COOPER: All right. The next question is for Governor Huckabee. Let's listen.
TYLER OVERMAN: Hi. This is Tyler Overman from Memphis, Tennessee. And I have a quick question for those of you who would call yourselves Christian conservatives. The death penalty, what would Jesus do?
COOPER: Governor Huckabee?
HUCKABEE: You know, one of the toughest challenges that I ever faced as a governor was carrying out the death penalty. I did it more than any other governor ever had to do it in my state. As I look on this stage, I'm pretty sure that I'm the only person on this stage that's ever had to actually do it. Let me tell you, it was the toughest decision I ever made as a human-being. I read every page of every document of every case that ever came before me, because it was the one decision that came to my desk that, once I made it, was irrevocable.
Every other decision, somebody else could go back and overturn, could fix if it was a mistake. That was one that was irrevocable.
I believe there is a place for a death penalty. Some crimes are so heinous, so horrible that the only response that we, as a civilized nation, have for a most uncivil action is not only to try to deter that person from ever committing that crime again, but also as a warning to others that some crimes truly are beyond any other capacity for us to fix.
Now, having said that, there are those who say, "How can you be pro-life and believe in the death penalty?"
Because there's a real difference between the process of adjudication, where a person is deemed guilty after a thorough judicial process and is put to death by all of us, as citizens, under a law, as opposed to an individual making a decision to terminate a life that has never been deemed guilty because the life never was given a chance to even exist.
HUCKABEE: That's the fundamental difference.
COOPER: I do have to though press the question, which -- the question was, from the viewer was? What would Jesus do? Would Jesus support the death penalty?
HUCKABEE: Jesus was too smart to ever run for public office, Anderson. That's what Jesus would do.
Note the wily dodge. Huckabee managed to score points with this crowd of Florida Republicans while not even beginning to address the question.
But out in the blogosphere, he's being called out. Check out this posting from The Fix, which is the Washington Post's main political blog:
Huckabee's response to Jesus and the death penalty was clever, but sidestepped the question. Sadly, the press marveled at yet another non-answer to a question about a serious issue. The question was intended to be a request for a Christianity-based stance on the morality of the death penalty, not a set-up for a one-liner. Huckabee said nothing about the fact that the death penalty is disproportionately applied to African-Americans, that decisions to apply it are based in slipshod police and crime lab work, or any of a host of other related, troubling issues. Quips are nice, but debates are supposed to be about establishing positions, not electing an Entertainer-In-Chief.
Well said. The poster might have added that when Jesus was on the cross, he said, "Forgive them, for they know not what they do."
There actually is a spirited debate going on over the question of Jesus and the death penalty over at the Washington Post site. You can read the exchange -- and post your own message if you'd like -- by going here.