What reputation do we want as individuals and nations? Of course, we want that which allows us to work cooperatively with others without being victimized. It's no better to be thought the doormat than the bully. We don't want others to ban against us because of our tyranny; neither do we want to invite attack because of perceived weakness.
It is with this balance I approach this story of a Mexican national who was executed in Texas this morning. Consider this excerpt from the story.
"It's important to recall this is a case not just about one Mexican national on death row in Texas," one of his lawyers, Sandra Babcock, said after watching him die. "It's also about ordinary Americans who count on the protection of the consulate when they travel abroad to strange lands. It's about the reputation of the United States as a nation that adheres to the rule of law."
What reputation has the U.S. created in this case, and what reputation does Babcock have in mind? Were we the bully? Should we have been the doormat? I'd say we were neither.
The defendant, Jose Medellin, moved to the U.S. when he was three, and was raised in Houston. One hardly can claim he was "[traveling] abroad to [a] strange [land]". Furthermore, the criminality of gang-rape and murder, of minors no less, shouldn't strike any one as an unsuspected quirk of local law the hapless traveler could not have anticipated.
Medellin lived his life in the U.S., and was tried the same as U.S. citizens. Indeed, the intervention of the Mexican Consolate would have been an extra protection. Certainly, that protection is just in many cases. In Medellin's case, it seems like a technicality and a Hail Mary Pass.
What effect has the Medellin case had on our reputation and therefore the treatment of U.S. citizens in the world? We neither railroaded a foreigner, nor abandoned justice. We were neither the bully, nor the doormat.