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
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
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.