The subtext for this is obviously, “Oh, those wacky conservatives and their thirst for vengeance!”, but that isn’t really Tucker Carlson’s focus in this clip from his guest-hosting gig on Sean Hannity’s Great American Panel on Fox News Channel last night. Mediaite’s Glenn Davis makes this the story, rather than the vast majority of the discussion, which was Barack Obama’s decision to jump into the debate about Michael Vick and his second chance in football.
The conversation eventually turned to whether it was appropriate for Obama to weigh in on this matter at all (although, as the White House said, the primary focus of Obama’s discussion with Lurie was alternative energy) – golfer Ben Crenshaw, on the panel for some reason, came off as a Vick supporter but sounded unsure of whether the president should be discussing the matter. Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez voiced similar views, whereas Fox News contributor Doug Schoen didn’t see an issue with Obama’s comments.
The most notable aspect of the discussion, though, was still Carlson’s “executed” line, for the sheer extreme nature of it. There’s no question Vick has done terrible things, but to hear a pundit openly opine that a prominent person should have received the death penalty – and being completely sincere in doing it – is not something you’ll see too often.
Does Tucker really believe that Vick should have gotten the death penalty? I asked Tucker this morning what he meant by the statement, and he replied:
I love dogs — we have three — and I think what Vick did was horrifying and shockingly cruel. Executed? I don’t know. I do know that 19 months is a joke. People get more than that for tax evasion. He certainly shouldn’t be back in the NFL with Obama rooting for him. What the president said is disgusting. That’s the story as far as I’m concerned.
In other words, Tucker was exaggerating for effect in order to make the point that Vick’s time didn’t fit the crime. In that, Tucker is hardly alone. Vick remains controversial not just for his employment in the NFL, but also because of the sentence and his release. The sentence came as part of a plea bargain to a single felony count that normally carried a sentence of 12 months to 5 years in prison; Vick got 25 months and parole after 19 months, in keeping with federal sentencing guidelines. Other athletes have gotten off more easily. LeShon Johnson, a former NFL running back for the Packers, Giants, and Cardinals, got a five-year “deferred” sentence from a state charge in Oklahoma after investigators rescued 200 dogs and busted more than 20 people in a dog-fighting ring in 2005. NBA player Qyntel Woods got 80 hours of community service in 2005 for staging dogfights at his house in Oregon (again, state charges).
The problem to which Tucker objects is an issue with the law, rather than leniency on the part of the system. Unless and until the law is changed to assign more prison time for the crime, then Vick did an appropriate amount of time for a first-time offender under the law as it existed at the time. Once Vick got parole after serving most of the sentence, then he was certainly free to earn a living. The NFL can certainly be criticized for allowing him to return, although I disagree since Vick did his time, as can the Eagles for signing him to the contract. Reasonable people can disagree on those points.
However, the point of the segment was the curious and unprompted interjection of Barack Obama into the situation. He called to congratulate Jeffrey Lurie for giving Vick a second chance and showing that employers should allow for redemption. However, Vick’s talent was never in question, just his judgment off the field and his humanity. Certainly, employers should exercise discretion when hiring people, and that shouldn’t exclude felony convictions, especially when that includes something as horrific and disgusting as dogfighting and other animal cruelties to which Vick admitted. Lurie didn’t hire Vick for selfless reasons; he hired Vick to exploit his talent, and the investment has paid off well. Why that requires a presidential salute is beyond me.