More Schiavo Fallout

Jeff Alworth

Looking at the bizarre events of the weekend, Rep. Earl Blumenauer sees doom for Oregon's Death with Dignity Act:  "There is no question that Oregon's Death with Dignity Law is next."  Blumenauer's comments followed Congress's unprecedented session this weekend, when both houses drafted and passed legislation to reverse a court decision that removed Terri Schiavo's feeding tube, allowing her to die.

"This is not about what Terri Schiavo wants," Blumenauer said. "It is clear from testimony from the family who are fighting on the other side of this issue that they would want the feeding tube reinserted no matter what Terri wants." The original version of the bill included language that could have dismantled Oregon's assisted-suicide law.

SchiaBut here's a fascinating twist: the public actually supports removing the tube by a 35-point margin (63%-28%).  Furthermore, a whopping 87% say they'd want the tube removed if they were Schiavo.  And perhaps most surprising of all, two-thirds felt that Congress passed the law for political gain, not for Schiavo's benefit (67%-19%). 

Oregon has long been an asterisk in the right-to-die debate--a weird state nobody (except John Ashcroft) much cared about.  But if the GOP decides this is a war they want to fight, Oregon may become the front line.  With poll numbers like these, though, one wonders: could Oregon become the "values" crowd's Waterloo?

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    In a memo distributed only to Republican senators, the Schiavo case was characterized as "a great political issue" that could pay dividends with Christian conservatives, whose support is essential in midterm elections such as those coming up in 2006. (Washington Post)

    I think that memo has a whole lot to do with people not trusting the motives of many Republicans on this one. Strangely enough, on CNN last night John King didn't even mention the memo as a possible reason why the polling slanted so sharply against the actions of Congressional Republicans. Bad journalism strikes CNN yet again...

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    Tim, that's beltway thinking. Nobody in the real world gives a damn (or probably knows) about the memo.

    Even without the memo, the whole thing clearly smacks of political posturing. The American people know a rat when they see one scamper across C-SPAN.

  • brad (unverified)

    Gee, Kari, as one Trojan alum to another, I gotta say that I will need far more evidence than this to believe that "the American people know a rat when they see one." They've seen plenty over the past four years and haven't seen fit to stand on a chair and scream yet.

    That poll is more about the cynicism of the electorate than anything else. Ask the same question about almost any D.C. debate - social security, health care, gay marriage - and you'd get similar responses.

    People know that the politicos just do this crap for their own gain. They don't care anymore. They just want the politicians to be on the "right side" of the issue, regardless of their motivations.

    You are right that nobody cares about the memo. Nobody's surprised by it, certainly.

    Having said all that, I think the Rethuglicans might have overstepped on this one, because so many of them are seen as being on the wrong side of the issue. Hubris taking root, I hope.

  • A. F. Litt (unverified)

    When my two year old acts like this Congress, I give him a short time out. When my kindergartener acts like this, he gets sent to his room. These are the same life lovers who have no problem with torture in Iraq or pulling the plug on poor people in Texas.

    My first reaction to the spotlight on this issue shifting to Oregon is to welcome it. Let the conservatives continue to dig themselves deeper into this quagmire.

    But, when I pause to consider the ramifications of such a battle, I realize that while such attention may damage the conservatives, it may lead to Federal legislation gutting Oregon's law.

    Once the conservatives latch on to an issue, they generally will not change their views. Even if messing with Oregon's law proved unpopular with the general public, if the Republican Congress set their sights on it, they would see no choice but to fight their fight to the end.

    This zealousness is one of that movement's Achilles heels, but I would hate to see such petty politics taking down Oregon's law in the crossfire.

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    What's interesting to me, Tim, is that the GOP pretty much has sewn up the Evangelical vote. Depending on which exit polling you look at, Bush got 80-90% of that vote, which is an astounding figure. (Dems got labor by 65%, for example, in what would generally be considered a nice win.)

    Yet in that ABC poll, Evangelicals only favored the Schiavo action by 46%, with a similar number opposing. So apparently the memo was inaccurate. There is a point at which Evangelicals are no longer willing to be exploited by shameless GOP tactics.

  • Jason (unverified)

    Well, as much as people are against the Congress on this issue, those people are probably soft No's -- that is, they won't vote against Republicans because they did this. Whereas the few folks who support Congress on this are very passionate -- so they might vote FOR the Rs based in part on this.

    That's one thing that reporting on polls generally ignores -- not overall opinion, but strength of opinion and impacts of those opinions on actions. Pollsters often capture that information, but it's too com-pli-ca-ted for 30 second soundbites.

  • Jon (unverified)

    The growing blowback against Prsident Bush and the Republican leadership may yet have two major benefits for progressives defending individuals liberties from givernment intrusion and paternalism, thus strengthening Oregon's assisted suicide proponents:

    1. Cracks in the Conservative Movement?

    They may not yet be approaching meltdown stage, but the economic and social wings of the conservative movement are clearly clashing, and that battle is public for the first time since Bush became President.

    For more, see:

    "Achilles' Heels."

    2. The Defense of Liberty and New Progressive Language of Morality

    Progressives must do this not because we’re “right” or because our position in this case enjoys broad majority support. It is because by defending what Justice Brandeis called “the right to be left alone” we can offer Americans a powerful framework for assessing the legitimacy – and morality – of government intrusion and paternalism in our most personal decisions. To help articulate what I’ll call a “Culture of Living”, we can turn (ironically) to one of the best friends a libertarian ever had, John Stuart Mill.

    For more, see:

    "Schiavo, Mill and the Culture of Living"

  • Erika (unverified)

    I'm just glad to know congress is working hard on behalf of the American People.

    As a taxpayer, I know I've been sleeping better at night now that they are finally addressing issues of real importance to this country: Terri Schiavo, and steriods in baseball. Baseball, for example, is important, because our little ones look up to these guys.

    "Our primary focus remains on the message that's being sent to 500,000 steroid users in American high schools -- children who play baseball, children who idolize and emulate professional baseball players." -- Committee Chairman Tom Davis

    Is that not cool? Congress is protecting our children!

    Maybe next they'll investigate... I dunno...
    the rising levels of industrial pollutants in breast milk?

    yes, surely that's next.


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    They may not yet be approaching meltdown stage, but the economic and social wings of the conservative movement are clearly clashing, and that battle is public for the first time since Bush became President.

    Yeah, and the ball is really picking up speed. I've been expecting something to cause blowback in the public against the GOP for YEARS. I have to say the Schiavo case would never have occurred to me as the trigger.

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