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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS
Quake in South Asia; Life & Death in Florida; Schiavo and Political Fallout
Aired March 28, 2005 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: An exodus in Indonesia after a powerful earthquake rocks the tsunami-ravaged region.
ADAM ERELI, STATE DEPARTMENT: We're applying what we've learned from the previous earthquake so that we can be prepared to be responsive quickly.
ANNOUNCER: Christian activists move their protests from Terri Schiavo's Florida hospice to Washington. Are their cries for help from President Bush and Congress being heard?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She is fighting for her very life now. Are we to say that the entire federal government is powerless?
ANNOUNCER: The Bush brothers in a bind. We'll have the latest on the political fallout from the Schiavo case for the president and the Florida governor.
GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: My heart is broken about this.
ANNOUNCER: Tom DeLay's personal connection to the Schiavo story. Does a life-and-death decision from his past leave the House majority leader open to criticism now?
ANNOUNCER: Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for joining us. I'm John King. Judy is off today.
We're following two big stories with major implications here in Washington, the Terri Schiavo case, and a huge earthquake in southern Asia, still reeling, of course, from the devastating tsunamis three months ago. The quake, measuring as high as 8.7, struck a little over four hours ago off the west coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
Officials in the region and in this country went on alert, urging evacuations and bracing for the possibility of new tidal waves. Thousands reportedly fled coastal areas to higher and safer ground.
We still do not have a complete picture of the damage to the region. And we may not get one until sunrise, several hours from now. One official tells CNN 50 people have died and about 100 injured on the island of Nias near the quake's epicenter. And about 300 homes were destroyed. The only tsunami action we have heard of at this point was a small one near the Cocos Islands, an Australian resort area.
Let's get more on the quake now from our Kathy Quiano, a CNN producer joining us on the phone from Jakarta.
Kathy, what is the latest?
KATHY QUIANO, CNN PRODUCER: Well, John, we haven't been able to confirm those reported deaths on the island of Nias, just off the coast of Sumatra, south of Banda Aceh. The information earlier came from the deputy mayor of the capital, Guno Sedoli (ph), who told local television that there were possible deaths on the island. But he did confirm that there were -- there was considerable damage to several buildings and roads on the island.
Nias suffered considerable damage as well and casualties in the last -- you know, the December 26th earthquake and tsunami. And he also said that there was widespread panic this time around.
It seems to be calmer, though, in Banda Aceh, which was the hardest-hit town in Sumatra. People have gone back to their homes. And although it's still -- it's still -- it's just about -- dawn is about to come to the city. And we're not sure yet how much damage the earthquake actually caused -- John.
KING: And Kathy, as you watch the pictures -- and we see some in this country -- but as you watch the pictures on television there, we see people moving inland. We see people appearing scared. But no pictures of any significant damage yet that we've seen in this country.
Have you seen any there? And is that in a way a comforting sign, if you will, that you have not seen devastation?
QUIANO: That's right, John. As you first saw the pictures, I was quite surprised that people looked calm. Some people were even smiling as they walked towards higher ground and further inland.
And there were no pictures of damages, at least in Banda Aceh, where the pictures were first coming out from. And it is a good -- it's definitely good news for those who have been watching this earthquake just do not see any considerable damage on local TV -- John.
KING: Kathy Quiano in our Jakarta bureau tracking this developing story for us. Thank you very much, Kathy.
And the White House says President Bush was briefed on the earthquake on his way back to Washington from Crawford, Texas. The administration is continuing to monitor the situation. No one here, of course, has forgotten critics charged the United States' initial response to the December tsunami disaster wasn't fast enough or big enough. Let's check in now with our State Department correspondent Andrea Koppel -- Andrea.
ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: And John, no doubt that criticism on the minds of the men and women here at the U.S. State Department, who are very much bending over backwards to convey a sense of heightened concern and heightened U.S. readiness should a call come for more U.S. aid. The State Department spokesman, Adam Ereli, briefing reporters a short time ago, sounded more like a general than a diplomat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERELI: So where we are right now is, having alerted all our posts, been in contact with our posts, putting ourselves in battle mode to be in a position where we can -- we can act -- we can know what's going on and act appropriately, if and when it's necessary.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KOPPEL: You know, in the era of BlackBerries, cell phones, e- mails, it may be surprising to some who are used to getting information in the blink of an eye that in this case, in northern Sumatra, the U.S. is getting its information, really, from one man, from a senior U.S. official, a consul general who lives in Medan, the area closest to where the earthquake struck, who is in his car, at least was a couple of hours ago, driving around, trying to eyeball the region, John, and get a first-hand sense. And then, sending that information back here to the State Department.
We should remind our viewers, it's 12 hours ahead there. So it's the middle of the night. A couple of hours away there should be daylight, and get a better feeling, perhaps, for what the extent of the damage was -- John.
KING: Andrea Koppel at the State Department. Thank you, Andrea.
And now we turn to the Terri Schiavo case. Her father says Schiavo is fighting like hell to live 10 days now after the removal of her feeding tube. Bob Schindler says his brain-damaged daughter is emaciated but responsive at a Florida hospice.
The Schindlers are said to be dealing with the reality that she is likely to die by the end of this week, while still appealing for some kind of last-ditch intervention. The lawyer for Schiavo's husband Michael has described Terri as calm and peaceful.
Supporters of Schiavo's parents took their case to Washington today, their latest and perhaps last desperate attempt to try to keep her alive. Our congressional correspondent Joe Johns has more on their appeal for political intervention -- Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They've gotten slammed on the right and accused for going too far on the Schiavo matter. Now at least a few on the right are slamming the Congress for not going far enough. Supporters of Terri Schiavo's parents in Washington, starting out the day today at Lafayette Park, right across from the White House. Also talking, of course, about the House Government Reform Committee and its decision not to hold a hearing in Pinellas Park, Florida, last week on the Schiavo matter. Not getting an opportunity to see Terri Schiavo face to face and get the facts for themselves. They want Congress to reconsider that decision.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL MCMONAGLE, ANTI-ABORTION ACTIVIST: Was this a joke that they did last week? A political stunt? We're going to have Terri appear, but then we don't enforce it when Judge Greer spits in their face?
Dennis Hastert and Tom DeLay have to answer that question. They wanted -- they did the easy route. And we thank them for that, for passing that law very quickly. But it's not enough.
You're up against a determined foe. Robert Greer -- George Greer, excuse me -- is committed to killing her. You have to be more committed to saving her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: Now, the leader of the group, Reverend Pat Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition, also went to House Speaker Dennis Hastert's office today, meeting with a top official at his office. Hastert, of course, not at work today. The Congress is in recess.
They also said they were going to the office of Congressman Tom Davis, the chair of the Government Reform Committee. He, we are told, is out of the country. However, his office did tell us today that they will continue an inquiry into health care options for incapacitated persons. But they see no other legal options on the Schiavo case at this time. They say this is a very emotional situation, and not to be unexpected.
John, back to you.
KING: Joe Johns, tracking the political fallout, the continuing fallout of the Schiavo case. Thank you, Joe.
And coming up, you heard Joe mention Reverend Patrick Mahoney. He's here in Washington. We'll talk to him about his trip and what, if anything, he's accomplished on behalf of Terri Schiavo.
Another new poll shows most Americans believe it was not right for President Bush or Congress to intervene in the Schiavo case by moving that jurisdiction from the state to the federal courts. Sixty- five percent of those surveyed for the "TIME" magazine poll believe the actions of the Congress and the president had more to do with politics than with their values.
Let's bring in our White House correspondent Dana Bash. Dana, two-thirds of the American people say this is politics not values. The Republicans in Congress, the Democrats in Congress who wanted to do this, and certainly the White House has been saying it has nothing to do with politics.
DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. And they look at that poll you just cited and they simply explain that they have a communication problem here. Because they have been saying that this has nothing to do with politics. And essentially, what we're hearing from Republicans is that, as dramatic as what the Schiavo case was, as unprecedented as it was, explaining why the federal government got involved was very delicate, very nuanced, and perhaps they just didn't do a good enough job of explaining it.
Problem number one, you're hearing from Republicans, was the president's voice. Bush aides do insist when Mr. Bush was deliberating how and whether to go about getting involved in this, politics was not an issue. It was his personal beliefs. But we have only heard from him personally publicly twice since this whole thing happened. Republicans say perhaps that's one part of their communication problem.
Problem number two from Republicans, we're hearing, is Tom DeLay. Now, GOP strategists both on Capitol Hill and Bush advisers say that, despite the fact that Tom DeLay was out there very publicly saying that it was a bipartisan process, it is still Tom DeLay.
He is somebody who is seen as highly political, really a polarizing, even lightning rod kind of figure. And that that simply was not the kind of face that they wanted to have on this if they wanted to get through to the American people. That they weren't doing this for political reasons -- John.
KING: And Dana, that "TIME" poll shows the president's approval rating down five points. That's the third poll in about a week, less than a week, showing a significant drop in the president's approval rating. At the White House do they blame that all on Terri Schiavo?
BASH: No. And they do say that of course the think that perhaps the fact that there is overwhelming opposition in a whole host of polls to the president getting involved in the Terri Schiavo case, that certainly is a part of it. But they say there are other factors here.
Number one, Social Security, the fact that they do give Democrats and opposition groups credit for perhaps successfully painting Mr. Bush as somebody who wants to privatize Social Security. And that is not something that most Americans want to hear.
Second is just the overall sense of bad or even depressing news that Americans are hearing recently. The Schiavo case is one. School shootings is another.
But interestingly, John, what White House officials are saying is perhaps the biggest factor when it comes to bad news are oil and gas prices. They say that this is something that directly affects the American people. They are very frustrated by it. And that, perhaps, is seen in the president's drop in approval -- John.
KING: Dana Bash, live at the White House. Thank you very much.
And we'll have much more ahead on Terri Schiavo's fate and the political fallout.
Still ahead, a live report from her Florida hospice on Schiavo's condition.
And up next, Florida Governor Jeb Bush on the difficult choices he has faced in the Schiavo case. CNN's Ed Henry reports on his one- on-one interview with the governor.
Plus, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was a driving force behind the Congress decision to intervene in the Schiavo case. But did he act differently when it came to a loved one of his own?
KING: Florida governor Jeb Bush said today that while he must respect the court decision in the Terri Schiavo case, in his words, "My heart is broken about this."
CNN's Ed Henry is standing by in Tallahassee with more on what Governor Bush had to say -- Ed.
ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon, John.
That's right, Brother Paul O'Donnell, a spiritual adviser to the parents of Terri Schiavo, today once again stepped up the pressure on Governor Bush, begging him to intervene, to take custody of Terri Schiavo, and reinsert that feeding tube. But the governor was in Miami, where he was opening a research center at Florida International University.
He once again rejected those pleas. Mr. Bush basically said his hands are tied, his power does not trump the courts.
This squares with what the governor told CNN yesterday in an exclusive interview. The governor told me that he is saddened by this case, he is very concerned about the emotional toll it's taken on both the Schiavos and the Schindlers. But it was clear to me as well that it's taken a bit of an emotional toll on the governor when I caught up with him after Easter Sunday mass here in Tallahassee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: I'm sad that she's in the situation that she's in. I feel bad for her family. My heart goes out to the Schindlers. And for that matter, to Michael.
This has not been an easy thing for any -- any member of the family. But most particularly for Terri Schiavo. Without all of the -- I think there's enough uncertainty for people to have doubt. And I do.
HENRY: If she dies, would you be at peace with the fact that you've done all you can?
HEMMER: And -- but what do you say to the parents who said you could do more and should do more?
BUSH: I can't. I'd love to. But I can't.
HENRY: And why is that? Because your interpretation of the state law is...
BUSH: No, it's not a question of interpretation. I mean, I cannot violate a court order. I don't have powers from the United States Constitution, or, for that matter, from the Florida Constitution, that would allow me to intervene after a decision has been made.
HENRY: OK. And have you spoken to your brother about it?
BUSH: That's it. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: There is also the question of what kind of political toll this is taking on the governor. But people close to him here in Tallahassee note that he is not running for re-election next year. And they say he has repeatedly said he has no plans to run for the White House in 2008. So the political equation is not entering into this for him -- John.
KING: And Ed, you mentioned the criticism of the governor from some of the prominent Christian conservatives who are affiliated, if you will, with the Schindlers, her parents, trying to keep her alive. Anybody coming to the governor's defense from that community? He obviously has deep support in that community or did when he was on the ballot.
HENRY: You're right, he has had deep support. We haven't really heard very many vocal people here speaking up for the governor.
Instead, he has been -- mostly been behind the scenes dealing with this among his staff and his advisers, trying to figure out how to find kind of a middle ground here. He has pushed hard to try to help Terri Schiavo. He pushed the state Senate behind me to pass legislation. They didn't do that.
He's been pressing in the courts, all the way to the Supreme Court. And it has not worked.
Now, there are some conservative activists, as you noted, saying this is going to hurt the governor if he ever runs for president, that he didn't go and push hard enough. But there are others that note, with those national polls you talked about suggesting that the public does not want politicians to overreach, they say that the fact that the governor has pushed as hard as he legally can and did not overreach is actually going to help him politically in the long run -- John.
KING: Ed Henry live for us in Tallahassee. Thanks, Ed.
And more on the Terri Schiavo case just ahead. A look at the legal and political debate, including the role of Congress and the House majority leader, Tom DeLay.
KING: And with me now to talk about the political and legal debate surrounding the Terri Schiavo case is Mike Allen of "The Washington Post."
Mike, Congress jumped into this. Some Democrats, mostly the Republican leadership. The polls show that the American people think bad idea, including many conservative Republicans.
What's the fallout?
MIKE ALLEN, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes, you never want to be on the wrong end of an 80 percent question, which several polls have indicated this is going to be. Congress actually never heard it. There was no real debate.
There was three hours of hurry-up debate in the middle of the night. As you know, most of the members knew nothing about Terri Schiavo and knew nothing about the case when the whip's office called them and said, you have to come back from your Easter recess. Wherever you are, as long as you're not overseas, you have to come back and vote on this if you're a Republican.
And when they came back, it was something that their leadership wanted because of the heavy pressure that the speaker and the majority leader were getting from Christian conservatives. And now members are back for their Easter recess and all they're getting are questions about this, because this seems to be one of those issues that every person has faced themselves.
You know, John, especially on Easter weekend, that video is super tough to watch of her, you know, with the rash on her face and her arm like this. And I don't see how it can help but have you think of some relative of your own. And people said they don't want Congress involved in this.
So, Congress was acting at the behest of Christian conservatives. But there's plenty of people in the Republican Party who say keep government out of my life.
KING: And there are some activists here demanding that Congress act again to save Terri Schiavo's life. Any chance of that?
ALLEN: No is the answer. And we just saw some video on your air of people across the street from the White House. They went to speaker Dennis Hastert's congressional district office. As you know, they can't get into the Capitol building. So they went to his local office. They met with his counsel. They met with the House general counsel. They met for a half an hour.
And the message for them was the Congress has exhausted what it can do. Undeterred, they were going to go on to Mr. DeLay's office, the majority leader. They were going to go on to the office of the committee that originally issued these subpoenas.
The idea of the subpoenas was, if someone's going to be a witness before Congress, you can't let anything happen to them. But Congress is letting that go. They're not going to have this fight.
KING: You mentioned Mr. DeLay. I don't know if you had a chance to hear Dana Bash's reporting at the top of the show. Bush officials, Capitol Hill officials, including Republicans, saying one of the problems here was that their spokesman, for the most part, was Tom DeLay.
ALLEN: Well, that's so interesting, because the flip side of this was, for those who have been following, the House majority leader, Tom DeLay, of Texas, his problems, he hadn't been able to go out and talk about another issue besides his ethical problems. Because of this case, he was able to have cameras into his conference room or go to the TV gallery three days in a row and talk about another issue, not be asked about these questions.
But people have talked about how he hadn't become a national figure. Now his controversies are being attached to another issue that people have not been so wild about.
And over the weekend, the "L.A. Times" reported something that I think even people who know Mr. DeLay know very well and follow this case do not know, which was that in 1986 his father had a very tragic accident, a head injury. And Mr. DeLay's mother and siblings had made the decision that he should not continue on life support equipment.
And Mr. DeLay's office said he didn't object. They said it was a very different decision because of the extraordinary means that were being taken. But this is another piece of evidence that Democrats are using to argue that Republicans went at this opportunistically.
KING: And Tom DeLay quite silent over the weekend and today, as are other leaders in Congress. You said they're not going to do anything. Are they also not going to say anything?
ALLEN: No, you're right. And it's a little hard to gauge because the president was at his ranch. The congressional leaders were either on overseas trips or back in their districts. And so they weren't going to be talking anyway.
But what we're told is that they have no desire to take up legislation like this. When they come back, they want to talk about bankruptcy, the budget, the war supplemental, the highway bill that's in the Senate. Republicans are hoping to moving on to the issues that were on agenda.
Remember Social Security? That was all we were going to be talking about this week.
The Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, the conference leader, Rick Santorum, Florida Senator Martinez, were all going to have a big Social Security event in Tampa. They're not doing it because it's in the backyard of Terri Schiavo. They don't want to be there, they say, for respect of the family at this time. So it is interfering with other issues they have.
KING: We shall see as the fallout continues. Mike Allen of "The Washington Post." Thank you very much.
ALLEN: Have a good week, John.
KING: Thank you.
He's one of the leaders in the battle to keep Terri Schiavo alive. And today, he brought his crusade to the nation's capital. Coming up next, I'll speak with the Reverend Pat Mahoney.
Plus, a powerful earthquake rocks parts of the tsunami-devastated region, forcing people to flee in panic. We'll have the latest on our other developing story when INSIDE POLITICS returns.
Coming up on CNN at 6:00 p.m. Eastern on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT", "Broken Borders." We've reported on big banks courting illegal aliens for loans and bank accounts. Now some local credit unions in California are getting in on the action as well.
ARNE CHANDLER, CASA: They're accepting matricula consular cards, which both the Fbi and Homeland Security have said are not reliable means of identification here. And we all know they're basically issued to those that are here illegally.
ROMANS: Also tonight, illegal immigration is creating a new underclass of Americans. We'll have a special report. Plus Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO is fighting to stop President Bush's Social Security overhaul. He joins Lou tonight. Also new reports claim California schools spend less money on their poor and minority students. Jack O'Connell, the man who runs California's department of education, joins us tonight.
All that and more at 6:00 Eastern on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT". Now back to John King.
Christine, thank you very much. See you later.
And now back to INSIDE POLITICS and our top story. A massive earthquake in South Asia, the same region ravaged by tsunamis just three months ago. The quake's epicenter was off the coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra. It measured as high as 8.7 and triggered fears of another devastating tsunami. That hasn't happened, but reports of damage are trickling in. Officials say 50 people died on the island of Nias (ph), near the quake's epicenter. And many more are believed to be buried under the rubble. Relief agencies say it will be a while before they get a good assessment of the situation.
JAN EGELAND, UNITED NATIONS UNDERSECRETARY (from video): The system worked far better this time, that there was a vigilance; that not only did we have surveillance and information to the countries, but we also had governments reporting out to the local authorities. We will have to assess that tomorrow, how well it worked in the various locations.
KING: And stay with us right here at CNN for updates on the situation in the region as we get them.
And now back to our other developing story, what may be Terri Schiavo's final days. Let's get an update on her condition and how her family is coping, 10 days now since her feeding tube was removed. CNN's Bob Franken is at the Florida hospice caring for Schiavo. Bob.
BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, and there are a variety of impressions about what her condition is and a variety of news conferences. In fact, the lawyer for Michael Schiavo, George Felos is planning a news conference in about an hour, a little over an hour. He is going to speak up for the husband of Terri Schiavo, the one at whose behest the feeding tube was disconnected. The family has been holding a news conference quite frequently, and as a matter of fact, will be holding one right after Felos to respond to whatever he says, trying to fight a perception that the hope is gone. They want to keep the pressure on the politicians in Washington and here in Florida to somehow do something to save Terri Schiavo. They say that although she is failing, she still has life left in her. That's a quote from her father, who went on to say that all must be done.
BOB SCHINDLER, FATHER OF TERRI SCHIAVO (from video): I'm sure that she's still in discomfort. And I have a grave concern that they'll expedite the process to kill her with an overdose of morphine, because that's the procedure. That happens. You have to -- she has to be saved.
FRANKEN: And that brought a very quick response from the hospice Woodside here, from Mike Bell, the spokesman, and I'm quoting, "We are not going to do anything to hasten or postpone natural death. That is fundamental to the hospice. We're trying to provide comfort to the patient and the family." This family, however, as they watch their daughter fade away, is involved in a very, very uncomfortable, very desperate situation, now trying somehow to reverse what looks more and more like the inevitable.
KING: Bob Franken, monitoring the developments outside the hospice in Florida. Thank you.
As we've reported, supporters of Schiavo's parents came to Washington to try to pleasure political officials to intervene before it's too late. But neither the White House nor Congress appears willing to do anything else, believing they have exhausted all their legal options. The Reverend Patrick Mahoney led the group that came to the nation's capital, and he joins me now here on INSIDE POLITICS. Reverend Mahoney, you've seen the polling, and you're here today trying to get action. You think Congress should have come down and had a heard when it issued the subpoenas, with Terri Schiavo's presence. They did not. Why not?
REV. PATRICK MAHONEY, CHRISTIAN DEFENSE COALITION: Well, we asked that today. In fact, we just found out today. We had always thought that the hearing on March 25th was blocked by Judge Greer or a federal judge. It was not. Congress still had the opportunity on good Friday to meet and see Terri face to face, and that action alone might have been enough to save her.
John, you know, we're not moved by what polls say at this point in time. We're moved by trying to save Terri's life. She's now entering day 11. And so we are here. We met with representatives from Speaker Hastert's office, the legal counsel for the United States House of Representatives, and we're trying to get this hearing rescheduled. In other words, can we get Congress down there, Congressman Davis? We're meeting with his staff right now even as we're speaking.
KING: Our report agent the White House, on Capitol Hill, our other correspondents who keep track of these things, they say they have talked to the president's staff, talked to the congressional staff, talked to members of Congress, and their answer is no. We did what we could. We're not doing more.
MAHONEY: There's always more. I mean, this is a woman's life is at stake here. Right now, her skin is peeling; her tongue is broken; her lips. We can do more. We want to know why -- at least get to the bottom -- why did you have this meeting for March 25th? Why was it scheduled? Why did you cancel it? They could have gone down there and seen Terri. They could have intervened.
So we applaud Congress for what they did a week ago Sunday. It was extraordinary. We applaud their effort. But there is still is this troubling, nagging question: Why, when they had the chance to have a meeting face to face with Terri Schiavo did they not act on it?
KING: You've also urged the governor to do more.
MAHONEY: We have.
KING: Governor Bush says that he put his hand on the Bible and took an oath to the people of Florida to uphold the law, so help him God, and that he cannot violate a court order. You want the governor of a state to break the law.
MAHONEY: No, we don't. First of all, all governors take orders to uphold the law. What is the law? Are we to make the capricious decisions of Judge Greer, some Circuit Court judge, the rule of law in Florida? Supposed Judge Greer were to say, No African-Americans allowed in the University of Florida? Do we think for one moment Jeb Bush would say, Hey, I have to honor that. We're not going to let people of color into the University of Florida. It's an absolute disgrace.
Our hope was the governor -- and he did have a three-hour window to act; he did not. Judge Greer is facing down Congress. Think about this for a moment. Congress issues a subpoena and Judge Greer says no. One of the side issues that will be debated long after the final chapter is written with Terri will be the role of judicial activism. One judge has stood down the governor of the state of Florida, and it appears at least of right now the United States House of Representatives.
KING: You mentioned earlier Terri's condition. It's been more than 10 days now. It is a horrible --
MAHONEY: It's horrible.
KING: -- family tragedy, a personal tragedy. There's this political debate that you and I are having here. We're discussion the political debate. But there's a human being at the center of this.
MAHONEY: Well --
KING: Many think she could not recover now even if, even if the family's arguments, the parents' arguments are right and she could have received therapy, that now many think impossible after 10 days. Is there not in your theology a better place for her? Is heaven not a better place?
MAHONEY: Let's say this: We're not a physician, but believe me, there will come a time if her organs shut down that re-inserting the feeding tube would be inhumane. It would be barbaric because she could not live. We don't know if she has reached that. But John, I'll tell you this: Terri right now is making a statement. She is fighting for her life. She could have died four, five, six days ago if, as her husband said, she wanted the feeding tube removed. She could have expired four days ago, five days ago. The loudest statement coming from Pinellas Park is Terri Schiavo herself, and she is fighting for life on day 11. And we need to fight with her and stand with her.
KING: Reverend Pat Mahoney. standing with her here in Washington today. We will stay in touch with you as this continues. Thank you, sir.
MAHONEY: Thank you, John.
KING: And a quick viewing note, Michael Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, has scheduled a news conference in Dunadeen, Florida, a little more than an hour from now, 5:15 Eastern. CNN plans live coverage.
We've hearing strong opinions and seeing strong emotional reactions to the Schiavo case. Up next, Americans have been able to reach a consensus about Terri Schiavo and the politics surrounding her.
And we'll find out how this life-and-death story is being told today in the blogosphere.
KING: As we continue to see, the Terri Schiavo case sparks strong emotion on all sides of the debate. And our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider reports, the polls show the case has also done something that rarely happens these days: It has cut through the nation's partisan divide.
BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: These days, Republicans and Democrats seem to be divided about everything: Private Social Security accounts, Democrats say no; Republicans say yes. Iraq? Well, sure. Partisans are even divided over how things are going in Iraq. Democrats hear mostly bad news. Republicans think the news sounds good. What about how the economy is doing? Surely that ought to be based on direct, personal experience. But even assessments of the economy are heavily colored by partisanship. Democrats overwhelmingly agree, the economy is lousy. Republicans say, you know, things are pretty good.
Has everything become partisan? No. Not the Terri Schiavo case. Among those surveyed early last week, the prevailing views cut right across party lines, especially the question of whether Congress and the president should have gotten involved. Democrats say, absolutely not. So do Republicans. There is a strong consensus that politics should be kept out of it.
REZA ASLAN, AUTHOR: The really great tragedy about this case is that what should be a private family affair is being aired out in this incredibly public sphere.
SCHNEIDER: Was it right for Congress to intervene in the Schiavo case? Democrats say no. Republicans also say no.
REV. JIM WALLIS, SOJOURNERS MAGAZINE: My 80-year-old evangelical father, terribly pro-life, is angry about the way Congress intervened and disregarding the spouse and the courts.
SCHNEIDER: Even the decision to remove Terri Schiavo's feeding tube cuts across party lines. Democrats think the courts were right. Republicans agree, although they are more closely split.
Any question that asks about President Bush is bound to get a partisan response, right? Not in this case. Predictably, Democrats say President Bush was wrong to intervene in the Schiavo case. Not so predictably, most Republicans also say the president was wrong to get involved.
For Republicans to disagree with President Bush does not happen so often that we should fail to notice. Duly noticed.
If the Democratic view is the prevailing one on this issue, then why haven't Democrats been more outspoken? Well, because people believe politicians should stay out of it, and if the Democrats did speak out, it might lead some Republicans to reconsider and instantly make this issue partisan.
KING: Bill, ask at the White House, ask on Capitol Hill about these bad polls, and officials are trying to assess what happened and whether they were wrong to intervene. But they also say this will pass quickly. This debate will not be relevant down the road.
SCHNEIDER: It may not be, and there is this tendency for the news to be sensational for a week or two, and then six months from now, a lot of people will say, who was Terri Schiavo again? But what a lot of people are counting on is that the people who want her saved are going to remember it. They're going to remember all the way do Election Day 2006, and they're going to vote this issue at the polls. That's what concerns a lot of members at Congress.
KING: Bill Schneider, thank you very much.
The case of Terri Schiavo isn't the first time the pain of a family has gotten so much attention. When we return, other families and their difficult life-and-death decisions, all made urn the glare of national attention. Plus, the day's big stories as seen by the blogosphere. We'll check in with our blog reporters to see what people are talking about online.
KING: The intense coverage of Terri Schiavo's ordeal has shown how divided people close to her are over the issue. Bruce Morton reminds us now, this isn't the first time matters of life and death have highlighted the difficulty of decision forced on some families.
BRUCE MORTON, CNN COMMENTATOR: You could start with Karen Ann Quinlan who was 21 when she slipped into a coma at a party in 1975. She didn't come out of it, breathed through a respirator and seemed uncomfortable. The Quinlans, devout Catholics, agonized and finally went to court. The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled for them.
JULIA QUINLAN, MOTHER OF KAREN ANN QUINLAN: But we never asked for death. My husband put it beautifully. He only wanted what we considered extraordinary means removed, and she would be placed back in her natural state, and she would die in God's time.
MORTON: In fact, the respirator was removed, but Karen Quinlan, on feeding tubes, lived nine more years until 1985.
Nancy Cruzan was a 33-year-old automobile crash victim in 1983 who remained comatose for nearly eight years. She was in a persistent vegetative state -- language some doctors have used about Terri Schiavo. Her family all agreed she'd want to die, but the Supreme Court in July ruled, 5-4, that though there was a right to die, the Cruzans hadn't proved their case. The Cruzans then got more witnesses, and a Missouri state court ruled in their favor. Nancy died 12 days after the feeding tube was disconnected.
Hugh Finn, a morning TV news anchor in Louisville, is the closest parallel to Schiavo. He was brain damaged in a car accident in 1995 and moved to a Virginia nursing home. He too was described as in a persistent vegetative state. His wife Michelle wanted his feeding tube disconnected. His brother disagreed. Then-Virginia Governor James Gilmore, like Florida Governor Jeb Bush now, urged the courts to rule against Michelle, but he lost.
Michelle thinks these are family decision.
MICHELLE FINN, EX-WIFE OF HUGH FINN: But to have a government involved, and of course, once that happens, then there's a lot of media attention, it's like everyone in the whole world, it seems like, is invited into your house and can take up sides as to what you should do or what you shouldn't do.
MORTON: Hugh Finn's feeding tube was disconnected. He died in 1998. What was his widow's wish for Terri Schiavo's family?
FINN: What I just wish for them is that -- I know that both sides loved her -- that they can get on with their lives and try to lead a happy life, because that is probably what she would want.
MORTON: Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.
KING: Thank you, Bruce.
Our blog reporters are keeping a close watch on how the blogosphere is reacting to today's big stories. With me now, as always, CNN political producer, Abbi Tatton and our blog reporter Jacki Schechner.
Jacki, I assume the Schiavo case dominating the debate?
JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN BLOG REPORTER: Hi, John.
Yes, there is a lot of talk about the Schiavo case, but now we're sort of shifting into the politics more, and that would be specifically Tom DeLay. You spoke a little bit earlier with Mike Alan about the article that came out over the weekend in the "L.A. Times," about Tom DeLay's father, how he was injured in a tragic accident back in 1988, and how his family had to make a very difficult decision to take him off of life support. That not being lost on the bloggers, especially on the left, saying, why is DeLay now such a strong proponent of keeping Schiavo alive?
Starting with "Learning to Love the Law," this guy is a lawyer out of Washington, D.C.. He says, "hypocrisy, thy name is Congressman," pointing specifically to the article and discussing not only DeLay's apparent hypocrisy in this specific situation, by also noting that the family was a part of a lawsuit against the manufacturer of a part used in the tram in which his father was injured, and how DeLay comes out against -- or, in favor -- of tort reforms. So, a lot of things being touched on with regard to that article. ABBI TATTON, CNN POLITICAL PRODUCER: On the other side, Michelle Malkin, a conservative commentator who has blogged extensively about the Schiavo case, she's weighing in on this.
She has a problem with both the "L.A. Times" story, and also, the liberal bloggers writing about it. She points out vast differences between the two cases, does a roundup of some of the liberal blogs here, and says -- she calls them "shameless ghouls...they have the nerve to keep railing about the politicizing of the Terri Schiavo case."
SCHECHNER: Progressive conservatives -- and this guy's name is Mark Rattledge (ph), he's a family counselor in Miami, Florida -- also coming down on DeLay, but not because of his position on the Schiavo case. He is turning it back onto DeLay's ethical violations, and he points out, first off, "it's a truly rare and dubious achievement, Rep. DeLay has earned four formal ethics violations, which is considerable," he says, "since the committee has chastised only five members of Congress in the last six years." So, bringing the topic of debate over DeLay back around to the ethical debate.
TATTON: Now, in the last week, there's been a reluctance on the part of the big conservative blogs, to weigh in on the Schiavo issue or to just simply take the side of Congressman DeLay and some of his Republican supporters. Over here at "Little Green Footballs" -- it's one of the highly traffic conservative sites. Their original post here last week they said, "I'm extremely uncomfortable with the idea of passing judgment on any of the people in this case." Now, when they posted that, they got a lot of responses from some of their conservative readers. In an e-mail they say, "I've now been called a Nazi and told that I have a kill-the-innocent campaign. "
If you go over to "Instapundit," this is Glenn Reynolds, another conservative site -- when he has taken some of the conservative positions to task, he has gotten similar e-mails.
SCHECHNER: We also wanted to bring up the fact there was a major earthquake today, and the bloggers were all over it. It was something we turned to the blogs real quickly in that part of the world to see what they were talking about, and they had some very, very quick reaction.
TATTON: One of them right here. This is Peter Tan, he's blogging in Penang, Malaysia. He was actually blogging at 12:11 a.m. when the earthquake happened. "My apartment shaking now," other people reading his site, weighing in on that as well, just describing what's happening around Southeast Asia.
Bangkok ex-pat -- here's a similar one, further north in Bangkok, Thailand -- "A lot of terror here. Bangkok shakes; we're scared, worrying that another tsunami is headed in that direction."
SCHECHNER: Another Malaysian blogger; he's really amazed. The guy's name is Shadow. He says, "Bloggers really travel a lot faster than news or any other medium. At 12:15 or so they felt the quake; within minutes, everyone came up with their blog at PPS." PPS, he's referring to, is Project Pedaling Street, and this is an aggregator of Malaysian sites or Malaysian blogs, rather, that feature Malaysian content. So, people's content was starting to hit PPS, and that is how they were getting all of their news when this earthquake hit, John.
KING: Jacki and Abbi, thank you very much..
And this just in at CNN, from our producer Bill Myers, the Chief Justice of the United States, William Rehnquist -- Rehnquist, excuse me -- taken from his home in Northern Virginia yesterday, to a local hospital after experiencing some discomfort with the tracheotomy tube. The Chief Justice had that tube inserted as part of his treatment for cancer, but we are told Mr. Rehnquist is back on the bench today.
Now, more on the Schiavo case. Just minutes from now, on CNN's "CROSSFIRE." But first, a pastor answers the call to serve his country, a look at how a family deals with a father's absence in the Texas town President Bush calls home.
KING: The times are tough for every family, with a loved one serving in Iraq. It's that much harder when the soldier is a chaplain who has to leave not only his family, but his church, behind.
CNN White House correspondent Dana Bash has more now, from the Texas town President Bush calls home.
DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: At United Methodist Church in Crawford, Texas, just down the road from the president's ranch, Vicki Berry leads in song. The pastor, her husband, is not by her side, but in Iraq, ministering to 4,000 soldiers at Camp Caldwell, near the Iranian border.
Last summer, before Chaplain Berry was called up, he worried about violence, terrorism.
BASH: Are you scared?
REV. KENT BERRY, CRAWFORD, TEXAS: Well, you know, it's scary, yes.
BASH: Now in e-mails back home, he tries to be upbeat.
VICKI BERRY, REV. BERRY'S WIFE: A little tension happens here or there, but most of it is good, positive stuff, and what he's able to do for the soldiers.
BASH: Sending pictures with Iraqis he calls grateful, a ballot from an election he calls a turning point, stories of kind gestures, like an offer to hold an Iraqi baby. The tough part for the chaplain is keeping soldiers' spirits up. "The morale runs up and down like a train in the mountains," Berry writes.
What is the hardest part?
V. BERRY: Just the day-to-day separation, you know, wondering how he's doing, how's his day going.
How are you doing?
K. BERRY (on phone): Well, fine. You know -- good, good.
BASH: Berry's wife and children cherish weekly calls. Before he left, Bethany was upset about her dad missing her high school senior year.
BETHANY BERRY, DAUGHTER: I'm like, I don't want him to go, because I want him there for those memories.
BASH: Now, he tries to capture precious moments from afar.
K. BERRY: Prom's coming up. Have you bought your dress?
B. BERRY: Yes, well, we're in the process of buying it.
K. BERRY: Good.
BASH: Getting updates on college applications, sports, even keeping tabs on his younger daughter's boyfriend.
K. BERRY: Are you still going with the same guy that you were going with last week?
B. BERRY: Yes.
K. BERRY: Really?
BASH: Berry gets an occasional letter from his famous neighbor, the first lady, thanking him for his service in Iraq. He tells Vicki, being from the commander-in-chief's hometown, gives him some notoriety.
K. BERRY: People will come out of just nowhere, and they'll say, are you from Crawford? I say, yes, yes. I said, I go to the church there. You know, and they'll say, I understand, and they'll go into (INAUDIBLE), and they'll say, well, I just to want shake your hand.
BASH: For the most part, Berry's congregants support his sacrifice, but they look forward to the fall when he's ministering back home, not in a war zone.
Dana Bash, CNN, Crawford, Texas.
KING: They're a great family, one of the many who welcome us when we visit Crawford.
And a quick check now of our top story, that powerful earthquake in south Asia. The Associated Press is now reporting hundreds may have been killed on the Indonesian island of Nias (ph). That's near the quake's epicenter. But fears of another devastating tsunami in the region have not been realized. I'll have a full report coming up at the top of the next hour, on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."
That's it today on INSIDE POLITICS, I'm John King. Join us here tomorrow -- we'll have an exclusive interview with White House Senior Advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff, Karl Rove. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.