Steve Benen: Michael Moore had an item this afternoon about the looming Troy Davis execution:
“President Obama: Can’t you do like Kennedy & send in federal troops to stop this injustice in Georgia? The buck stops with u.”
… I can appreciate why it might seem as if the buck always stops with a president, but in the Davis case, it’s not Obama’s call.
When presidents during the civil rights era ordered federal troops into the South, they were enforcing federal law. Eisenhower and JFK clearly had the authority to act …. Obama doesn’t have the authority to “send in federal troops” to stop the execution.
….. presidential clemency isn’t an option here ….. he has no legal authority to get involved, officially, with a state execution. When the death penalty is imposed for a state crime like murder, it is a state issue.
LA Times: The U.S. Supreme Court stopped Texas officials Thursday evening from executing a Houston murderer who was sentenced to die after jurors were told he posed a greater danger to public safety because he was black.
The justices acted on an emergency appeal after Texas Gov. Rick Perry and state judges refused to intervene.
… Duane Edward Buck, a 48-year-old auto mechanic, was sentenced to die for the 1995 shootings of an ex-girlfriend and another man. His attorneys did not dispute his guilt but argued that prosecutors should not have used his race to argue for a death sentence.
… Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst did not respond to pleas urging them to grant Buck a 30-day reprieve. Perry, who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, was campaigning in Iowa on Thursday, leaving Dewhurst to preside over the execution….
…. Last week, Perry said during a GOP presidential debate that he “never struggled” over the death penalty because “the state of Texas has a very thoughtful, very clear process in place.” During Perry’s 11 years in office, the state has carried out 235 executions.
The sentencing dispute arose because of an unusual provision in Texas’ death penalty law. Jurors were required to weigh whether a convicted murderer would pose a future danger if he were sentenced to life in prison rather than death. In a series of cases, Dr. Walter Quijano, a psychologist, testified that blacks posed a greater risk of “future dangerousness” than whites…..
Steve Benen: For eight years, just about every time George W. Bush was in the same room as someone with a post-graduate degree, the failed former president would tell the same joke: “I remind people that, like when I’m with Condi I say, she’s the Ph.D. and I’m the C-student, and just look at who’s the president and who’s the advisor.”
Republican crowds always cheered the line, reinforcing the anti-intellectual attitudes that too often dominate conservative thought … Rick Perry is cut from the same cloth.
… Perry made the joke during a speech yesterday at Liberty University, a school founded by crazed televangelist Jerry Falwell. The Texas governor didn’t say much about politics, but he spent a fair amount of time talking about what a lousy student he was.
Perry noted, for example, that at his small high school, “I graduated in the top 10 of my graduating class – of 13.” The crowd laughed and applauded.
…. Perry isn’t just celebrating anti-intellectualism; he’s living it. He doesn’t care what biologists, climate scientists, economists, historians, or dictionaries have to offer; Perry already has all the information he needs….
Rick Perry arrives for a campaign stop in Iowa City, August 15
Paul Begala (Daily Beast): I first met Rick Perry in 1985. He was a Democratic freshman state rep, straight off the ranch in Haskell, Texas. He wore his jeans so tight, and, umm, adjusted himself so often that my fellow young legislative aides and I used to call him Crotch. Even among state representatives, even among Texas Aggies (graduates of this cute remedial school we have in Texas), Perry stood out for his modest intellectual gifts. Hell, he got a C in animal breeding. I have goats who got an A in that subject. But lack of brains has never been a hindrance in politics.
… Rick Perry threw his hair in the ring on Saturday. His entrance into the GOP presidential field can be a game changer. Perry can raise money as well as Mitt. He can rally the base as well as Michele Bachmann, and he will say or do anything to win. And in today’s Republican Party, if you want to be the nominee you have to be willing to do some really crazy s–t.
You’d have thought that Mitt Romney was the guy who would do whatever it takes. Like the defendant in a Stalinist show trial, Mitt has renounced everything about his prior life: his positions on gay rights, abortion rights, TARP, gun control, campaign finance, immigration, etc. Abandoning nearly everything you have stood for certainly evinces a desire to win (if not a steely spine).
… Perry told The Daily Beast’s Andrew Romano that Social Security is “a Ponzi scheme,” and that both it and Medicare are unconstitutional… he has already flirted with secession. Secession? Even Jefferson Davis opposed secession when he was a senator from Mississippi. When you’re more open to secession than Jefferson Davis was a century and a half ago, well, you’ve gone pretty far.
…. Perry will claim that Texas leads the nation in jobs created. As a joke currently circulating in the Lone Star State puts it, “Sure, Perry has created thousands of jobs. I’m working three of them.” Texas does in fact lead the nation in minimum-wage jobs and in both the number of people who are uninsured and the percentage of the population that’s uninsured. Under the supposedly antigovernment Perry, government jobs grew at twice the rate of private-sector jobs.
… he presided over the execution of one of his constituents, Cameron Todd Willingham, who was probably innocent. But I’m not sure that’s a liability in today’s Tea Party–obsessed GOP. There’s a legend in Lone Star politics that one of Perry’s Republican rivals in Texas tested the Willingham issue in a focus group. One Republican man, the story goes, squinted and said, “Well, I like that. Takes a lot of balls to execute an innocent man.” At that moment, folks say, Perry’s rival knew opposing him was fruitless.
….he has the most important quality of all: the willingness to do whatever it takes. That’s truer than ever in relation to today’s Tea Party–dominated Republican Party. You’ve gotta be willing to do anything, say anything, accept anything, propose anything, endorse anything, pledge anything. There is nothing too bats–t for these people….
Alex Pareene (Salon): Rick Perry is running for president, probably…..POLITICO, the arbiter of such things, declares Perry electable!
…. The Wall Street Journal sums up the Perry message: He is the things Republicans like about Michele Bachmann plus the things some human somewhere theoretically likes about Mitt Romney …. CBS News says Perry is an immediate front-runner because he’s more palatable than Bachmann…
The GOP “establishment” prefers this evangelical nitwit with fringe tendencies to that evangelical nitwit with fringe tendencies, sure. This Dominionist purposefully evoking some of the most radical far-right movements and ideas of the last 200 years is so much more electable than this other one!
I mean, Rick Perry may be a neo-Confederate sympathizer with a recurring tendency to bring up secession, but he doesn’t look as weird in a photograph as Bachmann does, I guess.
Perry’s flirtations with neo-Confederate organizations and symbols – ably documented by Justin Elliott – are so extraordinarily reprehensible that it should immediately and permanently disqualify him from being taken seriously for national office. The Confederacy was not a bunch of generally well-meaning dudes who went a little too far, it was a gang of racist traitors who launched a bloody war to defend a monstrously unjust institution. Having neo-Confederate sympathies in America should be equivalent to supporting the reconstituted Fascist party in Italy, or worse. It should not be considered something that 50 percent of the nation should be willing to look past, or even embrace.
And if that embracing happens it’ll be in part because of a press that won’t explicitly describe a disgusting sentimental attachment to a racist, brutal regime of oppression as anything other than an acceptable ploy to pick up Southern white support.
This, of course, is not even mentioning the time Rick Perry f**king killed an innocent person …. This is the new front-runner, the man who doesn’t care that he killed an innocent person. Whee!
Natasha Lennard (Salon): Texas Gov. Rick Perry, in stressing his opposition to “out of control Washington spending,” disagrees with federal subsidies to the agriculture industry. But this wasn’t always so. In fact, as a farmer himself, he embraced federal agriculture programs and personally benefited from farm subsidies to the tune of $80,000.
…. when Perry was running for the state’s agriculture commissioner position in 1990, he had strong words about the farm subsidies that had helped his 40 acre farm:
“I’ve participated in the program as a producer. My neighbors participate. I know what would happen to rural areas of Texas if these programs were discontinued. I do not support such an action,” Perry then said.
In the mid-1990s, however, Perry began to oppose the agriculture programs. Now he is firmly opposed even to federal support for using grain such as corn in the production of ethanol…
LA Times: Texas Gov. Rick Perry may want to run for president. So let me reintroduce you a former constituent of his, Cameron Todd Willingham. Perry oversaw the 2004 execution of Willingham, a father of three convicted for the apparent arson murder of his young daughters. Problem was, the evidence used to prove Willingham set the fire that killed his children was based on shoddy science and obsolete investigation techniques, facts that were brought to Perry’s attention before Willingham’s death. Declaring his innocence to the end, Willingham was executed 12 years after his children’s deaths.
The New Yorker published a lengthy piece in 2009 (here) detailing the whole affair, a depressing portrayal of a government more interested in self-preservation than in serving justice….
….Perry denied Willingham a stay of execution … and frustrated an investigation by the Texas Forensic Science Commission, replacing three of its members days before the board was set to discuss a report that cast serious doubt on the evidence used to send Willingham to the lethal injection gurney. The meeting was canceled.
….Texas executes far more people than any other state, so it’s understandable that Lone Star State Republicans would give their governor a pass. But a Perry candidacy might prod conservatives in less execution-friendly states (such as, say, New Hampshire, which last knotted a noose in 1939) to answer for his apparent indifference to profound injustice.
Texas let Perry off the hook; the rest of the nation may not be so forgiving.