The Nine Most Memorable Debate Moments

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Bernie Shaw's Question on Capital Punishment

 

In the second presidential debate between George H.W. Bush and Michael Dukakis, moderator Bernie Shaw asked Dukakis a question on violent crime: “Governor, if Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?” Although the question was awkwardly phrased, and jarring in its tastelessness, Dukakis shouldn’t have been surprised by the subject. Crime was a big issue in 1988 and Dukakis’ opposition to capital punishment was at odds with public opinion. His staff had briefed him on this, but apparently too much. His answer could have included an emotional recitation at his own family’s suffering at the hands of criminals: his father’s mugging, the death of his brother from a hit-and-run driver—and outrage at the thought of someone hurting Kitty Dukakis. Instead, he provided a meandering dispassionate explanation of his theories on criminal justice.

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