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Fearless Philosophy For Free Minds: Life, Death, & Political Hypocrisy

Friday, March 25, 2005

Life, Death, & Political Hypocrisy

I have long thought that the Democratic Party was the greater threat to our Constitutional Republic than the Republican Party. Because of the way the Republicans have handled this Terri Schiavo case, I will have to reexamine this premise (though this case has transcended party lines). Republican office-holders and pundits across the radio dial, television and print have been exposed as hypocrites. They claim to be for the rule of law, but they clearly are not. Talk hosts such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity often complain about ‘judicial activism,’ but because the Constitution and Florida laws are not on their side of the issue, they expect the courts to be the activist courts they decry. Tom DeLay would have you believe he is genuinely concerned about Terri Schiavo. He isn’t. He was quoted as saying: "One thing that God has brought to us is Terri Schiavo, to help elevate the visibility of what's going on in America. This is exactly the issue that's going on in America, the attacks against the conservative movement, against me and against many others." Is Tom DeLay calling this tragedy a political godsend?

As if that isn’t bad enough, George W. Bush, a man I voted for on three occasions (once for Governor and twice for President) has apparently had a change of heart on the right-to-die issue to say nothing of his usual defense of the rule of law. As Governor of Texas, George W. Bush signed into law a bill which allows the state to discontinue life support – even against the will of the family, if the patient’s doctors believe that the patient’s condition is hopeless. As recently as last week, a critically ill infant in Houston, Texas was removed from life support against the will of the mother because of this very law. It seems to me that this issue would be more controversial to the Pro-Life movement. Does anyone else see the hypocrisy? Where are Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity on this one?

The same pundits are complaining about how the courts are ‘not following the will of the president, the congress or the American people.’ Can they really be this misinformed on our system of government? The court’s job is to interpret EXISTING law, especially the Constitution, not ‘the will of the people’ nor ‘the president and congress;’ THIS IS NOT A DEMOCRACY despite what our public schools have told us since FDR. What the president and the congress were completely out-of-bounds; the notion that the federal government should be involved in a family legal matter is absurd. The federal courts showed judicial restraint by not hearing these cases. The courts basically said that they do not have the authority to hear the case on the dubious grounds that the congress can set up jurisdiction of federal courts. Though the federal government perhaps does have this power, I seriously doubt that jurisdiction can be set up for one case with the hope of arriving at a desired result (any lawyers out there that want to back me up on this?).

The Florida courts made the correct decision by following the existing Florida law which states that the spouse could make the life and death decision in such a condition as Terri Schiavo. Those of you who want Terri Schiavo to continue to ‘live’ in this terrible existence should not blame the Florida or Federal courts. If you want to point fingers you should point to the Florida legislature. They had an opportunity to change the law – they didn’t. The people’s voices were heard through their representatives and concluded that the law should not be changed. Of course I suspect that some will argue that the courts would have struck the law down had it passed. I seriously doubt it. The reason why the courts struck down the law the first time was because they passed a law that applied only to Terri Schiavo. Anyone who passed government 101 should be able to tell you that based on the Fourteenth Amendment; everyone has equal protection under the law. Governments cannot arbitrarily make laws that apply only to certain people; the law must be applied equally to everyone. If one law is good enough for Terri Schiavo, isn’t the law good enough for the rest of the people who are in a situation just like hers? The fact that the Florida legislature thought Terri’s Law would pass constitutional muster is astonishing.

There is no question that this case is very sad for Terri, her husband, and her family. It now appears that she can rest in peace and leave this body which has imprisoned her for the last 15 years or so. Regardless of if you believe in an existence beyond this life, can we not all agree that death is a better fate than the existence she has now?

As sad as this case is (on so many levels I haven’t even begun to address), there are a few silver linings. One is that more people are aware of the need to have a living will and a durable power of attorney. Unless you want others to decide your fate if you should find yourself in such a situation, this step is crucial (it certainly got my attention). Second, the system of checks and balances works. The courts resisted the urge to be bullied by the other branches of government and stayed within their constitutional limits. Third and most importantly, Terri Schiavo’s suffering will soon be over and her family can move on with their lives. Though this case may be coming to a close, the federalism debate is only beginning.

Further Reading:
The March 27th Cox & Forkum Cartoon really sums it all up.
What Political Price Will Republicans Pay by Neal Boortz
Ambivalent About Terri Schaivo by Gary Borque
The Right to Life.....And Death, Part II by Eric Cowperthwaite
Governed by the Rule of Law by Robert Bell
Terri Schaivo Part 1 and Part 2 by Michael J. Hurd
Fearless Philosophy Flashback: Appointing Qualified Judges


Blogger Gary B said...

There are a lot of Republicans and conservatives who have gone on record as being displeased with the political overstepping by Republicans on behalf of Terri Shaivo, including conservative light George Will. Charles Johnson of little green footballs has registered disgust.

I think many pre-Terri bloggers are over the top on this. You can see the herd effect in action.

Something about blogging makes us feel that we are part of some great move to change the world and that without us the world is doomed. Perhaps we are getting a little tasts of how journalists feel and why they so often abandon reporting for crusading.

12:33 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

I couldn’t agree more. I’m relieved that the system actually worked this time. Perhaps there’s hope for the republic after all.

Thanks for the link to my piece.

12:01 AM  

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