There are many Americans who do not believe in evolution. And it is probably fair to say that a disproportionate number of them reside in Texas.
But it is from Texas that we gain confirmation of the absolute certainty that human evolution is a reality.
When George Bush was governor of Texas in the 1990s, he approved executions with impunity, sending to death those who might have been innocent and those who might have been guilty, those who had repented and those who had not, those who had adequate representation and those whose lawyers slept through the trials, those who had the mental capacity to understand their crimes, those whose mental state would have barred even a trial in more civilized jurisdictions.
In all, Bush signed more 150 execution orders as governor, a record for the state and nation. The world press recognized him as the "Texecutioner" or, in the slightly less volatile phrasing of London’s Independent newspaper: "a death penalty enthusiast."
As president, Bush has continued his energetic advocacy for state-sponsored slaying. Only this month, it was reported that Bush and his soon-to-be-former Attorney General had developed a plan to speed up the executions of Americans lingering on the nation’s death rows. The plan, which will be one of the last initiatives of Alberto Gonzales, is to make it easier for executions to be "fast-tracked" by states that want to avoid long appeals processes in the federal courts.
The Bush-Gonzales plan is to borrow a page from recent anti-terrorism legislation — which strip away habeas corpus protections and other legal guarantees — in order to allow states to rely on the Justice Department, rather than the federal courts, to decide whether death-row inmates received adequate representation at trial.
That would eliminate one of the primary avenues of appeal from convictions in states such as Texas, which have a history of providing inadequate representation for poor and minority defendants.
Bush and Gonzales, who have worked together since the president’s days in Texas to make the killing machines of the states run more smoothly, also want to reduce the amount of time that death-row inmates have to file federal appeals and to pursue them.
So what’s this about evolution? Clearly, Bush has not grown as a human being or as a public official with the power to decide who lives and dies.
But Bush is no longer the governor of Texas. Conservative Republican Rick Perry has the job. And on Wednesday, Perry commuted the sentence of Texas death row inmate Kenneth Foster’s sentence to life. The decision came just hours before an innocent man was to be killed by the state — a prospect that would not, in all likelihood, have concerned George Bush or Alberto Gonzales but that did concern Rick Perry.