Friday, March 25, 2005

A Needed Lesson in U.S.Gov't

Okay. A quick reminder regarding the structure and function of our government.

Three branches: judicial, executive, legislative

Checks and balance: founding fathers wanting a system that would keep each branch accountable and in place

Elected officials take oaths swearing to uphold their understanding of the constitution (state and/or federal)

Judicial branch are to interpret existing law, not create law.

So much for our brief overview of US Gov't. Now I want to consider some of these things in light of Terri Schiavo's case. Let me quote William Bennet and Ann Coulter (don't get too nervous...)

I hope you take time to read the following. Please.

"Florida courts [judicial] have found that she is incapacitated and beyond repair. Doctors have voted three to two that she is in a 'persistent vegetative state.' Her husband and legal guardian claims that she would have wished not to be kept alive should she find such a state. The courts agree. Florida law, as interpreted by Florida courts, provides that she should be allowed to expire. It appears Terri Schiavo has no legal right to life.

But does Terri Schiavo have a natural right to life?

Yes. She is a human being. She has committed no crime and therefore she has forfeited not one of her natural rights. Our American faith teaches us that, 'all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.' And the purpose of all American government is 'to secure these rights,' not destroy them.

What then is to be done?

The Florida legislature [legislative] sought to keep Terri alive, or at least postpone her death, by authorizing the governor [executive] to issue a one-time stay in order to prevent the withholding of nutrition and hydration from anyone under certain and extreme circumstances. "Terri's Law" was signed into law by Governor Jeb Bush in October, 2003, but soon after, the Florida supreme court struck down the law as unconstitutional.

Clearly, Governor Bush believes "Terri's Law" to be constitutional. Not only did he sign it into law, he later challenged the decision of his own state Supreme Court by appealing to the United States Supreme Court. Unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court would not hear the case.

In theoretical terms, this is a conflict between the separate powers of Florida government, as the judicial and executive branches have different opinions about what the Florida constitution requires. But in practical terms, Terri's life hangs in the balance: If the Florida supreme court prevails, she dies. If Governor Bush prevails, she lives. It is a mistake to believe that the courts have the ultimate say as to what a constitution means. Every governor is bound by oath to uphold and protect his state constitution. In the case of Florida, the constitution Mr. Bush pledged to defend declares that, "All natural persons, female and male alike, are equal before the law and have inalienable rights, among which are the right to enjoy and defend life and liberty..." If the governor believes that he and the Florida legislature possess the constitutional authority and duty to save Terri's life, then he is bound by his oath of office to do so.

It is time, therefore, for Governor Bush to execute the law and protect her rights, and, in turn, he should take responsibility for his actions. Using the state police powers, Governor Bush can order the feeding tube reinserted. His defense will be that he and a majority of the Florida legislature believe the Florida Constitution requires nothing less. Some will argue that Governor Bush will be violating the law. We think he will not be violating the law, but if he is judged to have done so, it will be in the tradition of Martin Luther King, Jr., who answered to a higher law than a judge's opinion. In so doing, King showed respect for the man-made law by willingly going to jail (on a Good Friday); Governor Bush may have to face impeachment because of his decision.

Governor Jeb Bush may find it difficult to protect Terri's rights without risking impeachment. But in the great American experiment in republican government, much is demanded of those who are charged with protecting the rights of the people. Governor Bush pledged to uphold the Florida constitution as he understands it, not as it is understood by some Florida judges. He is the rightful representative of the people of Florida and he is the chief executive, in whom the power is vested to execute the law and protect the rights of citizens. He should use that power to protect Terri's natural right to live, and he should do so now." - William Bennett

"Democrats have called out armed federal agents in order to: 1) prevent black children from attending a public school in Little Rock, Ark. (National Guard), 2) investigate an alleged violation of federal gun laws in Waco, Texas (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms), and 3) deport a small boy to Cuba (Immigration and Naturalization Service).

In two of the three cases mentioned above, the Democrats' use of force was in direct contravention of court rulings. Admittedly, this was a very long time ago – back in U.S. history when the judiciary was only one of the three branches of our government.

As important as it was to enforce the constitutional right to desegregated schools, isn't it also important to enforce Terri Schiavo's right to due process before she is killed by starvation?

As a practical matter, courts will generally have the last word in interpreting the law because courts decide cases. But that's a pragmatic point. There is nothing in the law, the Constitution or the concept of "federalism" that mandates giving courts the last word. Other public officials, including governors and presidents, are sworn to uphold the law, too.

It would be chaotic if public officials made a habit of disregarding court rulings simply because they disagreed with them. But a practice borne of practicality has led the courts to greater and greater flights of arrogance. Sublimely confident that no one will ever call their bluff, courts are now regularly discovering secret legal provisions requiring abortion and gay marriage and prohibiting public prayer and Ten Commandments displays.

Just once, we need an elected official to stand up to a clearly incorrect ruling by a court. Any incorrect ruling will do, but my vote is for a state court that has ordered a disabled woman to be starved to death at the request of her adulterous husband.

What was supposed to be the "least dangerous" branch has become the most dangerous – literally to the point of ordering an innocent American woman to die, and willfully disregarding congressional subpoenas. They can't be stopped – solely because the entire country has agreed to treat the pronouncements of former ambulance-chasers as the word of God. The only power courts have is that everyone jumps when they say "jump." (Also, people seem a little intimidated by the black robes. From now on we should make all judges wear lime-green leisure suits.)

President Andrew Jackson is supposed to have said of a Supreme Court ruling he opposed: "Well, John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it." The court's ruling was ignored. And yet, somehow, the republic survived.

If Gov. Jeb Bush doesn't say something similar to the Florida courts that have ordered Terri Schiavo to die, he'll be the second Republican governor disgraced by the illiterate ramblings of a state judiciary. Gov. Mitt Romney will never recover from his acquiescence to the Massachusetts Supreme Court's miraculous discovery of a right to gay marriage. Neither will Gov. Bush if he doesn't stop the torture and murder of Terri Schiavo." - Ann Coulter

Please. Let's pray.

"We pray for Gov. Bush. We pray for President Bush. Give them faith and strength of conviction, give them wisdom, and grant them grace to act accordingly. And let them stand - having done all, let them stand. We pray that we may live in Godliness and peace and that they will take the actions necessary to protect those things.

"And Lord, move miraculously upon Terri Schiavo's physical being causing her to be not merely sustained, but thriving. In your infinite mercy, move upon this situation and spare this nation once again. Amen."