Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sunday Reading

Hell of a Governor — Michael Kruse of Politico interviews Michael Schiavo, the widower of Terri Schiavo, and Jeb Bush’s role in his wife’s case.

CLEARWATER, Fla.—Sitting recently on his brick back patio here, Michael Schiavo called Jeb Bush a vindictive, untrustworthy coward.

For years, the self-described “average Joe” felt harassed, targeted and tormented by the most important person in the state.

“It was a living hell,” he said, “and I blame him.”

Michael Schiavo was the husband of Terri Schiavo, the brain-dead woman from the Tampa Bay area who ended up at the center of one of the most contentious, drawn-out conflicts in the history of America’s culture wars. The fight over her death lasted almost a decade. It started as a private legal back-and-forth between her husband and her parents. Before it ended, it moved from circuit courts to district courts to state courts to federal courts, to the U.S. Supreme Court, from the state legislature in Tallahassee to Congress in Washington. The president got involved. So did the pope.

But it never would have become what it became if not for the dogged intervention of the governor of Florida at the time, the second son of the 41st president, the younger brother of the 43rd, the man who sits near the top of the extended early list of likely 2016 Republican presidential candidates. On sustained, concentrated display, seen in thousands of pages of court records and hundreds of emails he sent, was Jeb the converted Catholic, Jeb the pro-life conservative, Jeb the hands-on workaholic, Jeb the all-hours emailer—confident, competitive, powerful, obstinate Jeb. Longtime watchers of John Ellis Bush say what he did throughout the Terri Schiavo case demonstrates how he would operate in the Oval Office. They say it’s the Jebbest thing Jeb’s ever done.

The case showed he “will pursue whatever he thinks is right, virtually forever,” said Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor at the University of Central Florida. “It’s a theme of Jeb’s governorship: He really pushed executive power to the limits.”

“If you want to understand Jeb Bush, he’s guided by principle over convenience,” said Dennis Baxley, a Republican member of the Florida House of Representatives during Bush’s governorship and still. “He may be wrong about something, but he knows what he believes.”

And what he believed in this case, and what he did, said Miami’s Dan Gelber, a Democratic member of the state House during Bush’s governorship, “probably was more defining than I suspect Jeb would like.”

For Michael Schiavo, though, the importance of the episode—Bush’s involvement from 2003 to 2005, and what it might mean now for his almost certain candidacy—is even more viscerally obvious.

“He should be ashamed,” he said. “And I think people really need to know what type of person he is. To bring as much pain as he did, to me and my family, that should be an issue.”

Bonus Reading: Jeb Bush’s School Years — Ah, the good old days of smoking pot in the woods and bullying the underclassmen at a New England prep school.  (Been there, done that, wrote the novel.)

Holy Dog Whistles — Dianna Anderson in Salon on evangelicals history of racism and its current harbinger, Mike Huckabee.

In an interview promoting his recent book about American Christian political identity, Mike Huckabee commented that he doesn’t understand how Barack and Michelle Obama let their daughters listen to Beyoncé. He told ABC that he doesn’t think Beyoncé is wholesome, referring to Biblical ideas about holiness, saying, “what you put into your brain is also important, as well as what you put into your body.” Huckabee, a white man, seems to take particular focus on Beyoncé, stating in his book that it seems her husband, Jay Z, has crossed the line from husband to pimp in “sexually exploiting her body.”

I want you to hold that moment in your head for a minute – a white man calling a black man a “pimp” and criticizing a black female singer for being too sexual in her music. Let’s talk about history.


“Evangelical,” as an identity, is separate from the historical nature of the Southern Baptist Convention, though their theologies and histories are tied together and, in many ways, are nearly inextricable from each other. But evangelical, as a political and social identity, has a much shorter history than the Southern Baptists. The sanitized story that you’ll hear from most evangelicals is that, following the 1973 decision of Roe v. Wade, evangelicals were moved away from their previous apolitical identity toward protecting the unborn. Much of the evangelical identity, even today, is centered on pro-life issues and pushing for political protection of fetuses. And this is an identity Huckabee embraces as a former pastor and current evangelical thought leader.

But Evangelicalism actually dates back to well before Roe v. Wade – indeed, about a decade before, right around the time Martin Luther King, Jr., was becoming a national figure. The historical white religious fear of the black man is a well-documented phenomenon. After all, Emmett Till was murdered for the supposed crime of whistling at a white woman. Social hygienists in the early 1920s created sexual health education not out of a public health concern, but because upper-class white women were beginning to mirror the supposed sexual habits of lower-class people of color. The pearl-clutching fear over miscegenation was still in the minds of evangelicals as they began to stand up as a political identity in the early 1960s.

The landmark decision of Loving v. Virginia – the interracial marriage court case of 1967 – spurred yet more white fear over the loss of control over white women in particular. This fear coincided with the rise of second-wave feminism – which would eventually lead to Roe v. Wade. All this tumult threw the evangelicals into a political fervor – the way of life they had established for themselves in the two short decades since the end of World War II was coming to an end. Life in the U.S. was, in a word, unstable. This change didn’t sit well with evangelical leaders.


And it is in this context that Huckabee can call a multimillionaire black musician a prostitute and a sexual object without his base of white evangelicals batting an eye. It is this history – a history of Evangelicalism founded in racial tensions and racist fear over the sexuality of black people – that colors Huckabee’s comments to make them seem entirely reasonable to an audience of white evangelicals primed to gobble them up. Huckabee’s comments, indeed, are carefully calculated dogwhistles to his base, imbued with the racist history of the political evangelical identity.

Man Around the House — Andy Borowitz on Mitt’s plans.

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney told supporters on Friday that he was “incredibly relieved” to be able to keep the approximately five to ten residences he owns across the country.

“Having to talk about how much I care about ordinary Americans and so forth—I was game for that,” he said. “But having to sell all of those houses? That was going to be brutal.”

The 2012 Republican nominee said that he was especially glad he did not have to part with the car elevator in his eleven-thousand-square-foot mansion in La Jolla. “Come on, that thing is neat,” he said.

Doonesbury — To live and die by hashtag.

3 barks and woofs on “Sunday Reading

  1. I think the Schiavo issue will have legs. It’s all over the blogosphere this morning. Jeb sounds like a bigger jerk than his brother.

    • I sure hope so. The Terri Schaivo thing shows up the RtL/anti-choice brigade as entirely focused on what a woman’s owner father/husband/brother (probably in that order) thinks is best for her. Never mind that Terri had advance directives that forbade the “life-saving treatments”; because her parents fooled themselves into thinking that she could somehow miraculously recover (from being brain-dead for ten years? Srsly?), they convinced the MDs and Jebbie to just about put all FL business on hold until this one little fracas was fought through to the finish. There’s no consideration of her own wishes, her condition, nor her right to determine her own care: the entire case was about whether she had the right to decide her care and/or if she were unable to make such a decision whether her husband or her father was the proper surrogate – legal documents be d#mned.

      This isn’t a unique situation for FL – though others I’ve heard have been less dramatically resolved. A friend’s father’s mother had a heart attack, and while in ICU following the event suffered another – and the physicians asked my friend’s dad if he wanted to override his own mother’s DNR. He refused. One wonders, though, how many do not.

  2. Just a whisper of a counter perspective on Terry Schiavo. She wasn’t “brain dead” by any clinical definition I’ve ever experienced. That said, she was seriously compromised. I, personally, would not have the sand to stop whatever life supports she had going.

    However, what really bothered me, IF I understood correctly, was that her parents were willing to assume all burdens and responsibilities for her but as she had a surviving husband the final decision rested with him. I’m not arguing whether Jeb Bush or courts should or should not have been involved in the case. I’m speaking from some experience with neurotrauma patients and the personal experience of having a brother who received severe neurotrauma in 1976 and the pronouncements from Neurosurgeons, Neurologists, Neuropsychologists were all dire and eventually wrong. The recovery period spun out over years and lasting damage was done. However, he is still here (35 years later) and does pretty well and is happy. I really thought Terry’s parents should have been allowed to take responsibility for her care and decisions about that care. They still loved her.

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