Jonah Goldberg has another one of his predictably trite and overly simplistic columns — that is, after all, the only thing he has to offer — about the Aurora shooter and the death penalty. He begins by beating up a rather silly straw man:
Death penalty opponents are fairly mercenary about when to express their outrage. When questions of guilt can be muddied in the media; when the facts are old and hard to look up; when the witnesses are dead; when statistics can be deployed to buttress the charge of institutional racism: These are just a few of the times when opponents loudly insist the death penalty must go.
But when the murderer is white or racist or his crimes so incomprehensibly ugly, the anti-death-penalty crowd stays silent. If your long-term goal is to abolish the death penalty, you want to pick your cases carefully.
But the simple fact is, if the death penalty is always wrong, it’s wrong in the politically inconvenient cases, too.
Okay. Jonah, can you name someone who is opposed to the death penalty who changes his mind in certain cases? I don’t know of any. I’m opposed to the death penalty in all cases, including cases involving senseless mass murderers like James Holmes. And it isn’t because I think the death penalty is inherently immoral, it’s because our judicial system is so fatally flawed from the top to the bottom that it makes putting innocent people to death a certainty, particularly poor men of color. Some people argue against the death penalty solely on moral grounds. But I don’t know anyone who thinks the death penalty is wrong, for whatever reason, but not when the murderer is white or his crimes are particularly vile. I doubt you know anyone who does so either, but that doesn’t stop you from using that caricature of your opponents to poison the well.