Wednesday, March 30, 2005

"Compassionate Conservatives" Resort To Hyperbole While Spinning Schiavo Story

As has been documented on JABBS and elsewhere, many conservatives have created an alternate set of facts regarding the Terri Schiavo tragedy (http://jabbs.blogspot.com/2005/03/compassionate-conservative-media.html) to defend what they see as a "pro-life" argument.

But that's not enough. Not only do the conservatives have their facts wrong on Terri Schiavo, they are resorting to hyperbole and mean-spirited rhetoric to fight a perceived opponent -- liberal America, Congressional Democrats, etc. -- that for the most part hasn't fought back.

Perhaps the saddest thing in the conservatives' politicizing of Terri Schiavo is the way they have shaped this as a conservative vs. liberal argument. Prominent Republicans and the conservative noice machine say they are "pro-life," which by default means they can call the Democrats "pro-death."

The phantom fight is being thrown out to the masses, even though no Senate Democrats voted against the Schiavo legislation, and enough House Democrats voted for the legislation to help it pass. The phantom fight is being played out on cable television, talk radio and newspaper editorial pages, even though prominent Democrats like Sens. Harry Reid (D-NV) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) have voiced their support for the Schiavo legislation (Harkin even suggested broadening it).

The phantom fight is being played out even though the most common criticism from Democrats has been that the federal government shouldn't be involved in domestic disputes, even after a GOP memo was leaked showing that the conservatives viewed the Schiavo tragedy as a political opportunity to score points before the 2006 mid-term elections, especially in Florida.

So with some Democrats siding with the Republicans, and others steering clear of the debate altogether, the conservative noise machine ratcheted up the hyperbole. It's another political opportunity, with Republicans defining Democrats because they have not clearly defined themselves.

What kind of hyperbole and mean-spiritedness is at play? Consider*:

-- Rush Limbaugh, on his March 25 show, suggested he should open a chain of "Starvation for Serenity Centers."

"And I think that one of the larger issues that has come out of the whole Schiavo case are the benefits of starvation," Limbaugh chortled, before offering that Hillary Clinton and Al Gore would benefit from two-week stays.

-- Joe Scarborough, on the March 24 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country, offered this:

"Do these liberals really hate George Bush so much? And that's all you ever hear about, George Bush. You never hear about Terri Schiavo. But do they hate George Bush so much that they are cheering for Terri's death only because the president of the United States and his brother are fighting for Terri's life?"

-- Michael Savage, on his website (also read on his syndicated radio show, Savage Nation):

"The radical Democratic left is an army of soulless ghouls. Being of the living dead, they live in a world of death and try to impose it on we the living. ... What is difficult for we the living to comprehend is the reason they can engage in such anti-life abominations is because they have no souls. They have said that the tears of Terri Schiavo are mechanical. They have said that her smile is reflexive. They can rip an emerging child from the womb, murder it, and call this a compassionate act. Like Mengele -- the doctor of death from the Nazi concentration camps -- the radical, soulless Democrats keep referring to "the doctors," as if a medical degree guaranteed humanity. Therefore, choose life. God bless George W. Bush."

-- Consider this exchange between host John Gibson and former Reagan Administration official William Bennett, from the March 22 edition of Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson:

GIBSON: Is there -- before I run out of time and gotta run, because it's coming soon -- do we now have the following political divide: Republicans stand for parents' right and life, and Democrats have sided for questionable husband and dying?

BENNETT: In a lot of peoples' minds, that's it.

GIBSON: Despite the fact that some Democrats were with Republicans.


* Thanks to mediamatters.org

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

on this one the republicans far right have made a mistake. they will not be able to define the dems for one simple reason. most people in this country believe congress overstepped and i do not believe any amount of rhetoric will change that. this is a ridiculous case and i, for one, cannot wait until she has passed and we, as a country, can move on to important matters. it is sad because she has now lost the ability to die with dignity since she and her family have been made pawns of washington players. Sad--but almost over.

12:32 AM  
Blogger D.B. Cooper said...

This whole Schaivo mess is like a demented Barnum and Bailey Circus. The tent is up, the circus music is playing, but the only act that showed up is the clown car stuffed to max capacity with... clowns.

12:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Schiavo case does represent a three-ring circus. But I think it is a mistaken notion that significant numbers of pro-life ghouls on both sides of the fence have not been influenced by the political spinning.
It is the Republicans who are pro-death penalty, the first to vote for war over diplomacy, the first to vote on healthcare cuts for seniors and small children alike, and they are now all of a sudden the "pro-life" party. The Schiavo case represents the Mount Everest of Republican hypocrisy from the underreported positions of Bush on removing children from life-saving machines and on the death penalty in Texas to DeLay's pulling the plug on his father. Let's hear Limbaugh and his ilk contrast those matters with Schiavo.
I only hope some sympathizers on the right will walk away from the Schiavo controversy with a sense of that hypocrisy, as opposed to that of "the compassionate conservative," and cast their vote appropriately in the mid-term elections.

9:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The below article lifted from today's The Nation magazine I think nicely sums up what David has been discussing these past several days on the Schiavo case:

"On Sunday, a Los Angeles Times report detailed how House Majority Leader Tom DeLay let his own comatose father die in 1988. As the leader of the save Schiavo movement in Congress, DeLay embodies the GOP's rank hypocrisy on this issue. Democrats at Columbia University recently compiled a list of other examples of GOP hypocrisy in the Schiavo case. We've included the most relevant and added a few of our own.

** While Governor of Texas, George W. Bush signed a law allowing hospitals to remove a patient's life support regardless of the wishes of the family. Just a week ago Texas terminated the life of Sun Hudson, a five-month old baby suffering from a fatal genetic disorder.

** The 2000 Republican platform read: "Medical decision-making should be in the hands of physicians and their patients." Four years later, the language remained nearly the same: "We must attack the root causes of high health care costs...by putting patients and doctors in charge of medical decisions."

** Much of Terry Shiavo's care came courtesy of Medicaid, which the Bush Administration wants to cut by $60 billion. Just recently Republican Governor Bob Riley of Alabama tried to drop coverage for 13-year-old Lauren Rainey, a severely handicapped girl who requires a suction tube to breathe.

** In his previous career as a heart surgeon, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist pulled the plug "on a regular basis," his office acknowledged last week. In his 1989 book Transplant, Frist advocated killing anencephalic babies, who are born in the same mental state that Terry Schiavo finds herself in today.

** The tort-reform bill recently passed by the Senate would block cases like the malpractice suit that provided for Terri's care from reaching the courts in the first place.

** So-called family values Republicans who constantly invoke the "sanctity of marriage" have viciously attacked Terry Schiavo's husband Michael, calling him a lying, lecherous wife-killer. It got so bad that TV host Joe Scarborough asked fellow conservative Pat Buchanan, "Are you comparing Michael Schiavo to a Nazi?""

9:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As someone who enjoys listening to Michael Savage, I have to say his obession with the Schiavo story has become very annoying. The guy actually believes that this case is the most influential story of our time. What is he smoking? I really could care less about Schiavo and I'm tired of hearing the constant death-party banter among conservatives. Get over it and pull the plug...I mean tubes!

3:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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3:32 PM  

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