Writing anything about the Terri Schiavo case is difficult. There are no winners here, and the best any of us can do is hope we never find ourselves in the situation of either her husband or her parents. That’s what to hope for; if you’re the praying type, pray that Congress has something more urgent to do (like being scandalized over a stray nipple) if you ever are in this situation.
Lest anyone get his or her dander up too soon, this will be a bi-partisan trashing. We’ll start with the Republicans, since they’re still teed up from last week. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist used his heart surgeon experience to look at an hour of selectively edited home video and decide Ms. Schiavo was really in a persistent vegetative state, regardless of what specialists and tests have shown for fifteen years. That got the ball rolling in the hallowed halls of Congress.
Frist, Rick Santorum, and Mel Martinez got together a rump session of the Senate, had a quick debate, and shoved through by voice vote a bill allowing Terri’s parents access to federal courts. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, desperately needing to show what a fine moral person he is in the face of a growing ethics scandal, rounded up as many House members as he could for a vote at 12:01 AM Monday. Rain Man flew back from Texas on Air Force One just to sign it.
The Schindlers have now been to every building they can find with a flag on it, looking for a judge to order Terri’s feeding tube re-inserted. Not only has that been unsuccessful, they can’t even find a judge who will hear the case. Their attorney now has his own personal seat at the rail of the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta and the Supreme Court in Washington, sort of a frequent flyer privilege so he doesn’t have to stand in line to file the appeal du jour.
Shoving bills through Congress on virtually no notice with virtually no debate is bad practice, and not what the Founding Fathers had in mind, no matter what these allegedly strict Constitutional adherents say. Writing law for a single individual is at least as bad an idea. The precedent isn’t just bad, it’s dangerous, and absurdly hypocritical for these flag-draped advocates of limited government.
Congressional leaders even had the temerity to rip the first federal judge to deny the case for the dreaded “judicial activism,” a term usually reserved for judges who overstep their authority and find rights the conservatives don’t think are in the Constitution. (It’s funny how no one ever cites the Tenth Amendment when talk of fictional rights comes up. Those of you lacking the time or interest to look up the Tenth Amendment are just going to have to guess what it says. I’m not your eighth-grade civics teacher.) What would they call it had the Democrats tried to pull something like this, interfering in a personal legal situation? The aforementioned Mr. DeLay would be on the Dems like cheap veneer.
Ah, yes, the Democrats. Remember how they were mad as hell and weren’t going to take it anymore when they lost not just the presidency, but seats in both houses of Congress? In what must have been a tribute to Tom “I Have Kids so I Must Have Had Balls Once” Daschle, new Minority Leader Harry Reid couldn’t dredge up one senator willing to demand a roll call or ask for a quorum count. There can be only one explanation for this: they didn’t want any backlash from right-to-lifers.
This shows why the Dems have been out of power for several terms and aren’t likely to get it back soon. First, they’re stupid. No hard-core right-to-lifer has voted for a “progressive” Democrat since Bill O’Reilly got his own impartial, unbiased show. Second, and even worse, they’re pussies. Stand for something, for crying out loud. I doubt that a majority of the American people agree with the whole conservative Republican agenda, yet they keeping voting for its shepherds. Why? Because the Democrats don’t have enough starch to stand for anything themselves. It’s like a car crash or a football tackle: the object providing the momentum more likely to inflict damage than to receive it. Republicans will win until some counterforce is applied.
The Dems’ just desserts are in the polls. Large majorities of Americans think Congress pulled a boner this time, grossly overstepping any measure of propriety, if not authority. It doesn’t seem to matter which end of the political spectrum people are on, they don’t like it.
Democrats didn’t have to make a political football out of this, all they had to do was what’s right. We’ve had precedents and processes in place for well over two hundred years. Stand by them. It’s been so long since Democrats stood for anything other than not being Republicans, they probably don’t remember how.