Monday, March 21, 2005

The Circus Comes to Town
I don't believe I can recall a more nauseating political circus than the one that took place yesterday and today surrounding Terri Schiavo. The only other one that comes close was the Clinton impeachment six years ago--and as bad as that was, laden with hypocrisy though it was, rife with intellectual and political incoherence though it was, I am not sure it rises to the same level. The Clinton impeachment represented a danger to the Republic in that a rogue Congress tried to throw out a duly elected president for the flimsiest of reasons, but if impeachment had been successful, it would have messed with the private lives of citizens only indirectly. The Schiavo case is more dangerous because--among other reasons--it means that Congress can, and will, if it chooses to, intervene in the private lives of individual citizens, and those citizens' wishes and those of the judiciary be damned. The doctrine of separation of powers, all those checks and balances between branches we learn about in civics class, is badly damaged by this action--and if you consider this a one-time thing, you fail to understand what the Repugs are all about. They believe in straight-up democracy like you and I believe in the Tooth Fairy, and if their actions lead to one-party autocratic rule, Soviet-style, they don't care, as long as they're the one party.

The inconsistency of the Repugs' position in this case is mindblowing. States' rights? Only when a state does things our way. Preserving a culture of life? Only when acting to preserve it doesn't cost us any money--just last week Tom DeLay led the fight to cut the very program that would benefit people like Terri Schiavo through Medicare. In addition, the Schiavo case makes a fine argument for stem-cell research--which the Repugs are against. Neither do the Repugs honor the sanctity of marriage by permitting a husband and wife to carry out a decision they made together. (A caller to liberal talker Ed Schultz wondered this afternoon what the wingnuts would be doing in this case if Terri's spouse was named Michelle instead of Michael. "I'd pay to see that," she said--and so would I.) And George W. Bush himself signed a law in Texas as governor that permitted hospitals to cut off life support for patients, even against the wishes of their families--in cases where those families were unable to pay for care and the hospital no longer wished to pick up the expense.

Lesson: If you don't have a living will, get one (Terri Schiavo didn't)--but keep in mind that if Congress wants to, it can probably find a reason to invalidate that, too.

That so many Democrats signed onto the "Palm Sunday Compromise" is another example of the party getting snookered into going along with a rotten idea instead of standing its ground, although I have to admit I can understand the damage an incumbent might face two years from now from a campaign ad saying "Representative So-n-So voted to KILL Terri Schiavo." And that's the real reason DeLay, Frist, and the other Shi'ites in the GOP are perpetuating this goat-roping. It isn't because they care about Terri Schiavo. Amazingly enough, the public, and even the party's own hardcore evangelical base, seems to know it. Kevin Drum cites an ABC News poll that show huge majorities saying Congress shouldn't be involved and they're doing it for political advantage. A CNN poll makes similar points. Hell, even an Internet poll on the Fox News website earlier today said that Congress shouldn't have gotten involved.

Amazing. Infuriating. And for lots of reasons, terribly sad.

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