July 28, 2004


TAKING THE ULTIMATE PENALTY OFF THE TABLE: John Kerry's stand on the death penalty -- that there shouldn't be one -- is now the Democratic Party's platform. (John Nichols, The Nation)

The Democratic party platform that will be adopted this week includes one particularly significant change from the platforms adopted by the party conventions of 1992, 1996 and 2000. During the platform-writing process, the drafting committee quietly removed the section of the document that endorsed capital punishment. Thus, for the first time since the 1980s, Democrats will not be campaigning on a pro-death penalty program.

Why the change?

Simply put, on the question of execution, John Kerry is a very different Democrat from Bill Clinton and Al Gore. Clinton and Gore, while surely aware that capital punishment is an ineffective and racially and economically biased vehicle for fighting crime, were willing to embrace it as a political tool. When he was running for the presidency in 1992, then Governor Clinton even rushed back to Arkansas during the 1992 campaign to oversee the execution of a mentally-retarded inmate.

With Clinton and Gore steering the party's policies, Democratic platforms explicitly and frequently endorsed capital punishment.

But Clinton and Gore are no longer at the helm. And, as of tonight, the party will no longer be on record as supporting the death penalty. Asked about the removal of the pro-capital punishment language, U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., the chair of the committee that drafted the document, explained that, "It's a reflection of John Kerry."

Kerry, who is often accused by his Republican critics of flip-flopping, is made of firmer stuff than most politicians when it comes to the issue of capital punishment. He opposes executions in virtually all cases – making an exception only after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, when he said he would consider supporting capital punishment, in limited cases, for foreign terrorists.

If you were typing a paragrah that internally dishonest wouldn't you be afraid that lightning might strike you?

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 28, 2004 9:38 AM

Let's see if someone asks Kerry why he wouldn't have executed the men who murdered James Byrd. And if this question (death penalty) is asked during the debates, let's hope Bush has the cojones to bring it up.

Posted by: jim hamlen at July 28, 2004 10:24 AM

Kerry never actually endorses a conservative position, he just endorses considering supporting a conservative position.

Posted by: pj at July 28, 2004 10:31 AM

Of course, any anti-death penalty pol has one exception:

Does the crime threaten ME personally?

Posted by: Ken at July 28, 2004 12:08 PM

As PJ says, has Kerry said he favors death penalty for terrorists? I haven't heard that.

Now everyone on deathrow is all of a sudden mentally retarded. Now they tell us that IQ tests operate with laser-like accuracy and precision.

Posted by: h-man at July 28, 2004 12:31 PM

If someone asked Kerry the Bernie Shaw question to Dukakis on whether his belief in the death penalty would be if Teresa was raped and murdered, do you suppose his answer would be "no" or "depends on what the prenup is"?

Posted by: John at July 28, 2004 2:19 PM