Clayton Lockett and Barack Obama

Clayton Lockett was executed last week in Oklahoma for the torture/ murder of a 19-year-old girl after gaming the judicial system at taxpayer expense for the last 15 years. He was convicted originally on the basis of a videotaped, remorseless, if not arrogant, confession. During his lengthy incarceration, three hots and a cot for a decade and a half, Clayton was ever the defiant miscreant. To the end, a Taser was often necessary to get Mr. Lockett to cooperate with his warders. While in prison he often brandished homemade knives, aka “shanks,” and bragged about being an “assassin.”

Lethal injection gurney

But let’s begin at the beginning. In 1999, Lockett and his crew kidnapped Stephanie Neiman in Perry, Oklahoma. After hours of abuse, Lockett shot Ms. Neiman twice with an illegal scatter gun, not fatally, but enough to make her suffer. He then buried her alive, where she likely died in agony. During his confession, Lockett described the torture of that teen with relish, “I could hear her breathing and crying and everything.” And everything, indeed!

None of the gory details of this crime appear in the Washington Post’s coverage of Lockett’s execution. Indeed, all sympathy is reserved for the homicidal punk. In two full-page stories, the victim is a footnote. The front and back page of the 1 May, ‘A’ section of the Post is devoted to the Lockett execution; yet the victim, Stephanie Neiman, gets a paragraph on page ten, less than twenty words,

“Lockett was convicted by an Oklahoma jury in 2000 of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Stephanie Neiman, 19, whose body was found in a shallow grave on a dirt road.”

The front page headline screams, “Execution Chamber Becomes a Laboratory.” Leads elsewhere wrote of a “botched” execution too. Apparently, Lockett didn’t die fast enough after lethal injection; so the above-the-fold news becomes cruel and unusual punishment, not justice for Stephanie Neiman.

The entire Post story was dedicated to the banal details of Lockett’s final moments and the evils of capital punishment, quoting Lockett’s supporters throughout.  Indeed, reporters Lena Sun and Brady Dennis drone on for thousands of words in an anti-death penalty harangue that might best be characterized as an apologia for murder. We are led to believe any discomfort, even in death, for capital convicts trumps the pain and suffering of their victims.

If the truth were told, an execution is about the end of suffering, for perps and, mercifully, for the community they no longer inhabit.  Capital punishment is the absolute deterrent. Dead men make poor recidivists.

And to be fair, we should note that the Post coverage of this or any other murder trial or execution is typical.  Homicide journalism isn’t about compassion for victims or society; it’s about excuses or misspent compassion. The worst among us, especially sociopath stereotypes, are often celebrated above the fold.

Still, we should keep Media sympathy in perspective. Any contemporary coverage of toxic behavior is not about justice or human rights anyway. Modern journalism is about progressive political memes. The real agendas are abolition of capital punishment, gun control, special pleading, or race baiting -- often all of the above.

Lockett didn’t get his face on page one; he appears on page ten, in a one inch cameo. But of course you might have pictured his face without a photo. Were Lockett a pasty-faced skinhead, he would never have merited four Washington Post whiners, seven columns, and two broadsheets of newsprint. Lockett is a cultural stereotype, every journalist’s readymade victim of “color.”

Stephanie Neiman’s death wasn’t botched. She was buried alive by a punk. Clayton Lockett’s execution wasn’t an “experiment” or “botched” either. Poetic justice, or maybe Providence, ordained Lockett to experience a fraction of Stephanie’s pain before he was consigned to the poison and oblivion he so richly deserved. 

And Clayton Lockett wasn’t convicted by a jury of peers. Chaps like Lockett don’t have many peers. Sociopaths as a rule do not serve on juries, except maybe in political monocultures like Los Angeles or New Orleans.  

In any given year, there will be nearly 15,000 homicides in America. A disproportionate number will be black men killing other African-American men, women, and children. The only difference between Clayton Lockett and his true peers is that, with the Neiman murder, the victim was white. If evidence matters, there are only two score executions in a year while there are 15,000 homicides. American justice might be blind, indulgent, or incompetent; but hardly “cruel and unusual” by the numbers.

              Violence in America (typical year)

Violent felonies                                               12,000,000 

Child abuse                                                      6,000,000

Spousal assaults                                              4,800,000

Abortions                                                          1,200,000

Assaults /pregnant women                                 325,000

Rapes                                                                190,000

Suicides                                                              40,000

Traffic fatalities                                                   35,000

Homicides                                                          15,000

Executions  (in 2013)                                              38  

In any given year, there are fewer than forty executions countrywide. At the same time, in any recent year, the total number of homicides exceeds the historical total of all executions countrywide since the beginning of record keeping.

Note also that Barack Obama, on cue, weighed in to defend a “brother” again, on “humane” grounds; much as he endorsed Michael Vick after that NFL felon was released from prison and given a hero’s welcome in Philadelphia.  It’s not race that joins Lockett, Vick, and Obama so much as moral vacuity, those who fail to see that animal abusers and child abusers are cut from the same cloth. Apparently, moral “red lines” are not part of President Obama’s message.

Obviously, Obama and Lockett are connected by community, yet worlds apart by virtue of background, education, and class. Nonetheless, Obama was elevated to his current position, at least in part, that he might make a difference in African-American culture and the aforementioned social pathologies. Alas, Michelle Obama thinks pre-school, gardens, roughage, diets, and fat shaming of blacks might make a difference. Really?

As the Washington Post was spinning the Lockett story, Boko Haram  (literally “education is sin”) was doing God knows what to 300 kidnapped African schoolgirls in Nigeria. That story and the Islamist culprits did not get any headlines that day, surely an echo of similar indifference to the Rwandan genocide during the Clinton years. The Obama Administration and American media are as reluctant to deal with cultural pathology in America, especially among blacks, as they are reluctant to deal candidly with mayhem and misogynist obscenities in Islamic Africa and the Arab world.

Alas, the judgment of history is nigh! The president is on the back nine and the outlook is ominous. Obama has a special burden. He is the first self-identified “black” American president. A failed African-American man and woman at the top is every liberal’s worst nightmare.

Good and evil, rich and poor are often racial constructs on the Left these days. Nonetheless, the political party that promoted slavery and Jim Crow may have little sympathy for a failed standard bearer -- or future candidates from any class of self-anointed victims.  Obama could be a setback for African Americans in particular and global social justice in general.

If and when a permanent majority sees Obama as a failed president, the fault will not be spending, debt, deficits, web sites, health care, mendacity, mismanagement, staged coups, incompetence, appeasement, Islamism or a dozen or so similar domestic, military, or foreign policy disasters. Making race-based excuses for presidents or criminals tends to perpetuate stereotypes about all African-American men, a group already burdened with too much demographic baggage.

Obama’s true failure, like Clayton Lockett’s, is personal.

Leadership in any community is always personal, an example set at the top. Washington, Lincoln, Churchill, Gandhi, and Mandela are positive illustrations. Obama’s failure is particular and moral -- want of constructive example and inclusive leadership. He has not been an example for the ethnic minority that provided near-unanimous support, nor the country at large, or America’s European allies. Concern for deadbeats like Clayton Lockett does not compensate for the absence of moral standing elsewhere.

Withal, Democrats and the media may continue to play the race card on Obama’s behalf, but the worlds of public opinion and objective history are unlikely to accept melanin as an excuse. The difference between a failure and a victim is eventually obvious to even the simplest minds and the worst partisans.

G. Murphy Donovan writes about the politics of national security.

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