The Knowledge Gap & The Terri Schiavo Case

There has been quite a bit of talk about a Republican crack-up over the Terri Schiavo case. The WAPO even says that:

“Republican lawmakers and others engaged in the debate say an internal party dispute over the Schiavo case has ruptured, at least temporarily, the uneasy alliance between economic and social conservatives that twice helped President Bush get elected.”

Ok, well here’s a very relevant question for the people who believe that: Can you give me a list of all the prominent American conservatives who oppose saving Terri Schiavo’s life?

Now me? I know of exactly two. Grover Norquist who seems to favor letting her die because he thinks the polling data is bad on the issue (*** which doesn’t exactly say much for his character ***) and William F. Buckley, who in all fairness, came across as rather torn about the issue. Maybe there are a few more big name conservatives who favor snuffing out Terri Schiavo’s life, but in any case, they look to be outnumbered at least 10 to 1.

I can say that with confidence, because among prominent conservative magazines, talk shows, talking heads, and major league columnists, the consensus on keeping the government from starving Terri Schiavo to death is about as close as you’re going to get to unanimous on just about any issue.

Furthermore, the Republican Florida legislature & Jeb Bush, along with his brother in the White House are all on board. Among Republicans in the House, the vote count on trying to keep Terri from being killed was 156-5 in favor. The Senate passed the bill on a unanimous voice vote.

In contrast to what you might think, given what the press has been saying about the issue, the Democratic Party is the one that has been split about piling on the pro-death bandwagon. Ralph Nader & Jesse Jackson both came out in favor of life for Terri. The Congressional Black Caucus produced 9 votes for the legislation and 13 against. On the whole, the Democrats in the House had 42 members vote to save Terri and 53 who wanted to let her die. Furthermore, no Democrats in the Senate voted against sparing Terri’s life.

But you may be thinking: “Wait a second, how can big name conservatives and Republicans on the Hill be almost totally united on this issue, while Democrats in Washington are roughly divided? The polling data says the American people don’t want Washington involved and think that Terri should be denied her feeding tube? Why are we seeing such a huge disconnect here?”

Here’s where — for the most part on the right at least — the real split on the Terri Schviao issue is: it’s between the people who are familiar with the case and the people who aren’t.

Sadly, the liberal media has campaigned as hard to put Terri in the ground as they did for John Kerry during the election. The polling data on this issue? It has come almost exclusively from pro-death push polls that don’t adequately explain to the public what’s happening. Here’s the wording of an oft-cited ABC Poll that Michelle Malkin railed against in her latest column:

“As you may know, a woman in Florida named Terri Schiavo suffered brain damage and has been on life support for 15 years. Doctors say she has no consciousness and her condition is irreversible. Her parents and her husband disagree on whether or not she should be kept on life support. In cases like this who do you think should have final say, (the parents) or (the spouse)?”

This is obviously an incredibly misleading question which doesn’t truly capture the issue at stake.

First of all, to the average person, “life support” is a machine keeping you alive, it’s not FOOD AND WATER.

Secondly, the whole reason this has become such a big issue is because there are qualified experts who disagree with the conclusion that Terri has “no consciousness” and is in a persistent vegetative state. To leave that fact out is to attempt to deliberately mislead the people taking the poll about the crucial area of disagreement in this case.

Furthermore, how many Americans know that Michael Schiavo, who pretends to be a devoted husband on TV, has been with another woman for a decade and has had two children by her? Are they aware that he used funds specifically marked for Terri’s rehabilitation to try to have her feeding tube pulled in court? Has the public been alerted that Terri Schiavo has never had an MRI or a PET? Have they been told that there are multiple nurses who’ve testified that Michael Schiavo denied his wife rehabilitation & at least one who says he openly wished for her death and prevented them from giving her sustenance without a feeding tube?

There has been a full court press on in the conservative media to let the public in on these details, to let them know that the State is erring on the side of death here, but unfortunately, Terri Schivao will likely be dead before the truth gets out…

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