A Plug for the GOP


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 Journal savaging 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.

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 Post poll 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.”

Like Manna From Havens

No one has ever been able to figure out exactly how much rich people have managed to sock away in island tax havens, fishy investments, and assorted other tax dodges. But an international group called Tax Justice Network, made up of tax experts and economists, reports, according to The Observer of London, that the rich are stashing a whopping $11.5 trillion in tax havens. These assets normally would provide some $860 billion in annual income. Taxable income on the $11.5 trillion could run as high as $255 billion. “This is one of the defining crises of our times,” John Christensen, co-coordinator of the Tax Justice Network and a former economic adviser to the government of Jersey, one of the Channel Islands, told The Observer. “One of the most fundamental changes in our society in recent years is how money and the rich have become more mobile. This has resulted in the wealthy becoming less inclined to associate with normal society and feeling no obligation to pay taxes.”

Richard Murphy of Tax Research, who co-authored the report, said: “No one has tried to calculate a number like this before. To ensure the credibility of our data, we have only used information already in the public domain and produced by some of the most authoritative sources in the world. In addition, we tested our conclusions against three independent sources of information, and all seem to substantially agree, giving us a high degree of confidence in the conclusions we have reached.”

Driving Our Troops Crazy

In a move to put a positive spin on the woeful health benefits extended to reservists returning from active duty, the military has announced it is extending free health care from six months to one year—unless you re-enlist, in which case coverage extends for eight years.

A lot of good that will do the thousands of vets with long-term mental illness.

David H. Hackworth, the combat veteran author, writes, “What’s needling my brain is that in some additional army studies where participating soldiers were assured total confidentiality—a must in today’s zero-defect army, where soldiers who publicly admit they’re depressed or having nightmares or temper tantrums should plan to kiss future promotions goodbye and expect their walking papers at the end of their hitch—the number of Iraq veterans copping to post-combat mental problems has more than tripled from an average of 4 percent to 5 percent to a scary 17 percent.”

He adds: “That high a percentage is a shocker, and the trend that seems to be developing really blows me out. If 17 out of every 100 returning vets are mentally down, our army is in serious trouble—there’s no way any unit can sustain so staggering a loss.”

Additional research: David Botti