Cover Story

Cellblock campaign

"Cellblock campaign" Continued...

Issue: "Cellblock campaign," Dec. 23, 2006

The cellblock was quiet except for the night-long sounds of toilets flushing and the gate to the cellblock opening and closing as guards came to patrol. At 6 a.m. Brownback awoke and said the night was "OK for the circumstances. Woke up, went back to sleep, woke up. Had to roll around a little to get comfortable."

Then it was on to Death Row. Brownback walked by 15 dimly lit cells, saying hello to inmates who paid little attention to him. Two, though, engaged him in conversation.

One, Patrick Kennedy, told Brownback, "I hear you're pro-life. I am also. I'm the only one sitting on death row not for murder. I'm here for the rape of a child who's still living. Should the death penalty be for me?" Brownback replied that the "death penalty should be very limited in its use . . . for the Osama bin Ladens. . . . I'll pray for you."

A second, who put down Ralph Ellison's novel Invisible Man as Brownback approached, was politically curious: "Do you look beyond the fight against gay marriage?" Brownback replied, "I am pro-life and I do think marriage should be between a man and a woman, but we need to expand our vision." He spoke of his defense of the residents of southern Sudan and Darfur, and his advocacy of effective malarial treatments elsewhere in Africa. The prisoner condemned to die commended him for his help in keeping others alive.

On the drive back to the Baton Rouge airport Brownback reflected on his visit and on the possibility of long-time prisoners over 60 going through a reconciliation process and receiving a parole hearing. We also talked politics: Brownback said he can differentiate himself from a socially liberal Giuliani, a mercurial McCain, and other candidates by espousing conservative compassion.

A strong finish in the early 2008 Iowa caucus could lead to a fundraising breakthrough and the chance to be competitive in primaries around the country. To survive, he'll need to hit hundreds of small meetings like the one at Primo's-but the campaign will gain a unique flavor as he visits the Angolas.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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