Friday, March 25, 2005

Revenge of the Living Dead 

We have assumed all along that the Schiavo case is one of those issues Thomas Frank likes to talk about, on which the Republicans "choose to lose" -- in other words, they expect to accomplish exactly nothing beyond making a "bold" but politically doomed stand, the inevitable failure of which will reinforce the self-pity and martyrdom fantasies of their fundamentalist base (and maybe pull in a buck or two in the process). That strategy -- talk a good evangelical game, but don't actually do anything that might alienate mainstream voters -- has always paid off in the past, but this time around, the GOP might just end up hoist by its own petard: as we reported on Wednesday, 82% of Americans (and a startling two-thirds of evangelicals) think Congress should have kept its nose out of the Schiavo family's business altogether -- and more intriguingly, the other 18% seem to be losing their tolerance for Republican lip service. Will the hardcore religious right turn on the Bros. Bush for their failure to keep that feeding tube jammed down Terri's gullet? According to the Moonie Times, they already have:
All this is producing pressure on [Jeb] Bush.

"Our last hope is the governor," said Brother Paul O'Donnell, spiritual adviser to Bob and Mary Schindler, Terri Schiavo's parents who have been trying to keep her alive.

"We have been told by legal experts that the governor can intervene. He may not want to because of public image, but he does have the legal authority to do so," O'Donnell said Friday . . . .

Many of those advocating for the re-insertion of Schiavo's feeding tube appear to have turned on the governor already. Bush was the target of two Good Friday vigils in Tallahassee, and considerable anger from the right.

"He raised the family's hopes, but he still hasn't acted. This, in our opinion, is reprehensible," said an angry Randall Terry, a right-to-life activist.

The unhappiness with Bush is not limited to the religious right. Moderate members of his own Republican Party say they resent being dragged along on his attempt to keep the woman alive . . . .

In any case, any attempts to appease the religious right may have already backfired.

Terry, the pro-life activist, promised political retribution if Schiavo dies.

"I promise you, if she dies, there's going to be hell to pay with pro-life, pro-family, Republican people of various legislative levels, but statewide and federally, who have used pro-life, pro-family, conservative rhetoric to get into power and then when they have the power they refuse to use it," Terry said.
And, from the Washington Post (via Zemblan patriot J.M., who is en fuego today):
Republican lawmakers and others engaged in the debate say an internal party dispute over the Schiavo case has ruptured, at least temporarily, the uneasy alliance between economic and social conservatives that twice helped President Bush get elected.

"Advocates of using federal power to keep this woman alive need to seriously study the polling data that's come out on this," said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, who has been talking to both social and economic conservatives about the fallout. "I think that a lot of conservative leaders assumed there was broader support for saying that they wanted to have the federal government save this woman's life" . . . .

One senior GOP lawmaker involved in the negotiations, who did not want to speak for the record, said that [Rep. Tom] DeLay, who is fighting ethics charges on several fronts, faced considerable pressure from Christian conservative groups to respond to pleas by the parents of the brain-damaged woman to intervene before her husband, Michael Schiavo, removed the feeding tube that kept her alive. The lawmaker said that DeLay "wanted to follow through" but added that many House Republicans were dubious and suspected that the leader's ethics problems were a motivating factor . . . .

There has been similar grumbling in the Senate, where the Schiavo effort was led by Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), a former transplant surgeon who is retiring in 2006, presumably to run for president; Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), a conservative Catholic who also may harbor presidential ambitions; and freshman Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.).

Aides to other Republican senators said there was little discussion of the matter outside that group. "It definitely would have gone down differently had it actually been considered," a senior aide to a moderate Republican senator said.
So: will Terri Schiavo ultimately have her revenge for the suffering Jeb Bush, Tom DeLay et al have forced her to endure?
To the casual observer, when Terri Schiavo's eyes are closed, she appears to be asleep. But unlike Sleeping Beauty, Schiavo cannot be aroused. She is unable to recognize and respond to her surroundings except in one way -- she can respond to noxious stimuli.

This is one of the reasons her parents, and Congress, argue to keep her body alive. But "responds to noxious stimuli" is a euphemism for "reacts to pain." The doctor's test for this is usually to run his or her knuckles firmly on the breastbone or press down hard on the fingernails or eye sockets. Try it. It hurts.

So there Terri Schiavo lies -- unable to move, poked and prodded, turned and repositioned. Her bowels and bladder flow uncontrollably, and if they don't, a catheter is inserted or an enema given to make sure they do. "Noxious stimuli" are applied regularly to make sure she is still "there" . . . .

In short, Schiavo is being kept alive so that she can continue to experience pain.
UPDATE: This shit is getting out of hand:
Hours after a judge ordered that Terri Schiavo was not to be removed from her hospice, a team of state agents were en route to seize her and have her feeding tube reinserted -- but they stopped short when local police told them they would enforce the judge's order, The Herald has learned.

Agents of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement told police in Pinellas Park, the small town where Schiavo lies at Hospice Woodside, on Thursday that they were on the way to take her to a hospital to resume her feeding.

For a brief period, local police, who have officers at the hospice to keep protesters out, prepared for what sources called ``a showdown.''

In the end, the squad from the FDLE and the Department of Children & Families backed down, apparently concerned about confronting local police outside the hospice.

''We told them that unless they had the judge with them when they came, they were not going to get in,'' said a source with the local police.

''The FDLE called to say they were en route to the scene,'' said an official with the city police who requested anonymity. ``When the sheriff's department and our department told them they could not enforce their order, they backed off.''
UPDATE II (3/26): From the Washington Post:
The president has said nothing publicly about the bitterly contested case since Wednesday, when reporters asked about it and he said he had exhausted his powers to intervene. On Saturday, as he used his weekly radio address to express condolences to the victims of a school shooting in Minnesota and extol a "culture that affirms life," he did not mention the most prominent culture-of-life issue in the public eye.

The juxtaposition of racing through the night in Air Force One to sign legislation intended to force doctors to reinsert Schiavo's feeding tube and choosing not to use his bully pulpit to advocate for her life afterward demonstrates how uncomfortable the matter has become for the White House. For years, Bush has succeeded politically in stitching together the disparate elements of the conservative movement, marrying the libertarian and family-values wings of his party. Now he faces a major Republican rupture . . . .

"It's been a very sticky issue for the president," said Stephen Moore, a Bush ally and president of the Free Enterprise Fund, which promotes limited government. "I think no matter what course he took, he was going to come under criticism. I personally believe Bush would have been better off not intervening at all."

Bush's approval rating fell from 52 percent to 45 percent in a week's time, according to a survey by USA Today, CNN and the Gallup organization, its lowest level ever in that poll. The biggest drop in support, the poll found, was among men, conservatives and churchgoers. A CBS News poll similarly found that Bush's favorable rating had dropped by six percentage points since February, to 43 percent.

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