Saturday, March 26, 2005

Schiavo: Nader Allies with Christian Right

Doug Ireland reports

Ralph Nader has joined the Christers in opposing the removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube--and has linked up with a right-winger with unsavory connections to do it.

You may recall Ralph's unprincipled hooking up with the cult-racket formerly known as the New Alliance Party to help get him on the ballot for his '04 presidential campaign. Well, now he's up to his old tricks of making an unholy alliance, this time with the conservatives.

Nader's intervention in the Schiavo case came in a joint statement with one Wesley J. Smith. And who, you may well ask, is Mr. Smith? A conservative bio-ethicist who contributes to the Weekly Standard and the National Review, Smith is a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute--one of whose co-founders and prime movers is the ultra-conservative economics writer George Gilder, famous for his anti-feminist rants ("This is what sexual liberation chiefly accomplishes-it liberates young women to pursue married men") and anti-homosexual ravings. (Gilder is also noted for such statements as "A successful economy depends on the proliferation of the rich," and "Real poverty is less a state of income than a state of mind.") Gilder's views are endorsed and promoted by Focus on the Family's James Dobson.The Discovery Institute is also a promoter of the so-called "intelligent design" movement, which posits the creation of the universe by an intelligent Supreme Being and opposes teaching evolution. Nader ally Smith's official bio also lists him as a "special consultant" to another right-wing think-tank called the Center for Bioethics and Culture, peopled by Southern Baptists and other Christers, and whose national director, Jennifer Lahl, is an associate of born-again convicted Watergate criminal Charles "Chuck" Colson, (now an evangelical minister), and Lahl is also an adjunct fellow of Colson's Wilberforce Forum.

Now what does Ralph say in his joint statement with the dubious Mr. Smith? Among other things:

"A profound injustice is being inflicted on Terri Schiavo," Nader and Smith asserted today. "Worse, this slow death by dehydration is being imposed upon her under the color of law, in proceedings in which every benefit of the doubt-and there are many doubts in this case-has been given to her death, rather than her continued life."

Benefit of the doubt, says Ralph? Why, before the Bush-Rove-DeLay intervention by ukase in the Schiavo case, in the eight years that Terri's husband has been seeking to legally fulfill her wishes not to live as a vegetable, the case was before 19 different courts. Seven different neurologists appointed by those courts found that Schiavo is, in essence, already dead in everything but name. The cortex of Schiavo's brain, they all affirmed, was completely "liquefied, and she can neither feel, sense, nor think," as the Washington Post wrote in summarizing their findings. Since the Washington Republicans' attempt to interfere with the intimate, private decision made by Schiavo and her husband, the Schiavo case has been before half a dozen more courts--including the U.S. Supreme Court, which found no reason to review the findings of the lower courts, thereby effectively affirming them. Schiavo has already had many, many more hearings than your average prisoner on death row (not that I'd begrudge them a single one).

But Ralph and his new right-wing buddy insist that, "This outrageous order proves that the courts are not merely permitting medical treatment to be withheld, it has ordered her to be made dead." No, Ralph, the courts have ordered that Schiavo be treated in the manner she wished, and in the merciful manner that her own doctors have recommended for eight long years--that she cease to be kept artificially in a simulacrum of life because doing so makes the religious nuts, including her parents, feel better. The courts have ruled that her doctors be allowed to let her escape from the lifeless prison of her body.

Nader and Smith's press release asserts that, to know "whether Terri can be improved with therapy....there is only one way to know for sure- permit the therapy." But, in the first seven of Schiavo's 15 years as a vegetable, she had that therapy, extensively. As ABC News reported in its profile of Schiavo's husband:

"When doctors determined that Terri had entered a persistent vegetative state, Michael flew Terri to California for experimental surgical treatments, sleeping on a cot in her hospital room.

"Even after doctors in California determined surgery would do nothing to help Terri, Michael continued to seek help. He admitted Terri to a Florida brain-injury center and hired an aide to take her out to parks and museums, in the hope it might stimulate her reawakening. It didn't." Fortunately, it now appears that science and reason have triumphed over religious superstition and anti-rational knownothingism, and that Terri Schiavo's 15-year long Calvary --which encompasses the trauma inflicted as well on her loyal, loving husband and her daughter -- will soon be over. I've previously written about my deep conviction that an individual has the right to choose death with dignity, which is what the Schiavo case is, in part, about. It's sad that Nader now casts his lot with those who oppose this right.

Ralph will do almost anything these days, and ally himself with almost anyone, to get attention. Nader's stomach-turning intervention on the side of the irrational in the Schiavo case is just one more piece of evidence of the path to kook-dom on which he has placed himself. I deeply regret having endorsed him for president twice (in '96 and 2000), given where he's ended up, and how he's misled the many well-meaning but politically innocent young who've considered him a leader--first into the orbit of Fred Newman's cult-racket, now into the obscurantist world of the religious extremists.

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