I've just about reached my limit when it comes to blogging on the Terry Schiavo episode, although each day seems to bring some new low you just didn't think possible. Between the crazy distortions fueling the 24/7 news cycle (Media Matters really has its hands full) and the teetering heights of lunacy required to climb to the new pinnacle of the crap heap, you wonder where some people get the energy.
But the thing I can't get my head around is -- what exactly do they want, these people who are screaming about the "right to life?" I mean, yes, we all know they want the feeding tube put back in and for Terri to remain hooked up to it for the rest of her life, however long that may be. And I do understand that many people's concern is for this particular case. But all this emotion, all this rage -- it's got to have a larger context, and so far the right-to-lifers have failed to define one. How would they change existing law such that this never happens again? What exactly is wrong with the law and the process, that this ever occurred in the first place?
Are they asking that in the absence of a living will, that extraordinary measures always be used to keep everyone alive? I'm not sure, maybe that's what the Catholics and the fundies in the base believe, but it sure as hell ain't what the GOP leadership wants. The cost to insurance companies and Medicare would be astronomical. Which is why GWB signed the bill that ultimately cut off the respirator and lead to the death of that baby boy in Texas -- even though the mother desperately wanted extraordinary measures used to keep the boy alive, the state was unwilling to pick up the tab.
So now they are railing about "activist judges" and courts. Which is pretty much where the GOP has pointed them -- the current Republican Congress has been steadily trying to erode the power of the judiciary for some time. Now, we'll pretend for a moment that it was one lone activist judge and not 19 who heard the case. Would they like to take away the right to judicial review? In which case Terri's parents would never have had the right to challenge the husband's decision in the matter, since the law as written gives the responsibility for the decision first to the spouse, then to adult children, and finally to parents. Fine, so you want to take the courts out of it. Who is going to decide in cases where there is a dispute? You think Congress is going to re-convene in the middle of the night every time someone wants to pull a respirator plug? Not bloody likely.
Do they want all parents to be given equal say with spouses? Nobody really seems to be asking for that -- giving multiple people responsibility for such decisions would be a pretty damned good way to make sure all these mattes wind up in court, and that seems to be counter-productive with what they're complaining about in the above. Do they want extraordinary measures to be used every time there is a dissenting physician who can be found who will say that there is some hope of recovery? That would be pretty ironic, given the general contempt for science on the part of most fundies and the fact that a couple hundred bucks can buy just about anyone a medical opinion saying just about anything. I haven't heard that argument being roundly touted, either.
No, every time they try and tie the rage over Terri to larger issues, it winds up lassoed to something completely tangential -- Peggy Noonan, the Wall Street Journal's drooling Jesus loon in residence, manages to sling the Terri matter around spousal abuse, drilling for oil in Alaska, saving the whales and even PETA, but ultimately it all sounds like the syphilitic ravings of a Bedlam resident.
I think it's actually in the interest of the DeLays and the Frists of the world to keep the whole thing in the land of extreme emotion and utter nonsense. Because once they start talking about realistic change to the existing system that actually WOULD keep more people alive and for longer, the rift between the big business-oriented GOP and their damn-the-expense base is going to be explosive. Fortunately for the leadership, the base has repeatedly proven itself unable to articulate any meaningful questions that would expose this potential schism, and has willingly allowed itself to be aimed at any convenient target in need of a good excoriation on that particular day.
But it looks like the party may be coming to an ugly, angry close. The night is over, the drugs are gone and the unforgiving light of day is hitting everyone in the face. Pro-lifer Randall Terry was on CNN yesterday, saying that the GOP will have "hell to pay" for cynically using the pro-life movement if they don't "save" Terri, accusing them of using the religious right to gain power and then doing nothing for them once they get there.
And you know what? For once I think he's right on the money.
Update: Wolcott lets us know that Charles Krauthammer is trying to feed the beast:
Not even waiting until Terri Schiavo is dead, he proposes Terri's Law to prevent future tugs of war over no-hope cases.Let's just be clear here. Big GOP contributors in the insurance industry? Happy as a clam with a right-to-lifer agenda that means they don't have to pay for abortions. But picking up hundreds of millions (if not billions) in extraordinary measures tabs? Mmmmm...not so happy.
The column rises above Krauthammer's standard of bilious character-assassination. For once, he seems to have put his sneer in the denture cup to let it rinse. But the conservative agenda is still secure in place. "There is no good outcome to this case. Except perhaps if Florida and the other states were to amend their laws and resolve conflicts among loved ones differently — by granting authority not necessarily to the spouse but to whatever first-degree relative (even if in the minority) chooses life and is committed to support it. Call it Terri's law. It would help prevent our having to choose in the future between travesty and tragedy.