Politcs and the Schiavo story

Anyone tracking the Schiavo story for the past few weeks is doubtless aware of the now infamous “GOP Schiavo Talking Points memo” which was circulated by GOP leaders on the senate floor around March 18th, and subsequently leaked to and reported by the press in the next few days. Something of a footnote in the whole affair, the memo included rather crass language about the Schiavo case being “a great political issue, […] a tough issue for the democrats.” The memo also stated that “the pro-life base will be excited that the Senate is debating this important issue.” >

The story took on a new life, however, when many right-wing pundits declared that the memo was a fake, that this was Rathergate part II, a dirty trick by the Democrats. The blogs, especially, were pounding this story with daily updates. The Powerline blog was a leader in this tirade, which is understandable since the blog’s writers were very uncomfortable with what Bush & Co. were doing with the Schiavo case, and would rather focus everyone’s attention elsewhere.

What was odd about this protest was that for at least some Republicans, the Schiavo case clearly was being used for political purposes. Tom DeLay was recorded making comments to the effect that he was grateful for the Schiavo case, which he felt served to illuminate attacks against him and the conservative movement as a whole.

Yesterday, it was announced that the memo was authored by the senior counsel to senator Mel Martinez (R-FL). Martinez has also admitted distributing the memo, although he still denies having read it, which is somewhat odd. So the initial reports of the memo having been authored and circulated by GOP leaders were correct. Here is the memo itself, complete with the typos that many thought were proof of the memo’s inauthenticity:

S. 529, The Incapacitated Person’s Legal Protection Act

Teri (sic) Schiavo is subject to an order that her feeding tubes will be disconnected on March 18, 2005 at 1p.m.

The Senate needs to act this week, before the Budget Act is pending business, or Terri’s family will not have a remedy in federal court.

This is an important moral issue and the pro-life base will be excited that the Senate is debating this important issue.

This is a great political issue, because Senator Nelson of Florida has already refused to become a cosponsor and this is a tough issue for Democrats.

The bill is very limited and defines custody as “those parties authorized or directed by a court order to withdraw or withhold food, fluids, or medical treatment.”

There is an exemption for a proceeding “which no party disputes, and the court finds, that the incapacitated person while having capacity, had executed a written advance directive valid under applicably law that clearly authorized the withholding or or (sic) withdrawl (sic) of food and fluids or medical treatment in the applicable circumstances.”

Incapacitated persons are defined as those “presently incapable of making relevant decisions concerning the provision, withholding or withdrawl (sic) of food fluids or medical treatment under applicable state law.”

This legislation ensures that individuals like Terri Schiavo are guaranteed the same legal protections as convicted murderers like Ted Bundy. S. 529, The Incapacitated Person’s Legal Protection Act

The Martinez aide who wrote the above has offered his resignation, which Martinez has accepted. It’s odd that the aide took so long to come forward, when so many were branding this memo as a Democrat dirty trick. Martinez himself ran a very controversial campaign, and he won with only a 1% lead. Two days after the election, the St. Petersburg Times ran an incredibly prophetic editorial, which included the following:

But Martinez will need more than a gesture to separate his office from the ugliness and excesses of his campaign.

Long after leaving Republicans embittered by his appeals to bigotry and his vulgar attacks on former U.S. Rep. Bill McCollum, Martinez used his general election campaign to tar Castor, a distinguished former legislator and education leader, as a terrorist sympathizer.

When challenged, Martinez was too eager to assign blame to his staff or to groups he said he couldn’t control. As a senator, he will need an office and a staff that speaks with the measured and centrist tone he says will be his own. He can’t pretend to be above it all if the people he employs are not.

Cyril Rugby is Cyberkrunk’s senior political correspondent.





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