The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

28 March 2005

Machiavelli has an off day

Was the Congressional action to save Terri Schiavo a cynical political ploy? Michael Barone says no:

It is possible that Democrats, if in control, might not have summoned a special session. But this was not a purely partisan issue. Democrats did vote for the bill and made its passage possible. Proceedings in the Senate could have been stopped by a single objection to a unanimous-consent request. No senator objected. Minority Leader Harry Reid cooperated fully with Republicans. In the House, enough Democrats returned from recess to provide the necessary quorum, and 46 Democrats voted for the bill, while 53 voted against.

Were all these Democrats and Republicans acting cynically? I don't think so. Take Sen. Tom Harkin, a liberal Democrat who worked for the measure. Harkin's interest arose from his long concern for the disabled he was a chief sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act and his desire to protect the rights of the incapacitated. Were his views informed by his Roman Catholic faith? I don't know, but what if they were? Legislators are under no obligation to have moral principles entirely divorced from religious beliefs. I can't answer for every member who voted for the bill or against it. But the quality of the debate suggests to me that large majorities on both sides were acting out of reasoned moral conviction more than political calculation.

And besides, the political fallout from the move, if you believe the pollsters, has been almost entirely negative. Evil Genius Karl Rove simply doesn't make this kind of mistake.

If I have any cynicism here, it stems from that dubious "talking points" memo that was somehow passed off as Republican instructions.

Posted at 9:33 AM to Life and/or Death , Political Science Fiction

The claim that somehow the effort to save Terri was somehow going to hurt the GOP just never made sense to me.

But I do think there needs to be a limit, a point at which we recognize that no one person is more valuable to us than even a bad law. At that point, we find that we can either save Terri, or we can ensure that no other person finds herself in Terri's position.

Things are already lawless enough in our nation's judicial system. Making it more lawless helps no one.

Posted by: McGehee at 12:03 PM on 28 March 2005

I'm skeptical that the talking points were a plant simply because, in all honesty, they're callous but really not too damning. Honestly, the issue DOES ignite aspects of the pro-life base for the GOP, and there is nothing else in the talking points that seems particularly exploitive. If it were a Democratic trick, I suspect the memo would have been much more sharply incriminating in tone.

I agree with McGehee, incidentally, on what the primary issue is now. I've been of the belief that the brunt of neurologists and appellate judges needs to be respected, but I know decent people disagree on that count. At this point, however, it seems to me that all sides need to adhere to the rule of law. The alternative to that is when it gets scary for me ...

Posted by: Chase at 12:29 PM on 28 March 2005

You mean "talking points" memos *aren't* Republican instructions?!?


And, while Rove might not make that kind of mistake, with Dobson throwing his weight around, someone else might have. *shrugs*

I think I'm getting "Just Plain Tired" of politics.

Posted by: aldahlia at 3:01 PM on 30 March 2005

Historically, at least a few Republican instructions could have been characterized as "screaming points" (not to be confused with Bush 41's "thousand points of light").

Posted by: CGHill at 7:20 PM on 30 March 2005


Posted by: aldahlia at 2:51 PM on 31 March 2005