In a recent interview, mayor Marty Walsh answered a question about whether or not federal prosecutors should pursue the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the accused Boston Marathon bomber. Walsh answers with a non-answer. This is, of course, a political maneuver so clichéd that voters have simply come to expect (and accept) it. But that doesn’t excuse the newly-elected Walsh’s laziness.
I’m going to support whatever the ruling is. In my career as a legislator I’ve voted consistently against the death penalty. I’ll support whatever the justice department decides in this case.
In other words, Walsh commits to supporting the justice department’s decision while reminding the interviewer of his professed stance against the death penalty. It’s a non-answer. He carefully navigates the question’s tendrils in the hopes of appeasing as many constituents as possible.
This is a wise move, politically and ethically. Walsh doesn’t want to step on any toes. And not just political toes–think about the possible local and national reactions to Boston’s newly-elected mayor choosing one option or another. How would survivors and their families respond? Those whose loved ones were lost that day? Anti-death penalty groups? Political party PACs?
Yes it’s a non-answer, but one that tries to say something in a tumultuous sea of ambiguity and emotion. Besides, it’s a federal case and Walsh’s position has very little impact on what Attorney General Eric Holder and the US Justice Department decide.
Either way, we’ll all know–Walsh included–what that decision is in the next few months.