I hardly even know where to begin with this. I don't want to rehash all the intricacies of the fifteen-year legal battle (the BBC has a good timeline
), but I do want to comment briefly on the intrusion of Congress and President Bush into this tragic family disagreement.
From the beginning I didn't really think that all the bloviating rising from D.C. over the weekend was particularly sincere ... and then all doubts were removed when I read in the Washington Post
on Sunday morning about this memo
from a Republican Senate staffer to all GOP senators. Calling the case "a great political issue" and noting that "the pro-life base will be excited that the Senate is debating this important issue," the memo might as well have said outright "We're going to take advantage of those who really care about this issue by talking about it and getting them to vote for us next fall."
The blatant insincerity and obvious pandering of it all didn't stop the shameless members of the House and Senate though. The Senate 'convened' at 2 p.m. Sunday with three members in the chamber: Frist, Santorum, and Martinez. Frist made a brief statement, and then proceeded to pass the Schiavo legislation by unanimous consent (i.e. no one stood up to oppose the bill's passage, so through it sailed). Not one
senator stood up and demanded that the chamber have a debate on the merits or appropriateness of the legislation. In the House, a few Democrat members did object, and forced the leadership of that chamber to have three hours of debate on the matter (which largely consisted of supporters of the measure bemoaning the fact that every minute they 'wasted' on debating was killing Ms. Schiavo).
In the end, of course, the bill passed
the House at 12:42 a.m. Monday morning. Forty-seven Democrats joined 156 Republicans in voting yes, and only five Republicans joined fifty-three Democrats in opposing the bill. Those fifty-eight representatives deserve our thanks and our praise, for standing up against the juggernaut and opposing what I fear will go down in history as an enormously unwise maneuver. Of course even after the bill passed Congress there was hope that cooler heads would prevail ... but that hope would have required a more circumspect occupant of the White House than we currently find ourselves burdened with. At 1:11 a.m., the president of the United States, having returned early from his weekend vacation (something even the devastating tsunami couldn't prod him to do, as Jon Stewart pointed out aptly on Monday's "The Daily Show,") was awakened
and came out into the hallway of the White House residence to sign the hot-off-the-presses bill "For the relief of the parents of Theresa Marie Schiavo."
Regardless of the outcome now (the first federal ruling this morning was that the feeding tube can stay out, and it's unlikely that this will be overturned on appeal at either the circuit court or Supreme Court level), Congress and the president have set a very dangerous precedent in taking this precipitous and unnecessary action. As the New York Times
this morning, this "new law tramples on the principle that this is a 'nation of laws, not of men,' and it guts the power of the states." Taken together with the moves toward the 'nuclear option' (see my post from yesterday), "President Bush and his Congressional allies have begun to enunciate a new principle: the rules of government are worth respecting only if they produce the result we want
[emphasis mine]. It may be a formula for short-term political success, but it is no way to preserve and protect a great republic." I couldn't agree more, and I think it goes far beyond these two issues (that is another post for another day). The entire editorial is quite well done and I urge you to read it if if you haven't already.
Republicans seem to be hopeful that they'll be able to capitalize on this issue in next fall's elections, and in fact they may be able to do just that, by lulling those who vote on issues such as this to think that the "culture of life" really matters to those prattling legislators who pontificate so loudly about it.
Thankfully, the American people seem to be disinclined to agree with Congress on this one, with a new ABC News poll
showing large majorities saying that Congress' actions were "inappropriate" (70%) and "politically motivated"(67%) and supporting the removal of Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube (63%). It's a tragedy, for sure, but it's a family
tragedy, which is being replicated all around the country every day without the same level of interest and media frenzy that this case has attracted. Is Congress now going to start handling each of those cases too as soon as Randall Terry shows up with his minions and starts demanding action? I don't know about you, but I can think of a few thousand other problems I'd rather have my elected representatives and my president spending their time debating and finding solutions for.For further reading
-The Bull Moose
and Slate's Dahlia Lithwick
also have interesting things to say about this case and the ridiculousness and hypocrisy of Congress' involvement in it.
-More editorials against Congressional action from the Washington Post
, Boston Herald
-An interesting little piece from Media Matters
(via Talking Points Memo
) about how CNN was playing some interesting games with a bit of polling data).
] I learned this morning that Senator John Warner of Virginia was also on the Senate floor Sunday afternoon when that chamber passed "Terri's Law", and that he stated his opposition during the voice vote. In a well-done piece
by Adam Nagourney in today's Times
, Warner says: "This senator has learned from many years you've got to separate your own emotions from the duty to support the Constitution of this country. These are fundamental principles of federalism." March 23, 8:30 a.m.