Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Easy Path: The Gov and Congress, But Not the Ayatollah

It's always a happy circumstance when what is the right thing to do aligns with what is politically easy to do. Alas, it doesn't happen often enough. Sadly, politicians often go for the easy choice even when it conflicts with doing the right thing.

Governor Schwarzenegger to date has not granted any of the clemency petitions that have come to him from death row inmates. While I do not believe in the death penalty, I acknowledge that it is currently the law of California, and I accept that the Governor should only grant clemency in extraordinary circumstances. However, I believe extraordinary circumstances presented themselves last week in the case of Michael Morales. There is no dispute that Morales is a murderer and deserves at least life in prison. However, it has come to light that the evidence used to justify his death sentence were fabricated. Even the (Republican-appointed) judge who originally sentenced him has recognized that the death penalty was a mistake in this case, and is recommending that the Governor grant clemency. Unfortunately, the Governor, instead of doing the right thing, has opted to take the easy path and ignore the clemency petition. (Independently, Morales received a last-minute temporary reprieve when two anesthesiologists with a bit more conscience in this matter than the Governor, refused to cooperate in the execution.)

Then we have the jerking of many Congressional knees in regard to the Dubai World Ports kerfuffle. I'll admit that I initially had the same reaction as most everyone else: oh God, it'll be the fox guarding the henhouse. But after listening to calmer, informed voices on the matter, I realize that the analogy is inapt, unless we're talking about a fox who has a strong vested interest in egg production. As James Glassman points out, if the United Arab Emirates have a big stake in our ports, they'll be even more vigilant about safe-guarding their investment. I'd like to think that our Congress members would be more judicious and informed on such matters. But I guess they figure the heck with judicious and informed, when it's so easy to huff and strut.

That leaders too often choose the easy path over the right one makes it all the more laudable when a leader takes the right path when it's not easy. That would be the Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the spiritual leader of the Shi'ites in Iraq, who has been urging his followers to protest peacefully, but remain calm and show restraint, in response to the horrific attack on one of their holiest sites. That is commendable, and a welcome contrast to the more incendiary reaction of al-Sadr's militia.

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