One of the more telling moments from last night's Republican presidential debate was when the audience at the Reagan Library broke out in wild applause at the mention of 234 death row inmates executed in Texas on Gov. Rick Perry's watch... no doubt some of whom were innocent.

I can understand why some people might support capital punishment, particularly the families of victims, although I personally oppose the practice on a number of grounds. But I have zero empathy for those who would applaud Texas's prolific rate of execution, as if it were something to aspire to. The brutal vindictiveness of many in the Republican base is never more on display than when they cheer an execution or two (or 234) as if it were a game-winning touchdown.

There is an interesting analogy to be made with the similarly hot-button issue of abortion, where the anti-abortion-rights forces adopted the "Pro-Life" label in order to imply that their Pro-Choice opponents were in fact Pro-Death. Of course, we're not. We're not even "Pro-Abortion" per se. While we may loudly cheer legislative and legal victories that support the right to reproductive choice, I'd wager that nobody has ever heard a round of hearty applause arise at the tally of aborted fetuses. Through improved education, counseling, and access to effective birth control, the goal has always been to make abortion safe, legal, and rare, with no particular extra emphasis on any one of those three objectives over the others. An abortion may evoke in some a sense of relief, but it's hard to imagine that it has ever been a cause for celebration.

One would think that even the most ardent capital punishment supporters (many of whom ironically self-identify as Pro-Life) would be more respectful of the awesome responsibility that comes with government sanctioned executions. But judging from that disturbing moment in last night's debate, apparently not.