April 16, 2005


Dean Says Democrats Will Make Schiavo Case an Election Issue (Michael Finnegan, April 16, 2005, LA Times)

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said Friday that his party would wield the Terri Schiavo case against Republicans in the 2006 and 2008 elections, but for now needed to stay focused battling President Bush on Social Security.

"We're going to use Terri Schiavo later on," Dean said of the brain-damaged Floridian who died last month after her feeding tube was removed amid a swarm of political controversy.

What more do voters need to know about Democrats than that the only issues that unite the leadership of the Party are the ones where people get killed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 16, 2005 8:02 AM

It appears the Democrats will extend their fascination with death to the party itself.

And now we can watch HRC eviscerate Dr. Dean as well. After all, she consented in the Senate vote, didn't she?

Posted by: jim hamlen at April 16, 2005 8:32 AM

James Taranto at the WSJ's Best of the Web had a great comment on this point a few weeks back:

What will the campaign slogan be in 2006 or 2008? "Keep Terri dead: Vote Democratic"? Will the Dems seek out other women who depend on feeding tubes and run negative ads against them? "This is Jane Roe. She's in a persistent vegetative state, and doctors say she has no hope of recovery. But the religious right wants to keep her alive at taxpayer expense. Send Congress a message on Nov. 7. Don't let the extremists prevail."

Posted by: Mike Morley at April 16, 2005 9:07 AM

Dean is one of those wonderful examples on how intellegence + hubris often equal a negative effect on common sense. For someone who touts his legions of Internet supporters and high-tech cyberspace fund-raising apparatus, he apparently thinks he is so smart, or the Red State rubes are so dumb, that they can't operate a computer web browser and see that what he's been telling flyover country about Democrats making a new effort to reach a middle ground on the values issue is totally opposite what he tells supporters and media outlets in the Blue States.

HRC does a bit of this, too, but she limits her fire-and-brimstone comments to just speeches to the true believers, while making sure her actual voting record (whether she believes it or not) is moderate enough not to scare of swing voters in the 2008 election. How she'll handle being asked about Howard making statements like this to the Los Angeles Times remains to be seen.

Posted by: John at April 16, 2005 9:20 AM

So, Dean's prescription is to alienate the few working class religious voters still left in the party without identifying a corresponding group of people not already voting for you to change their minds. Other than losing Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin, making Illinois, Connecticut and NJ competitive, and making Ohio and Florida non-competitive, what precisely does this achieve?

Posted by: bart at April 16, 2005 10:08 AM

Bart: Contributions from the hard core.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at April 16, 2005 1:06 PM

You guys are underestimating the potency of this issue for independents and partisan centrists. A moderate and skilled Democratic presidential candidate could carry this ball into the end zone.

Posted by: ghostcat at April 16, 2005 1:54 PM

ghostcat --

I think Hillary's strategy has been played about as well as possible since 9/11, as far as immunizing herself from the "soft on national defense" problem that other Democrats suffer from. I'm just not sure yet if Dean and others on the left of the party are going to be willing to shut up and not challenge her strategic moves, the way the Democratic left shut up for her husband during the Sister Soljuah and Ricky Ray Rector incidents back in 1992. Given Dean's ego and high opinion of himself, I think it's going to be tough for him to stay in the shadows.

Posted by: John at April 16, 2005 3:26 PM

What would the reaction have been if a staffer to a freshman Republican Senator had said, "We're going to use Terri Schiavo."?

Oh, that's right, one did.

Posted by: old maltese at April 16, 2005 5:01 PM


Note their silence? They know there's no percentage in it.

Posted by: oj at April 16, 2005 5:37 PM

Nope. They're just layin' in the weeds. They'll spring when the timing is ripe. Once saw a cat catch a hummingbird that way.

Posted by: ghostcat at April 16, 2005 7:20 PM

If we're talking about 2008, it's a dead issue ... no pun intended; honestly.

Posted by: Genecis at April 16, 2005 8:33 PM

In 2008, the Dems will make it an issue (big time) and will frame it as "Who do you trust to make life and death decisions for you: yourself and your family, or religious zealots and politicians?".

What y'all underestimate is how powerfully this will resonate with the centrists who decide presidential elections.

Posted by: ghostcat at April 16, 2005 9:34 PM

Uh-huh. You've been telling us since '80 that abortion would win you the middle.

Posted by: oj at April 16, 2005 9:41 PM

What's with the "you" kemo sabe? My last vote for a Democrat presidential candidate was Jimmah in 1976.

The abortion analogy is not compelling because relatively few of us are ever going to get one. On the other hand, all of us and all our loved ones are going to die. The right-to-die issue is not going away until a workable national consensus emerges, and Republicans are currently trapped on the losing side of the debate. Yeah, there's a Zogby out there that could be read otherwise, but don't go whistling past the graveyard.

Posted by: ghostcat at April 16, 2005 10:15 PM

Top Tens ways for the DNC to use Terri Schiavo to advantage

1) starve the Democratic Party to death after pronouncing it "brain dead"
2) stage a memorial service for Terri Schiavo like that for Senator Paul Wellstone
3) starve the nation with a shutdown of the Senate
4) make Michael Schiavo the 2008 VP choice
5) to show that it's nothing personal, pull the feeding tube from Tom Daschle
6) starve those below 30 by letting Social Security run out in 2046 by doing nothing now
7) offer any conservative Republican the opportunity to remove the feeding tube from Senator McCain
8) offer the African-American community the opportunity to remove the feeding tube from Senator Byrd
9) offer to remove the feeding tube from Kofi Annan, then say "just kidding"
10) relieve "global warming" by removing the feeding tube from Al Gore

Posted by: Neo at April 17, 2005 12:13 AM


You of the culture of death. The GOP has been on the "wrong" side of the abortion issue for its best 25 years.

Posted by: oj at April 17, 2005 12:24 AM

Ghostcat: I don't see it. In 2006, here's what I see:

Announcer: "Who do you trust to make life and death decisions for you: yourself and your family, or religious zealots and politicians?"

Cut-to Republican Senate candidate: "I'm Joe Candidate and I encourage you to create a living will so that no judge is able to make life and death decisions in the event that you can't. And I promise that I'll never allow judges to override the wishes of YOUR family or violate YOUR family's values. I'm Joe Candidate, and I strongly approve of this message."

Come on, G-Money, we may be the stupid party, but we do pretty well when it comes to actually communicating to voters.

Posted by: Seven Machos at April 17, 2005 12:44 AM


The GOP has handled abortion adroitly. I've never argued otherwise. The "psychological identification" factor on that issue, however, is with the pro-life side: every one of us has been a fetus, while few of us feel the need for an abortion. "Death-with-dignity" is way different, and Americans have fighting-strong feelings about personal autonomy.

Seven Machos-

Non-presidential GOP candidates should be able to finesse the issue in their states and districts, much as you suggest. Not so easy for the GOP presidential candidate in 2008, especially given the recent posturing in the Schiavo matter. Emotions run very high on this issue across the political spectrum. It was a serious miscalulation to think otherwise.

Posted by: ghostcat at April 17, 2005 1:27 AM


Neither issue is personal.

Posted by: oj at April 17, 2005 1:35 AM

Ghost Cat:

The soundbite goes like this:

"I trust individuals and their families to make life and death decisions about personal matters. Period. I think the real tragedy was that a bunch of judges ever intervened. Frankly, though, I came here today to talk about winning the War on Terror and about growing the American economy. Do you have any questions on those issues?"

In the mean time, I think Terry Schiavo is roughly equal to Elian Gonzalez, and while I think both of those individuals got royally hosed by U.S. governments, neither was or will be an election issue.

Posted by: Seven Machos at April 17, 2005 2:40 AM

Janet Reno's shipping of a 6 year old boy to that Gulag with palm trees known as Castro's Cuba won the election for W in 2000, giving him the increased turnout in Dade to compensate for late-in-the-game shenanigans by the MSM in Florida.(Calling the state for Gore before the polls were closed in the two CDT districts)

The Terri Schiavo case will not play badly for the GOP, so long as OJ is kept off the airwaves. There was a conflict between the parents and the husband, and there was no controlling document that addressed the problem. Opposing pulling her feeding tube given the ambiguity of the evidence was not an unreasonable position. If the GOP takes a position in its platform that patients should not have the right to living wills nor the right to designate a loved one as the person to make the decision concerning emergency care, they will be back to minority status in no time.

It's a bit of a nuanced argument but focusing on preferring the decision of a loving family rather than that of an impersonal court is a vote winner.

Posted by: bart at April 17, 2005 8:36 AM


Loving isn't the beneficial angle for the Left.

Posted by: oj at April 17, 2005 9:42 AM