' Marianne M. Jennings
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Jewish World Review Nov. 22, 1999/ 13 Kislev, 5760

Marianne M. Jennings

Marianne M. Jennings
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Compassionate conservative:
Timing and targets

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- IMPLICIT IN "COMPASSIONATE CONSERVATIVE" is the visual image of regular conservatives as bipolar Quasimodos, fully armed. George W. Bush's use of the term for political hay is grating. Mr. Bush understands neither conservatives nor compassion. Recent cases might help W see the inherent flaw in his candidacy's tag line.

Nathaniel Abraham was 11 years old when he shot and killed Ronnie Greene outside a convenience store in 1997. He bragged of his desire to kill prior to the shooting as well as of his achievement afterwards and was found guilty of second-degree murder. Amnesty International, a favorite of Chelsea Clinton, used a photo of young Nathaniel for the cover of its 1998 report to show that America's justice system is too harsh on juveniles, i.e., lacks compassion.

Brian Williams, the CNBC or MSNBC or some NBC anchor who can inject his views even into Janice Huff's weather, asked the Abraham prosecutor, Lisa Halushka, why she ruined two lives by pursuing Nathaniel.

Mr. Williams' thoughts don't even rise to the level of sophistry with that one. Ronnie Greene's life is pretty much ruined, death carrying its nearly certain finality. But it is difficult to understand how keeping a gun-wielding sociopath off the streets of Pontiac, Michigan is ruining a life, rather than an act of compassion for those whose lives are surely at risk should young Nathaniel escape consequences. No conservative objects to getting young Nathaniel help, it's the murder that gives us pause. A liberal looks at this murder and asks why do we have do prosecute children?

A conservative looks at the case and says we had best prosecute children who are capable of murder and then figure out what's causing them to do so. Liberals part ways because morality to them centers around race, the ozone and feelings. Conservatives see murder as murder, across racial lines and right up through the stratosphere.

The liberal fancies himself compassionate because he wants to minimize punishment and, even better, minimize those times when you can actually call a crime a crime. The conservative understands that punishment deters crimes and uniform accountability is not mean-spirited.

Another example of the mean has unfolded in Decatur, Illinois. The Rev. Jesse Jackson has been busy spreading compassion there. He wreaked less havoc when he was negotiating with terrorists, shaking down Wall Street firms for cash for diversity programs, and taking confessions from the philanderer-in-chief. Padre Jesse is perturbed that seven complete losers from a Decatur high school were suspended from school for two years for their violent melee at a football game. Rev. Jackson feels that the punishment is excessive because the tykes used no weapons, they are all black, and the school district's zero-tolerance policy was too strict. Rev. Jackson sees these three factors as exoneration for inciting a riot. A conservative sees that several of the students were 19-year-old freshmen, i.e. school is not their forte, that schools are held liable for violence and must set policies to keep it at bay; and that race doesn't determine who is charged with felonious activity, felons do, and high school is not the best place for warehousing them.

Despite a reduced suspension and good behavior clause from the school board, Rev. Jackson remains in the battle, lack of standing and jurisdiction notwithstanding.
Another day of back-breaking work for Jesse
Rev. Jackson would be the first to whine injustice in the event black students were harmed at a football game but seeks a waiver that would signal that violence begets hissy fits and no punishment. Compassion does not excuse, it draws lines uniformly, across economic, racial and social boundaries. Compassion imposes punishment, then helps the penitent recover. Wolverines at school functions are unacceptable. Zero tolerance either means zero tolerance or the school board facing a decade of end runs by Jackson and any other meddlesome gadfly. Fail to draw the line and the line keeps moving until there are no rules.

The timing and targets of compassion are critical for conservatives. Long-term compassion means saying "no," and often tugs at the heartstrings, as any parent who has raised non-felons knows. Conservatives don't give folks what they want at any given moment -- they consider the implications and the rights of others in the process. Compassion for the guilty is a harsh sentence for victims.

Liberals are spotty in their compassion. They wanted nothing less than the death penalty for the killers of Matthew Shepherd. Where is their compassion for these two mentally deficient rednecks? The Byrd dragging death case of a black man in Texas has brought liberal outrage but not one stitch of compassion for the misguided killers. Conservatives, liberals and Jesse Jackson are of one mind in these cases yet conservatives have not moved philosophically for they care not one whit about the race, gender, sexual orientation or favorite cereal of the killer, felon or wolverine - they only know that murder is a crime that demands punishment and that hooligans who incite riots at football games need bench time, without exception. Justice demands consistency and law demands equality, not preference nor exception. The quality of mercy is indeed strained, tempered by justice, for without justice, mercy is nothing.

If such a stance lacks compassion, so be it, Mr. Bush.

JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Send your comments by clicking here.


11/18/99: The elusive human spirit and accountability
11/11/99: Succumbing to the intellectual child within with the help of crackpots and screwballs
10/28/99: Live by litigation, die by litigation
10/22/99: Jesse, Warren, Cybill, Donald and Oprah
10/14/99: Inequality and injustice: It's the big one
10/05/99: Dan Quayle, morals and schoolyard bullies
09/30/99: The monsters of epidermal parenting
09/21/99: The Diversity Hoax
09/15/99: Waco Wackos
09/09/99: Selective censorship
09/01/99: The village, the children, judicial imperialism and abortion
08/24/99: Naughty Newt?
08/17/99: In defense of Boy Scouts and judgment
08/10/99: Ruining the finest health care system in the world
08/03/99: Nihilism and politics: ethics on the lam
07/26/99: Of women, soccer and removed jerseys
07/23/99: Not in despair, a mere mortal doing just fine
07/20/99: "Why me?" How about "Why us?"
07/13/99: Bunk, junk & juries
07/06/99: An Amish woman in a Victoria's Secret store
06/30/99: That intellectually embarrassing Second Amendment
06/24/99: Patricia Ireland eat your heart out --- but check out the recipe in 'women's mags' first
06/22/99: Dems and the Creator coup
06/17/99: True courage is more than just admitting troubles

©1999, Marianne M. Jennings