2005-04-07 / On Second Thought

The public speaks

The Terri Schiavo Case: Congressional Thuggery
By William Whitley Hodges, J.D.


The hysteria and political opportunism caught up in the Terri Schiavo case warrants our looking at our past and how the Founding Fathers protected us from such conduct when they wrote the US Constitution which created checks and balances between the branches of our government. This system of checks and balances was a response to decades of suffering under the oppressive rule of King George III of England. Under his rule, the king was law. Under American rule, the law became king. The Schiavo case is a modern example of where the “king” (President George W. Bush) tried to assert wrong–headed executive branch law to overcome our federal and state judicial systems when they rendered decisions not to his liking.

Prior to Miss Schiavo’s death, George W. Bush, Congress, several major churches, and thousands of 11th hour dogmatic evangelicals attempted to totally subvert the judicial decisions of the State of Florida. They tried an end–run around the 15 years of judicial hearings in that state. At the federal levels, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and the US Supreme Court in effect chastised them all when those courts refused to overturn the Florida courts’ ruling that allowed Miss Schiavo’s husband to remove her feeding tube.

The Schiavo case was not about the tube feeding and vegetative state of Terri Schiavo . Rather, it was about the grand–standing and lust for power some of our politicians and others displayed as they sought command and control over our state and federal courts. Checks and balances within the Constitution keep people just like these from attacking one of our branches of government when it makes an unpopular decision.

This is not a new type of conduct from the extreme right. Former President Richard Nixon hated the Bill of Rights and its freedom of press, speech, and association. He truly detested the freedom our American press has under the Bill of Rights. He tried to destroy any newspaper editor who wrote valid criticisms about him and his administration. He also felt Americans had too much due process and equal protection of the law in our courts. He attempted to make end–runs around our laws, judges, and juries at every opportunity. Nixon was so self–righteous and tyrannical he felt he could engage in felony burglary to gain control over his opposition. He was removed from office.

George W. Bush seems to be following in Nixon’s self–righteous, if not downright fascist, footsteps in attempts to make end–runs around our US Constitution, Bill of Rights, state laws, and courts. He used Terri Schiavo to assault his political opposition and hopefully acquire additional Republican seats in Congress as well as in the Florida government.

Adding to the attack on our courts are the hysterical right–wing evangelistic do–gooders who do not believe in democracy. They do not believe in a balance of powers unless it is under the control of their particular brand of religion. They hate the idea of separation of church and state. These people believe God is totally on their side; therefore, they are God’s policemen who can dictate to the rest of us sinners.

The do–gooders demonstrating in Florida were really involved in the “right to life” abortion issue as well as the insertion of their churches in our state houses and courts. Terri Schiavo became the convenient tool of choice for these evangelicals who would tyrannically dictate to the rest of us how we conduct our civil affairs regardless of our federal laws, state laws, and constitutions. As God’s policemen, these people showed little respect for Florida civil or criminal laws.

In their 11th hour quest for power, Congress and these do–gooders also slandered and libeled the highly qualified physicians, attorneys, and judges of the State of Florida who labored on the Schiavo case for 15 years. Those professionals (Democrats and Republicans) ruled, and the CT Scan shows it, that Miss Schiavo’s brain had “liquefied.” Somewhere between 60 and 90% of her upper brain was missing. No one in medical history has ever recovered from such extensive upper brain damage.

Governor Jeb Bush of Florida had enough sense to state publicly that he would not oppose the rulings of the federal or state courts nor exceed the powers of his office. Maybe President George W. Bush should have listened to the wisdom of his younger brother rather than suffer the horrible defeat he and his cohorts did in this case.

Thus far in this matter, the writings of our Founding Fathers have protected us from a wrong–headed Congressional assault on our Constitution. The Constitution and Bill of Rights are alive and well in the US Supreme Court, federal 11th Judicial Circuit and the courts of Florida.

Perhaps George Felos, Mr. Schiavo’s attorney, said it best when he described the congressional interference in the Florida courts as a form of legal “thuggery.” Our Constitution has prevailed. The congressional thuggery has failed miserably.

May Terri Schiavo at last rest in peace.

Mr. Hodges is an attorney who has also

taught government in college.

Dear Columbia Star Editor,

SC employers have tremendous incentive to reach out to smoking employees. Smokers cost an average of $1,429 per year in annual increased health care costs. Four 10–minute smoke breaks per day produce a one month loss in annual productivity. Smoking will cost 25% an average of 22.5 years of life, making a birthday near their 50th their last. Breaking free is so challenging that half will lose an average of 15.3 years of life.

College of Charleston Counseling & Substance Abuse Services has scheduled its next two cessation education programs with SC employers and employees in mind. Freedom from Nicotine, a free nicotine dependency recovery seminar will be presented on Wednesday, May 18 from 11 –1 pm in Arnold Hall.

Regardless of when an employee plans on quitting their odds of succeeding are dismal (less than 5 percent by 1 year) unless they at some point invest the time needed to learn the keys to success. The college’s program can prepare them to succeed but only if it can find a way to get them to class.

It’s our hope that caring area employers will provide the incentive to attend. For more information call the college’s health educator at (843) 442-5522 or visit WhyQuit.com/CofC .

John R. Polito

Nicotine Cessation Educator

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