Sen. Barack Obama wasted no time in issuing a strong criticism of the Court’s decision in the child-rape case. “I disagree with the decision,” he said. “I have said repeatedly that I think the death penalty should be applied in very narrow circumstances for the most egregious of crimes.” He continued: “I think that the rape of a small child, 6 or 8 years old, is a heinous crime and if a state makes a decision that under narrow, limited, well-defined circumstances the death penalty is at least potentially applicable, that that does not violate our Constitution.”
Now, does anyone believe – is it at all believable – that Sen. Obama, in fact, agrees with Justice Alito’s dissenting opinion, and not Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion? Is there any reason to doubt that, in fact, Sen. Obama is affirming something he does not believe, in order to avoid ruffling the feathers of those retributivist rubes in the South and Heartland whom he hopes to capture from the clutches of the G.O.P.? As someone who (a) thinks the Kennedy case is very badly reasoned and painful to read, but who also (b) opposes the death penalty, even in cases of child-rape, I would so much have preferred it if Sen. Obama had said, “The rape of a child is a heinous crime, but the Court’s decision is consistent with recent precedent, and I applaud the fact that this decision moves us away from reliance on the death penalty and toward consistency with international law and norms.” After all, this latter quote is what he thinks, isn’t it?