Hillary Rodham Clinton had planned to focus her remarks Wednesday at a Politics and Eggs breakfast in Manchester, N.H., in support of the politically fraught, if somewhat arcane, issue of the Export-Import Bank and how it helps small businesses in the United States.
But a voter’s question about the death penalty pushed Mrs. Clinton to confront the heated issue for the first time in the Democratic nominating contest.
Asked her position on capital punishment, Mrs. Clinton said she did not support abolishing the death penalty, but she did encourage the federal government to rethink it.
“We have a lot of evidence now that the death penalty has been too frequently applied, and too often in a discriminatory way,” she said. “So I think we have to take a hard look at it.”
Mrs. Clinton added, “I do not favor abolishing it, however, because I do think there are certain egregious cases that still deserve the consideration of the death penalty, but I’d like to see those be very limited and rare, as opposed to what we’ve seen in most states.”
O'Malley and Sanders wanting to correctly abolish capital punishment aside, someone really, really needs to tell Hillary's folks the ship on this has already sailed, thanks to President Obama last week.
Amid new scrutiny of American capital punishment practices, President Barack Obama said in an interview released Friday he was disturbed by the practical effects of the death penalty.
While Obama said he wasn't opposed "in theory" to killing criminals convicted of heinous crimes, he said that data showing racial biases and wrongful convictions have prompted him to wonder whether the death penalty remains a legitimate tool.
Obama was speaking to former New York Times editor Bill Keller, who now runs The Marshall Project, a news organization focused on criminal justice issues.
"There are certain crimes that are so beyond the pale that I understand society's need to express its outrage," he said. "So I have not traditionally been opposed to the death penalty in theory. But in practice it's deeply troubling."
Saying he's "struggled for quite some time" over the death penalty, Obama also said recent botched executions have led him to wonder whether the application of capital punishment is still legal.
"We know that in the application of the death penalty we've had recent cases, by any standard, it has not been swift and painless but rather gruesome and clumsy," he said.
In the aftermath of one of those executions gone wrong -- an Oklahoma incident that left an accused murderer writhing and convulsing for several minutes -- Obama asked the Justice Department to conduct a review of death penalty practices.
The death penalty is barbaric and we need to abolish it. President Obama publicly questioning the legality of it is a big, big move. For Hillary to come along a week later and say that the death penalty is both legal and justified is a bad, bad look for her. The Democrats have officially moved away from that, and "safe, legal and rare" isn't going to work here. Right now it's none of those three.
I'm hoping that she'll change her mind on this going forward.