Probable presidential candidate Rick Perry, like other Texas governors, has a history of executing tons of people. The most famous case is that of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed under Perry for burning down his home with his three children inside, even though there's significant evidence that he didn't do it. How will Perry ever get past this in a presidential primary? Trick question! He doesn't have to "get past" anything, because Republican primary voters like him for doing this.
A new Politico report about Perry's chances for winning the nomination includes this incredible anecdote about how hard it is to turn the Willingham case into anything even approaching a political liability for Perry, in the hilariously insane world of GOP primaries:
Veterans of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's unsuccessful 2010 primary challenge to Perry recalled being stunned at the way attacks bounced off the governor in a strongly conservative state gripped by tea party fever. Multiple former Hutchison advisers recalled asking a focus group about the charge that Perry may have presided over the execution of an innocent man – Cameron Todd Willingham – and got this response from a primary voter: "It takes balls to execute an innocent man."
We're glad that Team KBH shared this, because it shines light on one of the strangest political statements ever released. The Willingham came into the public spotlight a couple of years ago after a phenomenal New Yorker piece made a convincing, detailed argument for Willingham's innocence. Perry fielded some controversy, too, for firing several members of the Texas Forensic Science Commission who'd backed the report finding the arson claims against Willingham to be "doubtful."
But instead of simply tearing Perry to pieces for being a amoral killing monster from Hell, Sen. Hutchison attacked Perry from the right — saying that the main problem with Perry's actions was in "giving liberals an argument to discredit the death penalty," which she still staunchly supported. This was her objection to Rick Perry killing an innocent man and then covering up the investigation! That it would give liberals an excuse to whine about the death penalty! Stupid liberals! Now, at least, we know about the surreal ultraviolent political box that led her to sign off on such tripe. Don't expect this dynamic to change.
[Image via AP]