by Greg Method
Yeah, yeah, I know it's no longer officially winter. But hey, if Easter is going to dare rear its fuzzy, pink-and-pastel-blue head in March this year, then not acknowledging the start of spring right away is the least I can do to help balance things out. Not that I'm against Easter, mind you, since it is my second favorite pro-zombie holiday after Halloween, but come on...March?? Sheesh, candy from Valentine's Day still hasn't passed through my intestines yet!
I know maybe three people out there are heartbroken that I've decided to scale back ...without Bush columns from monthly to quarterly, and I do apologize that my schedule this year won't allow for too much more. Believe me, I understand completely the need for dissent, for differing views, for voices that challenge the ones with seemingly all the power. I do understand that need, especially now when such voices we used to count on are disappearing left and right. Dan Rather and other older, more "open-minded" news anchors are saying their good-byes because Dan dared suggest that a privileged, mentally unstable daddy's boy was able to go AWOL from the Air National Guard without recrimination. Sundance Channel stopped airing the televised version of Al Franken's daily radio show right after the election (although, to be fair, that was the plan regardless of who would have won). And, to me most depressing of all, none other than Bill Maher is about an hour away from becoming the next Dennis Miller, who, for those who don't remember him, was a wishy-washy sell-out who abandoned his core anti-Republican beliefs because there was simply more money in being a Bush supporter. It's hard to maintain a voice during such a massive exodus, but I'm going to try. It takes more than a razor-thin margin to scare me away from a rube who choked when told the country was under attack.
So let's jump in, shall we?
Oh boy, where the heck does one start this year? In only the first three months of 2005, Bush cut $38 billion from education funding, rushed Iraq into an election which resulted in victories for religious fundamentalists with close ties to Iran, ignored increased nuclear threats from both Iran and North Korea, embarked on a European "goodwill" tour in which he insulted Russia, approved of drilling in a national Alaskan wildlife reserve, hired an agency to produce phony propaganda "news reports" to send to television stations, and paid a gay male prostitute to pose as a journalist in the press corps to ask biased "fluff" questions. I feel like a kid in a candy store!
But, as the old saying goes, the best things come to those who wait. Just when it seemed as if I had to pick something from this cornucopia of corruption and deceit in order to make the winter deadline, something new, something big, and something ripe came along.
I am speaking of course of the controversy over Florida woman Terri Schiavo.
For those of you who have in fact been living under a rock for the past month or so, Terri Schiavo has been in a near-comatose state following a massive heart attack in 1990. She only has rudimentary brain functions left, that is involuntary facial expressions such as smiling, blinking, crying, etc. She does not recognize anyone nor has she attempted to communicate with anyone, and her only means of nutrition is via a feeding tube because she cannot eat on her own. For the most part every credible doctor has said that her condition is chronic and there is no chance for improvement. Well, instead of letting her suffer like this, her husband Michael has been wanting to take her off her feeding tube, which would in a short amount of time end her life peacefully. Michael has said repeatedly that it's what Terri used to say she would have wanted should she ever be in such a situation. Well, Terri's parents are clinging onto every last bit of hope, despite the reality of the situation, and have essentially been fighting Michael's decision for the last year and a half. In September Florida's Supreme Court decided to side with Michael and allow him to remove her feeding tube.
Now, you might be asking yourself, "What does this have to do with the federal government?" Well, nothing at all, but in mid-March the Republicans in Congress and ol' Georgy girl have stuck their giant white dicks into this mess, trying to do everything in their power to keep Terri alive. Well, the only problem with this is that they in fact have no power, so this has led to a string of midnight sessions and made-up bills, debates on her life based a three-second news clip of her, and even the mindless discussion of dragging this poor woman to Washington to address Congress herself. Um...HOW?? She's in a vegetative state! You'd have better luck right now getting Reagan to address Congress!
Anyway, shortly after midnight on March 21, Bush signed some sort of odd "double secret" legislation to keep this poor woman, this poor lifeless soul, alive so Congress can bicker more about it. In his defense, Bush stammered to a crowd in Tucson, "it is wisest to always err on the side of life."
Now, I admit that I'm not the brightest bulb in the box, but even I know that something smells funny when a chimp-like man says we should "err on the side of life" in order to save one person when he himself has sent 1,500 other people off to die over oil and a masturbatory need for paternal approval.
Why wasn't Bush "erring on the side of life" two years ago when he decided to attack Iraq without cause, threat, or justification? That's over 1,500 of our troops, not to mention over 17,000 Iraqi citizens, who have been killed by the man who says we now need to "err on the side of life." Why is letting one person die bad while killing 18,000 others good?
And just to make it clear, I'm not here to discuss the pros and cons of euthanasia...at least, I wouldn't be enthusiastic to discuss it. That debate doesn't belong here but rather in more appropriate forums, such as dreary Clint Eastwood movies.
No, what I'm getting at here is what business, exactly, is it of the government's to intervene on a very private, very personal, very legal family matter? Don't our elected officials have better things to concern themselves with, such as emergency hearings on steroid use in professional sports? I mean, seriously, does this really sound like a situation that needs the personal and direct attention of our highest-ranking politicians, including the worm in the top spot?? Even the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to review this case, so what the hell's going on? Shouldn't that be the end of it then??
There is extra significance in the fact that Bush has become so personally involved. You see, while "John Boy" was governing that there hometown state of his, Texas (that is, after he moved there from Connecticut), he signed into law a 1999 bill that allows a patient's surrogate (you know, like a husband) to decide whether or not to take them off life support. The law even went a step further, allowing hospitals to make such a decision should the patient's case be that hopeless, regardless of the family's wishes.
Why wasn't Bush "erring on the side of life" then?
"Clearly there has been some hypocrisy here," said Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Florida).
This charge has been echoed by a number of people in Texas, where Bush approved of 152 executions while he was governor, including a few in which the convict's guilt was in serious doubt.
"It's hypocrisy at a thousand levels," said University of Houston law professor David Dow, who is also one of the state's leading anti-death penalty defense lawyers.
Dow also didn't buy Bush's explanation after years of hearing about Bush's desire to limit stem cell research and outlaw abortion in order to create a "culture of life." Yeah...George W. Bush, friend to all mankind.
Dow especially recalled the 2000 execution of one Gary Graham, who was convicted of a 1981 murder under hotly contested circumstances, including the lack of any physical evidence. Only one out of eight eyewitnesses were able to place Graham at the scene of the crime, and the one who did said she saw the real suspect at night from forty feet away. She would even admit that Graham's face and complexion were different from that of the man she saw.
Graham certainly had been in trouble with the law before, but there was still no evidence whatsoever to connect him to this murder. Some of Graham's final words were, "I would like to say that I did not kill Bobby Lambert, that I'm an innocent black man that is being murdered. This is a lynching that is happening in America tonight...this is nothing more than pure and simple murder. This is what is happening tonight in America. Nothing more than state-sanctioned murders, state-sanctioned lynching, right here in America, and right here tonight. This is what is happening my brothers, nothing less. They know I'm innocent. They've got the facts to prove it. They know I'm innocent. But they cannot acknowledge my innocence, because to do so would be to publicly admit their guilt. This is something these racist people will never do."
"In the face of pretty substantial evidence that Gary Graham was not a murderer, George Bush didn't say anything about a 'culture of life.'" Dow said. Graham was one of forty people executed in Texas in 2000, setting a disgusting U.S. record. In fact, from 1995 to 2000, Bush only granted one stay of execution.
"I saw many, many cases where there was substantial doubt about whether someone was guilty or whether the death penalty was the appropriate sentence, but he never said anything," said David Atwood, head of the Texas Coalition Against the Death Penalty. "We all recognize there is a difference between an innocent person and someone who has committed a heinous crime, but to say one life is important and one isn't, that's politics."
"I really can't say he cares about life," Atwood concluded.
Atwood is absolutely correct that it's all about politics. ABC News had come across a recent memo intended for Republican senators which promised, "The pro-life base will be excited...this is a great political issue."
Wait a minute...could it be that Bush and the Republicans are not actually "erring on the side of life??" Would Bush actually stoop so low as to manipulate a poor invalid's life for political gain?? Nahhh...that would be silly. That would mean that Bush is a corrupt son of a bitch. A-hem.
I guess what's most troubling about this is that Bush wants to essentially take a husband's rights away. Isn't that a bit out of the Executive Branch's jurisdiction? Is every marital and family relationship now subject to the horning in of the federal government? Isn't it enough that Bush has declared who should and shouldn't be allowed to marry? Now he's going to dictate what we can and can't do in a marriage? Granted we're referring to taking a wife off life support, but just take a moment to think about how far such a determination can stretch. Will Bush next say how many children a family is allowed to have? Who can and can't own pets? What we can and can't do in bed? It's pretty scary, isn't it?
Like I said, I know this is a most extreme example, but really isn't this the kind of decision that a spouse has every legal right to make? Isn't that why homosexuals and others sometimes refer to their spouse as their "life partner?" After all, isn't that what marriage is, a person sharing their life with someone else? You're entrusting another person with your life, including any and all vital decisions. In this case, Michael is acting on Terri's behalf. He's not an outsider; he's her equal in every sense of the word.
I can't begin to imagine what Michael has been through for the last fifteen years. Clearly he too has hung onto every last bit of hope, just as Terri's parents still do. I think most people are forgetting that about this whole case, that Michael has suffered along with Terri. Nobody of course is painting him to be a cold-hearted murderer, but at the same time nobody is addressing that this was no doubt a very, very difficult decision for him to make. He's been casted as the apathetic bad guy, by both Terri's parents and Bush's side.
But as I was saying, if a husband cannot be entrusted to make such a difficult decision on behalf of his wife, then what's the point of entering a lifetime partnership? I seem to recall someone beating us over the head throughout 2004 with the declaration that marriage is a sacred institution. Well, exactly how sacred are we treating it if we allow Congress to legislate on one? To preach about the supposed sanctity of marriage and then essentially say to a husband "you have no rights concerning your wife" is hypocritical, period.
And speaking of marriage-based catchphrases, wasn't one of Bush's oft-repeated lines last year the belief that marriage is between a man and a woman? I don't seem to recall him ever saying "marriage is between a man, a woman, and me," even though obviously that's what he meant all along.
Even if you don't necessarily buy the "Bush is a hypocrite because he's second-guessing the sanctity of a marriage" line, then here's something for you. Aren't Republicans the party against "big government?" Aren't they the ones who are always saying that the government has too many responsibilities and that it doesn't need to intrude on our everyday lives? Well, isn't this a hypocrisy then?
Apparently I'm not the only one who feels that way, and I'm certainly in some strange company!
"To simply say that the 'culture of life,' or whatever you call it, means that we don't have to pay attention to the principles of federalism or separation of powers is certainly not a conservative viewpoint," said former Representative Bob Barr (R-Georgia).
Ol' Bob brings up a valid point. What does this say about the system of checks and balances? Aren't judges supposed to feel confident that their rulings are to be respected without half of Congress and a "president" intervening with emergency sessions and bills? Why exactly has an exception been made in this case for the other two branches to buck governmental policy?
"I believe it unwise for the Congress to take from the state of Florida its constitutional responsibility to resolve the issues in this case," said Senator John Warner (R-Virginia).
David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, said that conservatives "who questioned the wisdom of the federal government reaching down and interfering with the state courts have a very valid point...those who are concerned about precedent should be concerned about it."
Julian E. Zelizer, a Boston University history professor and expert on congressional trends, said a conservative Republican movement that "built itself in the 1970s around attacking government has become the party of big government since 2000. Starting with the war against terrorism and climaxing with Congress intervening in this case, we see a GOP that is quite comfortable flexing the muscle of Washington, and a Democratic Party which is increasingly finding itself in favor of limiting government."
Perhaps Allan Lichtman, who chairs the history department at American University in Washington, summed it up best: "It contradicts a lot of what those behind it say they believe: the sanctity of the family, the sacred bond between husband and wife, the ability of all of us to make private decisions without the hand of government intervening, deference to states and localities as opposed to the centralized government."
So, what is it? Why has Bush flip-flopped and decided that now is the time to penetrate himself into the very, as he put it, sanctity of marriage? Is it merely to "err on the side of life?"
Or is he "erring on the side of Jeb?"
You know who I'm talking about. Jeb Bush, the Florida governor who both promised and "delivered" his state to his brother in 2000 after it was already called for Al Gore. You see, Terri's parents haven't been fighting Michael alone. They've had help all along, and that help is named Jeb.
On October 21, 2003, just six days after Michael first removed Terri's feeding tube, Jeb signed an executive order decreeing that the tube be reinstated "until such time as the governor revokes it." He ordered the hospital staff "to immediately provide nutrition and hydration to Theresa Schiavo by means of a gastronomy tube" and that "no person shall interfere."
Well, the fight dragged on for another year with a series of appeals through various Florida courts, resulting in the state's Supreme Court to have to make the supposed final decision on the matter in September of last year.
In its ruling, the court concluded:
We recognize that the tragic circumstances underlying this case make it difficult to put emotions aside and focus solely on the legal issue presented...however, we are a nation of laws and we must govern our decisions by the rule of law and not by our own emotions. Our hearts can fully comprehend the grief so fully demonstrated by Theresa's family members on this record. But our hearts are not the law. What is in the Constitution always must prevail over emotion. Our oaths as judges require that this principle is our polestar, and it alone...this case is about maintaining the integrity of a constitutional system of government with three independent and coequal branches, none of which can either encroach upon the powers of another branch or improperly delegate its own responsibilities. The continuing vitality of our system of separation of powers precludes the other two branches from nullifying the judicial branch's final orders. If the Legislature with the assent of the Governor can do what was attempted here, the judicial branch would be subordinated to the final directive of the other branches. Also subordinated would be the rights of individuals, including the well established privacy right to self determination...the trial court's decision regarding Theresa Schiavo was made in accordance with the procedures and protections set forth by the judicial branch and in accordance with the statutes passed by the Legislature in effect at that time. That decision is final and the Legislature's attempt to alter that final adjudication is unconstitutional as applied to Theresa Schiavo.
So, in other words, the Supreme Court said that it was Michael's decision and that Jeb's interfering was unconstitutional. Haw-haw!
Well, how dare this puny little husband win a ruling over one of the Bushes! And Jeb of all Bushes, the one with the goofiest name in the clan! That just doesn't sit well with ol' George W. David can't possibly beat Goliath. After all, how is that going to look in 2008? Everywhere people would be saying, "Jeb tried to control someone's marriage? Well, I'm certainly not going to vote for him then. And what kind of stupid-ass name is 'Jeb,' anyway?"
So you see, Junior had to prove to the world that his brother--his dull, uptight brother with lousy parenting skills--was right all along. And that's what's motivating all these emergency sessions. That's why he interrupted his vacation when he wouldn't do so in the past to read pre-9/11 security reports or to aid tsunami victims. It's not to "err on the side of life," it's not to exhaust all options, and it's not to create a "culture of life." It's simply to save his brother's ass.
The White House has pretty much confirmed this. Doughy, slimy spokesman Scott McClellan said that this battle is "a complex case, where serious questions and significant doubts have been raised." Well, what other doubts could he be speaking of? The only person whose credibility has been put into question is Jeb's.
Just think about this. Bush's first four years were all about trying to justify his papa's shitty presidency, and now he's going to spend the next four years trying to paint his brother as a saint in order to get Jeb to succeed him. What a wonderful legacy he's creating: "His entire term consisted of trying to make others in his family look good."
At "press time," or whatever it would be called online, the fight is still going on, even though doctors have said Terri will only survive another week or so without nutrition. And in perhaps the oddest turn of events (of course it would happen now after I've written about everything else ad nauseam), none other than Jeb has petitioned to take custody of Terri, essentially terminating her marriage with Michael. Gee, I wonder whose idea that was.
As Scott McClellan said, "The president is always going to stand on the side of defending life."
Oh, he's defending a life all right. It just isn't Terri's.
Quote of the Month
"But all our Cabinet secretaries must realize that we will not be paying, you know, commentators to advance our agenda. Our agenda ought to be able to stand on its own two feet."
George W. Bush
Link of the Month
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