Friday, March 25, 2005

Peggy Noonan's Schiavo mess

Peggy Noonan's Schiavo mess

The next time Peggy Noonan offers GOP leaders free advice, for the sake
of their party they might want to beg off. It was just one week ago
that the Wall Street Journal columnist sounded the alarm for
conservatives, urging Republicans -- for their own self-interest -- to
take every step possible in order to save Terri Schiavo. "You have to
pull out all the stops," Noonan implored.

A key element of Noonan’s strategy, besides the fact that it would
please the GOP’s pro-life base, was her insistence that the maneuver
was completely risk-free because there was "just about no one" on the
other side to oppose Republicans -- nobody who supported Michael
Schiavo, the “disaffected husband.” No one, that is, accept for "the
few bearded and depressed-looking academics he's drawn to his side."
According to Noonan, "Politically this is a struggle between many
serious people who really mean it and one, just one, strange-o." Better
yet: "Move to help Terri Schiavo, and no one will be mad at you." In
other words, a lay-up for Republicans.

What a difference a week makes. With Congress and President Bush
following Noonan’s advice almost to the letter -- issuing novel
subpoenas, crafting last-minute legislation and trying to set all sorts
of legal precedence -- polls indicate that the vast majority of
Americans are in fact "mad" at Congress and Bush for intervening.
They’ve sided with the "strange-o," the allegedly "disaffected
husband," and not with Noonan’s army of "serious people." How bad is it
for Republicans? According to Wednesday’s CBS poll, job approval
ratings for both the Republican Congress as well as Bush hit new lows
this week.

So, in this week’s column
does Noonan concede
her errors, acknowledge she misread the mood of the country and
apologize to Republican leaders for her monumentally wrong-headed
political strategy? No. First, she rearranges the facts of the Schiavo
legal battle to her liking. For instance, Noonan insists Terri’s
"husband, and only her husband," said she would not want to live on
life support. That’s simply not true. And either Noonan has not
bothered to read the court records, or she’s comfortable ignoring
adjudicated facts. Then Noonan launches into vicious personal attacks
against anyone who disagrees with her radical, pro-life minority
agenda. (Noonan may be stridently pro-life, but don’t bother looking
for binders full of her anti-death penalty columns. They do not exist.)
She belittles her opponents' "bizarre passion" for death and warns they
are paving "the low road that twists past Columbine and leads toward

The surreal part is that the targets of Noonan’s acid barbs (i.e. the
"unstable," "unhinged," "red-fanged and ravenous" tube-pullers) include
a majority of self-described "conservative Republicans" and "white
evangelicals." According to the CBS and ABC polls, strong majorities in
both of those groups agree that Congress and Bush were wrong to
intervene in the Schiavo case. On this issue, Noonan has swum so far
out of the mainstream that she can no longer see the Republican base.