GOP fights culture war over family tragedy

I don’t know how much coverage it’s getting outside the US, but it seems the most important issue facing the nation right now– more urgent than Iraq, the deficit, Social Security, health care or education– is the decision of a judge in favor of a Florida man who wanted to remove the feeding tube from his wife, who has been in a 15-year vegetative state. Her parents opposed the removal.

Sensing an opportunity to strengthen support among “right-to-lifers,” Republicans in Congress are planning to return to Washington early from a recess– the sort of thing usually reserved for times of war– to enact a bill which could lead to the feeding tube being reinserted in the woman, Terri Schiavo. President Bush said he would return early from his Texas ranch to sign the bill.

My attitude to the whole affair is a sort of stunned disbelief, but Ed Kilgore, subbing for Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo, has some good observations.

He quotes from a memo circulated among Senate Republicans which, in typical Republican fashion, focuses more on the potential political advantages than on the sad and difficult circumstances.

This is an important moral issue and the pro-life base will be excited that the Senate is debating this important issue. This is a great political issue, because Senator Nelson of Florida has already refused to become a cosponsor and this is a tough issue for Democrats.

Among those protesting the judge’s decision outside the hospice where Terri Schiavo has been kept alive was Rev. William Witt from Ohio, who told The Washington Post: “There’s a cultural war going on.”

To which Kilgore adds:

So maybe Congress is coming back into emergency session to deal with the outbreak of war after all.

For the record I neither agree nor disagree with the judge’s decision to allow removal of the feeding tube. I see it above all as a terrible personal tragedy.

But once again the Republicans prove they’re against intrusive big government, except when they’re for it.

Update: Congress has passed a bill transferring jurisdiction of the Schiavo case to a federal court, and President Bush has signed it into law.

Further update: I’ll believe the Republicans in Congress really care about the sanctity of life when they start calling emergency sessions to deal with situations like this. (Via Demisemiblog.)