WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush said he is conflicted about the death penalty and wants to see reforms in how it is implemented.
Bush, in an interview taped for broadcast on Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” said executions can provide closure for families of murder victims but that other issues are involved.
“It’s hard for me, as a human being, to sign the death warrant, to be honest with you,” he said. “I’m informed by my faith in many things, and this is one of them. So I have to admit that I’m conflicted about this.”
“But we should reform it. If it’s to be used as a deterrent, it has to be reformed. It can’t take 25 years (of legal appeals before an execution). That does no one any good. Neither the victims nor the state is solving this problem with that kind of tangled judicial process.”
Florida executed 20 murderers while Bush was the state’s governor from 1999 to January 2007, according to the database of the Death Penalty Information Center.
Republican candidates generally have supported the death penalty while Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has said it should be re-examined and her main challenger, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, has called for its abolition.
Bush’s campaign has been troubled by lackluster debate performances, sagging poll numbers and recent cutbacks in staff and salaries of his campaign organization. He also has faced criticism from Republican rival candidate Donald Trump for being “low energy” and critics have questioned if he has the personality and resolve to carry a campaign through to the November 2016 election.
Bush said on “Meet the Press” he did not know why pundits questioned his drive to be president but said he needed to improve his performance.
“Look, I know that I’ve got to get better at doing the debate,” he said. “I’m a grinder. I mean, when I see that I’m not doing something well then I reset and I get better. And I’m going to be better.”
(Writing by Bill Trott; Editing by James Dalgleish)
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush speaks at the Growth and Opportunity Party at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa, October 31, 2015. REUTERS/Brian C. Frank