Terri Schiavo is dead.
Those who brought about her demise told us it was because she was in a “persistent vegetative state.”
The evidence didn’t support such a finding. In fact, I don’t believe human beings ever become “vegetables.”
But I do believe governments and political systems can reach the point of “persistent vegetative states,” and, judging from the fallout from this remarkable legal case, the United States just might be there.
Let’s recall just what happened in the last days of the life of the disabled Florida woman.
- A local county elected politician, a judge, made the determination to accede to the wishes of Terri’s estranged husband to pull her feeding and hydration tube, thus sentencing an innocent, non-terminal handicapped woman to death. He did this despite mixed medical opinions about her prognosis. He did this despite the urgings of her parents and siblings. He did this after taking money from several attorneys representing her estranged husband and despite accusations and suspicions that Michael Schiavo abused Terri and may have tried to kill her, leading to her medical condition.
- The U.S. Congress passed a law in emergency session and got it signed by President Bush in the middle of the night calling for a federal court review of all the evidence in the case and the restoration of Terri’s feeding and hydration tube. The federal court showed contempt for Congress and refused to follow the wishes of the American people.
- The U.S. Congress issued a subpoena to the county judge, which he ignored.
- Florida Gov. Jeb Bush pleaded with the county judge to restore the feeding tube, citing Florida law that trumped his decision. He dismissed the claims of the governor.
There are many more extraordinary details of this case, but I want to focus just on these for the moment.
Members of Congress were huffing and puffing about the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals after its decision to ignore the will of Congress. Yet there has not been a move by the most powerful branch of the federal government to hold the federal court accountable for its contempt of Congress or its role as an accomplice to judicial homicide.
This is what I mean by a “political vegetative state.”
The rule of law and the will of the people have been ignored, abused, subverted, undermined, trampled, raped and mocked in this case. And no one in Congress is lifting a finger to do a thing about it.
No one in the governor’s office of the state of Florida is doing a thing about it.
Is that leadership? Is that responsiveness to the will of the people? Is that executing the rule of law?
I suspect members of Congress are a little embarrassed to be outfoxed by a local politician-judge. I suspect some of them are shocked to find out how easy it is to ignore a congressional subpoena and an act of Congress.
However, if there are no consequences for these actions, then every American should feel free to ignore future subpoenas and future acts of Congress as Judge George Greer did and as the 11th Circuit did.
I suspect Jeb Bush is humiliated. I suspect he is happy to be out of the spotlight – to have the pressure off of him now that Terri is gone. Unfortunately, he has signaled to the people of his state and the rest of the country that he is a paper tiger who can also be ignored.
Unless these renegade judges are reined in – and I mean with criminal prosecution, if necessary – this case will represent a landmark, not just in the state-sanctioned death of an innocent woman, but in the breakdown of law and order in our society.
In other words, it wasn’t Terri who was in a persistent vegetative state. It is our system that is in a political vegetative state.