March 25, 2005

Why aren't Republicans and Democrats consistently compassionate?

What exactly did Ralph Nader say about the Schiavo case on "Crossfire" the other day? People keep emailing me about it. So, let's look at the transcript:
NADER: I must say, I don't see a government interest in denying the parents their desire to take care of Terri. I don't see a government interest.

I think that shifting the guardianship from Michael to the mother and father of Terri is the way to resolve this. Nobody knows what Terri would say. She was alleged to have said something, hearsay, to the side of the family of her husband. She didn't talk about feeding tubes. She doesn't have a ventilator. She doesn't have a heart pump. I don't see the government interest.

So, this puts me on a different political spectrum than Eleanor Holmes Norton. And so, let me put it this way. The Democrats usually are very compassionate about preventing occupational diseases and air pollution and medical malpractice deaths and so on. And, on this, they seem to be in the harsh arena. Apart from all the quibbles about jurisdiction, we're getting right down to who should be the guardian here.

And, on the other hand, the Republicans were so vocal with their compassionate statements on Sunday about this one person. And they are about as cruel as I have seen a political party on hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths on the job, in the environment, and in hospital malpractice. Can you bridge that gap?


NADER: Can you bridge that gap?

[National Right to Life legislative counsel Dorothy] TIMBS: Well -- well, first of all, you know, this issue is not about Republicans and Democrats. If you look at the House vote, you had almost as many Democrats who voted for this issue as we had -- as we had Republicans. In the Senate, we had some disagreement about the form that the bill should take, but there was no formal objection. So, I'm not going to speak to that. If you disagree with Republicans' positions on other things, you know, I'm sorry for that. We're not even a Republican organization. This issue is about the rights of just people with disabilities.

Senator Harkin recognized that. And that's why he took the lead on this as well. And I'm happy to hear that you agree that the guardianship should go to the parents, which...

Eleanor Holmes Norton, Alan Dershowitz, who, like Ralph Nader, is an honest guy, says that this -- if this were a death penalty case and the legislature was saying no, the liberals would be jumping up and down. If you had some murderer, a murderer who was about to be murdered and the -- and this sort of thing was going on to save -- to make sure he was killed, the liberals wouldn't like it. Isn't that true?

[Delegate Eleanor Holmes] NORTON: I don't know what Alan is talking about.

The fact is that the right to life, let's base this on the fact that murderers can in fact go into court, but on a much more limited circumstance than was allowed for this single person in this case. And that's the important thing to remember. Yes, if the state is going to deprive you of your life, it is she who said that she did not want to live under these circumstances.

If the state is going to deprive you of your life -- if the state is going to deprive you of your life, then, of course, habeas corpus obtains, very limited habeas corpus today.

Nader asked Timbs and Norton a great question: Why aren't Republicans and Democrats consistently compassionate? Timbs and Norton filled the airspace with words but made no serious attempt to answer the question.

I'm not a Nader fan, but I can recognize a great question when I see it. I haven't seen much blogging about the Nader's contribution to the Schiavo debate, but, judging from the email I'm getting, people are focused on the fact that Nader took the side he did. I'd rather read answers, from Democrats and Republicans, that really try to face up to the challenging question he asked.

UPDATE: I'm getting email and seeing some blog posts trying to answer this question. One answer is that "compassion" is just self-serving rhetoric, which is owning up to the hypocrisy Nader implied by asking the question. Liberals try to meet the challenge of the question by saying that it is compassionate to allow Schiavo to die. Social conservatives try to meet the challenge of the question by saying that conservative economic policies really are compassionate -- Nader would require such intensive regulation that there would be economic effects that would hurt people much more than a little more air pollution and lower recoveries for medical malpractice.

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