The Thugs of Congress
This week we witnessed William Frist, Tom Delay, and not a few Democrats as well, stooping to new depths as they kicked the virtually lifeless body of Terri Schiavo around Congress for personal political gain. In the process, they are trampling the Constitution, ignoring the nation's important business, and undermining the very 'rights' of state government conservatives once hailed as a hallmark of federalism. As the exasperated Rude Pundit exclaims, "What these disgusting, dirt-covered worms won't do to eat the flesh off the body politic."
During breaks in the other Urgent Policy Question facing the Nation -- whether washed-up baseball players are now or were ever using steroid muscle enhancers -- the U.S. House and Senate issued subpoenaes demanding that Florida nursing home patient Terry Schiavo, her care-givers, and afflicted family members testify -- along with a pointed warning that it is a federal felony to 'interefere' with a congressional subpoenae. These subpoenas, Michael Shiavo's lawyer responded, are nothing short of thuggery .
"Meanwhile," the Village Voice's 'Bush Watch' notes, "more important topics still await full hearings by Congress. Like the Bush regime's unwarranted invasion of Iraq, the thousands of dead people that have resulted, and the scandal of "reconstruction."
The New York Times' Carl Hulse reports both Republicans and Democrats see profit in the distraction of a Florida family's private personal agony:
"For Republicans, it was a chance to try to carve out new territory in the "culture of life" issues so paramount to passionate religious conservatives, who have flooded Congressional offices with messages beseeching help in keeping Ms. Schiavo alive. For Democrats still struggling in the wake of their defeat in the November elections, the case offered a way to portray their newfound willingness to move to the center on such issues.
And for Representative Tom DeLay, the House majority leader facing inquiries into fund-raising improprieties in Texas and potential violations of House travel rules in Washington, taking a prominent role in rallying conservatives to the Schiavo cause also provided a sudden distraction from his troubles."
The laugh is that the very congressmen trying to stick the Federal Government's nose into the Schiavo family's private misery actually know next to nothing about Terri Schiavo herself. According to the St. Petersburg Times:
"Members in both chambers were clearly not familiar with all details of the case. They mispronounced her name. They proclaimed she was not in a vegetative state, even though experts say she is and a court agreed. They claimed she did not receive certain brain scans when she had. They wrongly claimed no judge had even granted a family member removal of a feeding tube."
Yesterday's VOA News did a good job of succinctly putting the day's events in context. Since few other media cared enough to tell the story in full context, I'll quote the article at some length:
"The Florida woman has been in what doctors call a persistent vegetative state for 15 years after her heart temporarily stopped beating, possibly due to an eating disorder.The Schiavo case has been fully tried by a Florida court, and appealed, and re-tried, and appealed again, and re-appealed even again over more than a dozen years. In every instance, the evidence has been compelling that Terri Schiavo lies in a vegetative state (not a 'coma') and that it was her wish that she be allowed to die if faced by such circumstances.
Terri Schiavo's husband and her parents have been fighting each other in Florida courts about whether she should be kept alive. Terri Schiavo's parents say their daughter's changing facial expressions are not involuntary, as medical experts say, but evidence of cognition and even emotion.
Kenneth Goodman who is the director of the Bioethics program at the University of Miami has followed the case closely. He says such reactions from close relatives in end-of-life cases are not unusual, but medical experts who have examined Terri Shiavo say she will never regain consciousness.
"There is no cognition in this poor woman,” he said. “There is nothing going on in her poor head. It is a tragedy and it has torn a family apart but the medical facts are not in dispute among credible physicians. She is in a persistent vegetative state. The fact of the matter is that her cerebral cortex is full of spinal fluid. She is incapable of experiencing or thinking anything."
Nearly two years ago, after a court ruled that Mr. Schiavo had the legal right to remove his wife's feeding tube, Florida's legislature passed an emergency measure allowing Florida's Governor, Jeb Bush, to intervene in the case. Mr. Bush, a staunch supporter of Terri Schiavo's parents, ordered that she be kept alive.
However, Florida's Supreme Court ruled against the governor [on the grounds the Governor and legislature had violated the separation of powers provision of the state constitition], and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case, clearing the way for Michael Schiavo to remove the feeding tube. Kenneth Goodman of the University of Miami says the case, and its seemingly never-ending appeals has now become a political issue.
"I do not think the country has seen anything this extraordinary,” he added. “This is in the realm of health care, the most litigated case ever. This case has bounced up and back through the courts over a long period of time. The worst thing about it is that it is driven by distinctive facts of a family dispute and a bunch of partisans who have managed to push all the right buttons."
No one has covered the case longer, in greater detail, or with more careful objectivity than Matt Conigliaro at Abstract Appeal. He's a Tampa lawyer who has no connection whatsoever to the matter except that he chooses to report on court rulings and other developments in a lawyerly-like, objective way. For those with an interest in knowing the facts (Fox News need not apply) you can study the detailed Timeline Conigliaro has maintained for MANY years before the press lemmings and political opportunists discovered the case in the last few days.
In Florida, even the extremist Christian Right-wing Republican dominated state legislature at the last moment stepped back from the brink of unconstitutionally overruling the state supreme court for a second time. The Florida state senate actually showed more sense than Congress when it narrowly rejected a proposal that many feared would have invalidated all 'living wills' across the state. (The U.S. Supreme Court long ago ruled, says the Kansas City Star, "that terminally ill people have a constitutional right to refuse treatment that would keep them alive.")
Times reporter Hulse writes that in Washington, "Many Congressional Democrats were biting their tongues Friday as they witnessed what they considered an egregious misuse of power by Republicans." And he quotes a warning issued by Michael Schiavo's attorney to the Democratic party: "If they don't stand up for Terri Schiavo, they deserve to be the minority party."
No one says it better than the Rude Pundit: "Terri Schiavo must die." Congress should take its hands off our private lives. And the Democrats had better start standing up for our Constitutional right of privacy from Government interference -- or they will be the next to go on life support.
Her name is pronounced SHY-vo.