In his Times column last week, Ta-Nehisi Coates wondered about Rick Perry's record: "Should Gov. Rick Perry of Texas enter the 2012 presidential race, he would enjoy a strange and remarkable escort — the irrepressible ghost of Cameron Todd Willingham." As much as I'd like to see Rick Perry pay politically for sentencing an innocent man to death and then attempting to hide evidence of his innocence, it's unclear if this episode would be detrimental to a Perry campaign.
This week, another death-row inmate is raising further evidence of Perry's impractical, if not unelectable, character. The governor is under pressure to halt the execution of Humberto Leal Garcia Jr. Found guilty of rape and murder, the issue is that he is a Mexican citizen whose trial in Texas violated the Vienna Convention by denying him access to Mexican consular officials. Even the Bush administration held the position that American courts comply with the Vienna rules.
The New York Times has Texas's response: "Mr. Bush’s memorandum puzzled officials in Texas, who said it seemed inconsistent with the Bush administration’s general hostility to international institutions and its support for the death penalty. … Mr. Perry’s press secretary … suggested that [Perry] did not view the matter through the lens of reciprocal international obligations." Perry, in other words, is undeterred by the fact that his refusal to comply with international law will jeopardize the lives of all Americans (including Texans) who find themselves at the mercy of another nation's justice system.
Many Republican voters loved Bush's disdain for international cooperation, and Perry promises to turn that up to 11. But it's one thing to have a rogue Texas governor who refuses to follow the rules. It's quite another if he becomes president. Despite the complaints racked up against Obama, remembering the world's disdain for the U.S. and President Bush makes going back to a time when international cooperation was for sissies very unpalatable.