George W. Bush may well go down in history as one of our toughest, bravest presidents. Yesterday he proved his courage by flying from Texas to Washington to stand by almost all night until he could sign into law the bill Congress passed early this morning that allows a federal court to review the case of Terri Schiavo. The mainstream media will villify him, and our liberal elected officials are already screaming about the “politicization” of the effort to save Schiavo–as though, in a democracy such as ours, we’re not supposed to use the political process to bring about change. But Bush doesn’t care. He’s determined to stand up for what he thinks is morally right, no matter wht the pundits think.
All this comes on top of Bush’s gutsy appointments over the past few weeks: Condoleezza Rice for secretary of state, John Bolton for U.N. ambassador, Paul Wolfowitz for World Bank chief. These are three smart, forthright, outspoken people who don’t buckle to the usual criticism from the elites that we aren’t nice enough to France, or that we don’t believe the U.N. should be running our affairs, or that we’re tired of bankrolling socialist kleptocracies in the Third World.
As for Terri Schiavo, I’m a believer in federalism, the separation of powers that our Constitution mandates, and respect for the factual findings of judges and juries, no matter whether I personally would agree that the evidence supported those findings. The Schiavo matter, however, stretches my faith in constitutionalism to its limit, however. This is a case in which a physically healthy but mentally disabled woman is being put to death by slow starvation and dehydration because a judge has insisted on allowing her husband, whose conflict of interest is screamingly apparent (in the form of another woman by whom he’s had two children and whom he calls his fiancee), to function as his wife’s legal guardian.
That same judge ruled that Terri would have wanted to be starved to death because one night long ago while she was watching television with her in-laws, she remarked that she “wouldn’t want to live like” a patient she saw on the screen who was attached to a ventilator (that’s a ventilator, mind you, not a feeding tube). Terri Schiavo is only slightly more disabled than my late, beloved Aunt Nana, who suffered a stroke a few years ago and couldn’t talk or make eye-contact, either.
Allowing a federal judge–a different judge, at last–to review Terri’s case is little different from the federal habeas corpus that we already allow state prisoners. And I’d be more sympathetic to all the groaning from the left about states’ rights if we heard the same groans when the Supreme Court struck down state laws criminalizing sodomy (laws I didn’t agree with but which struck me as perfectly constitutional) on vague violation-of-privacy grounds.
This editorial from the libertarian and federalism-respecting Wall Street Journal says it best:
“The ‘right to die’ has become another liberal cause, part of the ‘privacy’ canon that extends through Roe (abortion) and Lawrence (homosexuality) and the Ninth Circuit’s views on assisted suicide that the Supreme Court is taking up this year. Of course, it gets a little messy when someone is actually being killed, and a husband with a conflict of interest is the one who claims she wanted to kill herself, but the left apparently believes these are mere details that shouldn’t interfere with the broader cause. Thus the discovery of federalism.
“Terri Schiavo’s case is a tragedy for her and her family. Beyond the immediate question of whether she lives or dies, her case may well have the salutary effect of demonstrating to the elites who want the right to kill oneself embedded into law that there is another side to the debate that is going to be heard.”
Here at the IWF, we maintain a neutral stance on such issues as abortion and the right to die, and if Terri Schiavo had written an advance directive saying go ahead and starve me if I’m incapacitated, I wouldn’t be posting this, no matter how I might feel personally. The Schiavo case is different, however, because it looks to me like a case of court-sanctioned spousal abuse. Congress and our very brave president, who doesn’t care a fig about what the elite opinion-makers might be saying, have finally come to her rescue.