Which offering about the Terri Schiavo case is more foolish, this one by far-left professor Juan Cole or this one by the increasingly incoherent Maureen Dowd? Both argue the same thing — that by passing a law authorizing the federal courts to review the Schiavo case, the Republican-dominated Congress has adopted the tactics of Muslim fundamentalists and moved us closer to a theocracy.
Cole may fancy himself a terrific Arab linguist, but he is clueless when it comes American law. His argument is that the Republicans have embraced the Muslim fundamentalist practice of “using the courts to intervene in the private lives of others.” What Cole fails to grasp is that the Schiavo matter was always a matter that the courts would decide, and had in fact been decided by the courts before Congress ever became involved. All Congress did was to authorize a different court to decide the matter. In my view, Congress should not have interfered. But Cole displays an astonishing level of ignorance when he claims this congressional action has caused courts to intervene in a private life in which courts hadn’t previously been involved.
But at least Cole tries to locate his claims that Congress acted theocratically in a discussion of Muslim theology. Dowd’s identical claim seems to be located only in hysteria she makes no attempt to hide (her opening line is “Oh my God, we really are in a theocracy”). Needless to say, Dowd never presents an argument as to how having the federal courts examine Schiavo’s case constitutes the establishment of a theocracy. Now, I understand that Dowd has one of those endowed journalistic chairs, the occupant of which is never required to make an argument. But what would her argument be? That when people with strong religious beliefs try to add an extra layer of judicial review to make sure that innocent life isn’t terminated based on erroneous factual conclusions, this represents a step towards theocracy? That’s is an absurd position even by Dowd’s standards.
The remainder of Dowd’s piece demonstrates just how low those standards are. Much of it consists of the ad hominem attacks on Tom DeLay and Bill Frist. There’s also a claim that they have put the Constitution on life support — one that Dowd declines to support with any semblance of a constitutional argument.
But what really caught my eye was Dowd’s cheap but inevitable comparison of Schiavo’s case to Bush v. Gore. She writes: “The first time [Republicans] snatched a case out of a Florida state court to give to a federal court, it was Bush v. Gore. This time it’s Bush v. Constitution.” What Dowd overlooks, of course, is that Supreme Court review of state court decisions does not constitute “snatching” a case out of state court. Under our constitutional system, the Supreme Court sits as the final arbiter of certain types of state court decisions. But one wouldn’t expect Dowd to know, or care about, this basic fact. It’s enough that she was clever enough to connect, however superficially, her present grievance to the original sin from which all else flows — the election of President Bush.
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