If I had to pick the most memorable exchange of last night’s debate for the Republican presidential candidates, at least for me, it would have to be the Q&A about Rick Perry and the death penalty. Here’s the video:
For those who can’t watch videos from your work computers, Brian Williams noted that Perry signed off on the executions of 234 people*, more than any other governor in modern times. This, remarkably, immediately generated applause from the audience. The question was, “Have you struggled to sleep at night with the idea that any one of those might have been innocent?”
Perry responded, “No, sir. I’ve never struggled with that at all. The state of Texas has a very thoughtful, a very clear process.” Asked what he made of the audience’s
bloodlust positive reaction to the question and answer, the governor said, “I think Americans understand justice.”
Putting aside questions of propriety regarding capital punishment, the problem here is that it’s fairly easy to find examples of unjust executions in Texas. He’s never struggled with this? Why the hell not?
Indeed, consider the larger context. In the same debate, Perry was asked about climate change and he responded that the science “is not settled,” and trying to address the climate crisis would have a “monstrous economic impact on this country.” He doesn’t care what “some scientist somewhere” says.
Taken together, we’re learning quite a bit about how Rick Perry thinks. Scientists tell him, after rigorous, peer-reviewed, international research that global warming is real, and Perry responds, “I don’t care.” A deeply flawed judicial process puts potentially-innocent Americans on death row, and Perry responds, “Let’s get the killin’ started.”
The governor balks when presented with evidence on evolution, abstinence education, and climate change, but embraces without question the notion that everyone he’s killed in Texas was 100% guilty. The scientific process, he apparently believes, is unreliable, while the state criminal justice system is infallible.
Intellectually, morally, and politically, this isn’t just wrong; it’s scary. The fact that Republicans in the audience found this worthy of hearty applause points to a party that’s bankrupt in more ways than one.