Hot Stories for the Week of March 21

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This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys", March 26, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

Watch "The Beltway Boys" Saturday at 6 p.m. ET and Sunday at 1 and 6 a.m. EST.

FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: Hot story number one, morality play. This is obviously Terri Schiavo (search), the brain-damaged Florida woman, her husband, her parents, and the entire American political community involved in this morality play, Mort, and particularly two Republican leaders in Congress, Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, and Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader.

Listen to them.


U.S. REPRESENTATIVE TOM DELAY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: The legal issues, I grant everyone, are complicated. But the moral ones are not.

U.S. SENATOR BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: These are extraordinary circumstances that center on the most fundamental of human values and virtues, the sanctity of human life.


BARNES: I think both of them are right, and it points to a moral issue that is what this case is really about. A moral issue with political ramifications, for sure. Now, I think I’m going to mention a couple of them.

One is, judicial arrogance, you know, the imperial judiciary. We have a state court judge who refused to follow normal, insist on normal medical procedures, and, of course, in Terri Schiavo’s case, there was never an MRI (search) or a PET scan. She’s gotten, I think, insufficient examination.

And secondly, after Congress acted, a federal judge who refused to do what Congress told him to do, which is have an evidentiary hearing, go over the facts again. He didn’t do that.

Now, I think a moral issue is a different kind of political issue. It’s, it just plays differently. It has different results. The conventional wisdom as, you know, we have heard around Washington all week, is that Frist and DeLay and Republicans are going to be hurt by this, that the Republican Party may suffer because of this stand they’ve taken.

I don’t think so at all. Moral issues, when you stick with moral issues over time, you’re usually rewarded, even though you might be in the minority in the beginning. It was true of civil rights; it’s particularly true of the abortion issue. But just think the difference between 1992, when Republicans didn’t want to talk about abortion and now 2004, and that election where Democrats didn’t want to talk about the issue, because they gained so much ground.

Democrats, I think, stand to have hurt themselves on this. What are they going to say five years from now when, when the Schiavo case, somebody asks about it, and Republicans say, Well, we erred on the side of life, that’s what we tried to do. And Democrats, what do they say? They, they erred on the, on the side of judicial power or something like that?

I don’t know. Listen, Eric Cohen has written a great piece in the upcoming Weekly Standard, and I want to show you a portion of it.

And he wrote, "In the end, the Schiavo case is just one more act in modern liberalism’s betrayal of the vulnerable people it once claimed to speak for. Instead of sympathizing with Terri Schiavo, a disabled woman abandoned by her husband, seen by many as a burden on society, modern liberalism now sympathizes with Michael Schiavo, a healthy man seeking freedom from the burden of his disabled wife and self-fulfillment in the arms of another."

MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Well, I have a question for you. If you were sure that, that Terri Schiavo is in a persistent vegetative state, would you allow the, the plug to be pulled?

BARNES: Not in her case. She’s not dying. Her parents want to take care of her. She does show some response to stimuli. So I would definitely keep her alive in this particular circumstance.

BARNES: Well, look, you’re indicating that this is more complicated than it looks, and it’s a lot more complicated that Tom DeLay and Bill Frist are representing it as. And the public understands that it’s a lot more complicated.

I agree with you. If there ought to be an MRI or a PET scan to determine whether she’s in a persistent vegetative state. If she is, and it’s determined, then that means that her cerebral cortex is liquid, it’s not, she’s never going to recover, she’s going to die at some stage. She’s being kept alive artificially through, through a feeding tube.

The public has a more complicated view of this than DeLay and Frist, who, they say if she’s in a persistent vegetative state, then she ought to be allowed to die, and I think they’re absolutely right.

And the problem is with conservatives like them and sometimes you, that, you know, you decide on a rigid basis what is right and what is wrong, and you want to impose this on everybody else. And it’s not just Michael Schiavo (search) like this, there are millions of people all, all around the country who want to be able to determine their own lives and not have some politician in Washington, on the basis of a preconceived moral notion, impose their values on them.

BARNES: Mort, that’s not happening. It is just the Schiavo case that is, I mean, it is a unique case, because her parents want to take care of her, there are questions about the diagnosis, there are questions about her treatment, there are questions about what her intentions were.

KONDRACKE: All right, now I have to say, I do have to say that, that on the left, there’s just as much rigidity and automatic jumping knee-jerk reaction to this. I mean, Maureen Dowd (search), the columnist for The New York Times, who sometimes I think is turning out to be the Randall Terry of the left, said, quote, "Oh, my God, we are really in a theocracy. Are the Republicans so obsessed with maintaining control over all branches of government, and are the Democrats so emasculated" — she has a tendency go to through questions of emasculation — "about not having power, that they’re willing to turn the nation into a wholly owned subsidiary of the church?"


BARNES: Wait a minute; I want to raise another issue. Some of these polls and some of the media coverage, and particularly this, there was this ABC News poll that was worded in a particular way and here’s what it said, "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. Do you support or oppose the decision to remove Schiavo’s feeding tube?"

Well, when phrased that way, 63 percent supported the decision to remove the tube. But that’s not an accurate poll. I mean, some of those things, I mean, one, she’s not on life support, two, her consciousness, the amount of it, is in debate, and then whether her condition can be partially, at least reversed, that’s a question that’s up in the air as well.

So that’s a dishonest poll.

KONDRACKE: But it requires a factual answer.


KONDRACKE: But the poll, if she were in that position, then the public would favor pulling the feeding tube, which indicates that the public is against the point of view that you say is the rightwing point of view, which you say is going to be advantaged by all this.

BARNES: No, the moral point of view. This is a moral issue, and I think the moral stand. Of course it’s a complicated moral issue. But it is a moral issue. And, and as President Bush said, let’s err on the side of life.

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