Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Blowback - the sour fruits of an unwanted victory

When Frist and DeLay convened their emergency meeting of congress, the dems ran for the hills. The Schiavo bill passed. Bush flew in from Texas, the only vacation he's ever left for any cause, and signed the bill.

I thought the Dems were being cowardly, but in retrospect, whether they planned it or not, this was a brilliant Judo move. The polling data on the public response is so intensely negative, even among Bush supporters, that Rove must have known how this would go. The only plausible explanation for Frist and DeLay's action is that Rove never intended to win. He didn't expect the Dems to turn tail; he figured the Senate (at least) would defeat the bill. Then Ms. Shiavo would die and the ongoing moral fervor would give DeLay cover to dodge his impending conviction.

Instead, the bill passed. A personal tragedy became a constitutional issue. So negative has the response been, that a recent ABC news story has convinced activist groups like MoveOn to play politics themselves. I think this is a mistake, the dems should stay out of this one entirely. The MoveOn petition letter, however, has some noteworthy comments:
... a memo intended only for Republican Senators—uncovered by ABC News—reveals Republicans' true concern: "The pro-life base will be excited...this is a great political issue...this is a tough issue for Democrats." This story also takes the heat off Tom DeLay, who is facing a number of serious ethics charges and legal scandals...

...The New York Times talked to David Davenport of the Hoover Institute, a conservative research organization, who said, "When a case like this has been heard by 19 judges in six courts and it's been appealed to the Supreme Court three times, the process has worked even if it hasn't given the result that the social conservatives want. For Congress to step in really is a violation of federalism."

..."It's disturbing that doctors who would never venture a comment about the health of anybody from a homemade video are sitting on the floor of Congress making declarations," said Art Caplan, chairman of the Department of Medical Ethics at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Medicine. "My own impression, from a distance, is that they've subverted what they know to be good medicine for the aim of achieving a political goal."

...And reporters are now raising questions about a right-to-die law Bush signed as Texas governor, contradicting his position in the Schiavo case. Just last week, the law was applied for the first time, allowing doctors to remove a critically ill infant from life support against his mother's wishes. According to the Houston Chronicle, this marks the first time in American history that courts allowed a pediatric patient to die against the wishes of their parent.[7] As the Knight Ridder News service reports:

..."The mother down in Texas must be reading the Schiavo case and scratching her head," said Dr. Howard Brody, the director of Michigan State University's Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences. "This does appear to be a contradiction." Brody said that, in taking up the Schiavo case, Bush and Congress had shattered a body of bioethics law and practice."
Despite my quoting of the some noteworthy comments (I can't resist either) I still think the Dems should lay low and let the Republicans roast in their juices. This is political madness and a sign of the deep sickness at the heart of the Republican party. Let that be seen for what it is.

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