While her spirit may have left us 15 years ago the final battle over Terri Schiavo's earthly shell may have marked the beginning of the end for the Taliban like theocratic threat to the constitution. As a result I think she should be remembered by progressives as Saint Terri. In death she further weakened George W. Bush and made it clear to all the power grabbing political motivations of Tom DeLay and Bill Frist. When right wingnuts like Neal Boortz think you are out of line and crazy you must really be crazy. That's what happened to DeLay, Frist and Bush and polls indicated that nearly 80% of the American people agreed with Mr. Boortz. While the Bush administration has attempted to distance itself from the debacle DeLay and Frist have continued to dig a deeper hole. So let's hear it for Saint Terri.Almost 20 months latter the Oregonian's David Sarasohn thinks the Terri Schiavo debacle is when the Republicans started TRENDING DOWNWARD.
Last week, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., offered his farewell remarks to the Senate. When he originally planned the occasion, Frist was going to pass on the majority leadership to a fellow Republican, and kick off his campaign for president in 2008.Yes, it may have been the war in Iraq and corruption that eventually brought the Republicans down but in the back of their minds the voters remembered Terri Schiavo and didn't like what they remembered.
Instead, Frist spoke to a Senate that's about to become Democratic and -- having already pulled the plug on his White House hopes -- talked about returning to Tennessee to practice medicine.
But medicine helped bring Frist to this point. In March 2005, as part of the drive by the GOP Congress and the Bush administration to block the removal of a feeding tube from Terri Schiavo after she'd spent years in a vegetative state, Frist offered a diagnosis on the Senate floor.
The heart surgeon declared he'd looked at videotape of Terri Schiavo in her Florida hospice room and, "She certainly seems to respond to visual stimuli."
Actually -- after the bill that Frist pushed through the Senate was dismissed by courts and Schiavo's feeding tube was removed -- an autopsy confirmed Schiavo's vegetative state and blindness.
By that time, polls showed the American people had already reached their own diagnosis of the Schiavo situation and of the efforts by Congress and the White House to take it over. By early April, pollsters reported George W. Bush had reached his lowest approval levels ever -- although these days, his levels of that time look stratospheric.
But looking back, back to a time when Karl Rove was supposed to be unstoppably building the permanent Republican majority, it seems the Schiavo episode was the moment when the signs started to point downward.At the time of the Schiavo vote the Democrats were fearful that the Republicans would be able to use a no vote against them. They were wrong as were the Republicans who underestimated the American people.
"Schiavo was the first expression that they had drunk the Kool-Aid, that they had completely surrendered to 10 percent of their base," says Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore. "The wheels came off then."
But in two days, a CBS poll found that 82 percent of Americans thought the federal government should have stayed out of the issue. More than two-thirds of conservatives and evangelicals disapproved. Congress' approval rating fell to 34 percent.So thanks to Terri Schiavo the Republicans are out of power and Frist's dreams of the presidency are just that, dreams.
Two weeks later, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found 18 percent of Republicans saying they had lost respect for Bush on the issue and 41 percent saying they'd lost respect for Congress.
And the "social issue," previously considered an abortion/gay marriage slam dunk for the GOP, started to turn into something more about privacy and science, about medical care and stem-cell research, and about who gets to make decisions about people's lives.