November 15, 2005

Strange Bedfellows?

No, I'm not talking about myself and John Cole (though I could) but rather Joe Manchin, the Democratic Governor of West Virginia and the Schindler family. Bobbi Schindler, Terry Schiavo's brother, and Manchin spoke at the West Virginians for Life "Rose Dinner" at a local resort. The event was in part a fundraiser for the organization, which has brought criticism from state democrats who argue that Manchin's participation was helping to raise money for the opposition. Manchin maintained that his participation is personal, not political:

The Governor is pro-life, a decision that he says is his own personal decision. He's refused to cancel his appearance after other members of the Democratic Party raised issue with it.

Lara Ramsburg, the Governor's Communications Director, says Manchin is honored to speak at the West Virginians for Life Rose Dinner. It's being held at Lakeview Resort in Monongalia County.

Ramsburg says Manchin will talk about his pro-life beliefs and give those who attend the dinner a wrap-up of what's happened with women's issues in West Virginia over the past year.

Manchin has stressed his decision to speak at the dinner is his and his alone and that those Democrats who have voiced their objections, including Kanawha County Delegate Carrie Webster, have known since the beginning of his career where he stands on the issue.

While the democrats have criticized Manchin's decision mostly on pro-choice grounds, Cole comes at it from the direction of end-of-life decisions:

Putting aside the fact that the autopsy verified that Terri Schiavo’s personhood had long since departed and that she was well beyond what would even be described as ‘profound brain damage,’ what is alarming is the continued effort to avoid dealing with the sad realities of the case, but instead to villify the medical community for daring to have the audacity to name a condition, to attack ‘activist judges,’ and to pretend that somehow, if only we had a different word for Terri Schiavo’s condition, the outcome might have been different. According to Mr. Schindler, had the medical community just used a different term, Terri would today still be gleefully whiling away the hours tracking balloons across her hospice room, engaging in light banter with her pro-life attorneys.

If these people were not trying to wrest away control of my end-of-life decision making rights to cede them to some other entity (the church, the courts, who knows?) all because of their personal religious beliefs, I could probably manage to find a way to tolerate them. Right now, I can not, as too much is at stake.

I am in agreement with Cole on two things about this issue. One is that compassion for private grief suffered is no excuse to let someone get away with trying to transfer your individual decision-making to his preferred arbiter. The second is that I remember paying close attention to the Schiavo case, as a "native" Floridian who followed the story from its beginning. I've always thought it was a horrible situation, and that neither "side" was pure as the driven snow, but likely both were motivated by some incomprehensible (to me at least) combination of grief and emotional response to the other part of the family. The thing that broke it for me was listening to Limbaugh (I think, it could have been Hannity) when the Schindlers threw in their lot with Randall Terry (whose role in the drama Cole called "beneath contempt") and started letting him speak for them. After that, I was done.

And Manchin. Well. As I've said before, it's not like I'm all that happy with a lot of democrats (maybe I should move to Maine) either. And even though I know that politics is a lifelong struggle for polish and position, and therefore give politicians some leeway in the opportunism department, Manchin's very public and repeated protestations about "his own personal decision" really rub me the wrong way, especially when his actions lend support to a group working to erode personal decisions that are a lot more important than whether to make a speech while people eat the rubber chicken.

Posted by binky at November 15, 2005 10:29 AM | TrackBack | Posted to West Virginia


I agree. Whether or not Manchin wants this to be seen as a personal position, he's the state's governor so his actions carry a particular weight - and here it looks like a Governor making his political views (very publicly) known, and throwing in his lot with, as you note, some odious individuals.

Quite apart from that, as a political matter I'm appalled, and I hope he's catching an earful from the Democrats. The Schiavo business, stem cells and all that are issues that are huge winners for the Democrats at a national level. It's not helpful to the party when one of its most popular governors breaks with most of its leadership on issues that are political winners.

Posted by: Armand at November 15, 2005 01:35 PM | PERMALINK

It's not at all clear to me that he wants this to be seen as a personal decision. It seems more clear that he simply wants to be seen. I don't know, there is a sense of calculation or orchestration about the whole thing. Shouting from the rooftops: oh who me? pro-life? why sure I am! but it's a personal private decision! yep! personal! private! did I tell you? I am personally and privately pro-life. Yes indeedy! privately pro-life! personally pro-life? that's me!

Posted by: binky at November 15, 2005 01:57 PM | PERMALINK
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