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Equal Opportunity Executioner Bush Finds Mexican Exception

October 8, 2007

If there is any area of public policy where George W. Bush has been consistently "dead certain," it is almost certainly in the application of the death penalty. As Texas Governor and later as President, Bush showed himself to be an equal opportunity executioner, content to condemn the mentally ill, the developmentally disabled, racist thugs and even born-again Christians alike. But today we learned even George W. Bush's apparent bloodlust has its limits, especially when it conflicts with his ongoing efforts to reach out to Mexico and Hispanic voters.
In an apparent reversal of its long-standing policy of killing all comers, the Bush administration has asked the Supreme Court to block Texas from executing convicted rapist and murderer Jose Ernesto Medellin, citing the requirements of the 1963 Vienna Convention. Certainly no friend of the International Court of Justice in particular or international law in general, the President wants to "enforce a decision by the International Court of Justice that found the convictions of Medellin and 50 other Mexican-born prisoners violated their rights to legal help as outlined in the 1963 Vienna Convention." Despite its insistence that "the president does not agree with the ICJ's interpretation of the Vienna Convention," the administration argued the Mexican case would harm American standing abroad.
Given his history, this Mexican exception to the rule of George W. Bush's willingness to flip the switch seems startling (though, as I'll describe below, perhaps not totally inconsistent or unexpected). After all, Bush carried out 152 executions during his days as Governor of Texas, sparing only one death row inmate after his routine 15 minute clemency review. Even those similarly adopting Jesus as their favorite philosopher could expect no leniency from Bush. When his allies on the religious right pressured him to spare murderess turned jailhouse born-again Christian Karla Faye Tucker, Governor Bush displayed his trademark resolve - and compassion. As Time recounted in 1999:

Tucker Carlson of Talk magazine described the smirk Bush wore as he mimicked convicted murderer turned Christian Karla Faye Tucker begging, "Please don't kill me," something she never actually did.

Bush's seeming bloodlust towards criminal defendants almost derailed his 2000 presidential campaign. During his second debate against Al Gore in October 2000, Bush was asked about his position on hate crimes laws in the wake of the brutal dragging death of African-American James Byrd in his home state of Texas. His disturbing response - accompanied by a sickening grin - produced gasps among the audience:

"The three men who murdered James Byrd, guess what's going to happen to them? They're going to be put to death. A jury found them guilty. It's going to be hard to punish them any worse after they get put to death."

Even the tone-deaf Bush sensed he had crossed the line. In the third debate, he wisely retreated, acknowledging he was "not proud" of Texas' number one ranking in executions.
As President, George W. Bush has maintained his hard line towards criminals and upholding their punishments. His administration argued - unsuccessfully - before the Supreme Court that developmentally-disabled and under-18 death row inmates too deserve their chance at the gallows. In June, Attorney General Gonzales announced that the Bush department of Justice would push for new, harsher mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines in the wake of the Supreme Court's Booker decision. Shortly before his resignation, Gonzales unveiled new federal regulations enabling the Attorney General to "fast-track" executions in state capital punishment cases.
All of which begs the question: why the apparent exception for Medellin and the other Mexican prisoners? This is clearly more than George W. Bush's potential (though unlikely desire) to atone for his father's unfortunate reference to his Mexican-American grandchildren as the "little brown ones."
In all likelihood, Bush's deference here is part and parcel of his ongoing project to woo Hispanic voters for the GOP dating back to his days in Texas. His early support for Mexican President Vicente Fox, his call for improved relations with Mexico and especially his proposed immigration reform program all sought to boost the Republicans' performance among the rapidly growing Hispanic electorate. Unfortunately for Bush, the rabid xenophobia of the GOP base and its budding anti-immigrant fervor have dashed those hopes. Republicans are losing the ground they had gained among the nation's exploding Hispanic communities, now totaling 43 million. While John Kerry carried only 53% of the Hispanic vote in 2004, by 2006 Democrats won 69% support among Hispanics who went to the polls.
So as it turns out, Bush is consistent after all. In the application of the death penalty, George W. Bush insists, he will be "the decider."

4 comments on “Equal Opportunity Executioner Bush Finds Mexican Exception”

  1. You nailed it. Bush will be steadfast on an issue, unless it conflicts with some other higher prior pose of steadfastness he wants to maintain.

  2. Even the tone-deaf Bush sensed he had crossed the line. In the third debate, he wisely retreated, acknowledging he was "not proud" of Texas' number one ranking in executions.
    That's giving Bush too much credit. He would not have made the statement in the first place if he was capable of recognizing that he had crossed the line. He only changed his tune in the next debate because someone (Karl?) told him to.

  3. I think you have the wrong explanation. This is not Bush pandering to the Hispanic vote -- most Hispanics would be pleased to have murderers of women strung up between four horses and pulled apart, preferably in a plaza de toros.
    I think Bush is doing this to create rightwing anger against the ICJ, in the typical way he has done several other contradictory things (like approving the Mexican trucks). Forcing the rightwing state of Texas to follow a law is a way to enflame rightwing anger at the law.
    Bush's relationship to Fox lasted about ten minutes. Bush specifically shamed Fox by making visits and bringing nothing with him, as is required by diplomatic protocols and expected by the Mexican people. He embarassed Fox at every opportunity.
    And he couldn't care LESS about the RNC's problems at the (derigged) polls. He is a lame duck, he hates everyone except for his own clique, and he especially would like to poke every Republican in the eye for taking him seriously in the first place. He's a sociopath -- he's not running for office -- and at this point he doesn't care who he hurts. He certainly doesn't care about some Mexican murderers or their rights.

  4. Everyone covering this story misses the bigger picture. The truth to all things bush was revealed on Sept 11 1991 when poppy bush announced the New World Order. Just like CAFTA and NAFTA, this is another attempt by the corporate facist to impose an international ruling body over the laws of the US. The US constitution will eventually become obsolete and we will no longer have the ability to create laws to govern ouselves. In the New World Order, international tribunals that have no electoral ties to US citizens will control our lives. This is just one more tiny step in that direction.


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Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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