Why Michael Dukakis Makes Me Think of Saddam Hussein
I blame Michael Dukakis*.
There was a moment in the Dukakis/Bush 41 debate when Bernard Shaw, the erstwhile CNN reporter, asked Michael Dukakis if he supported the Death Penalty. Dukakis answered that he was against it. Bernard Shaw followed it by asking “what Michael Dukakis would do if someone raped and murdered his wife – would he favor the death penalty then?” He gave a very intellectual answer. He was right. He was wrong too.
I kind of wish he would have said “Hey Bernie, what did you say about my wife? Huh? What did you just ask me about the mother of my children you son of a…”
In other words…a little more passion.
Bernard Shaw was trying to test the limits of Dukakis’s opposition to the death penalty. Is there a situation that is so extreme that even a stoic man like Dukakis would abandon reason and embrace death. He was trying to appeal to his emotions.
And, if you’ll permit me to establish myself as a member of the lunatic fringe, recent events present an even more interesting hypothetical. More interesting than the Shaw/Dukakis hypothetical, more interesting than the McVeigh hypothetical.
But first let me back up just a few feet.
A couple of years ago, I called in to Minnesota Public Radio during our local mid-morning talk show to say that I was opposed to the death penalty. The moderator asked me if I would even oppose the death penalty for Timothy McVeigh. I said yes, I would. She asked me why. I said that the same society that allows the death penalty for the most heinous crimes we can imagine also allows it for things that are, comparatively, mundane. I also said that we should avoid drafting laws based on extreme cases, and that we should rely on government to provide reason at times when we ourselves are completely ruled by emotion.
And so, with that as background, I would say that I would not support the death penalty for Saddam Hussein. Let me quickly add the following.
I’m not sad about his upcoming hanging.
His crimes were heinous and extreme, savage and numerous.
If the death penalty, was ever justified, and for me it cannot be, it would justified for people like Hussein, Hitler and Stalin.
Killing him accomplishes nothing that we could not accomplish if we sincerely desired it: revenge, prevention, setting an example, protecting potential victims, cost-containment, reducing crimes against humanity (deterrent), etc.
And that’s why I oppose it, even for Saddam.
I know, I know.
*Although we’ve recently seen a small resurgence lately, I blame Michael Dukakis for a lot of the problems that liberals have faced.
As one example, there was a debate exchange where Bush 41 asked Dukakis if he was “a card carrying member of the ACLU” and Dukakis hemmed and hawed. Man, if ever there was a softball.
What he should have said was “If you’re asking me if support the Constitution, if you’re asking me if I support the Bill of Rights and the freedom of speech and the right to bear arms, if you’re asking me if support privacy and freedom from unreasonable search and seizures, if you’re asking me if support the freedom of assembly, then my answer to you, sir, is yes. And what’s more, I’ll put a question to you – why do you not support these rights?”
He got all intellectual in response to a hypothetical that was meant to play to his emotions, and, he got all apologetic in response to a question that was basically asking him if he was a flaming liberal.
And yes, I know he had the flu, but come on!
Anyway, he lost.