The often-ridiculed Jonah Goldberg is one of the smartest of the right-wing talking heads. His writing style is to affect a sort of false everyman or perhaps you might call it a sort of studied nescience. Mr. Goldberg's strength, much like Tony Montana's, is that he doesn't snort his own stash.
With the possible exception of Jefferson Davis, Mr. Goldberg's favorite president is Calvin Coolidge, because of course, Herbert Hoover did too much about the Great Depression. But of course, one doesn't see Mr. Goldberg disconnecting his water and electrical power so as not to use federally-generated resources from Depression-era projects, nor, I suspect, does Mr. Goldberg keep his money under his mattress to avoid the evil of FDIC insurance.
Mr. Goldberg enjoys jabbing at liberals, whom he professes to believe are, in true Exorcist fashion, are both child-like and yet immeasurably evil. His latest piece-de-troll is now uploaded over at National Review Online:
... when the murderer is white or racist or his crimes so incomprehensibly ugly, the anti-death-penalty crowd stays silent. It’s the smart play. If your long-term goal is to abolish the death penalty, you want to pick your cases carefully.For this last quote I nominate Mr. Goldberg for the Golden Stopped Clock Award of Duplo-Diurnial Correctitude.
But the simple fact is, if the death penalty is always wrong, it’s wrong in the politically inconvenient cases too.
Mr. Goldberg is certainly correct in one thing, and that is that the only really principled approach for the opponents of the death penalty is to oppose it everywhere, for everyone, regardless of of the nature of the crime.
Where Mr. Goldberg is wrong however is his assumption, based on his willingness to perceive liberals as unprincipled, that liberals are afraid to make this open stance, for fear, I suppose, of being seen as "soft on crime", one of the oldest strategies in the Republican playbook.
In fact this turns out not to be the case. The opposition to the death penalty -- regardless of the crime or the certainly of the proof -- has been strong among the left. There have been many diaries on this site alone, such as:
* Ty Alper: Why the Execution of a White Supremacist Murderer Matters Too
* Eugene Robinson writes against the death penalty and I disagree in part
* The One About... Troy Davis Is Easy. It's Lawrence Russell Brewer That's Hard.
And this isn't limited to anonymous leftie bloggers.
Governor John Kitzhaber of Oregon, a Democrat, announced last year that he was placing a moratorium on all executions so long as he was governor.
This would be an excellent opportunity for the Republicans to mount a recall election (yes, we have them in Oregon), in Wisconsin-style ... if they could actually find enough genuine interest in this state, where voters have twice repealed and twice reenacted the death penalty. Since the most recent reenactment in 1984, there have been two executions, both of whom were of persons who gave up their appeals. Meanwhile there have been, to my own personal knowledge, at least two people wrongly convicted of aggravated murder (but fortunately not executed) who were later shown to have been completely innocent.
In short, Governor Kitzhaber did what Jonah Goldberg and the rest of the right-wing noise machine thought a liberal could never do, which is to openly denounce the entire death penalty regime as a colossal and unfair waste of resources.
BTW, if anyone thinks the death penalty is fairly meted out, I'd be interested in hearing how Gary Ridgeway, the convicted killer of 48 women, many of them prostitutes whom he'd hired, avoided the death penalty, whereas Aileen Wuornos, a prostitute who was convicted of killing 7 men who hired her, received the death penalty.
This is not to mean that problems with individual cases should not be brought to the attention of the courts and the public. But it does show that principled opposition may in fact be the better strategy to obtaining the permanent abolish of the death penalty.