mind newspaper reports that tie the story in to the broader issue of how much or how little attention to detail the Governor pays when reviewing death penalty cases. The Governor's campaign staff says that while he may only spend 15-30 minutes reviewing each case, there are exhaustive reviews performed by his delegated representatives, who assist Mr. Bush in making his final decision. One could almost extend him the benefit of the doubt - and even congratulate him for his wisdom in acknowledging that he needs experts to review the arcana of the law before he makes his decision. It's even possible to overlook the way in which he may have prejudiced the judicial environment under which these men are to be tried (oops) by making his broad, nationally-televised statements when they're not done with the appeals process.

But what is most distressing, reviewing the debate and the subsequent coverage, is the gleeful smirk that graced the Governor's face as he made his point, twice, that these men would receive "the ultimate punishment." It was a smirk that showed very little respect for human life. It betrayed the sense, long projected and now confirmed, that Mr. Bush's approach to this topic, as to most topics, is to treat it like a game, and one that he thinks he can win. What appeared to cross his mind as he smirked was the sense that yes, right now, with this point: I can beat Al Gore. Texas doesn't need a hate crimes law cuz we've got the death penalty, America! For pure, glib politics at its finest, this smirk handily beats the televised sorrow of President Clinton, back when he ran for election against George Bush Sr., and flew home to Arkansas to preside over the execution of the murderous and mentally-impaired Ricky Ray Rector.

Clearly, the "ultimate punishment" is the one which would be inflicted on the American people, should Mr. Bush win the presidency in November. I'm not suggesting that he'd try to put to death broad segments of the American people (though the thought did occur). Simply put: no one with such little regard for human life deserves to hold the highest office in our land. Something tells me that's a notion that Jesus, Mr. Bush's personal savior and "favorite philosopher" might agree with, too.

Copyright 2000, by A. D. Freudenheim. May not be used in whole or part without written permission. However, you may link to this page as desired!