Mar 242005

I’ve been away for a few days. I was in Pittsburg on business, and then had a ton of work to do yesterday when I returned to the office.

During these past few days I have been following the Terri Schiavo case with interest. I was simply dumbfounded by the President making a big show of rushing back to Washington from his vacation in order to sign Congress’ bill to overturn the sanctity of marriage (more on that in a minute). First, I shudder to think what that cost. I’m pretty sure we could have faxed him the bill for a lot less money. But of course, as the Republican memo that recently surfaced made clear, this was all for political show anyway.

How incredibly hypocritical it is for Bush to play this part in the circus that.s become the Terri Shiavo case. This is the man who, as Governor of Texas, signed a law that says if you can’t afford the extraordinary care, then regardless of how your parents? feel, the doctors can discontinue those life saving measures. A baby recently died in Texas after being removed from support under this law, and against the wishes of the baby’s mother. I wonder what she thinks of Bush?s hollow grandstanding.

While traveling Monday, I made it a point to ask a few people what they thought. I was struck with how Terri’s husband has been vilified. Not surprisingly, the message has been that he’s somehow profiting from this, and that Terri just never got the right care. I did take time to point out to the cabbie that he was wrong on both counts. But, I guess taking a lesson from Carl Rove, the Schindlers have managed to control the message, while Terri’s husband has tried to keep a difficult and private situation private.

Because he has kept to himself, the media message has been all about these poor parents, the Schindlers, trying valiantly to “save” their daughter. I’m not sure what they are saving her from, but they have to do what they believe is right. We should respect, but we must also respect Terri’s husband as well. Much is being made of how he is now living with another woman, and not really Terri’s husband, blah, blah, blah. Let’s please remember this has been going on for fifteen years. Her husband was with her in the beginning, and has continued to see that she has received excellent care.

It’s the very fact that he has continued to pursue this when it would obviously be easier to divorce Terri and move on with his life which tells me he is respecting her and her wishes. He doesn’t profit from her death. That’s one of those pieces of misinformation the right wingnuts have managed to put into play. The guy has spent a fortune on legal fees, trying to enforce his wife’s wishes.

It was bad enough the Florida Legislature inserted itself into this situation a few years ago, but what an embarrassment for Congress to step in. I realize Tom Delay needed something to crowd him off the front pages, but this really was beyond the pale. The Republicans are supposed to be the government of less government interference. I think they lose the high ground on that one, and the Democrats should be pounding them on their “sanctity of marriage” stands.

As the New York Times wrote, “The Bush administration and the current Congressional leadership like to wax eloquent about states’ rights. But they dropped those principles in their rush to stampede over the Florida courts and Legislature…It may be a formula for short-term political success, but it is no way to preserve and protect a great republic.”

When the Founders wrote the Constitution, they devoted the largest section to spelling out the powers of Congress. Nowhere did they include the right to play doctor. Terri Schiavo’s story is tragic enough without political malpractice. Perhaps, the next time one of our congressmen has a pain or feels ill, he should send a snippet of video of himself to his doctor for diagnosis. I just don’t understand how people can claim to be Christian but are willing to vote for politicians who cut health care for the poor. Then when these same political hacks pretend to be so concerned about Terri, they believe them. What is ironic is that these same conservatives have for years expressed their fears that Democrats, or what they find most despicable, liberals, would take power in the government, and use it to further control people’s lives through regulation.

I am struck by the fact that one of their arguments was that Terri deserved the same rights to due process as a convicted murder. I couldn’t agree more, but you see, this is all about messaging. The Pittsburgh cabbie agreed with that argument. He was surprised to learn the case had been under court review for nearly 10 years, and had already been appealed to the Supreme Court, and that Terri had, at various times, had court appointed Guardians. I remain amazed at the capacity of Americans to hear only what they want to hear. I remember reading one medical ethicist who explained that Terri Schiavo had received more due process than anyone in medical history (literally).

Americans can have different personal opinions about what should happen to Terri Schiavo. Life is precious, and this case raises some important ethical questions. But we can all agree that that’s what the courts are for: to make the call in difficult circumstances. That’s why Congress’ interference is such an ugly and shameful incident of political grandstanding. There’s no legislative purpose here, just a blatant attempt to play politics with someone’s life.

I am sickened by the ruckus of the “right to lifers” (I’ve never quite figured out why they are protesting in Florida instead of outside the hospital in Texas where a baby was allowed to die against the mother’s wishes because they couldn’t afford to pay) and right wing religious zealots have made. They have turned a very personal and private affair into a public circus. I respect Judge Greer in St. Petersburg for finally doing what he can to halt interference by Gov. Bush’s Shaivo Gestapo, the Dept. of Children and Family Services. They claim to not have the money or resources to keep up with all the Children in their charge (a number have been lost and murdered by caregivers), yet they have the people and time to aggressively insert themselves into this situation.

So lets summarize the current state of affairs:

The party of limited government has decided it is okay to insert themselves into the most personal and private of medical situations.

The President is interested in saving lives, but only so long as you can afford to pay the bill.

The “right-to-lifers” don’t think its okay for a husband to follow the end-of-life wishes of his wife, but its okay to let a baby die in Texas against the wishes of his mother, just because they can’t afford the required care.

What a sick country we have become. When are we going to hold accountable the Bush’s, Frist’s and Delay’s of this country? Where are our values?

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