While Martin O’Malley was hardly alone in this moment of poor judgment, he did manage to set himself off from the rest of the presidential-candidate class yesterday. A number of people, including news anchors and analysts, took the time to helpfully refresh viewer memories about their own personal stands on the death penalty while filling time after a jury assigned it as the sentence for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s acts of terrorism. More than once in the CNN broadcast I watched, their talking heads emphasized how much worse they considered a life sentence with no parole at a Supermax federal prison.
They get paid to provide color commentary on breaking news and to prevent dead air, though. What’s O’Malley’s excuse?
Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, who is poised to launch a White House bid this month, reaffirmed his strong opposition to capital punishment Friday following a federal jury’s decision to sentence to death one of those convicted for the Boston Marathon bombings.
The Democrat said in a statement that while he respects the verdict, he remains opposed to the death penalty as “a matter of principle and as a matter of policy.”
“The death penalty is ineffective as a deterrent, and the appeals process is expensive and cruel to the surviving family members,” O’Malley said. “Furthermore, the nations responsible for the vast majority of public executions include North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, China and the United States of America. Our country does not belong in that company.”
O’Malley has long opposed the death penalty. For newer readers to Hot Air, I’m also opposed to the death penalty, and probably for some of the same reasons as O’Malley. And yet, it would have been inappropriate for me to use the Tsarnaev verdict as a platform to make that argument — and it’s even worse when the publicity gets used to publicize a long-shot presidential run.
In his statement, O’Malley claims to “respect” the verdict, but that’s a laughable claim on its face. The jury had to consider the options open to them under the law as it exists today, in which the federal death penalty exists and enjoys considerable support, especially when applied to terrorism. Some victims and family members oppose the death penalty for Tsarnaev, while some demanded it. The jury in this case applied it precisely and thoughtfully, only to those acts committed by Dzhohar himself and not his brother, even though as a full participant he could have merited the death penalty for all the acts. The twelve men and women in Boston had a heartbreaking task for three months, and did it well by following the law as it exists now.
Within minutes of its work being completed, O’Malley decides to use the notoriety of the case to argue that the jury got it wrong, morally and on policy. That’s not “respect.” It’s exploitation, and it’s shameful. O’Malley has plenty of time to make his case for the presidency and his policies, and the proper context would be to challenge Congress to change the law, not to criticize a jury for following it. That certainly would make an interesting election strategy, if somewhat counter-intuitive. Perhaps O’Malley felt that he wouldn’t get his share of attention without glomming onto the intense public interest in a case to which O’Malley had no legitimate connection at all.
He got his headlines, though, and that was the point. No one who goes into politics at that level has a small ego, but it’s breathtaking that O’Malley’s first instinct on an occasion like this was to make it all about himself. And revealing.