A Straight Shot of Politics

A blog from a gentleman of the Liberal political persuasion dedicated to right reason, clear thinking, cogent argument, and the public good.

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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

I have returned from darkness and quiet. I used to style myself as "Joe Claus", Santa Claus’ younger brother because that is what I still look like. I wrote my heart out about liberal politics until June of 2006, when all that could be said had been said. I wrote until I could write no more and I wrote what I best liked to read when I was young and hopeful: the short familiar essays in Engish and American periodicals of 50 to 100 years ago. The archetype of them were those of G.K. Chesterton, written in newspapers and gathered into numerous small books. I am ready to write them again. I am ready to write about life as seen by the impoverished, by the mentally ill, by the thirty years and more of American Buddhist converts, and by the sharp eyed people [so few now in number] with the watcher's disease, the people who watch and watch and watch. I am all of these.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Purely For Foul and Corrupt Political Advantage

Now that Terri Schiavo is gone, and I can no longer be spattered with the mud that I in any way contributed to her death, I will lift my self imposed restraint and comment on what I think was the ugliest dimension of the issue: the coldly crystaline public relations ploy of the current Republican Congress, the sitting Republican President, and the Republican Governor of Florida in attempting to override the clear due process of law the matter had exhaustively received in the Florida state courts.

As an overtly religious man, I have printed my private views on the religious aspect of the controversy here. But I can no longer stand silent while our Federal Government and its Constitution are usurped and held hostage by rogue theocrats, and their cynical fellow-travelers, who care nothing for its fundamental principles.

There is only one good side to this; it backfired. In recent polls 3 out of 4 surveyed were perfectly aware that it was done purely for political advantage. They also, when asked, repudiated it. The only problem is that we have become so inured to the moral repugnancy of this that even such a clear understanding may result in no political correction of the problem

I do not wish to soil my blog with the explicit details of the viscous snail trail of partisan money from the Lynde & Harry Bradley Foundation; through the Philanthropy Roundtable; aided by the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, the Randolph Foundation, the Scaife Family Foundations, as well as the JM Foundation; funnelled through the Alliance Defense Fund; and distributed to the Life Legal Defense Foundation, The Family Research Council, the National Organization on Disability, the World Institute on Disability, the Discovery Institute, and the International Task Force on Euthanasia. But you can follow them on the link if you like.

Millions of dollars, in fact, were run through this rotomontade and money laundry merely to keep the Schiavo case clogging up the Florida and the Federal courts for fifteen years.

Do any of the members of these money mills really give a damn personally about Terri Schiavo, who was merely one of thousands of patients and families who are placed in the dilemma of continuing life support every year? I doubt it.

The leaders of these money flushing fraternities with the pretentious, stuff-shirted, names--such as the Traditional Values Coalition--are even willing to brag about the donations they are collecting from the Terri Schiavo hullabaloo:

"What this issue has done is it has galvanized people the way nothing could have done in an off-election year," said Rev. Lou Sheldon, the founder of the group, acknowledging that the case of Ms. Schiavo, a severely brain-damaged Florida woman, had moved many to open up their checkbooks. "That is what I see as the blessing that dear Terri's life is offering to the conservative Christian movement in America."


[Hat tip: Armando at Daily Kos]

So why did the problem of Terri Schiavo agitate the highest offices in the land? Chris Bowers of My DD puts it perfectly:

The real leaders of the Republican Party are not named DeLay, Bush, Hastert or Frist. They are named Scaife, Olin, Koch, McKenna, Bradley, Richardson, Smith and Coors. The public puppets simply had no choice but to dance when the real powers that be told them to do so.


Moreover, the sheer effrontry of Tom DeLay in this matter is a particularly scabrous and offensive violation of the norms of honesty, preservation of the public trust, and simple good taste. This is what the Majority Leader had to say to the partisan faithful, as reported in the New York Times:

"One thing that God has brought to us is Terri Schiavo, to help elevate the visibility of what is going on in America," Mr. DeLay told a conference organized by the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group. A recording of the event was provided by the advocacy organization Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "This is exactly the issue that is going on in America, of attacks against the conservative movement, against me and against many others."

Mr. DeLay complained that "the other side" had figured out how "to defeat the conservative movement," by waging personal attacks, linking with liberal organizations and persuading the national news media to report the story. He charged that "the whole syndicate" was "a huge nationwide concerted effort to destroy everything we believe in."

No, Mr. DeLay, the source of the furor about you has nothing to do with the sanctity of Terri Shiavo's life, or anyone else's life. It is about your being a corrupt, unprincipled, and probably criminal, jack-in-office. And your attempt to hitch your wagon to the private tragedy of all the Schiavo family in order to turn attention from your own corrupt conduct turns my stomach.And what has happened since? Here is what Mr. Delay had to say yesterday:

This loss happened because our legal system did not protect the people who need protection most, and that will change. The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior, but not today.

This is an explicit and naked threat against sitting members of the Federal Judiciary, in the District, Circuit, and the Supreme Courts. It is also an explicit and naked threat against Michael Schiavo, his legal advocates, the medical professionals who treated Ms. Schiavo, and all of us who take the principled stand that the Federal Government had no business intervening in this case merely to force a particular outcome.

You can almost smell the interrogation room at the secret police headquarters.

Mr. Delay is simply unfit for public office in the United States of America.

So it is with great pleasure that I print the remarks in full of a principled member of the United States Congress, Senator John W. Warner (R-Va.) who is on the subcommitee that was charged with routeing the Schiavo Bill. He brought it forth as quickly as possible, but took the time and effort, with much courage given his Party affiliation and where its money comes from, to speak against it in the Congressional Record, and most courageous of all, to post his opposition on his own Senatorial website for all his constituants to read:


Mr. President, the tenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

This is a principle of Federalism which, I believe, is not being followed by Congress in enacting this legislation. That the misfortunes of life vested upon Theresa Marie Schiavo are a human tragedy, no one can deny. I said my prayers, as did many Americans, as we attended religious services this Palm Sunday.

I believe it unwise for the Congress to take from the state of Florida its constitutional responsibility to resolve the issues in this case. The Florida State Court System have adjudicated the issues to date. This bill, in effect, challenges the integrity and capabilities of the state courts in Florida.

That the Federal system of courts can more properly and fairly adjudicate the equities among the diverse parties in this particular case, is a conclusion with which I cannot agree. Greater wisdom is not always reposed in the branches of Federal Government.

Apart from Constitutional issues, I am concerned for the institution of the Senate, a body in which I have been privileged to serve for over a quarter of a century. I view service in the Senate as that of a trustee -- preserve this venerable body, its traditions and time tested precedents, for future generations. It is one of a kind in this troubled world. The drafters of this bill endeavored to write in provisions to prevent this unique law -- a private relief bill is the term used in our procedures -- from becoming a “precedent for future legislation” (section 7).

I do not believe the legislation can, or will, block further petitions from our citizens. Who can say there are not other tragic situations across our land today; who can predict what the future may inflict by way of personal hardship upon our citizens?

I fear the door has opened, and Congress, which by Constitutional mandate is entrusted to pass laws for the nation, will again and again be petitioned to deal with personal situations which are the responsibility of the several states.

I respect the views of those who drafted and moved this bill swiftly, with limited debate, through the Senate. I value the sanctity of life no less fervently than they, for I had the great fortune of being the son of a doctor who devoted his entire life to healing and caring for the sick and injured. My father’s principles have been my compass for my life.

It is not easy to be in opposition on this legislation, but I have a duty to state my views in keeping with my oath to support the constitution as I interpret it.

I also append the principled and erudite opinion of Judge Stanley F. Birch Jr. of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Birch could have hidden behind the en banc rejection of the particular Schiavo appeal. Instead, he chose courageously to exercise his office and his logic to rebuke the Constitution trampling theocrats:

A popular epithet directed by some members of society, including some members of Congress, toward the judiciary involves the denunciation of “activist judges.” Generally, the definition of an “activist judge” is one who decides the outcome of a controversy before him according to personal conviction, even one sincerely held, as opposed to the dictates of the law as constrained by legal precedent and, ultimately, our Constitution.

In resolving the Schiavo controversy it is my judgment that, despite sincere and altruistic motivation, the legislative and executive branches of our government have acted in a manner demonstrably at odds with our Founding Fathers’ blueprint for the governance of a free people --our Constitution. Since I have sworn, as have they, to uphold and defend that Covenant, I must respectfully concur in the denial of the request for rehearing en banc. I conclude that Pub. L.109-3 is unconstitutional and, therefore, this court and the district court are without jurisdiction in this case and should refuse to exercise any jurisdiction that we may otherwise have in this case....

Since the passage of Pub. L. 109-3 on the morning of March 21, 2005, its constitutionality has been presumed. In the instant appeal, our court and the district court continue to indulge this presumption and decline to address the constitutionality of the law which purports to grant federal jurisdiction. Jurisdiction, however, is a prerequisite to the legitimate exercise of judicial power, and therefore we may not hypothetically assume jurisdiction to avoid resolving hard jurisdictional questions....

Accordingly, we risk imperiling our constitutional design if we do not inquire as to whether Pub. L. 109-3 infringes on the independence of the judiciary guaranteed by Article III of the United States Constitution. Article III provides that the “judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.” In defining the extent of federal judicial power, Article III provides that “judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority” and to certain other enumerated cases and controversies....

If the Act only provided for jurisdiction....consistent with Article III, the Act would not be in violation of the principles of separation of powers....Because these provisions constitute legislative dictation of how a federal court should exercise its judicial functions (known as a “rule of decision”), the Act invades the province of the judiciary and violates the separation of powers principle....

Because this is violative of the fundamental principles of separation of powers enshrined in our Constitution, they are unconstitutional. The separation of powers implicit in our constitutional design was created "to assure, as nearly as possible, that each branch of government would confine itself to its assigned responsibility." But when the fervor of political passions moves the Executive and the Legislative branches to act in ways inimical to basic constitutional principles, it is the duty of the judiciary to intervene. If sacrifices to the independence of the judiciary are permitted today, precedent is established for the constitutional transgressions of tomorrow. [Emphasis by Judge Birch]


Would that more of us had such courage and such clarity.

2 Comments:

Blogger TallDave said...

Ummmm... have you check the Constitution lately? We have three branches of gov't, not a judicial dictatorship.

11:06 AM  
Blogger Joseph Marshall said...

And this court acknowledged the existence of the Schiavo law by hearing the arguments and considering the case.

This is what Judge Birch meant by "our court and the district court continue to indulge this presumption and decline to address the constitutionality of the law which purports to grant federal jurisdiction."

The fact that you, and the Congressmen who passed this law did not just demand that the court hear the case, but also insisted that the court reach a particular judgement about it, is precisely what is "unconstitutional" about Schiavo law.

4:36 AM  

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