Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
The Journal Editorial Report
Front Page
Lead Story
Briefing & Opinion
Tony & Tacky
TV Schedule
For Teachers
About the Series

March 25, 2005

Liberty at Home & Abroad
Christi Gourley

Christi Gourley of Huntsville, Alabama, continues her silent protest outside the Woodside Hospice after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to reinsert Terri Schiavo's feeding tube March 24, 2005 in Pinellas Park, Florida. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

The tragic case of Terry Shiavo gripped the nation this week as we struggled to answer the troubling questions her case provoked: Should the brain-damaged Terry Shiavo's feeding tube be removed? Should Congress and the president intervene to save her? And, lastly, are we concerned about morality or politics or both?

Public opinion seems remarkably clear.

A CNN/USA Today poll done by Gallup shows a clear majority in favor of removing the feeding tube.

A CBS News poll shows an overwhelming 82 percent believe Congress and the president should have stayed out of it and 74 percent say it is all about politics.

What does this case say about what is to come in the selection of federal judges and the battle over the right to die?

Joining the panel is David Rivkin, an attorney who has written for the editorial page and served in the Justice Department under Presidents Reagan and Bush.

We begin with a quote made early in the week from David Davenport of the conservative think tank, the Hoover Institute:

"When a case like this has been heard by 19 judges in six courts and it's been appealed to the Supreme Court three times, the process has worked -- even if it hasn't given the result that the social conservatives want. For Congress to step in really is a violation of federalism."
Paul Gigot
Paul Gigot
"You heard the quote from David Davenport that the Republicans were violating states' rights. Is that what's happening in this case? Should the congress and president intervene to save Terri Schiavo? Are we concerned about morality, or politics, or both?"

Melanie Kirkpatrick
Melanie Kirkpatrick
"I think congress was doing a number of things. Once, they were listening to their voters, who after they take a look at the case, are pretty upset. That's part of it. Another part is the idea that the people deserve a voice in a case like this and congress is the voice of the people. And third, I think they were trying to push back a little against the idea of judicial intervention, saying, 'hey, you know, the legislative branch has a role here, too.'"

Daniel Henninger
Daniel Henninger
"Those who saw the debate on C-Span said it was very impressive the way the House members stood up and expressed why they were doing this. I think this was acually a rare instance of politicians acting on compulsive belief. I mean, normally they poll this stuff, and then this is one case in which it's clearly not a sure winner at all."

Robert Pollock
Robert Pollock
"I don't think I'm the only non bible-thumping person in this country who was outraged at the thought of a woman starving to death. We don't do that to dogs in this country. If Terri Schiavo was an animal the authorities would go in there and remedy this situation. That's pretty incredible. And I don't see why congress ought to be praised for what in the end was essentially sort of a procedural game. I think congress would have been fully within its rights to pass a law that would have actually remedied the situation by saying, for example, that in America we don't starve people."
David Rivkin
David Rivkin
"First of all, the Republican intervention is very modest. We're not talking about a statute that prescribed a particular result. All it did is ask the federal courts to take another look it. Second of all, the real culprit in this case is not the State of Florida as a sovereign. It's Florida courts that have been in the past often willing to flout the will of the legislature and the Florida governor. As you know, they tried to intervene in this situation again now and year ago. So there's a very modest intervention -- intervention limited to another judicial review by the federal courts."

  View Full Transcript
Viewer Opinions & Response
Links and Sources

ARCHIVE: WSJ - Paul Gigot Commentary

ARCHIVE: WSJ - Daniel Henninger Commentary

BIO: Baker & Hostetler Law - David Rivkin