Thursday, March 24, 2005

Cohen on Terri Schiavo

Richard Cohen looked at the Terri Schiavo case in his column today in the Washington Post. He analyzed the performance of Republicans and Democrats in Congress, which I think was a telling test of our two political parties. As Cohen sees it, neither party came out of this looking very good:

Rep. Tom DeLay is called "The Hammer." He is a man of fierce beliefs who has long confused politics with war -- religious war at that. At one time he would have been labeled an "extremist," the sort of politician whom reporters seek out for colorful, wacko quotes. But now he is in the GOP mainstream where, among other things, he has bludgeoned the Democratic Party into pathetic meekness. On the Terri Schiavo debate, the party went AWOL.

By late Sunday, when the debate had reached the House of Representatives, Barney Frank stood almost alone in opposing the bill. Cliches suffered. Here was an openly gay Democrat, the Massachusetts liberal of all Massachusetts liberals, defending the Founding Fathers, federalism and the American tradition of keeping the government's nose out of a family's business.

It was a bravura performance and one could only have wished that it had been matched by John Kerry or Hillary Clinton -- or any of the other Democrats who are being mentioned as presidential candidates. Most of them seemed to be cowering in some bunker, calling their consultants and pollsters, asking what they should do and how they should do it. ...

You could call this a misreading of public sentiment, and it is that, for sure. When the instant pollsters reported on their instant polls, it turned out that by lopsided majorities the public was appalled at what Congress had done. By a margin of 63 percent to 28 percent, an ABC News poll said Americans supported the removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube. An even larger majority -- 70 percent -- opposed Congress getting into the act. And for some reason, 67 percent of those polled said Congress was more interested in scoring political points than in Terry Schiavo's fate. As they say in the red states, amen to that. ...

But for me the real loser was the Democratic Party. It showed that it's almost totally without leadership. If there is a national figure (other than Frank) who stood up and took on the GOP in this matter, his -- or her -- name does not come to mind. In the Senate, oddly enough, it was Virginia's John Warner who pointed out that he opposed the bill -- and he's a Republican, for goodness' sake. The Democrats were nowhere.

Howard Kurtz is also worth reading again on this issue. In his column today he looked at press reports on similar cases and offered an excellent review of media reporting and media and blog commentary. (He then went to a funny but disturbing account of the faith Richard Nixon had in the predictions of psychic Jeane Dixon. Spooky.)

Now that the Supreme Court has declined to act and a Florida judge is likely to deny a last-minute motion for state custody, it looks like this is going to end with the starvation death of Terri Schiavo. There has been some inane conservative commentary about Jeb Bush showing up with armed force and taking custody of her, but I seriously doubt anything like that will happen. The Governor is a lot smarter than that.

I'm sure there are enterprising doctoral students in political science scrambling right now to write dissertation proposals on congressional and state action in this case. Should make interesting reading.


Blogger American On Line said...

Of course, if the Democrats that voted against it (not the 50 plus who voted for it) had voiced the analytically correct reasons for opposition, they would (1) still lose the vote (2) be ignored (3) be called killers (4) and most importantly, been accused of being political opportunists.

It is laughable that, in the face of the majority party acting as fascists here, the place that Kurtz and Cohen search for is some kind of equivalence of fault. What Choen should have written about today was the tape of DeLay's speech where - over Terri's soul - he was seeking political advantage.

There are times to show them, hold them or fold them. This time around the best thing to do was stay out of a lose-lose game they could not affect and DeLay et al do their dirty work. I applaude them for not shooting fish in barrel.

12:43 PM, March 24, 2005  
Blogger The Rambling Taoist said...

I agree with your post. If anyone had any question, this issue should finally convince America that the Dems have no backbone, no rudder and no leadership. It goes a long way toward explaining why I'm a member of the Green Party!

7:43 PM, March 24, 2005  
Anonymous kevin said...

The more I read of Cohen the more I like him. This one he slams outta the park!

Much has been said about how Democrats are supposedly shriveling before our very eyes. With respect to the political party, I don't think the naysayers are dealing with reality. There's no lack of grassroots or even rank and file support for the Dems. The problem is precisely as Cohen spells it out - lack of leadership.

It's only a matter of time before the Dems get behind a strong leader and the GOPers will be the one's getting marginalized... and in large part they are digging their own political grave (in a temporary sense only) by mainstreaming the likes of DeLay. The backlash is inevitable.

As I look at both parties it seems to me that the sheer folly of folks dutifully, and somewhat mindlessly voting the "D" or the "R" simply because it's a "D" or and "R" is beyond question. That kind of thinking got the Dems their current crop of largely worthless Congressional "leaders." And the GOPers are headed that way for the same reason.

6:57 PM, March 25, 2005  

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