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Schiavo and Politics
Aired March 28, 2005 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, Paul Begala; on the right, Bay Buchanan.
In the CROSSFIRE: The people trying to save Terri Schiavo bring their battle to the nation's capital, calling for someone, anyone, to take action.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are we to believe that a circuit court judge has more power and authority than a subpoena from the United States House of Representatives?
ANNOUNCER: Disconnected from her feeding tube for 11 days, Terri Schiavo may be entering her final hours, while elected officials say they've done everything within their power to save her.
GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: There's no means by which we can get involved beyond what we've already done. And that's -- and I can't see that changing.
ANNOUNCER: Did officials do enough? Did they overstep their authority and do too much?
Today on CROSSFIRE.
ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Bay Buchanan.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BAY BUCHANAN, GUEST CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE.
Terri Schiavo remains in her hospice bed, now in her 11th day without a feeding tube. Demonstrators left Florida and are coming to Washington today wanting to know why the federal government don't do more to -- for the brain-damaged woman, especially why they didn't enforce a congressional subpoena.
PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Well, in truth, Republican politicians are suddenly running away from the Schiavo case. Could it be because an overwhelming majority of Americans think Republicans has been playing pits with the family's tragic decision? We'll discuss all that and more today in the CROSSFIRE.
But, first, the best little political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."
House Republican Leader Tom DeLay is the most sanctioned member of the House of Representatives by the Ethics Committee. He is the most ethically corrupt man in Congress, not a -- not a minor deal. He has also been the most strident and sanctimonious voice in the Terri Schiavo tragedy. He's passed moral judgment on Mrs. Schiavo's husband and said refusing to provide a feeding tube was -- quote -- "an act of medical terrorism" -- unquote.
"The Los Angeles Times" reports Congressman Delay himself refused to provide a dialysis tube to his father when his father was brain- damaged in an accident. Congressman DeLay's father died soon after being denied treatment. There was no living will. But his family, sounding a lot like Michael Schiavo, says Mr. DeLay would not have wanted to live like -- quote -- "a vegetable" -- unquote.
So, like Michael Schiavo, Tom DeLay helped hasten the end of a loved one's life. Unlike Michael Schiavo, Tom DeLay didn't have grandstanding Republican politicians trying to score points on his family's tragedy.
BUCHANAN: You know, you know, Paul, two points on that. No. 1, to suggest that Tom DeLay is some -- is terribly unethical up there in Congress, I thought there was a rule.
BEGALA: The most unethical.
BUCHANAN: Innocent until proven guilty. There is no evidence. There has been no case that has shown that he has violated any laws whatsoever.
BUCHANAN: In this country So, that is an outrage right there.
BUCHANAN: And I've got some other issues on that comparison, which is completely inappropriate, with Tom DeLay's dad. However, we'll talk about it a little later.
More than 1,000 people are going to spend next month in Arizona. But this Minuteman Project, as it is called, isn't a vacation. Men and women from across this country are gathering on the Arizona border to serve as a neighborhood watch. They're going to call the Border Patrol when they spot an illegal alien coming across the line.
These folks are so frustrated that the government refuses to defend our borders against the illegal invasion of millions that they've decided to try and do something themselves. And they got the attention of a few presidents. President Fox is down there in Mexico, has amazingly demanded that President Bush protect the illegals from the Americans. And even more amazing, President Bush has called the Minuteman vigilantes, of which I, I might add. am included, since I will be joining my Minutemen friends on Friday. President Bush said he's against vigilantes and wants a rational law enforcement. Rational law enforcement, Mr. President? That's what the problem is. You refuse to enforce the immigration laws. That's why we're headed to the border.
BEGALA: Well, I do think the president's right, that you and others going down there are vigilantes.
BEGALA: You're taking the law into your own hands. Join the Border Patrol. Join the National Guard. If you want to do it, get the proper training and let the government do it.
I think the president is wrong to not have hired the border patrols that Democrats have wanted him to hire.
BEGALA: But it's wrong for citizens to go and take these matters into their own hands. We just disagree.
BUCHANAN: And we'll be violating no laws, let me add.
BEGALA: Well, report back to us when you come back, and bring me some hot sauce. I can't get good hot sauce up here.
BUCHANAN: I'll get you a T-shirt, too, defending the border.
BEGALA: Well, Republican -- Republican Senator Charles Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, is spending the Easter recess trying to sell skeptical Iowans in his home state on President Bush's plan to privatize part of Social Security.
His verdict -- quote -- "I think it's very difficult for me to say today that we're going to present a bill to the president" -- unquote. Perhaps that's because Americans don't want to borrow $2 trillion from Chinese communists and Saudi oil sheiks to pay for Mr. Bush's plan, or perhaps because Americans don't want to cut guaranteed benefits under Social Security, as Mr. Bush has proposed.
Meanwhile, the investment experts at Standard and Poor's report today that, while Mr. Bush's private accounts may be attractive for those whose stocks go up -- quote -- "Results for many investors will be disappointing and will likely produce negative consequences."
That's right. President Bush's Social Security privatization will, in Standard and Poor's estimation, not some left-wing group, Standard and Poor's, likely produce negative consequences. No wonder it is producing negative consequences for Mr. Bush.
BUCHANAN: You know, you Democrats are just terrific. You are so gleeful that this program of the president's, Social Security program, may not go through and it might not be proposed, but he has put something on the table.
BUCHANAN: All right? You guys have put nothing. When are you going to find out that being backbenchers goes nowhere? We need a leadership.
BEGALA: We need to get off of the current obsession we're on and actually talk about Social Security, because Democrats have a good plan.
BUCHANAN: If they do, you've been hiding it, sitting on it, afraid to produce it.
BEGALA: We can't get it on the air. But we will when this current madness passes.
BUCHANAN: Can't get it on the air.
BUCHANAN: Nelson Mandela, if you remember, the former South African present, inspired millions. Unjustly imprisoned for years, he fought for his country and the rights of his people, gained his freedom, led his nation and eventually was honored with the Nobel Peace plan.
Now along comes Michael Jackson. This weekend, on the Reverend Jesse Jackson's radio show, the embattled singer compared himself to Nelson Mandela. The singer, who is currently being tried on child molestation charges, says he's a victim of a conspiracy that unjustly accuses black luminaries like Mandela. I might have bought this comparison if he used O.J. Simpson.
He added that the conspiracy also is behind the rumors he's gone bankrupt. Michael Jackson never enlightened us as to who the "they" are behind this conspiracy or the "why" these individuals might be going after him. He also never told us about all that weirdness that surrounds him on a regular basis.
BEGALA: He is entitled to the presumption of innocence. That's about all I can say for Mr. Jackson.
BUCHANAN: Just like DeLay.
BEGALA: But Tom DeLay was sanctioned by the Ethics Committee. It was a final ruling by the committee of the House. But to compare himself to Nelson Mandela is -- you're right. That's an outrage. It's nuts. I hope he gets a fair trial. He's is entitled to a presumption of innocence, but he is not entitled to compare himself to Nelson Mandela. That's...
BEGALA: That's deeply...
BUCHANAN: On that, we agree.
BEGALA: Well, we do. I'm glad you raised it, Bay.
Well, this just in to CNN. A juvenile has been arrested -- was arrested Monday in connection with the shooting rampage on the Red Lake Indiana reservation. That rampage was last week. And it left 10 dead, including the 16-year-old gunman, authorities said. The U.S. attorney would not say what the youngster under arrest had to do with the rampage. We'll keep you posted as this story develops.
From President Bush in Washington and Governor Bush in Florida, politicians have become part of the Terri Schiavo case. Just ahead, we'll debate the impact that case is having on those politicians and explosive new charges of hypocrisy on the part of the Republican Party leader Tom DeLay.
ANNOUNCER: Join Carville, Begala and Novak in the CROSSFIRE. For free tickets to CROSSFIRE at the George Washington University, call 202-994-8CNN or visit our Web site. Now you can step into the CROSSFIRE.
BUCHANAN: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.
If armed federal officers could break into a Florida home and seize Elian Gonzalez, why couldn't they do the same to enforce a congressional subpoena for Terri Schiavo? Lawmakers said they were taking action, but was it enough?
In the CROSSFIRE, the Reverend Barry Lynn, the executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and Wendy Wright, senior policy director of Concerned Women For America.
BEGALA: Thank you both for joining us.
BUCHANAN: Thank you both for being with us. (CROSSTALK)
BEGALA: Ms. Wright, let me say, there are -- this is a tragic case for this family, and I think there are people of goodwill on both sides of this, and I trust that you're one of them. That's why I'm glad that you're here.
One of the people who's not of good will in this, though, is Tom DeLay. He's the Republican leader in the House of Representatives, and I say that because he gave a speech to a right-wing group in which he said, God sent the Terri case to us essentially to distract from his ethics woes, which was a stunningly narcissistic and really sick thing for him to say.
Well, it turns out, speaking of sick, that he faced a similar case to Michael Schiavo, the man who he has slurred and slammed and defamed through all of this. "The L.A. Times" reported this, this weekend, for our audience, in case they didn't see it. These are the similarities. Every case is unique, striking similarities, though.
Tom DeLay's father was tragically injured in an accidental fall. He was brain-damaged severely. Both he -- like Terri Schiavo, he was incapable of surviving without medical assistance, in this case, a dialysis tube, not a feeding tube. Both were said to have expressed a desire to be spared from being kept alive, but there was no living will in either case.
In both cases, the spouse decided that we should let God's will take its course. tragically Congressman DeLay's father passed away, and no one has called him horrible names. Don't you think he has been really a hypocrite in this?
WENDY WRIGHT, SENIOR POLICY DIRECTOR, CONCERNED WOMEN FOR AMERICA: This is a blurring of the lines. To say that extreme medical treatment is the same as a feeding tube is very dangerous territory.
BEGALA: So, if the issue were a dialysis tube, you would not be here, instead of a feeding tube? Come on.
WRIGHT: In fact, Dr. Cranford, who is the one that Judge Greer relied upon, believes that spoon-feeding is medical treatment. That's the slippery slope that we're going down now, where simply someone who needs to be fed -- now, if I could...
BEGALA: I want to ask about Tom DeLay, though. I want to ask about Congressman DeLay's hypocrisy here.
WRIGHT: And that's my point. No, no, what you're doing is blurring the lines. BEGALA: Calling names to Mr. Schiavo, when he helped make the same decision for his family in a very similar case.
WRIGHT: You're blurring the -- you're blurring the lines. There is extreme medical care, and that's what most people, when they say, I wouldn't want to be kept on life support, that's that they are thinking it is, a respirator.
BEGALA: So a dialysis tube would be OK with you.
WRIGHT: But we're talking about a feeding tube with Terri Schiavo.
WRIGHT: This is someone who, in fact, is more capable than my own niece. My own niece is disabled. She can do less than Terri Schiavo can. And what we're told about Terri Schiavo is that she in persistent...
BEGALA: Is she in a persistent vegetative state?
WRIGHT: Now, what we're told about Terri Schiavo is that Terri Schiavo in a persistent vegetative state because she can't talk, she can't respond. And then, when we're told that in fact she does talk, she says, yes, no, mommy, when she does respond appropriately, like to a joke, that she -- that that can't be the case because she's in persistent vegetative...
BEGALA: DeLay's father was cursing, in fact, according to "The Los Angeles Times." And yet they let him die.
WRIGHT: It's circling reasoning.
BUCHANAN: Barry, let me get you in here.
BARRY LYNN, EXEC. DIRECTOR, AMERICANS UNITED FOR SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE: Sure.
BUCHANAN: Is it not an unfair comparison? The -- first of all, there was no family dispute in the issue here with Tom DeLay's family. They all agreed. It was a ventilator as well, a ventilator.
BUCHANAN: You know, so he couldn't breathe on his own. Terri Schiavo is in a situation where, physically, she is fine. She just needs to be fed, just like her niece and my nephew, all right?
LYNN: No, they're absolutely parallel cases, Bay, because what we're talking about are life-sustaining treatments, medical interventions.
And since 1990 in the Supreme Court case in the Cruzan case that most people have heard about, the court said, yes, all of these interventions are medical interventions. And Americans have the right to make a decision about whether they will stop that life-sustaining treatment. In the case of Mrs. Schiavo, of course, she can't speak right now, but, again, we have a process.
It's called using the state courts, who look at family law issues, who have looked at and allowed Michael Schiavo to articulate that he believes that she would not want to live, that she would want the tube removed. And who are we or Tom DeLay's, who's 950 miles away last weekend, to come down and have the audacity to say, well, we think it's different after 24 courts have now examined the issue and reached the same conclusion?
LYNN: They had a chance.
LYNN: A chance to overturn it.
LYNN: They had a chance to overturn and they didn't.
BUCHANAN: Your point is that what the courts have said is, under two circumstances, if you're definitely in a permanent persistent vegetative state, and, No. 2, that you have intent, you show that somebody has said indeed that's what they want and they don't want to live like that.
And in the Terri Schiavo case, we have neither. There is enormous dispute over whether she is, indeed, in this vegetative state. Nurses and doctors are on both sides here. And, secondly, this husband of hers, who has said she wouldn't to want live, except for the first, when he was in testimony in the malpractice suit, said he wanted to learn to be a nurse so he could take care of her.
Now, why would you want to take care of a person that wants to die? He changed his position after that malpractice suit.
LYNN: No, I don't think that...
BUCHANAN: He most definitely did.
LYNN: I think this, like saying that Mr. Schiavo is interested in killing his wife, which is a phrase Pat Robertson used today, this is way off the mark. Courts have looked at everything, including challenging the authority of these medical people, who -- the judge, by the way, brought in medical people to support the Schindlers' position. He brought in medical diagnoses of his own, independent, as well as asking Mr. Schiavo.
He looked at the weight of the evidence. Nobody has said the weight of the evidence should be shifted. What we're talking about is whether the religious right -- and I think Americans are frankly sick of the religious right now more than ever...
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
LYNN: To tell people that the American people have to listen to them from the moment of conception until the moment of death, and that now the religious right says, well, we're going to decide what moment you die.
WRIGHT: ... know Senator Harkin was the religious right.
BUCHANAN: Forty-seven Democrats, 47 Democrats supported the legislature.
BUCHANAN: You have got Tom Harkin and Ralph Nader. Are these people religious right?
LYNN: No. No.
BUCHANAN: I welcome into our movement, but I just -- they're kind of fresh faces.
LYNN: Forty-seven Democrats are going to have a lot of explaining to do, because the truth is, Tom DeLay...
BUCHANAN: But that's not religious right.
LYNN: Tom DeLay brought this up in such a fashion at the very last minute, the stroke before midnight, and then tried to convince people that there was some new issue here. There wasn't. And Tom DeLay never went down to see Mrs. Schiavo during the last 15 years to put ice chips in her mouth or to take care of her in any way.
WRIGHT: Someone who did, but was not allowed to, is Dr. Weldon. Dr. Weldon, who is a congressman from Florida, tried to. And Michael Schiavo would not allow him in.
BEGALA: But he's not a qualified physician. He's not a neurosurgeon or...
WRIGHT: He's a representative.
BEGALA: He's a congressman. Fine. WRIGHT: So he has both.
BEGALA: He's a politician.
Let me talk about another politician, George W. Bush. When President Bush was on vacation in Crawford, Texas, in the summer of '01, they came to him and they said there's a report that al Qaeda wants to attack America, and he when and played golf, didn't come home. But they came to him and they said, religious conservatives want you to sign a bill for this movement, and he flew home for that.
But now today, religious conservatives come to Washington. He refused to come here and meet with him. Isn't it because his poll ratings are collapsing since he got engaged with this?
BEGALA: Let me show you real quickly. The CNN poll has President Bush as his all-time lowest, 45 percent. That has dropped six points in a week. The CBS/"New York Times" poll, 43 percent, dropping seven points, since their last survey. Isn't President Bush simply following the polls here and refusing to meet with these activists?
WRIGHT: No, this is an attempt to try to marginalize people because they have religious beliefs. But let's look at it. It was disability groups...
BEGALA: Bush is marginalizing them. Why won't he meet with them?
WRIGHT: Excuse me.
BEGALA: Why won't he meet with them?
WRIGHT: Disability groups are the forefront as well speaking out.
BEGALA: Why won't Bush meet with them?
WRIGHT: But the media won't give them as much coverage.
BEGALA: Why won't he meet with them, Wendy?
WRIGHT: And you have to wonder...
BEGALA: Why do you think President Bush won't meet with them?
WRIGHT: Well, you have to wonder about the whole idea of where are we going as a country.
BEGALA: Why do you think President Bush won't meet with them?
WRIGHT: This concept of the banality of evil. (CROSSTALK)
BEGALA: Please answer my question. Please.
BEGALA: I'll give you a dollar. Just answer the question.
BEGALA: Why do you think Bush won't meet with this people? Because the polls are bad.
BUCHANAN: Hello, Paul.
When our guests return, we'll continue this disagreement.
BUCHANAN: Do we need a new law to keep what's happening from Terri -- to Terri Schiavo's family from happening to others?
And right after the break, the latest on the impact from today's deadly earthquake off the coast of Indonesia.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John King, reporting from Washington.
We're keeping a close watch on developments along the Eastern edge of the Indian Ocean, where a major earthquake triggered fears of another tsunami. The quake with a magnitude estimated between 8.5 and 8.7 was centered just off the west coast of Indonesia. Authorities say hundreds of buildings collapsed on Nias, a small Indonesian island near the epicenter of the quake. A government official there says at least 50 people died and more are buried under the rubble.
The quake cut off electricity in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, which was devastated of course by last December's tsunami. People there poured into the darkened nighttime streets and many fled inland, fearing a repetition of December's disaster.
We'll have much more on the earthquake at the top of the hour on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."
Now back to CROSSFIRE.
BEGALA: Thank you, John King, filling in for Wolf Blitzer. We look forward to seeing you at the top of the hour.
Here at CROSSFIRE, Terri Schiavo's family have lost appeal they've made to every court. They lost in state court. They lost in federal court. They have lost in the Supreme Court. And now activists have come to Washington seeking help from Republican politicians on Capitol Hill. Today, we're debating how much politicians ought to be involved in a painful and complex family issue. Wendy Wright from Concern Women For America is with us on the right, and Barry Lynn on the left of Americans United For Separation of Church and State.
BUCHANAN: Barry, just a comment. I think it's terribly unfair for you to suggest that this isn't bipartisan, when you have Joe Lieberman, Tom Harkin, Ralph Nader, 47 Democrats who voted in supporter of this bill.
But let me ask you now, with the situation as it is, would you support a bill that said, listen, if there's a family dispute, nothing written, and the situation is as is Terri Schiavo's case, that it would be right if there is a group of people, her parents, for instance, that want to keep her alive, we call it Terri's law, then the custody would be transferred to them for care for their loved ones?
LYNN: No, absolutely not. You have to allow that both people are going to be able to make the case, that her husband is going to be able to make the case, and in extraordinary circumstances, which we've seen played out in Florida, then those parents can appeal the decision and say, Michael Schiavo is not doing the right thing.
But I do want to also go back to this question. We don't make decisions in this country of course based on public opinion polls, but I think that Tom DeLay and those Democrats that went along with it, if they were psychic and they had seen these polls a week ago, Tom DeLay and Bill Frist would have been on a joint fact-finding mission to Mars instead of calling people back to this city.
BUCHANAN: You're wrong.
LYNN: Because they didn't realize that the American people see this is not Elian Gonzalez.
BUCHANAN: They didn't do polls.
LYNN: This is not Elian Gonzalez, Bay. This is -- this is something that affects every single American family. Who makes decisions on the most intimate, moral matters? I don't criticize Tom DeLay for making the decision he helped to make about his father. I certainly don't criticize Michael Schiavo for making this decision about who is his legally wedded wife in the state of Florida. I don't want to federalize family law. I'm shocked that anybody does.
BEGALA: Barry, I want to bring Wendy in.
That, in fact, is the crux of the political issue in this. "TIME" magazine today has a new poll out where they ask people, do you think Congress and President Bush intervened on this case more because of values or because of politics? This shouldn't surprise you. More than two to one, the American people say politics. Two-thirds of Americans, in fact, a majority of Republicans to get that high, are saying that the president of the United States and the Republican Congress are playing politics with this. Isn't -- isn't that a sad case?
WRIGHT: And none of this polling is accurate.
BEGALA: It's not.
WRIGHT: Because when you look at the ABC poll, you look at this...
BEGALA: It's all a conspiracy?
WRIGHT: Excuse me. They say that they prepped -- they're prepped first by saying that, for example, that Terri is in a coma. She's not in a coma. So, when people are answering these questions, it's not related to the case at hand.
BEGALA: You think maybe they've seen some of this on CNN? We've been covering her 24/7 every day. I think people know about this case, Wendy. I think that's an odd defense.
WRIGHT: And it has not been accurately covered as well.
But if I could say, what we come down to is, when you don't have a clear and convincing evidence as to what she wanted, what -- you have differing testimony. You have Michael right after the accident who said she wouldn't she wouldn't want to -- she would want to be kept alive, and then afterwards, when the money came in, he said she wouldn't. So when you've got differing, what you come down to is, how much do we care for disabled in our communities, in our societies? Will we give them the benefit of the doubt that they would want to live?
BEGALA: So you oppose President Bush cutting Medicaid by $60 billion then? Because that cares for the disabled. Terri Schiavo is on Medicare. Will join me on the left in opposing President Bush's cuts on Medicare?
BEGALA: Let's find common ground, Wendy.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
WRIGHT: If we could stay on topic.
BEGALA: Let's find common ground.
WRIGHT: What it comes down, what it comes down to is, people will say, people will say, I wouldn't want to be in that condition, and so, therefore, she would not -- wouldn't be. That's really imposing your own views on someone else. When you...
LYNN: No, the good news, is the public says...
WRIGHT: ... talk to someone who is disabled and they were not..
BEGALA: Wendy Wright, that is going to have to be the last word.
LYNN: ... disabled before, they say that they may not have thought that before, but once they're alive, they want to stay alive.
BEGALA: Wendy Wright from Concerned Women For America, thank you very much. You have the last word.
WRIGHT: Thank you.
BEGALA: Barry Lynn from Americans United For the Separation of Church and State, thank you very much.
When we come back, we'll try to conclude on a somewhat lighter note, asking this question. Is reality TV really ready for Arnold? We'll explain right after this.
BEGALA: Finally, on CROSSFIRE, it was time for an extreme makeover on TV last night when California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger decided to show up. The governor says he's a big fan of environmentally friendly building standards, seeing them as a way to cut energy costs and protect resources.
So, he stopped by ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," where they used energy-saving options to fix up a home for a family who needed a bigger house after taking in five children orphaned after losing both their parents. That is generally how people get orphaned, by the way. Critics say the governator should spend a little less time on reality TV and a little more time on the reality of his state's budget deficit.
But there's Arnold. He's a shy guy. He's coming out of his shell. I'm glad to see...
BUCHANAN: You have got to admit, that's terrific P.R. I think it's a brilliant public relations move. You show up. It takes 15, 20 minutes out of his time. He's an actor. He knows how to handle himself. Smart. It's very smart. It reaches a lot of people. BEGALA: It is. Watch for George W. Bush to appear on "Home Improvement" next.
BEGALA: From the left, I'm Paul Begala. That's it for CROSSFIRE.
BUCHANAN: From the right, I'm Bay Buchanan. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.
"WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now.
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