March 22, 2005

Grand Old Pragmatists


From Ryan Sager at Tech Central Station: What Steroids and Schiavo Have in Common. (Via InstaPundit)

In coming years, political historians might look back and try to pinpoint the day or week or month that the Republican Party shed the last vestiges of its small-government philosophy. If and when they do, the week just past should make the short list. For it was in this last week that the Republican-controlled Congress made it clear that it sees no area of American life -- none too trivial and none too intimate -- that the federal government should not permeate with its power. ...

[Beside the trival steroid issue], we have the sad case of Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman in a “permanent vegetative state” whose feeding tube had been removed at her husband’s urging -- and based on a court’s findings regarding her wishes on the matter only to have Congress and President Bush intervene ostensibly on her behalf.

Putting aside the tangled facts of the case for the moment -- which include some bitter family history and selective science on both sides -- the driving question here should be: Does Congress have a role?

And when it comes to a family dispute over a painful medical decision, one which at least 19 judges in six courts have already adjudicated, the answer must be a resounding “no.” [Emphasis added]

From Robert Tracinski in Monday's TIA Daily: The Conservative Dictators.

In its crazed campaign to keep a brain-dead [see Update II below] woman alive against the will of her husband, Congress has now passed a law violating the separation of power between the legislative and judiciary and between federal and state governments by arbitrarily altering the jurisdiction of the Terry Schiavo case—and doing so ad hoc, not as part of any general rule affecting all such cases universally.

If leftists did this sort of thing, conservatives would scream (correctly) that this is a step toward dictatorship. Yet the most committed religious conservatives will not hesitate for a moment to wipe out the entire mechanics of a free society in their lust to use government power to impose religious restriction on the individual. Even worse: not a single Senate Democrat was willing to stand up and stop them.

UPDATE I -- March 23: From The New York Times: G.O.P. Right Is Splintered on Schiavo Intervention. (Via TIA Daily)

In interviews over the past two days, conservatives who expressed concern about the turn of events in Congress stopped short of condemning the vote in which overwhelming majorities supported the Schiavo bill, and they generally applauded the goal of trying to keep Ms. Schiavo alive. But they said they were concerned about what precedent had been set and said the vote went against Republicans who were libertarian, advocates of states' rights or supporters of individual rights.

"My party is demonstrating that they are for states' rights unless they don't like what states are doing," said Representative Christopher Shays of Connecticut, one of five House Republicans who voted against the bill. "This couldn't be a more classic case of a state responsibility."

"This Republican Party of Lincoln has become a party of theocracy," Mr. Shays said. "There are going to be repercussions from this vote. There are a number of people who feel that the government is getting involved in their personal lives in a way that scares them." ...

Other Republicans who supported the Schiavo bill said they were wrestling conflicting beliefs. Senator George V. Voinovich of Ohio, a former governor and a strong advocate of states' rights, decided to support the bill after determining that his opposition to euthanasia outweighed his views on federalism, an aide said.

Senator Tom Coburn, a newly elected conservative Republican from Oklahoma, said: "This isn't a states' rights issue. What we're saying is they are going to review it. The states are not given the right to take away somebody's constitutional rights."

UPDATE II -- March 29: Some readers have taken issue with Tracinski's use of the term "brain-dead" to describe Terri Schiavo's condition. Strictly speaking, Schiavo is "severely brain damaged." Tracinski has elaborated that he was using "brain-dead" to indicate that Schiavo has lost the higher functions, such as reason, that make the human brain distinct (he has more in this editorial). FoxNews also had an article yesterday in which the phrase "permanent unconsciousness" is suggested to describe the condition: Docs: Schiavo Videos Misleading.

Posted by Forkum at March 22, 2005 08:35 PM