By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
WASHINGTON, D.C. It's beginning to dawn on gloating Democrats who hoped the GOP had gone too far in the Terri Schiavo case that the spectacle may turn out to be a plus, not a minus for conservatives in the larger ongoing values debate.
And in other areas, conservatives seem to be on a roll: While Dems may think they have stalled Bush's Social Security changes, the GOP now believes it has turned the corner in that debate and will win. In foreign policy, GOP backers rub their hands in glee at the very thought of the Rice-Hughes duo at State taking on Al Jazeera in an international spin war to win the hearts and minds of the Muslim world.
Admittedly, Monday's Wall Street Journalsavaging of Tom DeLay was a bit off-putting. The Journal said of the Christian right's point man on Schiavo: "He smells just like the Beltway itself," and warned he is betraying the "principles that brought him into office, and which, if he continues as before, sooner or later will sweep him out." Shit happens.
"All roads lead to Karl." Ken Duberstein, GOP lobbyist, talking to The New York Times about Karl Rove, 3.28.05
Did the GOP overreach in the Schiavo case? Just as soon as the Supreme Court denied Schiavo a hearing, the Republicans shifted to a new spin. "It was not a partisan issue. It was one of conscience," said Virginia Republican Eric Canter, the deputy chief whip in the House. "People will remember that the majority attempted to address a very difficult situation and did it with a real seriousness of purpose."
Schiavo has given conservative Republicans a way to raise other, wider issues: For example, what happens when the graying baby boomers hit 85? When these people get very ill, do they, as some have put it, "have a duty to die"? And, despite the advances in costly medical technology that extends longevity, will their duty to die become an even more harsh reality because Congress has refused to fix the Social Security and Medicare mess?
These end-of-life issues feed directly into the most heated partisan politics. Daniel Henninger wrote in Friday's Wall Street Journal: "Democrats and others have accused Republicans and President Bush of playing politics with the Schiavo case. Let's hope so. Unlike most, this is a necessary politics that ought to draw the whole country into the argument. . . . Republicans are said to have a pro-life litmus test for judicial nominations. Does this mean that President Hillary Clinton's litmus test would require her judicial nominees to be: pro-abortion, pro partial birth abortion, pro right-to-suicide, and pro pull the plug on medical cases deemed hopeless?"
Currently members of Congress in both houses and both parties are talking seriously of writing new laws on euthanasia issues. Florida Republican Dave Weldon's House bill would grant federal courts the right to examine cases in which a patient has left no written instructions, the family is feuding, and state courts have ordered a feeding tube removed. Barney Frank, the Massachusetts Democrat, said on ABC's Sunday show This Week With George Stephanopoulos: "I think Congress needs to do more. Because I've spoken with a lot of disability groups who are concerned that, even where a choice is made to terminate life, it might be coerced by circumstances."
In the Senate, Tom Harkin of Iowa, who voted for the Schiavo act, wants to sponsor a similar bill to the one in the House. The Senate Health Committee is scheduled to soon debate the Schiavo case and its implications.
The Fix Is Not Out
GOP operatives happy that public thinks social security is broken
While Democrats argue that Bush has hit the wall with his Social Security proposals, especially the one involving private accounts, the White House disagrees. GOP pros now think the polls show that all the seemingly staged and boring town hall meetings have had their intended effect, which was not to change people's minds but to persuade them that something must be done. "More people have come to understand the structural problems facing Social Security's solvency over the last two months and thus, the issue has become more important to them," Ken Mehlman, the party's National Committee chair, wrote in a memo last week to committee members.
Ayres McHenry & Associates, a Republican outfit, says 66 percent of Americans over 55 think legislation is needed to change the system. The Battleground 2006 poll says Social Security is Bush's top problem. A recent ABC/Washington Postpoll says 72 percent of Americans think Social Security faces a crisis and must be changed if it is to keep going. Gallup reports that 51 percent of Americans think legislation must be passed to fix the system.
"The battle we are fighting is to convince the Congress that something needs to be done to fix Social Security, and if you look at it through that model, the campaign has been very effective," Derrick Max, head of the Coalition for the Modernization and Protection of American Social Security, told The Washington Times. His group works with the White House on pushing the Bush proposals.
Then comes the clincher. As Max explained, "At some point in the second phase of this campaign, we will start talking about solutions and personal-accounts-based reform."