This is simple.
John Kerry is a garden-variety liberal who is opposed to the death penalty.
The only exception to his position, and this exception is obviously modulated for the campaign season, is his newfound support for applying the ultimate penalty to terrorists. Never mind the fact that Kerry voted at least three times between 1989 and 1993 against applying the death penalty to terrorists, his new and improved position on terrorists is that they should die. But he’s still in line with the liberal, Northeast, Dukakis position of opposition to the death penalty in all other cases.
Republicans should take advantage of this weak position and ask Mr. Kerry if his opposition to the death penalty would extend to D.C. “Sniper” John Allen Muhammad.
His position, as stated by the following dodge to Tim Russert’s question, is clear:
MR. RUSSERT: But, Senator, why shouldn’t Timothy McVeigh, who blew up the Oklahoma building, or if John Muhammad is convicted of being a sniper here in Washington–why shouldn’t they receive the death penalty?
SEN. KERRY: Tim, I think that, as I said, you know, different people have different opinions about what’s worse. I’ve seen people die and I know what it’s like to almost die. I don’t think that–you know, dying is scary for a while, but in the end, the punishment is gone. When you’re alive and you’re deprived of your freedom each day and you’re in tough circumstances–and I’m talking about tough circumstances. I’m not talking about some cushy situation where they live off the fat of the land in prison. I’m talking about tough. But if you’re deprived of that freedom for the rest of your living days until God decides to take you, you know, that is tough, my friend, and I think that plenty of people think that…
Now that John Allen Muhammad has been sentenced, the Bush campaign has a golden opportunity to drive the lunacy of Kerry’s liberal position home for the voters.
The question is simple.
“Mr. Kerry, what is your position on the death penalty as it pertains to John Allen Muhammad? Should convicted murderer John Allen Muhammad be put to death, or not?”
If Kerry puts a finger to the wind and favors the death penalty for Muhammad, he’s flip-flopped again and we can draw him into a debate over when the death penalty should be administered.
If he continues to oppose the death penalty, then we need to find out what the families of Muhammad’s victims think about John Kerry’s position. Which would they prefer? Would they prefer that Muhammad live or that he die? What would Kerry say to these families about his position on this issue if he could talk to them privately?
If the press can spend hours of precious broadcast time interviewing several 9/11 families about their supposed grief from the Bush campaign’s recent television ads, it seems more than appropriate for them to spend some time interviewing the families of sniper victims about Kerry’s position on the death penalty.
–Robert Moran is a vice president at Republican polling firm Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates. He is an NRO contributor.