Ex-White House Counsel Lanny Davis Says Congress & Bush Were Right to Act in the Schiavo Case

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," Mar. 23, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Personal story" segment tonight, as we pointed out in the T-points memo, the Schiavo story has become very personal with the left generally taking the position that Terri's life is a legal matter and the right believing the situation is a moral concern.

Joining us now from Washington, Lanny Davis, special counsel to President Clinton, as you'll remember. Mr. Davis has surprised some people by siding with the right on this issue.

Wow. When did you come to that conclusion?

LANNY DAVIS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Well, my oldest son and I had a — quite a vigorous debate about this because he disagrees with me. And I don't think it ought to be viewed as left or right. Certainly the memo that was circulated by Republican conservatives to make it a political issue, I think, was a mistake.

I think this is a personal decision that I made about the merits of erring on the side of life where we're not certain about this poor women's wishes.

We have a husband who claims what she said is that she wanted to be disconnected. But we're not certain. And at least in this instance, which is rare, where you have parents willing to go through the pain and the agony of tending to this poor young woman, we ought to err and allow those parents to do that.

And I agree with your "Talking Points" essentially, why is this husband fighting so hard...


DAVIS: ...even if he believes that his then-wife wanted the disconnection...

O'REILLY: Yes, certainly, certainly — right.

DAVIS: Why not allow the parents?

O'REILLY: Right. Just you can come out — he said out look, I did everything I could to fulfill Terri's wishes. I know she's not in any pain now. And I don't want to cause any more pain to anyone else.

DAVIS: Right.

O'REILLY: So I'm going to hand it over to the parents. And they're going to do what they do.

You know, if you bring that kind of humanity to the situation, you defuse all the demagogues. And I was proud of you for breaking out of the — you know, because you read all the editorials from the left-leaning press. And they all are like a pack of animals. They all say the same thing.

And I like when people break out and start to look at this from a human point of view, rather than making judgments about it, which nobody could make. You're absolutely right. We don't know what the woman's wishes were. We don't know.

DAVIS: You know, Bill, I don't think it's a left or a right neat division. There may be some disagreements on my liberal side of the aisle, but Tom Harkin (search) from Iowa, senator from Iowa, was out there calling for this women's life to be allowed to continue, whatever state it's in, because of her loving parents. That's what makes this different.

O'REILLY: Right.

DAVIS: The legal case is very weak. I think this is a moral and a political case. I hate to put it even in religious terms. It's a personal and moral position that I feel as long as there are loving parents that this husband, who may genuinely believe that this is the wishes of his wife, should give it up as you have stated.

And think in this case, that the state of Florida could still save this woman and allow her...

O'REILLY: Only if Schiavo gives it up though, because the state can't go back. The feds aren't, as I said, aren't going to help Terri Schiavo because they don't want to set a precedent of overriding a state decision that's based on the law. I mean, the state based it on the law.

DAVIS: Right.

O'REILLY: I read, you've read, we all have read the guardian's [report]. And Greer didn't do anything wrong, although I think Greer's being an obstructionist and he's — this is Judge Greer.

DAVIS: Right.

O'REILLY: I mean, he should open the records and let people see. Because if there's any chicanery, Lanny, it's going to come out. And it's going to be a huge scandal.

But here, what I want is to defuse the demagogues. I want to take this out of there and put it in the humanistic realm. And the Vatican (search) was right. The Vatican issued a statement, going listen, there's no downside to letting this woman live. Who's the downside? She doesn't feel anything.

DAVIS: I honestly think it's unfortunate, whether it's a Republican staff memo or the Vatican pronouncing this as a matter of religious faith, that we ought to let this be a personal and moral decision that every American can view this very divisive issue.

And I agree with your point that Mr. Schiavo can take this out of the political...


DAVIS: ...and the religious arena and let the parents — and that's where I'm coming down. And by the way, I do see some consistency in my position. And fighting for the last minute for those on death row to have the last minute of due process before we're certain or you can't reverse the mistake.

And those that are in favor of the death penalty, and don't seem to want to fight for that last peace of mind that we're killing somebody by the state with some certainty that due process...

O'REILLY: Well, you ought to come over to my side. I don't want the death penalty at all. So you should come over to my side. --I'm so left wing. But you ought join me on that and then say but, we got to really punish these guys. Not let them sit in there watching cable TV and lifting weights. That's the difference.

DAVIS: Well, it's an inconsistency that I think I see on the Republican right, which loves supporting the death penalty and loves decrying taking state cases and putting them through the federal court system. But now, sees a reason to do so. At least you and I are being consistent.

O'REILLY: All right, Lanny Davis. There he goes. Tom DeLay's best friend, new best friend. We appreciate it, Lanny.

And a brand new billoreilly.com poll asks the question, "has the media covered the Schiavo case responsibly?" [Let me repeat the question:] Has the media covered the Schiavo case responsibly? Yes or no? billoreilly.com. Poll question. We'd like to hear from you.

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