American Elephants


Unintended Consequences: by The Elephant's Child

jay-inslee-02-13

Unintended consequences. Someone speaks, or takes an action, advocates a policy, and aside from the immediate political response, the world shifts a little, and all  you can do is hope that if there are unintended consequences, they will not be too bad. President Obama famously said “he has a phone and he has a pen” and even today, announced at Monticello that “He is President of the United States and he can do whatever he wants to.”

That’s not the way it’s supposed to work. There is the oath of office, and a long history of presidential terms in office, and the assumption that a president, any president, will struggle mightily to do the right thing for the people of the United States. Why else did he run for office? President Obama had something quite different in mind. He ran a nebulous campaign full of theatrics and empty words like “yes we can” and “we are the ones,” and people fell for it. But finding that now that he no longer has a Democrat-controlled Congress, but has to actually attempt to debate, discuss and compromise with Republicans in the House, like a petulant child, he announces that he will not compromise on anything, but will just act independently— with his pen and his phone.

Well, if the President of the United States can just act on his own, why not governors? Why do we need laws and customs and rules and tradition? Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, noted empty suit, has decided that while he is in office “During my term we will not be executing people.” He has the authority under RCW  10.10.120to commute a death sentence to life in prison at hard labor, and upon a petition from the offender, to pardon the offender, or to offer a reprieve which is to be issued “for good cause shown, and as the Governor thinks proper.”

Washington State does not have a particularly high murder rate with the exception of a couple of really bad serial killers. Ted Bundy’s case was famous. But the one that raised questions about the death penalty was that of the “Green River Killer,” Gary L. Ridgway. King County prosecutors gave up on capitol punishment  in exchange for his cooperation with providing details that helped solve dozens of open murder cases. He pleaded guilty to 48 counts of aggravated first-degree murder  in 2003 and was sentenced to life in prison. Forty-eight murders seemed like a good reason for a death penalty, though there were 48 families who deserved some kind of closure.

Governor Inslee’s actions are again reminiscent of President Obama’s efforts to escape blame for anything. Inslee doesn’t want to be blamed for any executions, and will shove them off on his successor.




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