Monday, March 21, 2005

Three-ring Media Circus

This week, the Mandarin has been meditating on the Bush Republican team’s astonishing turnabout on “states rights” in the case of Terri Schiavo (Italian pronunciation: skya-vo).

The same Bush camp who had the federal Supreme Court overturn the Florida Supreme court’s ruling (about its own state’s voting rules) in the landmark 2000 election case, has once again asserted the big government prerogative (or click is it “arrogative?”) of meddling in affairs reserved by the Constitution to the individual states.

Marshall Wittman – a political centrist in the Teddy Roosevelt tradition – has written it far better than I could in his Bull Moose Blog [here] on “Conservatism, R.I.P.” An excerpt:

“At its heart, conservatism had reverence for process and order. But what we are witnessing now is the triumph of ends over means. That is exactly what the right loathed about the left. In the eye of conservatives, the left would stretch the Constitution and the law to serve its so-called noble ends. Liberals would turn to the federal courts to nullify the judgments of localities. In the end, according to the right, the law of unintended consequences would prevail and the rule of law would be obliterated.”

Now, the Bush camp has hijacked the word “conservative” and turned it on its head.

The stakes in this media circus are high: Tom DeLay wants to appear moral to counteract continuing allegations of his dishonesty. Senator/Doctor Bill Frist, juggling Hippocrates and hypocrisy, is preparing to run for President in 2008. Current President Bush, as always wearing his religion on his sleeve, claims that in any case of doubt, “life” must get the nod no matter what the courts have ruled. Even though Mrs. Schiavo stated several times, to different people, her wish to be able die with dignity when the time came, “life” must get the nod, so Congress and the Federal courts must strike down her right to choose as granted by Florida law and upheld by Florida courts.

But, this is not really about Terri Schiavo at all. It as about Roe versus Wade. Pure and simple. If you doubt it, look who is advising Mrs. Schiavo’s parents and making statements to the media on their behalf: high-profile anti-abortion activist Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue. Go look: the “pro-life” movement has adopted Mrs. Schiavo as their new mascot [here].

And what of Mrs. Schiavo herself? Is she really “alive” in there? Senator Frist (2008 Presidential candidate and a cardiologist who no longer practices medicine), saw a home video of Mrs. Schiavo rolling her eyes and blinking when someone touched her hair. Diagnosis: not a vegetable.

But, at the Obsidian Wings blog [here], imbedded in a long and thoughtful essay on the ethical and political issues at stake, there is a comparative CAT scan [click] of Mrs. Schiavo’s brain and a normal one (actually the brain of one of her doctors). All neurologists consulted agree – there is little of her brain actually left in there, most of the area formerly occupied by her brain is now just a pool of spinal fluid. Eye and head movements interpreted by her parents as signs of consciousness are, in medical terms, reflexes originating in the surviving brain stem and spinal cord. The cerebrum, the large white organ we usually refer to as “the brain,” is essentially gone.

It is a shame Terri Schiavo didn’t execute a living will, or even better, a durable power of attorney as the Mandarin and many others have done. It is an even bigger shame that the so-called Religious Right and their political servants pandering to the anti-abortion movement have made this poor woman’s death a national circus attraction.

Here’s a final irony. Now, near death, she has become a slave to special interests. Mrs. Schiavo’s name means, in Italian, “slave.”

And, speaking of not being one’s own master, as Ed Kilgore said [here]:

“One thing is for sure: this case will boost the execution of Living Wills into the stratosphere. After this weekend, each of us must decide if we want to control what happens to us if we wind up like Terri Schiavo. Otherwise, Tom DeLay will decide it for us.”

P.S. For a time line with linked documents and far more than you ever wanted to know about this case, go here.

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