December 29, 2005
The Governor Strikes Back

By Debra Saunders

This month, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger gave Our Betters in Europe a taste of their own bitter medicine. Angry at the governor's refusal to stop the Dec. 13 execution of convicted four-time murderer Stanley "Tookie" Williams, city leaders of Graz, Austria, mobilized to remove Austria's most famous son's name from a stadium. Schwarzenegger responded with a "Dear Johan" letter. In it, he revoked the city's permission to use his name on the stadium and to promote Graz as a tourist destination. Schwarzenegger also returned a "ring of honor" bestowed by his hometown in 1999. "It is already in the mail," the governor wrote in German.

On Christmas night, to avoid the glare of the spotlight, Graz city workers removed Schwarzenegger's name from arena. The mayor of Graz is "disappointed." An Austrian poll showed that well over 70 percent of Austrians supported Schwarzenegger's pre-emptive name-purge.

It apparently takes a European-born American to see what the Euro-elites are -- so desperate to promote themselves as better than Americans that they kowtow to thugs.

One "human rights" group, the Association of Christianity and Social Democracy, proposed that the stadium be named after Williams. That makes sense: Flaunt how your opposition to capital punishment makes you superior by honoring a felon who shot an unarmed man in the back, then later shot a father, a mother and their adult daughter and left them to die slow, painful deaths.

(Graz, I should note, probably will rename the stadium the American way -- by selling naming rights.) Meanwhile, the European press had canonized Williams -- regurgitating the Tookie propaganda about his "redemption." Agence France Presse called Williams a "repentant gang leader." London's The Independent gushed about "the widely expressed sense that if Mr. Williams were not regarded as an embodiment of rehabilitation and redemption, then the terms had no meaning in the U.S. criminal justice system." You'd never know that Williams never apologized for killing four innocent people.

American newspapers dutifully reported on Europeans' revulsion at the death penalty -- they see it as "a medieval atrocity," as The New York Times put it. You'd never guess that somehow Graz kept Schwarzenegger's name on its stadium after he failed to stop the January execution of triple-murderer Donald Beardslee. Or that many Europeans aren't thrilled that the European Union forced abolition of capital punishment on member countries.

In 2003, former Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze regretted his decree ending the death penalty in 1997, a move he feared contributed to a rise in crime. "Evidently, we shouldn't have abolished the most extreme form of punishment, the death penalty. Criminals used to fear execution, but this factor is gone now," he said. (Also in 2003, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo reinstated the death penalty because of a dramatic rise in violent crime.)

Polls in 2002 reported that the British people -- as many as 68 percent -- support the death penalty for child murderers, even if their betters in the British Parliament and the EU do not.

The never-ending International Criminal Tribunal of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic reveals the insanity of outlawing the death penalty -- even for genocide. The strongman probably is safer in prison -- and mocking his critics during a circus-like trial -- than he would be free in his homeland. Also, the tribunal's insistence on issuing lesser sentences for lesser killings has prompted the court to issue sentences like 18 years for a key role in the murder of some 7,000 Muslim men.

The EU, be it noted, also doesn't believe in life sentences. Death penalty supporter Michael Rushford of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation in Sacramento, Calif., approved of the governator's response. Rushford noted that the death penalty is a punishment for which approval goes up when people look at the offender. Like Williams.

Rushford believes Williams "traded his humanity" when he took his first innocent life. "All the benefits of being a human being, he traded that away by taking an innocent life."

The Graz incident shows a side of Europe that leaves many of us American rubes cold. Left-wing Austrians -- and Americans -- were quick to condemn the California death penalty and Schwarzenegger as barbaric, even as they embraced a man who killed four innocent people. To condemn an execution while canonizing a killer -- that's just too civilized.

Copyright 2005 Creators Syndicate

Debra Saunders

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