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Mitt Romney, Massachusetts, and the Death Penalty

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David Fahrenthold has this story in the WaPo on Mitt Romney as "severely conservative" governor of Massachusetts.  (That was an unfortunate choice of words that I suspect Romney regrets.)  Regarding Romney's attempt to reinstate the death penalty in Massachusetts, Fahrenthold says:

Romney worked especially hard on that last promise -- and, in the process, provided the case study of his measured, technocratic approach.

Romney didn't propose the most conservative kind of capital-punishment statute. Instead, he proposed a law so compromised that people wondered whether it would ever even be used.

Romney's bill would have allowed the death penalty only for a narrow range of especially horrific crimes. And it would have required a whole new standard of proof that went beyond the usual "beyond a reasonable doubt." Death sentences could be given only when there was "no doubt" at all.

I had a different take on it, which I told Fahrenthold on the phone.  Politics is the art of the possible.  Romney was fighting an uphill battle in a very liberal state, and he proposed the law he thought he had a shot of getting through.  Any death penalty law at all is very conservative in Massachusetts.  His proposal would not have been conservative in Texas, but that is like comparing jalapenos and cranberries.

My comment didn't make the cut.  Why is "left as an exercise for the reader," as my old physics textbooks said.

4 Comments

This seems like a non-story. My guess is that Romney is not a hard-core death penalty supporter and took a pragmatic approach. So what? Unless there's an indication that he is not going to enforce the federal death penalty or that he's going to appoint federal judges who will frustrate the ability of states to carry out this punishment, there should be no problem for law and order supporters.

Federalist:

The problem is the type of justice he would appoint: not a Liu, but how about an O'Connor, Kennedy, or some such pseudo-Constitutionalist.

Did not Nixon appoint Burgher & Blackmon? Has Romney proven to be more conservative than Nixon?

~Adamakis


I'm not worried about that. The question is not how conservative the president is but whether he gets the right advice on appointments from people who have learned from the mistakes of the past. I expect Romney would be very much like George W. Bush in this regard. "No more Souters" was the dominant theme.

There is also the fact that the president must (or at least should, if he/she is not an idiot) make appointments that have more than a snowball's chance of being confirmed.

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