Monday, March 28, 2005

Schiavo – It Ain't Even CLOSE to Over

PLUS SIDE (there is one)

On the plus side of this giant botch, I saw a Pew poll in the Sun-Times on Saturday asking who should have the power to decide in circumstances without a will (living or otherwise): 50% for the spouse, 35% for the parents, and 2% for government. I don't know what happened to the other 13%; maybe they want Oprah to decide, or possibly a celebrity jury. Congress can appoint a blue ribbon panel from the exploding ranks of current and former celebrity jurists: I nominate Simon Cowell, Heidi Klum, and the guy from Hoobastank (who shall remain nameless).

A poll from CBS shows even more support for the spouse over the parents, in general and hypothetical situations, as well as some other numbers comforting to me (which says my comfort bar is pretty low, but I'll take what I can get)...

[see CBS' fancy graphics below!!]

MINUS SIDES (there are so many)

This has presented us with some outstanding examples of GOP flipfloppery in areas they are supposed to be so mainstream...

GWB - Now: "[It] is a complex case with serious issues, but in extraordinary circumstances like this, it is wisest to always err on the side of life."

GWB Before Schiavo: In 1998, Gov. GWB signed the Texas Futile Care Law. The law allows for the termination of life-sustaining treatment for patients with "irreversible" conditions (i.e., conditions from which they will not recover and which leave them unable to care for themselves) even if their higher brain functions are completely normal. The law contemplates that a fully competent patient may be served by his health-care provider with a 10-day notice to find another provider or have his plug pulled; it provides that the patient has the right to attend the committee meeting at which his fate is to be decided.

Sen. Bill FristNow: Twice claims, on the Senate floor, Schiavo is not in a persistent vegetative state. "I question it based on a review of the video footage which I spent an hour or so looking at last night in my office." He is a heart surgeon, not a neurologist, and has never examined Schiavo in person. He would never give this advice in an actual medical situation (which, for him, this is not), for fear of malpractice liability, and would defer to an expert, which he is not.

Frist -- Before Schiavo (specifically about Christopher Reeve, and John Edwards calling for federal stem cell research funding after Reeve's death): "I find it opportunistic to use the death of someone like Christopher Reeve -- I think it is shameful -- in order to mislead the American people," Frist said. "We should be offering people hope, but neither physicians, scientists, public servants or trial lawyers like John Edwards should be offering hype. It is cruel to people who have disabilities and chronic diseases, and, on top of that, it's dishonest. It's giving false hope to people, and I can tell you as a physician who's treated scores of thousands of patients that you don't give them false hope."

Sen. Tom Coburn - NY Times, 3/23/05: Among them was Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma and a family practice doctor, who said in an interview, 'I don't think you have to examine her. All you have to do is look at her on TV. Any doctor with any conscience can look at her and know that she does not have a terminal disease and know that she has some function.'

Coburn: Tulsa World, 7/20/98: [In] an interview after [Coburn]'s panel appearance, he conceded the issue of caring for a terminally ill patient brings with it complex questions and is not always simple. For example, under certain circumstances when there is no hope of recovery, he said physicians should have the option of withholding nutrients and water from a dying patient. Coburn said he has done that in the past. 'If somebody does not want a feeding tube, I won't put a feeding tube down,' he said.

Rep. Tom DeLay's brew of opportunism, paranoia, and diversionary hypocrisy is truly unique. NOW: "It's not for any one of us to decide what her quality of life should be." And read this speech, as it is WAY out there, and not reducible to quotes. He has also called removing feeding tubes from Schiavo “medical terrorism” and “murder”.

DeLay -- 1998 and onward:DeLay's own father was disconnected from life support in 1988 , with Rep. DeLay's assent, after a “freak accident”, which then led DeLay and his family to sue a manufacturer in a product liability lawsuit, the kind he has advanced his career by opposing.

It is so plainly obvious that the states-rights lovin', anti-federal crusadin', Big Government bashin', Big Brother fearin', fear-of-judicial-power milkin', pro-family hallelujahin', pro-life marchin' stances of so much of the GOP are ripe for flipfloppery, if they think they might gain a few more seats in 2006.

BONUS MINUS– violence!!

Time will tell if we'll see more appeals to Congressional mercy, and more one-off laws passed, and what fabulous and unforeseeable legal precedents will roll out of all this. Right now, we face appeals to use force and attempted uses of force, by citizens and by the government.

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush sent some modern-day Pinkertons (state police fronting Florida Dept of Family & Children investigators) down to Terri's hospice last Thursday to obtain custody of her by force and remove her to a facility to reinsert her feeding tube. This was in direct contradiction of JB's pledge to stay within the powers of his office, and in contravention of court order (multiple orders, actually).

Luckily, the local cops there showed a greater sense of duty to their oaths and due process than the state police who, in the showdown that occurred, decided using force against the local police enforcing the judge's ruling was not a smart choice, no matter what Jeb Bush and the Florida Department of Families and Children thought.

Now, ya think a Governor ordering that use of force emboldens those already looking for a cause for less-than-civil disobedience, i.e. lawless, gun toting vigilantism and/or mob rule in the name of “the sanctity of life”?

Here's some examples for you:

  1. One loony on the parents side (as though the parents want this kind of support), armed with a box cutter, tried stealing a gun to go “free” Terri.
  2. Another was arrested for offering an actual bounty for both Michael Schiavo's and the presiding judge's deaths, sent via email to two news organizations and a “national conservative talk show”.
  3. Complete racist nutjob Hal Turner publicly advocated that violence used to “save” her is justified. (BTW, he also has made remarks approving of the murders of Judge Lefkow's family. His verbatim remark: “Gotcha!”) Then he demanded Pres. Bush send in federal troops and use whatever means necessary to suppress the “rebellion” in Florida, and capture or kill whoever he must, to bring Terri Schiavo to Congress, in accordance with their subpoena.

GWB has also explicitly pledged to stay within the powers of his office in this whole mess – i.e. respect the judgments of the judicial system, at the state and federal level. So far, he has not acted and, therefore, stayed within his constitutional powers, and I think he will continue to do so, as his political advisers are at least smart enough to keep him from provoking a full constitutional crisis over this (at least I hope they are). I don't get the actual sense that he would be so forthright or committed to jurisprudence if he thought the polls pointed in a different direction, at least within his much doted-on evangelical base. turns out evangelicals are not happy either: that CBS poll puts evangelicals at 68% against Congressional or Presidential involvement. Also, a Time poll shows that 54% of all people surveyed will hold involvement in the Schiavo situation against their Congresspersons, come the next election. So GWB can, and will, take the high road, let her die (finally), and be able to pander to them, and everyone else, about his respect for life, law, and the American Way.

It probably makes GWB wish we could get back to the good old days, when he was getting his butt kicked over wanting to privatize Social Security. It should make us all wish for DeLay, Frist, Jeb Bush, and all the other control freaks trying to horn in on the Schiavo'sunending, nightmarish feud, would get back to mishandling actual governmental concerns, lest they encourage or tacitly sanction more individual violence, or just resort to the use of force between federal, state, and local governments.

That would be bad, to say the absolute least.

Those poll numbers from CBS:

They care about Terri Schiavo
Trying to advance political agenda


Federal government should decide
State government should decide
Government should stay out

There are no partisan political differences on this issue: majorities of Democrats (89 percent), Republicans (72 percent), liberals (84 percent) and conservatives (76 percent) are in agreement that the government should not be involved. 68 percent of white evangelicals think that Congress and the President should stay out of the Schiavo case


Adult children


Same as murder

Not the same

There is a strong partisan element to these views; the President’s approval rating is especially low among Democrats (11 percent approve), while 85 percent of Republicans approve.

As a matter of national priority, the public continues to say the war in Iraq (26 percent) and the economy and jobs (15 percent) are the most important problems facing the U.S. today. Only 6 percent mention Social Security, about the same as last month.

This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 737 adults interviewed by telephone March 21-22, 2005. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus four percentage points for results based on all adults. Error for subgroups may be higher.

PS: Read about the sad details of Michael Schiavo and the Schindlers here, and see that Michael is likely not the devil he is made to be.


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