Conservative Elders Smack Bush for Schiavo Position

WASHINGTON—If the Democrats were unable to muster a rebuttal to President Bush's handling of the Terri Schiavo case, the Reagan-era Republicans have seized the moment to lay down their own withering attack on their archenemies—mainly among the neoconservatives and the Christian right. Bush, of course, threw his lot in with theirs, arguing that the feeding tube for the severely brain-damaged woman, who died on Thursday morning, should be reinserted against her husband's wishes.

Increasingly, the real political battles to be fought will be within the ranks of the Republican Party, where libertarian-minded economics—with its emphasis on reduced activity by the federal government—runs smack into the Christian right's demands for a bigger central-government police function to enforce the moral precepts it is trying to turn into law. The neoconservatives, numbering just a few hundred people if that, need an expanding federal government, especially bigger defense forces and a channeled aid program, to implement their plan for spreading democracy at the barrel of a gun.

In a New York Times op-ed this week, former U.N. ambassador and Republican elder John Danforth unleashed a blistering attack on Bush. Danforth sees the Republican Party as “the political arm of conservative Christians.” Danforth, an Episcopalian minister, cited the campaign for Terri Schiavo, opposition to stem cell research, and the party's line against gay marriage as indications the GOP is giving in “to the pressure of religious power blocs.” Wrote Danforth: “The historic principles of the Republican Party offer America its best hope for a prosperous and secure future.” He mentioned lower taxes and less regulation as party planks, but said, “[o]ur current fixation on a religious agenda has turned us in the wrong direction. It is time for Republicans to rediscover our roots.”

Bush and company were also smacked by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta, which rejected a last-minute appeal by Schiavo's parents. “Any further action by our court or the district court would be improper,” wrote judge Stanley F. Birch Jr.—an appointee of President Bush's father, former president George H.W. Bush.

On Wednesday, Birch lit into Bush and the Congress for passing a bill that sought to put the case into the federal courts. He said the lawmakers were behaving “in a manner demonstrably at odds with our founding fathers' blueprint for the governance of a free people-our Constitution.”

Florida governor Jeb Bush, a key figure in the save-Schiavo movement, may gloat at having propelled himself and his brother into the Christisan right's pantheon of heros, but many other conservatives are aghast at the mean spirited, vicious attacks on Circuit Court Judge George Greer, who set down the principle rulings removing the feeding tube and refusing to reinsert it. People have threatened to kill him, dead flowers were delivered to his doorstep, and he lives surrounded by bodyguards. In the ultimate act of humiliation, he was kicked out of the Baptist church of which he is a faithful member.

Yet Greer, like Birch, is not a liberal. He is a conservative Republican judge. He is not some grandstander, but a plodder, and totally devoted to his job. When his friends encouraged him to stand aside, Greer refused, saying that he was quite prepared to stand behind his judgments.

Another example of conservative wrath against Bush has come with his appointment of John Bolton to the U.N. ambassadorship. That has angered Reagan-era Republicans who see the answer to the world's problems through diplomacy, not through Bush's course of unilateral gunboat action.

Fifty-nine former ranking diplomats sent a letter to Richard Lugar, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which must clear the Bolton nomination. They include such people as Arthur A. Hartman, ambassador to France and the Soviet Union under presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan and assistant secretary of state for European affairs under President Richard M. Nixon; James F. Leonard, deputy ambassador to the United Nations for presidents Gerald Ford and Carter; Princeton N. Lyman, ambassador to South Africa and Nigeria under presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton; and Monteagle Stearns, ambassador to Greece and Ivory Coast in the Ford, Carter, and Reagan administrations. The ex-diplomats said Bolton "had an 'exceptional record' of opposing U.S. efforts to improve national security through arms control," according to the AP.

Sponsor Content


All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >