One of the saddest, most hysterical crusades by conservatives over the past few years involved their intervention in the case of critically brain-damaged woman Terry Schiavo. Conservatives — including former Senate majority leader Bill Frist and former House majority leader Tom DeLay — brought the personal tragedy to national attention in 2005 by trying to write legislation forcing doctors to reinsert her feeding tube and taking the “extraordinary step” of subpoenaing Schiavo to testify to Congress.
These conservatives claimed that they had the best interests of Schiavo in mind (even though they had never spoken to her). But there’s no doubt that cold political calculations were really driving their actions. A GOP memo described their efforts:
“This is an important moral issue, and the pro-life base will be excited that the Senate is debating this important issue,” said the memo, reported by ABC News and later given to The Washington Post. “This is a great political issue, because Senator Nelson of Florida has already refused to become a co-sponsor and this is a tough issue for Democrats.“
Conservatives are now brushing off the Schiavo case to use it against Thomas Perrelli, President-elect Obama’s pick for the no. 3 spot at the Justice Department. Right–wing websites are outraged at Obama’s association with Perrelli, since he was one of the lawyers who represented Michael Schiavo, who wanted his wife’s feeding tube removed. The Washington Times today reports that these conservatives are now gearing up to fight Perrelli’s nomination:
Andrea Lafferty, executive director of the Traditional Values Coalition, derided Mr. Perrelli’s selection as “just another death-peddler Obama has added to his list of nominees.” She said he’s earned the nickname among pro-lifers of “Piranha Perrelli” for his work on the case.
Tom McClusky, vice president for government affairs at the Family Research Council, said several end-of-life issues could make their way to the federal level in the next four years and having Mr. Perrelli at the department means pro-life causes would have a tougher time winning those debates.
“If the Justice Department isn’t going to do anything about it, the states, what’s to stop them from cases like Schiavo and even worse cases,” Mr. McClusky said.
Reviving the Schiavo case may not be the best decision. After all, 63 percent of the public supported the removal of the feeding tube. More importantly, 70 percent said it was inappropriate for the federal government to involve itself in the case, and 67 percent believed that these politicians were “trying to keep Schiavo alive are doing so more for political advantage than out of concern for her or for the principles involved.”