The “Execution Cheer”


The New York Times  posts a rundown of commentary on the the “execution cheer” at the Republican candidates’ debate on Wednesday, reminding readers that the cheer went up at the Reagan Library in California. The “gasp within a gasp” was Perry’s untroubled defense — no moral doubts about having ever executing an innocent — of Texas justice. The “it takes guts to execute an innocent man” caucus burst into applause.


Andrew Sullivan writes on his Daily Beast  live blog, “Here’s why I find it impossible to be a Republican: any crowd that instantly cheers the execution of 234 individuals is a crowd I want to flee, not join.”

The Atlantic ’s Ta-Nehisi Coates performs the obligatory “both sides do it” genuflect, noting that no Democratic candidate in two decades has opposed the death penalty. But only after writing, “The only thing that shocked me was that they didn’t form a rumba line. It’s a Republican debate. And it’s America … the country where we took kids to see men lynched, and then posed for photos.”

Several others trot out the readily available evidence that the death penalty has been used to execute the innocent, as well as evidence that Perry himself signed off on the execution of an innocent man. This, in spite of 41 exonerations from DNA evidence in the last decade in Texas alone.

Steve Benen of Washington Monthly  points out Perry’s doubt-free lack of consistency about the value of evidence:

Scientists tell him, after rigorous, peer-reviewed, international research that global warming is real, and Perry responds, “I don’t care.” A deeply flawed judicial process puts potentially-innocent Americans on death row, and Perry responds, “Let’s get the killin’ started.”

The governor balks when presented with evidence on evolution, abstinence education, and climate change, but embraces without question the notion that everyone he’s killed in Texas was 100% guilty. The scientific process, he apparently believes, is unreliable, while the state criminal justice system is infallible.

Intellectually, morally, and politically, this isn’t just wrong; it’s scary. The fact that Republicans in the audience found this worthy of hearty applause points to a party that’s bankrupt in more ways than one.


  1. trifecta says:

    Pat Buchanan summed up this train of thought well, when he decided it was ok to occasionally execute innocent people because “sometimes surgeons lose people on the table”.

  2. Diogenes says:

    The cheer brought home for me the reality of the big ideological divide in America, the disparity of values and chasm of attitudes. They cheer for executions, they fear and fight foreigners, they hate those who do not believe in and pray to their God, they fend only for themselves without thought for neighbors or ‘the other.” The people who cheered will also act in ways which I find reprehensible, they will vote for candidates and policies which I find odious, they will support demagogues which tickle their innermost fears and hatred. That’s why I find it so difficult to accept the tiresome platitudes coming from Obama et al. about ‘reaching across the isle”, and taking a ‘bipartisan approach.’ Those people who cheered are not the same as me.

  3. Thunder Pig says:

    Cry me a river. Add my voice to the cheer.

    There are some crimes which merit the ultimate penalty.

    Lefties cry and moan over a few hundred executed criminals (and trees) but claim that the murder of millions of children before their birth is a right to be celebrated.

    I’ll vote to execute a convicted criminal every single time over executing (butchering, really) a child before birth.

  4. trifecta says:

    Correct me if I am wrong TP, but I don’t recall members of planned parenthood high fiving patients who had abortions and spiking the fetus like a football.

    It’s a very rational opinion to believe that some commit crimes so heinous that the only response is execution, it’s another thing to hoop and holler like you are at a football game.

    The person has done something so atrocious that the community is outraged and demands payment in kind. It’s not an opportunity for selling hot dogs and beer and waving we’re #1 pointy fingers.

  5. Dixiegirlz says:

    Ah yes, lets bring up the abortion red herring in order to smokescreen reality of the mess in Texas. Apples to oranges TP.

    Given the DNA lab findings down there, it appears that Perry is a blazing narcissist who just doesn’t bother to look at facts.

    “Innocence Blog
    Reducing Wrongful Convictions in Texas
    Posted: September 7, 2010 5:27 pm

    More people have been freed through DNA testing in Texas than in any other state in the country, and these exonerations have revealed deep flaws in the state’s criminal justice system. Thirty-five of the 41 DNA exonerations in Texas involved eyewitness misidentifications.

    In an op-ed Saturday in the Houston Chronicle, Texas Senator Rodney Ellis and Innocence Project of Texas Policy Director Cory Session outlined the steps needed to improve the justice system in order to protect the innocent and called on the state’s political leaders to provide justice.

    Sen. Ellis is the Innocence Project’s Board of Directors Chairman, and Session is the brother of Tim Cole, a Texas man who was posthumously pardoned a decade after he died in prison when DNA evidence proved his innocence.” Cont’d on link below.

  6. Diogenes says:

    yeah Pig, it takes balls to execute an innocent man.

  7. Thunder Pig says:

    I suppose it takes big brass ones to execute millions of children (who aren’t even accorded the right to a trial) while still in the womb.

  8. TJ says:

    “The person has done something so atrocious that the community is outraged and demands payment in kind”

    What’s the saying? “why do we kill people to teach people that killing people is wrong?”
    I think of the short run of a cable show which followed death row inmates and showed them in their coffin after the execution. I wonder if any of them were innocent?

    If the death penalty were fair across board(which everyone, by now, should know it’s not), there were CLEAR evidence of guilt, etc., I would feel LESS troubled, but not untroubled.

    I find it interesting that hot topic issues are avoided, even when there is an apparent response, because that response is avoidance or distraction. Abortion does not have the same questions as the death penalty, even when someone opposes it. I also find it curious that the same people(at least, in church) that are anti-abortion are often pro-death penalty. It seems that the grace and forgiveness of Christ only extends so far, and we live in a “new testament” church era, yet hold on to old testament laws. Jesus, Himself, declined to stone someone when offered the opportunity by the “righteous” people in His time. Who am I to choose a less bold stance?

  9. Michael Muller says:

    I’m against the Death Penalty for all sorts of reasons, moral and otherwise. I recognize, however, that there are legitimate arguments to be in favor of it.

    But certainly no one calling themselves a Christian should ever take delight in it.


  10. trifecta says:

    TJ I am opposed to the death penalty. I do give the benefit of the doubt to those who are ruefully in favor of it for people like Tim McVeigh. But that is it.

    This is nothing new under the sun. We as Americans used to take kids to public hangings, lynchings as a early american form of entertainment. I find that to be utterly barbarian. Most civilized countries have ended capital punishment. The fact that people cheer enthusiastically for it, even though some innocent people have died as well, makes me realize that we are a long way from ending it here.

  11. Dixiegirlz says:

    You’re avoiding the arguments, tp.

  12. Diogenes says:

    MM re death penalty wrote: “there are legitimate arguments to be in favor of it”

    Please cite the best one.

  13. Michael Muller says:


  14. Diogenes says:

    Re vengence

    You said argument, not emotion. Try again.

  15. Tom Sullivan says:

    Flawed process or not, it is established law that when a person commits a crime, after the case has been duly adjudictated punishment maybe assigned. Whether that process constitutes justice is always a matter of opinion.

    That the medical procedure is the crime TP alleges, or that what is removed is a person is not established law, no matter how loudly or insistently opponents proclaim it or how firmly they believe it.

    TP could argue that in the absense of certainty and given the finality of the procedure, the benefit of the doubt should go to the alleged, temporarily umbilically challenged “person.” But don’t count on him doing the would not argue the same for a legally recognized person on Death Row.

  16. trifecta says:

    Now mind you, TP often talks about walling Asheville off and detonating a backpack nuke inside the environs. Then we hear talk about the sanctity of life.

  17. Tom Sullivan says:

    Sorry, phone fingers…

  18. Diogenes says:

    Traditional arguments in favor of capital punishment, at least in serious debate come down to deterrence and retribution.

    Deterrence is statistically discredited unless one includes elimination of the criminal from society forever. Dead people do not recommit.

    Retribution requires an emotional response and is often associated with Biblical teaching–An eye for an eye– and similar limbic motivation. A snake strikes what’s your gut reaction? Beat it to death.

    Same with the death penalty.

    Time to rise above it Michael. You want to marry your boyfriend? Some of us have to rise above it and let it happen.

    Maybe you have to be willing to rise above it and refuse to kill those who you feel commit odious crimes.

    Especially when too often innocent people, who have aroused extreme emotion, are put to death.

  19. big ivy says:

    Snottiness might involve a statement that Thunder Pig objects to abortion because it is murder but is o.k. with said infants and children going hungry, doing without medical care, etc., and then waiting until said fetus is ambulatory and then killing it in the name of the citizenry. ??

    I have conflicted thoughts and feelings about the death penalty but what worries/bothers me more is how the death penalty is applied. The application strikes me as capricious, unpredictable, and just plain puzzling. Personally, I think those proven guilty (with or without DNA)of rape or murder of children should be put to death and fairly expeditiously. I don’t know about vengence or deterrence; I just consider such a sentence as a small cleansing of the gene pool – fully understanding the blood lust involved in that statement.

    RICK PERRY… His reference to Galileo lacked a certain logic? He references a scientist who was RIGHT to make his point that science isn’t really all that accurate? Huh??

  20. Michael Muller says:


    I said that I was against the Death Penalty. I will not argue here for it, even as an intellectual exercise.

    And as for the Vengeance argument, it’s the only one left, in my opinion. But at its core, it’s a apparently a powerful one.


  21. The cheer just shows the conservative lust for state power.

  22. TJ says:

    I don’t get what the focus on Michael is, like he said, he said he was NOT for the death penalty, he simply allowed that someone might feel justified with the extreme cases.

    A quote I learned from watching “Criminal Minds”:

    W.H. Auden said:
    “Murder is unique in that it abolishes the party it injures, so that society must take the place of the victim and on his behalf demand atonement or grant forgiveness.”

    1) We have a choice to demand death or not. If we choose death, what makes us better than the murderer? Both of us would have submitted the barbaric side of our being.

    2). The criminal murders, get tried and convicted-and there are innocents put to death. Who has to pay the price for killing the innocent? Or, is that simply acceptable, because we consider them expendable on behalf of the opportunity to catch the guilty in the same net?

    3). Do you want us to excuse it and just silently watch(or, perhaps cheer) when you can’t remember your calendar from months ago, and circumstance make you look guilty when you don’t have witnesses handy?

  23. dramapsych says:

    america is going down the tubes fast…how sick that that audience applauded so loudly. America’s best days are behind it…fanaticism is clearly taking over. it has lost it’s moral leadership.

  24. TJ says:

    “. it has lost it’s moral leadership.”

    Guess we could ask the Mayor what to do.”

    Yes, sick and no cure on the coming horizon.

  25. Tom Buckner says:

    To support the death penalty, one must either believe that “I could never find myself on death row,” or else understand that it could happen somehow, and still find it worthwhile.

    Those who howl in approval of the death penalty are all of a caste that thinks itself immune to that punishment. Oh, they commit murder. But through intermediaries.

    One can fantasize about Jesus sitting in judgment on all sinners, but how the fuck is he supposed to sit there with seven billion naked people standing in line, sifting through some Republican voter’s 1/49,000,000th portion of responsibility for the incineration of a 4-year-old baby in Fallujah in 2006 while remembering to consider that voter’s 1/8,000,000th share of responsibility for the death by pneumonia of a stressed-out ex-homeowner that said GOP voter passed on the sidewalk in 2009 during a cold snap and that 1/96,000,000th portion of blame for the ultimate collapse of the planet due to a runaway greenhouse effect made all the more inevitable by that Escalade of his needing to be run off shale oil out of Canada?

    “You realize,” the Son of God growls, “I’m not the one who was so all-fired obsessed with judging and punishing, was I? No, kids, that was all you. Tell you what, I’m just going to leave you shitbirds to sort this all out for yourselves!” and poof, the throne is empty.

  26. TJ says:

    ““You realize,” the Son of God growls, “I’m not the one who was so all-fired obsessed with judging and punishing, was I? No, kids, that was all you. Tell you what, I’m just going to leave you shitbirds to sort this all out for yourselves!” and poof, the throne is empty.”

    Well, Tom, you’re not very reverent, ARE you??!

    ;-). Actually, that’s the picture the Bible gives, except it REALLY goes like this:
    We get to the throne, all the righteous people stand looking dumbfounded as the Son says, “you said ‘Lord, Lord’ yet, I never knew you! Depart from Me.”

    But, your version is more interesting. 😉

    I am curious how we will explain trashing the moon on a short visit there, especially after we scarred up planet Earth. I think God will give all the righteous folks garbage detail with orange jumpsuits on.

  27. Bishop Andrew Gentry says:

    Beloved Friends,

    At the Republican debate last night a second cheer went up at the prospect of death. The first cheer was Perry boasting that he did not loose any sleep over possibly executing an innocent person which was only outdone by the applause that demanded the death of an uninsured person made before Ron Paul said it was the “churches” responsibility to take care of those had no insurance! This is from a supposedly “pro life party” God help us!

    Such outbursts at the prospect of someone’s dying is profoundly troublesome and revealing. It shows the idolatry of the hypocrisy of people who carry Bibles and Rosary beards, fly the “Christian flag” whatever in the Name of Heaven that is, repeat God Bless America like some kind of mantra, and proudly proclaim that the United States is a “Christian nation”! The Tea Party’s blasphemy is only superseded by their arrogance and utter lack of even the most minute fundamentals of the Christian Faith.

    As to the “Churches responsibility” would any of you rely on this for your health care! If you tried you would have the infamous” plug pulled on grandma” before you bedpan was emptied! Do any of you recall on single major denominational leader be that bishop, moderator, or president demanding that universal health care is a moral necessity and a foundational concept of faith. Our tiny little faith community long ago issued a call to these leaders to do exactly that but we of course were ignored as just “a bunch of nuts who live on the margins”! Believe me when I tell you we heard all the comments. You may rightly wonder why the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church, the U S Conference of Catholic Bishops, The Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church, The Southern Baptist Convention, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA, the Evangelic Lutheran Church General Synod and on and on has not issued a call to the Congress to pass universal care or failing its passage call for demonstrations in the street in righteous outrage! You can rightly wonder but sadly these religious institutions are too much in the bed with the money changers in the temple!

    We are at a crossroads, pun intended, as to the relevancy of faith and unless those of us who claim such a relevancy demand that the hungry be fed, the sick attended and cared for, the prisoner be treated humanely, the naked clothed, and the young and the elderly protected and the poor respected and assisted, we can make no legitimate claim on that relevancy!


    Bishop Andrew Gentry

  28. Josh B says:

    How amusing to see the same folks denouncing the State are the same ones willing to hand that State the power of life and death over its citizens. The cognitive dissonance and short circuited logic necessary for this sort of belief system boggles the mind. Don’t let the government take my money, but it can take the life of my son if it deems necessary!

    These folks have no respect for human life. Abortion is the one argument where they feel they have a moral superiority, because even they can find no reason to hate a fetus. But rest assured, if fetuses could hold beliefs other than their own and vote democrat, the anti-abortion arguments would dry up like Newt Gingrich’s bank account.

    This is typical of the mindset of these sort of folks. Pick and choose the parts you do and don’t like of something, and never mind they’re all part of the same whole, if it’s a part they like it’s just different. They do the same thing with their religion. It’s pretty ingenious in a way, since it removes the need to entertain any sort of internal conflict or thoughts, and allows one do pretty much anything one likes while still loudly proclaiming a belief system and feeling righteous for defending it.