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“No Is A Poor Answer”: Any Regrets Over The Terri Schiavo Fight?’

At last week’s CPAC event, Fox’s Sean Hannity asked former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), “Any regrets over the Terri Schiavo fight?” The likely presidential candidate responded that he has no regrets at all.

“[I]n this case, here was a woman who was vulnerable, and the court, because of our laws, didn’t allow her – they were going to allow her to be starved to death,” Bush said. “So we passed a law, Terri’s Law that was a year later ruled unconstitutional. I stayed within the law, but I acted on my core belief that the most vulnerable in our society should be in the front of the line. They should receive our love and protection. And that’s exactly what I did.”

The far-right audience applauded the answer, though Bloomberg Politics reports today that some social conservatives in Iowa are still bothered Bush didn’t defy the judiciary and ignore court orders.

Michael Schiavo, however, has a very different perspective.

Michael Schiavo was the husband of Terri Schiavo, the brain-dead woman from the Tampa Bay area who ended up at the center of one of the most contentious, drawn-out conflicts in the history of America’s culture wars. The fight over her death lasted almost a decade. It started as a private legal back-and-forth between her husband and her parents. Before it ended, it moved from circuit courts to district courts to state courts to federal courts, to the U.S. Supreme Court, from the state legislature in Tallahassee to Congress in Washington. The president got involved. So did the pope.

But it never would have become what it became if not for the dogged intervention of the governor of Florida at the time, the second son of the 41st president, the younger brother of the 43rd, the man who sits near the top of the extended early list of likely 2016 Republican presidential candidates…. Longtime watchers of John Ellis Bush say what he did throughout the Terri Schiavo case demonstrates how he would operate in the Oval Office. They say it’s the Jebbest thing Jeb’s ever done.

“It was a living hell,” Michael Schiavo told Politico, “and I blame him.”

Folks should read the whole report to get a complete picture, but there’s one angle to this story that often goes overlooked, and which Jeb will probably have to comment on sooner or later. Those who followed the story at the time probably remember the gist of the heartbreaking controversy: Terri Schiavo spent a decade in a vegetative state. Michael Schiavo eventually decided it was time to remove his wife from the feeding tubes that were keeping her alive, and he went to court to get approval to allow Terri to die naturally.

Jeb Bush intervened and a political circus ensued.

What I’d forgotten about was that Terri Schiavo’s death did not end the controversy. In the summer of 2005, a few months after Schiavo passed, Jeb Bush asked a prosecutor to investigate whether Michael Schiavo called 911 too slowly 15 years earlier.

In other words, based on nothing, Florida’s then-governor kept pushing the Terri Schiavo controversy, even after she was gone, suggesting foul play may have been a factor in her case. Is it any wonder Michael Schiavo blames Bush for turning his life into “a living hell”?

It fell to Florida’s state attorney to tell Bush there was simply no evidence to substantiate the allegations.

“Any regrets over the Terri Schiavo fight?” is a good question. “No” is a poor answer.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 6, 2015

March 7, 2015 Posted by | CPAC, Jeb Bush, Terri Schiavo | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“… And Justice For All”: The Rule Of Law Defines Civilization And Underpins America’s Precious Democratic Experiment

I’m a little emotional about same-sex couples accepting Alabama Probate Judges’ time-honored offer to newlyweds “You may kiss”. These marriages are all the sweeter because when we were married by an Alabama Probate Judge three decades ago, it was a very different world. Sorta.

Those were the days of “I now pronounced you man and wife.” Unmistakably, a man was a man whatever his marital status. Once married, a woman was reduced to her role. We’d already warned the Judge off the the “obey” thing, but he informed us that another trip to the courthouse and a formal petition — fifty bucks, please — was required for me to reclaim my own surname. It had legally vanished with “I do”. It is a privilege to see justice finally promised to another oppressed group. And what additional satisfaction it is to have a front row seat, watching seemingly immovable traditions — reserving marriage for some, refusing it to others, arbitrarily elevating some over others — dissolving before the irresistible force of a Federal Judge’s orders overturning Alabama’s law banning same-sex marriage — celebration time.

A victory of this proportion is for everyone, a lesson on a grand scale. People died for these rights. Credit especially the martyred San Francisco Board of Supervisors Harvey Milk and his profound insight: “‘Coming out’ is the most political thing you can do.” When individuals risked everything to be true to themselves, debilitating stereotypes dissolved into the faces of our family members, neighbors, friends and coworkers. Millions shared the honor when Mr. Milk was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously in 2009. Our world is improving because people were brave.

Would that the heroic reporter Dudley Clendinen had lived to see this turn of events. His Out for Good, which we explored with him in 1999, remains an important report on harsh realities still endured by too many homosexuals in the world and in America. The particulars of people’s private lives continue to elicit sensational and hate-filled reactions. Still.

Not surprising is the recalcitrance of the “Ten Commandments” Alabama Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Roy Moore. Nor is this appalling defiance of the Federal Judge’s direct order out of character. In 2003, his own colleagues removed him from office for defying the law. What does it say for the voting majority in Alabama, that In 2012 they returned him to the same position?

I am amazed that half the judges in the State defied their Chief Justice. Perhaps they realized his argument is “so 1832”, dating back as it does to South Carolinian John C. Calhoun’s (and later the Confederacy’s) notion of “nullification“. Maybe those law-abiding Probate Judges didn’t want to be counted among the more recent neo-nullification gang: Orval Faubus, George Wallace, Lester Maddox and now, notably, the list includes the former Governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee (who’s also voiced suspicions about dancing).

Whatever their motivation, it’s a breath of fresh air that so many Alabama Probate Judges obeyed the Federal court order and married whomever chose that august and demanding path. This is all the more noteworthy given their Chief Justice’s recalcitrance, which carries the distinctive stench of oppression still lingering across America from white supremacists imposing equally noxious restrictions based on race as well as gender.

The rule of law defines civilization and underpins America’s precious (and precarious) democratic experiment. A less privileged individual would go to jail for the kind of defiance we are witnessing. A senior judge flagrantly breaking the law with apparent impunity is a sad spectacle, even in long-benighted Alabama.

Ultimately, justice will win out in a just polity. Still, it should not be necessary to overcome the willful injustice of atavistic elements of our judicial system.

 

By: Paula Gordon, The Blog, The HUffington Post, February 22, 2015

 

 

February 24, 2015 Posted by | Democracy, Marriage Equality, Roy Moore, Rule of Law | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What Joni Ernst Tells Us About GOP Politics”: The ‘Perfect Choice’ To Serve As The Voice Of The 2015 GOP

Delivering an official response to a president’s State of the Union address is a difficult, thankless task, which often doesn’t go especially well (see Jindal, Bobby and Rubio, Marco). A president generally enjoys an august platform, interrupted repeatedly with standing ovations, while the response usually features a politician standing alone, struggling to read from a teleprompter while speaking to a lone camera.

With all of this in mind, Republicans have made their choice in advance of President Obama’s speech next week.

Newly elected Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst will deliver the Republican response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, Republicans announced Thursday. […]

Ernst, who beat Democrat Bruce Braley decisively in November, told reporters she is “humbled and honored” to have the opportunity to deliver the address. The announcement was made at a Republican legislative retreat in Hersey, Pennsylvania.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the right-wing Iowan, just one week into her congressional career, the “perfect choice.”

And at a certain level, it’s easy to understand why. Ernst is a telegenic speaker who just won a competitive U.S. Senate race in an important battleground state. Given that congressional Republican leaders are dominated by white men, it stands to reason that the party would prioritize diversity for this national address.

But if Joni Ernst is now the “perfect choice” to speak on behalf of the Republican Party in 2015, it’s worth appreciating just what this choice tells us about the state of GOP politics.

For those who’ve forgotten, or perhaps didn’t follow Iowa’s U.S. Senate race closely, Ernst was arguably the most extremist candidate to seek statewide office in 2014. As readers may recall, Ernst endorsed banning abortions and many forms of birth control; nullifying federal laws she doesn’t like, privatizing Social Security; and impeaching President Obama. She argued that Saddam Hussein really did have weapons of mass destruction and people on Medicaid “have no personal responsibility for their health.” She dismissed the very existence of a federal minimum wage as “ridiculous” and credited the Koch brothers for the strength of her candidacy. She endorsed enough conspiracy theories to qualify her as the head of a Glenn Beck fan club.

At one point, Ernst expressed support for arresting federal officials who try to implement federal laws the far-right doesn’t like, and later, she added that she likes to carry a loaded firearm with her everywhere, in case she needs to defend herself – “whether it’s from an intruder, or whether it’s from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important.” [Update: A reader also reminds me of the time Ernst referred to the president as a “dictator,” as well as her outrageous rhetoric during the Ebola scare.]

The moment she was elected, Ernst instantly became one of the most radical U.S. senators, not just of this current Congress, but in recent American history.

As the 2014 campaign wound down, and revelations about the Republican’s bizarre nuttiness grew more serious, Ernst decided to stop talking to mainstream news organizations in Iowa altogether. She won soon after by nearly nine points, despite her extremism and despite her confusion about the basics of current events and public policy.

Ernst is the “perfect choice” to speak for Republicans? Really? Why would GOP leaders consider that a development to be proud of?

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 15, 2015

January 19, 2015 Posted by | GOP, Joni Ernst, State of the Union | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Same Old Issues”: Why The Media Are Ignoring The Dangerous Ideas of Joni Ernst And Other Extremists Now On The Cusp Of Power

Joni Ernst, who may become Iowa’s next senator, denies climate change, supports a personhood amendment and says she’d use her “beautiful little Smith & Wesson” to defend herself “from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important.” She’s also seriously flirted with a John Birch Society–backed conspiracy theory about an evil plot called Agenda 21.

But all you’d know from the corporate media is that Ernst made a really catchy ad about castrating pigs and that she is supposedly (but not really) the victim of a sexist remark made by outgoing Democratic senator Tom Harkin.

Norman Ornstein, the pundit who was once quoted all over until he dared to say that Republicans are the real obstructionists, explains such grand omissions brilliantly:

The most common press narrative for elections this year is to contrast them with the 2010 and 2012 campaigns. Back then, the GOP “establishment” lost control of its nominating process, ended up with a group of extreme Senate candidates who said wacky things—Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, Sharron Angle—and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in races that should have been slam dunks. Now the opposite has happened: The establishment has fought back and won, vanquishing the Tea Party and picking top-flight candidates who are disciplined and mainstream, dramatically unlike Akin and Angle.

It is a great narrative, a wonderful organizing theme. But any evidence that contradicts or clouds the narrative devalues it, which is perhaps why evidence to the contrary tends to be downplayed or ignored. Meantime, stories that show personal gaffes or bonehead moves by the opponents of these new, attractive mainstream candidates, fit that narrative and are highlighted.

Of course, this does not mean that the press has a Republican bias, any more than it had an inherent Democratic bias in 2012 when Akin, Angle, and Mourdock led the coverage. What it suggests is how deeply the eagerness to pick a narrative and stick with it, and to resist stories that contradict the narrative, is embedded in the culture of campaign journalism. [My italics] The alternative theory, that the Republican establishment won by surrendering its ground to its more ideologically extreme faction, picking candidates who are folksy and have great resumes but whose issue stances are much the same as their radical Tea Party rivals, goes mostly ignored. Meanwhile, there was plenty of coverage of the admittedly bonehead refusal by Kentucky Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes to say she had voted for Obama—dozens of press references to NBC’s Chuck Todd saying it was “disqualifying”—but no stories saying that references to Agenda 21 or talking about terrorists and drug lords out to kill Arkansans [as Republican senatorial candidate Tom Cotton does] were disqualifying.

 

By: Leslie Savan, The Nation, November 3, 2014

November 4, 2014 Posted by | Joni Ernst, Media, Midterm Elections | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Media Just Hasn’t Reported On It”: Why Republicans Have Gotten Away With Craziness This Year

We don’t know if Joni Ernst is going to be the next Senator from Iowa, but one thing we can say is that Democrats failed to paint her as a radical Tea Partier with dangerous ideas. (Actually, there’s another thing we can say: her replacing liberal lion Tom Harkin would have to be the widest ideological swing in a Senate seat from one Congress to the next in a long time.) The question is, why? And more broadly, why have they failed to do that with any of the GOP Senate candidates running this year? It’s not like this is a bunch of moderates. One explanation is that the establishment triumphed by weeding out the nutcases:

National Republicans managed this year to snuff out every bomb-throwing insurgent who tried to wrest a Senate nod away from one of their favored candidates. They spent millions against baggage-laden activists such as Matt Bevin, the Louisville investor who mounted a ham-fisted challenge to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel, the conservative upstart who imperiled a safe seat by nearly ousting longtime Sen. Thad Cochran.

The confrontational approach—by both party committees and outside super PACs—represented a sharp departure from the GOP’s cautious strategy in the 2010 and 2012 cycles, when cartoonishly inept nominees aligned with the tea party lost the party as many as five Senate seats.

All that’s true, but it’s not just that they kept crazy people from winning primaries, they also kept primary winners’ craziness from undoing their campaigns. Ernst has managed to skate away from accountability for her more disturbing ideas, like her embrace of the “Agenda 21” conspiracy theory or her statement that she might have to start shooting government officials if they trample her rights. That’s not to mention her beliefs that there should be no federal minimum wage and that weapons of mass destruction were actually found in Iraq.

And it isn’t like Democrats haven’t tried to convince voters that Ernst is a radical. So why hasn’t she, like Todd Akin and Sharron Angle before her, gotten all kinds of negative attention for her comments that ultimately drove her to defeat?

There are many factors, like the fact that the Republican party has stuck by her, that had an impact. But I think the biggest reason is that the media just haven’t reported on it very much. Ernst’s Agenda 21 conspiricizing may have gotten attention from liberal bloggers, but it didn’t get much notice in the Iowa media, or from national political reporters. In contrast, when Bruce Braley told attendees at a fundraiser that if Republicans took the Senate, the Judiciary Committee would be chaired by “a farmer from Iowa without a law degree,” meaning the state’s senior senator, Chuck Grassley, it was huge news. The Des Moines Register, the state’s largest paper (and one that Ernst complains is biased against her) did editorialize once against Ernst’s radical and constitutionally demented views on “nullification,” but that’s the only substantive article about the topic that comes up when you search the paper’s web site (though there are a few letters to the editor that mention it). On the other hand, when I searched for Braley’s statement about Grassley being a farmer in the DMR, I got 79 hits.

While I haven’t done a systematic analysis of the rest of Iowa or national media, that doesn’t seem unrepresentative—I’ve seen the Grassley farmer thing mentioned many, many times in mainstream sources, but not Ernst’s crazier beliefs. Perhaps it’s because reporters are just tired of writing the “Republican candidate says extreme things” story. But I think it’s also that the Braley “gaffes,” whether it’s implying that farmers are not necessarily the font of wisdom in all things, or being upset when his neighbor’s chickens crap on his lawn, are personal in a way Ernst’s statements aren’t. They supposedly imply that Braley might be a bit of a jerk, whereas you can be friendly and nice and also believe the UN is coming to kick you off your land.

The trouble is that when we’re talking about electing people to the nation’s legislature, this is completely backward. The personal stuff is of only the tiniest importance, if any at all, while beliefs about the world are very relevant. Joni Ernst’s ideas about the UN, about guns, and about the legal status of zygotes will actually make a difference in how she does her job, should she win. In contrast, unless Harry Reid has his chickens crap in Bruce Braley’s Capitol Hill office just before a critical budget vote, I don’t think that’s going to really be an issue. But that’s what the campaign coverage has focused on.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, November 3, 2014

November 4, 2014 Posted by | Media, Midterm Elections, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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