Saturday, March 26, 2005

# Posted 2:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BLEEDING-HEART CONSERVATIVES: Let me sum up what happened while my wireless card was on vacation: Schiavo! Schiavo! Schiavo! There's no way I can do justice to the massive debate about this subject, so I'll just make three quick points. First, to my surprise, the most sensible column I read all week was by Charles Krauthammer. Charlie K writes that
Given our lack of certainty, given that there are loved ones prepared to keep her alive and care for her, how can you allow the husband to end her life on his say-so? Because following the sensible rules of Florida custody laws, conducted with due diligence and great care over many years in this case, this is where the law led.

For Congress and the president to then step in and try to override that by shifting the venue to a federal court was a legal travesty, a flagrant violation of federalism and the separation of powers. The federal judge who refused to reverse the Florida court was certainly true to the law. But the law, while scrupulous, has been merciless, and its conclusion very troubling morally. We ended up having to choose between a legal travesty on the one hand and human tragedy on the other.
This is just a terrible, terrible situation with no right answers. But even if one should err on the side of caution before taking a life, I think that the politicization of this issue by conservatives has been self-interested and short-sighted. On the other hand, I have been disturbed at the callousness of some of my liberal friends here at UVA.

One of them -- a descendant of Thomas Jefferson, no less -- said he would rather die than live like Terri Schiavo. So would I. But my friend's analysis just ended there. He wasn't concerned about the mixed motives of Schiavo's husband. He wasn't interested in empathizing with Schiavo's parents.

To be fair, it's not as if my friend spend his spare time reading about bioethics. But his reaction matters because it was the instinctive response of someone who is otherwise a welfare-state, multicultural, latte-loving liberal.

My friend JB, an aspiring tax lawyer and unabashed Chomskyite, also said that Schiavo's life was pointless, so they should let her die. Admittedly, JB is prone to exaggeration, especially when he think he can get a rise out of me. So I was quite glad when his fiancee, the lovely AS, promptly shot him down by announcing that "It's obvious you have never had any children."

Ouch! But it's true. The idealistic young liberals I know have found it very hard to empathize with Schiavo's parents. They can empathize with the inner city poor, refugees in the Bangladesh, and even spotted owls. But somehow, their bleeding hearts turned cold when it came to Terri Schiavo.

Richard Cohen argued on Thursday that Democrats' silence on the Schiavo issue is an embarrassment. How can they let Republicans run roughshod over the legal system and not say a word?

Here's how: My sense is that Democrats recognize that they have nothing to gain by taking sides against Schiavo's parents. The party already has an image problem when it comes to values, so even if they phrase all of their arguments in legal terms, they will still come across as the party that wants to pull the plug.

Moreover, I don't think that there is much at stake here. Although I'm waiting for Josh to write about the legal implications of the Schiavo precedent, shifting the case to federal court hasn't affected the outcome.

Speaking more broadly, I don't think that conservatives will be able to turn Terri Schiavo into a justification for restricting abortion rights or anything. Schiavo's case is simply too unusual. Then again, I could be very wrong because all of this is far outside of my area of expertise.

UPDATE: Joe Gandelman has put up a very interesting post on Schiavo guest-written by a disabled journalist-slash-activist.
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