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Bush Brothers Get Involved in Schiavo Case; Social Security to Run Out in 2041

Aired March 23, 2005 - 15:02   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: This is INSIDE POLITICS, but we are going to continue here with the Terri Schiavo story.
We want to go back to Tony Harris in Atlanta. He's been covering the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. It is one of the places where we have recently seen some action.

Tony, take us back: tell us where we are as concerns the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. What have they done?

TONY HARRIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know what? That's right, Candy. Let me take a deep breath and sort of recap the entire day.

First of all, at about 2:30 this morning, a three-judge panel here at the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled and denied the request for this emergency appeal on the restraining order to reconnect the feeding tube of Terri Schiavo. And then what happened then is, a little later in the afternoon, there was this petition filed by David Gibbs, who is the attorney for the Schindler family.

This is a petition for an expedited rehearing. What the Schindlers were asking for is that the entire 11th Circuit Court of Appeals -- all of the judges, all 12 judges -- take a look at this and rehear the argument, the appeal for this emergency, a temporary restraining order, to reattach the tube.

And then in just inside the half-hour, we received the decision from the court. And here it is on the petition for an expedited rehearing. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has denied that petition. So for all intents and purposes, the court case, the appeals process here at the U.S., United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit on the Terri Schiavo matter, has come, Candy, to a close.

CROWLEY: So it goes from here, Tony, I am assuming to the Supreme Court. As we heard from the parents of Terri Schiavo, they intend to go there. Is that -- is that the next place we're headed?

HARRIS: Inexorably, this case all along has seemed to be headed for the U.S. Supreme Court. Of course the U.S. Supreme Court has had three other opportunities to look at this and intervene, and each time it has decided not to do so. We expect that the U.S. Supreme Court will get a petition on this appeal soon, if it hasn't already been filed. And it may very well have been. And as you know, the events are transpiring very quickly in Tallahassee as the Florida state legislature will consider, we think, some kind of remedy at the behest of the Schindler family to issue some kind of an order that would order the restoration of this feeding tube for Terri Schiavo.

CROWLEY: Tony Harris in Atlanta outside the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Thanks so much.

We want to go to Joe Johns, who we believe is at the next stop for this very sad case of Terri Schiavo, the Supreme Court.

Joe, what can you tell us?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, presumably this is the next stop for all of this. Of course we have not gotten word that an application for an appeal to the Supreme Court has been filed. The anticipation would be that, if it gets here, it probably would move fairly quickly.

I can tell you also that there are preparations, especially among people who are interested in all of this, to try to influence the court, should the court decide to take the Schiavo appeal this time, including some House Republicans, the speaker of the House, the majority leader of the House, and Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee. They have put together a couple documents, in fact, that they would like to submit in this case -- one being a friend of the court brief, a second document essentially a statement of intent of the House of Representatives in passing the bill that was signed into law by the president over the weekend on the Terri Schiavo matter.

They gave us actually that statement. And I can read you some excerpts from it. I think we have a graphic.

First, they comment on the district court's decision and apparently the appeals court decision as well. "The court failed to properly assess the legislative history," they say. They also say the legislation that they passed requires the insertion of the feeding tube.

They say, "The plain meaning and legislative history clearly require that a temporary restraining order be issued. This is required to ensure that desperately needed nutritional support is provided to Terri Schiavo to keep her alive during the pendency of her claim."

That, of course, is the kind of thing they've been arguing ever since they passed the bill. It's not clear at all, though, presuming this appeal gets here, that the court will take it.

As you know, three other times the court has declined to take up Schiavo matters, which may suggest to some legal observers that they don't have a very good chance here. At the same time, you have to say that the legislation that was passed over the weekend raises some new issues the court might want to consider -- Candy. CROWLEY: Joe Johns outside the Supreme Court. We, of course, will get back to you over time this afternoon and this evening. Thanks a lot.

The White House says it has exhausted all its legal options in the Schiavo case. President Bush says White House lawyers decided his best course of action was to sign legislation early Monday giving federal courts jurisdiction over the case. The president spoke about Schiavo's fate during a news conference with Canadian and Mexican officials in Texas.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is an extraordinary and sad case, and I believe that in a case such as this, the legislative branch, the executive branch ought to err on the side of life, which we have. And now we'll watch the courts make its decisions. But we looked at all options from the executive branch perspective.


CROWLEY: We want to talk more about the legal options in the Schiavo case with two attorneys who have different perspectives on politics and this story. We are joined by Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice, and Kathryn Tucker, director of legal affairs for the group Compassion and Choices.

Jay, let me -- let me go to you first. So should we read into the fact that the Supreme Court has three times said, no, we're not going to hear it, that this fourth time probably doesn't hold out a lot of hope?

JAY SEKULOW, AMERICAN CENTER FOR LAW & JUSTICE: Well, you know, I do most of my practice at the Supreme Court of the United States. So whenever you're going up to the Supreme Court coming from a court of appeals decision, the odds are against you.

Now, the difference here is the Supreme Court is always more likely to grant reviewing the case when it's an act of Congress that they're dealing with. In the other three cases -- I was involved in two of these three -- it was involving a technical legal issue from the state courts in Florida.

This is a federal statute. And the question there will be did these judges comply with the intent of Congress here? And if you've got Congress weighing in on it, Congressman Weldon, the speaker of the House, and others, I think that gives it a more -- a better chance, I will say. A guarantee, absolutely not. Odds are always against you.

CROWLEY: Kathryn, let me go to you with the same question. Are hopes and avenues for Terri Schiavo's parents dwindling here?

KATHRYN TUCKER, ATTORNEY: Well, I think we have to remember that the United States Supreme Court ruled in 1990 in the Cruzan case that there is a liberty interest in a patient in this kind of situation in being able to refuse life-sustaining treatment, including food and water, and that when a patient can't speak for themselves, that you look to the surrogate.

In this case, under Florida law, the surrogate is Michael Schiavo. And he is advocating the interest of his wife, as he understands them based on their extensive discussion in the course of their marriage.

I think at this point the court is going to say, there's been ample process, the surrogate is speaking the wishes of the patient, and we must reserve this most profound profoundly personal choice to the patient. We can't let the parents insert their wishes or politicians insert theirs.

SEKULOW: But of course you do have an act of Congress here that's in play, and that does make this difference for the courts. And at the same time, you've got the Florida legislature I think poised for action now.

Now, they've been very hesitant down in Florida. We've seen that.

Candy, I'll tell you something. The press statement by Governor Bush was very clear that he wanted something done. The pressure is now going to be on that Florida legislature.

I will tell you, with our own organization we've heard from 55,000 people in just a few days just concerned about this issue. So it's garnered a lot of support.

Legally speaking, the next challenge is going to be the case has to go to the Supreme Court of the United States. It goes to a circuit justice. That would be Justice Kennedy.

He can do one of three things. He can decide to grant the stay, which would include the insertion of the feeding tube, he could deny it, or he can refer it to the entire Supreme Court. My perspective on this will be he probably does the latter, and that is he refers it to the court for very, very quick expedition. I'm talking hours.

CROWLEY: Kathryn, I want to go to you first on the Jeb Bush -- Governor Jeb Bush of Florida. His news conference where he said another neurologist had been in to see Terri Schiavo, a world-renowned one, he said, and found that she perhaps has been misdiagnosed...

TUCKER: Right.

CROWLEY: ... that she may be in a minimally conscious state as opposed to a persistent vegetative state. Does it change anything legally?

TUCKER: Yes. He -- right.

Well, what I just heard was that the physician had not actually examined but had looked at videos. But in any event, what had happened before this late arrival of this neurologist was many other highly credentialed and qualified physicians had done extensive examination and had concluded that she was permanently unconscious. And so I think trying to second guess that now is highly inappropriate.

And if I could say on this act of Congress that's been done, yes, there has been an act of the federal Congress here, but it has been an act that is such a gross overreaching of the bounds of federal authority that I think that's not going to motivate the court to pick this case up.

SEKULOW: Yes, that's not the basis upon, by the way, which the court declared, said it did not apply here. They did not say it was unconstitutional. In fact, they assumed it was constitutional.

CROWLEY: Jay Sekulow...

TUCKER: No, and they do assume that...


CROWLEY: Sorry. Kathryn, I have to interrupt you here just because we have to move on. We have a lot of other things. We want to do a little more about the Jeb news conference after we go to break. But right now, I want to thank you, Kathryn Tucker, for joining us.

Jay Sekulow, thank you so much for being here.

SEKULOW: Thank you. Thank you very much.

TUCKER: Thank you so much.

CROWLEY: We want to go to break. And we'll be right back.



We are continuing on the story of Terri Schiavo and her parents' fight to reinsert the feeding tube to keep her alive. We mentioned before the break that Governor Jeb Bush of Florida held a news conference within the past 15 minutes. We want to go to Mike Vasilinda, who's with the Capitol News Service who is in Tallahassee. He was there at the news conference.

Mike, first of all, what's the -- what's the main nugget that came out of the news conference?

MIKE VASILINDA, CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE: Well, good afternoon, Candy.

The main nugget that seemed to come out of this news conference is the state seems to be saying court order be dammed, we have authority under the abuse statutes in the state of Florida to come in, take a look at Terri Schiavo, determine if she's been abused, despite what the court has said, and possibly take her into custody. Now, the state has not said it's made that decision, that it's going to try to take her into custody. But this court order filed before Judge Greer this afternoon basically asserts supremacy over the judge's order to remove the feeding tube and says that we want to intervene in this case and we may try to take her into custody.

CROWLEY: And so the abuse stems from -- and we got this -- she may, in fact, be minimally conscious, as opposed to in a persistent vegetative state. Does it stem from that, the abuse charge or investigation?

VASILINDA: Well, the Department of Children and Families is being very nonspecific in saying what exactly they think the abuse is. Asked point blank if the removal of the feeding tube was the actual abuse, the department said it went far beyond that. But it would not authorize the release of any files or any of the complaints, or be more specific other than to say that it is much, much more than that, and they have been trying to investigate for the last three weeks.

CROWLEY: Now, at the same time, I don't know if these are parallel paths or the same path, you have, of course, the state legislature and the Senate. What's the state of play there, and does this play into that?

VASILINDA: Well, you know, there's an interesting conflict, it appears. Governor Jeb Bush, in his news conference, asserted that, indeed, Terri Schiavo is not in a persistent vegetative state, and therefore they have a neurologist who's willing to testify to that based on an examination. But conversely, the state Senate may be just minutes away from passing legislation that would apply only to someone in a persistent vegetative state. So we may end up who knows where if the governor prevails in intervening in this case and this legislation should pass.

CROWLEY: Mike Vasilinda with Capitol News Service, thanks so much for being there for us. I'm sure we'll be talking to you again.

We want to return you all and play just a little bit of Governor Jeb Bush's news conference not so long ago.


GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: The neurologist's review indicates that Terri may have been misdiagnosed and it is more likely that she is in a state of minimal consciousness rather than in a state of -- in a persistent vegetative state.


CROWLEY: So for some explanation of this, a look at what the medical portion of this is, we want to go to Elizabeth Cohen. She is in Atlanta.

Elizabeth, minimally conscious state versus a persistent vegetative state. Sounds to a layman as though they're talking about she does have a thought process, she is thinking things, she is in there. ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, actually, the way that medicine defines it, Candy, is not what she's thinking, because it's really hard to assess what someone is thinking. Medicine definitely defines these states as being two very different states.

It defines "minimally conscious" as being aware, as definitely being aware of the surroundings around the patient. In other words, does the patient follow simple "yes" or "no" orders? For example, lift your arm, can you do this, can you not, nodding, or giving some indication that they're understanding a very simple command.

Or, for example, just being aware of who's around them, being aware when someone enters the room. That would mean minimal consciousness. That is very different from the permanent vegetative state, where there is no awareness of what's around the person. People can come and go, different people may come in and leave, and the person is not aware of what's going on around them. And there are different tests that physicians do to determine which the person is in.

Now, doctor after doctor, including, of course, many neurologists, have assessed Terri Schiavo over the years and said that she is in a permanent vegetative state. This doctor, according to Governor Jeb Bush, apparently disagrees and says that she's in a state of minimal consciousness -- Candy.

CROWLEY: So let me ask you, Elizabeth, if you can answer this, and that is, can you tell the difference between those two states in a patient if there is not a physical exam? Because as we understand it, there was no physical exam of Terri Schiavo by this new neurologist. If he did, in fact, go in there and was by her bedside, one assumes he could have said, you know, could have talked to her. Can you do it without a physical exam?

COHEN: You know, doctors who I've been talking to who, for example, heard about Bill Frist watching videos and giving an opinion after watching videos were critical of him. They said, you know, doctors shouldn't be making diagnoses based on videos. They should be making a diagnosis based on actually being next to the patient and doing a physical exam, and very importantly watching what happens when they say, "Terri," or -- this would just be a hypothetical -- "if you can hear me, lift your left arm, or look to the left or look to the right," or can in some way obey commands.

I mean, in order to make what I think most doctors would consider a really good diagnosis, you would have to be there to witness what her responses were to those kinds of simple commands, or to some kind of a simple "yes" or "no" question.

CROWLEY: Elizabeth Cohen in Atlanta, thanks for your expertise. Appreciate it.

We want to have more on the Terri Schiavo case and some other politics when INSIDE POLITICS returns.


We are, of course, watching the Terri Schiavo case for any new developments. We will bring you those on a continued basis.

But right now we want to turn to another big issue of the day. The trustees who oversee Social Security announced today the program's trust fund will run out of money in the year 2041. That is one year sooner than previously estimated.

At that time, a Social Security program will continue to pay an estimated 74 percent of benefits.

Treasury Secretary John Snow is chairman of the program's board of trustees and a strong advocate for President Bush's idea to create private retirement accounts for younger workers. He joins me now from the White House.

Thank you so much, Mr. Secretary, for joining us.


CROWLEY: OK, Social Security is not going to be solvent. The president has said that the private accounts that he would like, the personal accounts that he would like, won't solve the solvency program. Why hasn't the administration put some program on the table and said we need to do this for solvency?

SNOW: Well, Candy, the trustees' report today said just that, that the system isn't sustainable. Every year we wait it gets more costly and more difficult. And it called -- it called for action.

And the president's laid out a lot of ideas. I'm pleased to see that others in the Congress are coming forward with ideas. We're engaged in this broad national dialogue, the end result of which I'm confident is going to be bipartisan legislation.

CROWLEY: Well, Secretary Snow, you, I know, have heard the Democrats saying we're not going to put a plan out there because he'll put it out there and beat us up on it. The president has said much the same thing.

To an outsider who is worried about their Social Security, looking in on Washington it looks like all you all are doing is bickering with no plan on the table. Can you -- has there been some forward movement here of any kind you can point to?

SNOW: I think there's been a lot of forward movement, Candy. I've been spending a lot of time going around the country and talking to people, senior citizens, reassuring them that their benefits are intact, talking to younger people, getting their views on how they can get a fair deal out of -- out of Social Security. And there's a lot of support for this personal accounts.

Here in Washington, any number of proposals are being -- are being developed by members of Congress, Senator Graham, Senator Bennett, and Senator Hagel all have championed ideas.

CROWLEY: Well, whose do you like?

SNOW: Well, I think the important thing now is to get a lot of ideas going and then work with the members of Congress to get the best ideas to encourage the process. What the president wants to do is encourage the legislative process to really -- to really work. And it's beginning to do that. And I think at the end of this 60 days, 60-site tour that we're well into now, we're going to see that Congress is ready to act.

CROWLEY: Mr. Secretary, because our time is short, I want to move you to another subject in that report, and that is Medicare, which will go broke about 20 years before Social Security, which began last year to take in less than it's paying out. Where's the Medicare plan?

SNOW: Well, the Congress, of course, enacted major -- with the support of the president and his leadership -- major Medicare reform a year and-a-half or so ago, including prescription drugs for seniors, including opportunities for individuals to take more charge over their health care spending. And we're continuing to await those developments, those promising developments, while pushing for malpractice reform, ending abusive lawsuits against doctors and hospitals and so on, encouraging the HSAs, the health savings accounts, which are an important new breakthrough.

So a lot is going on, on the Medicare front as well. The issue there is really rising healthcare costs and what can be done to reduce the growth rate of healthcare costs. The administration is much engaged in that issue.

CROWLEY: Treasury Secretary John Snow, way too short for my taste. I hope you'll come back and join us another day.

SNOW: Thank you very much.

CROWLEY: Thank you.

INSIDE POLITICS is going to take a break, but we'll be right back.


CROWLEY: Markets are closing on Wall Street and you know what that means. I am joined by Kitty Pilgrim in New York with "The Dobbs Report" -- Kitty.


Well, stocks on Wall Street are fairly mixed. The Dow Industrials are losing a little bit at the close. We're down about 16 points. Nasdaq basically flat on the day. Oil prices tumbled more than $2 today, and that puts crude oil back below $54 a barrel. There are two major forces at work here. U.S. oil inventories were bigger than expected last week. And the sharp rise in the value of the dollar since the Fed raised interest rates yesterday. All that factoring in.

Inflation a major concern still. Consumer prices rose four tenths of a percent in February. That's the fastest pace in four months, and that could be because of higher energy prices passed on to the consumer. Now, in the strongest language in four years, the Fed said it was closely watching out for inflation.

The federal government is bailing out one of Amtrak's busiest rail lines -- the Northeast corridor -- Eastern seaboard, from Boston to Richmond, Virginia. It has been failing. But now the government has agreed to relieve the railroad of its biggest burden, which is maintenance.

Coming up on CNN, 6:00 p.m. Eastern on LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, "Broken borders." We'll have a special report on President Bush's summit with Mexico and Canada.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: NAFTA's been a success and all you got to do is go down to the border of our state. If you could have gone down ten years ago and gone down today, you would have seen a marked difference of quality of life on both sides of the border.


PILGRIM: Also tonight, the revolving door at the U.S./Mexico border not only allows illegal aliens into this country, it also allows U.S. criminals to escape from the law. We have a special report on that.

And then Senator Pete Domenici, chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, will discuss the country's energy situation. Plus, Pastor Rick Warren joins Lou to discuss the best-selling book "The Purpose Driven Life."

That and lots more tonight, 6:00 Eastern. But for now, back to Candy Crowley.

CROWLEY: Thanks, Kitty. INSIDE POLITICS continues right now.

Welcome back. I'm Candy Crowley sitting in for Judy today. Terri Schiavo's mother made an emotional appeal today to let her daughter live, but twice today, a federal appeals court in Atlanta rejected her bid to get her brain-damaged daughter's feeding tube reinstated. Now the case could be headed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and state officials in Florida are making another last ditch effort to try to keep Schiavo alive through possible legislation or by intervention by the Department of Children and Family Services.

But here in Washington, the Bush administration's options for getting involved in the case appear to have run out. The president is in Texas, and so is our White House correspondent, Dana Bash -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, you know, the White House has been watching the federal court at every level so far, outwardly and really openly reject, disobey what the president made very clear his wishes are in this case, and that is for that court, the federal court, to hear the Schiavo case. Now, Bush lawyers, while all of this was happening both at the Justice Department and at the White House, have been weighing their options, trying to figure out what more beyond the extraordinary move of actually signing legislation to get this to federal level, what more they can do at an executive level. And they have made a conclusion and we'll put that up on the screen.

The White House spokesman Scott McClellan said, quote, "There really are not other legal options available to us." He said that they've explored all other options. "The decision was made to support congressional efforts, to give the parents of Terri Schiavo another opportunity to save their daughter's life. The parents are still seeking relief through the courts." And that is the gist of it.

Now, the president himself did talk about this earlier today. He was in Waco while meeting with leaders from Mexico and Canada. He tried to make it clear that he also thinks that his options have been exhausted.


BUSH: I have looked at all options prior to taking the action we took last weekend in concert with Congress. And we felt like the actions taken with Congress was the best course of action. This is an extraordinary and sad case. And I believe that in a case such as this, the legislative branch, the executive branch, ought to err on the side of life, which we have. And now we'll watch the courts make its decisions.


BASH: Now the Justice Department has, of course, filed some briefs explaining the Bush position, both with the federal district level and at the appellate level. If the Supreme Court hears it -- we shouldn't be surprised if they do so with the Supreme Court as well, expressing the wishes of the Bush administration, that they do hear the Schiavo case but, again, so far that has been rejected and beyond that, once again, what the White House has concluded that there's nothing more they can do at an executive level.

So Candy, the question now is whether or not they believe that this is a legal reality or whether or not there is some politics here. Because, of course, what the president did was very popular with his base. There was a grassroots effort to get the federal government involved. But if you look at several polls recently, including CNN's, it shows that the majority of Americans do not agree with what the president and the United States Congress did, getting involved in this extraordinary and really unprecedented way.

So Candy, at this point, we're waiting to see -- the White House is waiting to see what exactly happens at the Supreme Court level. But again, the executive level, from his perspective, he has no more power to do anything -- Candy. CROWLEY: Dana, while we're on the topic of politics in this case, I would be wrong not to have been struck by seeing Governor Jeb Bush and President George Bush, both in varying parts of the country, fighting to keep this woman alive.

BASH: That has been one of the most interesting dynamics here, Candy. No question. When the president first took on this case, if you will, it was not foreign to him. He had been -- known about it because his brother had been fighting for years through the Florida legislature. He tried to sign something into law, and then, of course, had fought through the courts. His brother had exhausted every move and so, essentially, his brother took over, the president took over.

So what have you here is two brothers, brothers Bush, each at an executive level, one at a state level and one, of course, at the presidential level, trying to sort of go back and forth in trying to use their powers to save Terri Schiavo. Again, the president today saying that he thinks what he has done so far is exhausted. And now you have Jeb Bush trying to take back over using another avenue, if you will. So the dynamic between the two brothers trying to do this, sort of bouncing back and forth, has been quite interesting to watch.

CROWLEY: Dana Bash, out in Texas for us, covering the president. Thanks, Dana.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was the driving force behind legislation designed to keep Terri Schiavo alive, but a recording of recent remarks of the case has captured the attention of DeLay's political opponents.

We're going to get more from CNN congressional correspondent Ed Henry.


ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In public, Tom DeLay has repeatedly said the extraordinary congressional effort to save Terri Schiavo was motivated by principle, not politics.

REP. TOM DELAY (R), MAJORITY LEADER: I say again, the legal and political issues may be complicated, but the moral ones are not. A young woman in Florida is being dehydrated and starved to death.

HENRY: But behind closed doors, DeLay has told fellow conservatives a different story, according to an audiotape obtained by CNN.

DELAY (on recording): One thing that God has brought to us is Terri Schiavo, to elevate the visibility of what's going on in America. That Americans would be so barbaric as to pull a feeding tube out of a person that is lucid and starve them to death for two weeks. I mean, in America, that's going to happen if we don't win this fight.

HENRY: The majority leader delivered this private speech to the Family Research Council Friday, just hours before Schiavo's feeding tube was removed. DeLay, who's been under fire for allegations of various ethical lapses, then tied the attacks on him to the Schiavo case.

DELAY (on recording): This is exactly the issue that is going on in America, that attacks against the conservative movement, against me, and against many others. The point is, the other side has figured out how to win and to defeat the conservative movement. And that is to go after people personally, charge them with frivolous charges, and paint the -- link that up with all these do-gooder organizations funded by George Soros and then get the national media on their side. That whole syndicate that they have going on right now is for one purpose and one purpose only and that's to destroy the conservative movement.

HENRY: The audiotape was secretly recorded by a liberal group, Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

BARRY LYNN, AMERICANS UNITED FOR SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE: He's linking his own ethics challenges with the case of Mrs. Schiavo, and I think that's just morally and completely inappropriate.

HENRY: One day after his speech, DeLay forcefully dismissed questions about a memo suggesting Republicans wanted to gain politically from the Schiavo case.

DELAY: I know no one in my staff put it out. And if anybody on my staff had put it out, they'd be immediately dismissed. This is not a political issue. This is life and death. And this is a bipartisan attempt to save this life.


HENRY: DeLay Spokesman Dan Allen responded that there was, quote, "absolutely no political motivation behind Mr. DeLay's involvement in this case." The spokesman said the liberal group is taking the comments out of context, noting that the congressman spent about the first nine minutes of his speech on the legislative machinations of the Schiavo case, and only a brief portion on his battles with Democrats -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Ed Henry, thanks lot. We will have more ahead on the politics of the Schiavo case and the outcry about her fate. Our Bill Schneider will look for parallels with another famous case out of Florida: Elian Gonzalez. And we'll find out how bloggers are reacting to the latest legal developments when we go "Inside the Blogs."


There has been a powerful emotional response to the Terri Schiavo case, particularly among many conservatives fighting to preserve her life. But polls show a majority of Americans support the removal of her feeding tube. Our national correspondent, Bruce Morton looks at public opinion and political passions.

BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Politicians, political pollsters want to know two things about an issue: How many people care about it, and how intensely do they care? Gun control is the classic example. Sixty percent may be for some gun control bill, but it's not that important to them. Twenty percent say they against it, but they do care, and if you vote against them on it, they'll vote against you.

Abortion is a classic example of an issue on which both sides -- anti-abortion group and those supporting abortion rights -- feel very strongly. And Terri Schiavo and her right to live or right to die, it's early yet, in a CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup Poll, 37 percent said they strongly agree with removing her feeding tube; 30 percent strongly disagreed. Pretty even within the poll's margin of error. But the right to life forces have been the most vocal so far.

KEATING HOLLAND, CNN POLLING DIRECTOR: The first ones to speak up about this issue and the ones that have been speaking up the loudest about it are the ones that want to keep Terri Schiavo alive.

MORTON: That could change. Christian conservatives usually favor life, but the Baby Boomers, who were a big part of the abortion debate when they were young are older now, concerned with aging and end-of-life issues. Where will they come down?

ANDREW KOHUT, PEW RESEARCH CENTER: I think the polls came in pretty clearly supporting the husband's decision to have the feeding tubes removed. There were three polls. All of them showed pretty big majorities saying that the Fox News polls said -- the respondents said, "If we were the guardians, we would have removed the tubes." Now keep in mind, this is from a public that's very religious and has a reverence for life, but also one that has a practical, pragmatic view about science and suffering and what technology can do with life and the -- and questions about when life ends.

MORTON: So this debate may end up like abortion: intensely held views on both sides of a tough, tough question.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.

CROWLEY: Not so long ago, a different legal case divided Washington and the nation. But in some ways it was similar to the current political battle over Terri Schiavo. Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, has the story.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: A bitterly divided family; decisions appealed from court to court; political controversy over one individual's fate. We've seen this before -- five years ago to be exact -- in the Elian Gonzalez case.

A lot of Americans were outraged at the idea that this child could be sent back to Cuba to live under communism after his mother died trying to deliver him to freedom. They angrily opposed the government's position.

JANET RENO, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The law is very clear, a child who has lost his mother belongs with his sole surviving parent.

SCHNEIDER: The public agreed according to the polls. But most Cuban-Americans wanted Elian to remain in the United States. They got moral support from some conservatives, like presidential candidate George W. Bush, who issued a statement urging Reno to reconsider.

Courts repeatedly upheld the government's decision to reunite the boy with his father. When his Miami relatives refused to surrender him, federal agents seized Elian in a raid that drew shock and criticism.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: This is not a suspected terrorist or a violent criminal, where you need to take custody at gunpoint.

SCHNEIDER: But 60 percent of Americans approved of the government's action -- an interesting comparison with the 63 percent of Americans who say they agree with the court decision to remove Terri Schiavo's feeding tube.

In 2000, the Republican leadership of Congress threatened to get involved.

SEN. TRENT LOTT (R), MISSISSIPPI, FORMER SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: And that's why we're going to have the hearings, to try to find the truth, because there are a lot of questions out there.

SCHNEIDER: But Congress backed off. Two-thirds of Americans opposed congressional hearings in the Elian Gonzalez case, just as 70 percent now oppose congressional involvement in the Terri Schiavo case. The principle appears to be the same: Politicians should stay out of private family matters. Disputes should be handled by the courts. Keep politics out of it -- something President Bush appears to have reluctantly concluded.

G. BUSH: Now we'll watch the courts make its decisions.

SCHNEIDER: Congress did not intervene in the Elian Gonzalez case. It did intervene in the Terri Schiavo case. Why the difference? One possible answer: Religious conservatives are a far larger and more powerful constituency than Cuban-Americans, and they've become the base of the Republican Party.

CROWLEY: Bill, one of those questions that's out there is, we've seen the Republicans there out front when we saw the message of intent that went to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. It was all Republicans' names that filed it. But there were Democrats that voted for this. Where are they in the argument? Why aren't they out there and out front?

SCHNEIDER: I think the Democrats are very wary, because they don't want to have an opponent running against them next year on the charge, "You voted to kill Terri Schiavo. They don't need that. But you know what's interesting is Republicans are now getting wary, too. Our sources tell CNN that there is no appetite in the White House or in Congress to pursue any other options right now. They read the same polls telling them, "Stay away from this case."

CROWLEY: Bill Schneider. Thanks so much.

The Schiavo case, not surprisingly, is a hot top on the Internet. Up next, our blog reporters find the debate is showing signs of a split inside the Republican Party.


CROWLEY: At this hour, Terri Schiavo's fate is once again in legal limbo. As we have been reporting, the full 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta refused to order Schiavo's feeding tube reinserted. A three-judge panel had reached the same decision hours earlier.

Now Schiavo's parents may be looking to the U.S. Supreme Court as they fight to save their daughter's life.

In Florida, authorities have filed a new request to intervene in the case, arguing new information suggests that Schiavo's condition may have been misdiagnosed.

It is time now to check in on the bloggosphere, and with us, our blog reporter, Jacki Schechner and CNN Political Producer Abbi Tatton.

Jacqui, what are you reading now about the Schiavo case?

JACKI SCHECHNER CNN BLOG REPORTER: Oh, Candy, it is so complicated. And the layers of debate and discussion about Terri Schiavo just get deeper and deeper. We're going to start today with "As I See It" -- jeff I like this site because it had a couple of links and a report that we're going to talk about in just a moment. But first, I want to tell you about his opinions have changed due to this report, and he's got opinions now on Michael and Terri, the Schindlers, the government, the president, the people. He links to "Abtract Appeal" by Matt Conigliaro, who is an appellate attorney who blogs specifically on Florida law and also on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

ABBI TATTON, CNN POLITICAL PRODUCER: "Abstract Appeal" has been posting on Terri Schiavo since 2003. He says he's never met any of the parties involved. He sympathizes with all of them. And he actually started this post just because he thought there needs to be a more objective look at the matter. And there certainly is a lot of information here. Terri Schiavo information page. He says, "The facts of this case are terribly sad, but they're not hard to understand. Terri's situation has arguably received more judicial attention, more medical attention, more executive attention and more due process than any other guardianship case in history."

SCHECHNER: Now the report I was talking about is actually a 38- page report by a guardian ad litem, who was appointed by Governor Jeb Bush back in 2003. He was appointed because they wanted a neutral party to help both sides cut through the mudslinging. This report is now available. You can get it easily through "Daily Codes" (ph). And Corndog has a posting there. He says that he changed his opinion about Michael Schiavo based on this report. He's upset with himself for buying into the hype, he says. And if you go down on the bottom, here's his conclusion: "My take on all of this is that the Schindlers are loving parents who don't want their daughter to die. Michael is a loving husband who doesn't want to see his wife forcefully kept alive against her will." He calls it a "must-read," and says if have you the time, he highly recommends it.

TATTON: Now more on those Schiavo talking points that surfaced on Capitol Hill and got into the hands of reporters over the weekend, then made their way onto the Web. You can see them here at liberal blog, "D.C.'s Inside Scoop," under the title, "GOP Schiavo Talking Points Revealed In Full." As you'll remember, it says -- one of the points: "This is a great political issue." Well conservative bloggers are now shifting the attention from the content of these talking points to who the authors of this memo actually are.

SCHECHNER: One blog taking a hearty look at it is You'll remember them as being heavily involved in the Dan Rather memo-gate scandal. They've got a lot of readers weighing in, some of them who allegedly work in Congress, saying that these are very suspicious, and they don't know what's going on. But he does go down to point out at the very end, Candy -- I just want to show you this -- "The memo itself contains no clue as to its origins." He says, "Does it prove the memo is a fraud? Not at all. It is possible that somewhere in the House or Senate, there is a Republican staffer dumb enough to have produced and circulated it. Is there any evidence that it's genuine? At this point, there is not."

And Candy, back to you.

CROWLEY: Jacki Schechner, Abbi Tatton, thanks so much.

We're going to take a break, but INSIDE POLITICS will be back.


This just in to CNN. Federal investigators have concluded that it was most likely improper loading, not ice, that caused last month's corporate jet crash at New Jersey's Teterborough Airport. This was the plane that crashed into and almost went through a building at the end of the runway. No one was killed, but 12 people were injured on the incident on February 22nd. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the plane's center of gravity was, quote, "Well forward of the allowable limit.

That is it for INSIDE POLITICS today. We will see you tomorrow. I'm Candy Crowley. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.


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