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Friday, April 08, 2005  

News: Schiavo memo writer fired

The Right to Life movement shamelessly exploited Terri Schiavo's tragedy for its own ends. Conservative politicians, including Senate Majority Leader Tom Delay (Texas) were eager contributors to the hysteria. Not that most Senate Democrats proved admirable either. Afraid to offend a constiuency that largely ignores them, they signed an unconstitutional bill authorizing intervention in the case by the federal courts. But, perhaps the most exploitive person of all has been identified and dismissed. The Seattle Times has the story.

WASHINGTON — The legal counsel to Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., admitted yesterday that he was the author of a memo citing the political advantage to Republicans of intervening in the Terri Schiavo case, the senator said last night.

Brian Darling, a former lobbyist for the Alexander Strategy Group on gun rights and other issues, offered his resignation, and it was immediately accepted, Martinez said.

The senator said aides had assured him earlier that his office had nothing to do with producing the memo. "I never did an investigation, as such," he said. "I just took it for granted that we wouldn't be that stupid. It was never my intention to in any way politicize this issue."

Martinez, a freshman who was secretary of Housing and Urban Development for most of President Bush's first term, said he had not read the one-page memo. He said he inadvertently passed it to Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who had worked with him on the issue. Other Senate aides then gave the memo to reporters for ABC News and The Washington Post.

I'm skeptical about whether Sen. Martinez knew what the memo said and where it came from. However, his damage control effort is understandable. As for the aide, the gun lobby often fabricates evidence in favor of more arms in American homes. Their manipulation of public opinion is legend. Darling (pictured) was likely just doing what he does best. There may be trouble ahead for Sen. Martinez. Not because he was among those who used Ms. Schiavo's death to pander to the extremists of the anti-abortion movement. That was the status quo for his party. But, admitting error by taking responsibility for the memo may damage his relationship with fellow Republicans. They had claimed Democrats had created and disseminated the memo as a smear campaign.

ABC News has provided the full text of the memo.

S. 529, The Incapacitated Person's Legal Protection Act

• Teri (sic) Schiavo is subject to an order that her feeding tubes will be disconnected on March 18, 2005 at 1 p.m.

• The Senate needs to act this week, before the Budget Act is pending business, or Terri's family will not have a remedy in federal court.

• 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 [Bill] Nelson of Florida has already refused to become a cosponsor and this is a tough issue for Democrats.

• The bill is very limited and defines custody as "those parties authorized or directed by a court order to withdraw or withhold food, fluids, or medical treatment."

• There is an exemption for a proceeding "which no party disputes, and the court finds, that the incapacitated person while having capacity, had executed a written advance directive valid under applicably law that clearly authorized the withholding or or (sic) withdrawl (sic) of food and fluids or medical treatment in the applicable circumstances."

• Incapacitated persons are defined as those "presently incapable of making relevant decisions concerning the provision, withholding or withdrawl (sic) of food fluids or medical treatment under applicable state law."

• This legislation ensures that individuals like Terri Schiavo are guaranteed the same legal protections as convicted murderers like Ted Bundy.

11:45 PM