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Terri Schiavo Battle Continues; Bush Brothers' Options Exhausted

Aired March 24, 2005 - 15:29   ET


ANNOUNCER: More legal options run out in the Terri Schiavo case after rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court and a Florida judge.

GEORGE FELOS, MICHAEL SCHIAVO'S ATTORNEY: We believe it's time for this activity to stop as we approach this East weekend and that Mrs. Schiavo will be able to die in peace.

ANNOUNCER: Religious conservatives send a message to the Florida governor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A citizen of your state is being brutally murdered. You need to intervene on her behalf.

ANNOUNCER: We'll look the pressures on Jeb Bush and debate what, if anything, he should do next.

Is the president paying a political fight for intervening in the Schiavo case? We have a new Bush approval rating out this hour.



CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us. Judy is off today. I'm Candy Crowley.

A spokesman for Terri Schiavo's parents say their hopes for saving the life of their brain-damaged daughter are dimming. But just in the last few minutes, we learned of yet another development that keeps the family's dwindling hopes alive.

After another day of critical court rulings, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to order nourishment for Schiavo, and a state judge in the case reinforced an emergency order preventing her feeding tube from being reconnected. He also refused to hear Governor Jeb Bush's request to take custody of Schiavo. Now a federal court in Tampa is set to revisit the case tonight.

CNN's Bob Franken joins us from outside the Florida hospice that's caring for her -- Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And Candy, the federal judge will revisit the same information that was rejected by the state court just a moment ago. And that was an affidavit from a neurologist, William Cheshire, who was introduced to the case by Governor Jeb Bush yesterday.

Dr. Cheshire, who is closely associated with the so-called the right to life movement, has made a cursory examination of Terri Schiavo, including a brief visit to the hospice, and declared that she may have a different condition than the advanced condition of brain deterioration that has been repeatedly described and which sevened (ph) for the justification for the judge to order the disconnection of the tube. That affidavit was rejected by the state judge, George Greer, the same one who ordered the tube disconnected on Friday.

Now, the federal judge, James Whittemore, who was the first to say that he would not issue an emergency order, is going to see that same affidavit in a last-minute effort by those who support reconnection to get him to reconsider and allow that evidence to be submitted. It is considered highly unlikely by most legal observers, including those connected with the family here, that they're going to be successful. But they say they don't want to give up.

Meanwhile, with all of this pile of legal paper work, it's hard to remember sometimes that this is all about the life or death of Terri Schiavo, who is six days removed from her feeding tube in the hospice behind me -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Bob Franken, thanks very much.

Supporters of Schiavo's parents still are urging Florida Governor Bush to intervene in this case even if his legal options seem slim to none. CNN's Ed Henry is in Tallahassee with more on Governor Bush's role and the political pressures on him -- Ed.


That's right, a day of fast and furious developments, as you just heard Bob report. It seems like everyone on just about every side of this issue is weighing in. Everyone, that is, except Governor Jeb Bush.

Aides say he has been behind me in his office, closeted behind closed doors with staffers, trying to sort through the complex, legal and moral issues here. He's not giving any interviews. And unlike yesterday, he's not putting out even any press releases through his staff reacting to the U.S. Supreme Court or the state court decisions here today, as you heard Bob report.

With those developments, so many legal and political avenues closing. The governor is now, in the words of one adviser, in the eye of the storm. Everybody now turning the spotlight on him. Is there something he can do?

I can tell you, I was in his office a short while ago. The phones are ringing off the hook. There are people outside in the reception area with signs urging that Terri Schiavo be given another chance of life, urging the governor to show some mercy. He obviously has said pointblank that he wants to save her life, but he has not been able to figure out how exactly to do that. And the question now is what can he do at this point? And some legal analysts and conservative activists are saying that between the state constitution and also a state law, the Adult Protective services Act, the governor actually does have the power to go in and have a state agency take custody of Terri Schiavo with or without the permission of a state or federal judge.

The question, though, is whether or not the governor will think that the public sees that as an overreach. Will that go too far? But I can tell you he is getting a lot of pressure from conservative activists like Randall Terry, who says he should act.


RANDALL TERRY, FOUNDER OPERATION RESCUE: Why did Governor Bush do this? He raised the family's hopes. He raised all of our hopes that he was going to function within the statutory authority given to him and the DCF and, yet, he still hasn't acted. This, in our opinion, is reprehensible.


HENRY: I can tell you that that Bush adviser I spoke to earlier said that in these meetings the governor has been steadfast he is not going to be pressured by politics on either side. Obviously, a lot of people noting that the governor is not running for reelection in 2006. He doesn't have to face the voters again.

But, of course, there has been a lot of speculation that he might want to face the voters on a national scale down the road. I spoke a little earlier to Larry Claman (ph), one of the conservative activist whose is here pressuring the governor to step in and take custody of Terri Schiavo. Larry Claman (ph) ran unsuccessfully for governor -- senator, U.S. senator, I should say, in 2004 and he told me pointblank that if the governor does not go in and take Terri Schiavo, take custody of her, his presidential ambitions, any presidential ambitions he may have are finished -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Ed, let me just go back over this because I'm not sure I completely understand. People are saying that the governor does have the executive power to take custody of Terri Schiavo. So he didn't really need to go to court as he did yesterday, did he not?

HENRY: We were talking to some advisers who believe that the governor wanted to make sure that he went through proper legal channels. They liken this situation to what happened with Elian Gonzalez in the Clinton administration, that the Clinton administration had the power to go in and seize the child, but there was such a public backlash there that whether or not you have the legal power to do it may not really be the ultimate question.

It's whether or not the public is going to see it as an overreach. That's one of the issues he's dealing with. So there are some legal analysts who are saying that the law does give him that power, but he wanted to go to this judge to make sure that he could try to get the authority from a state judge so that he had it clearly and he wouldn't have to deal with it on his own. Now, obviously, he is completely on his own. He is closeted behind closed doors, wrestling with this -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Ed Henry covering Governor Jeb Bush in Tallahassee. Thanks.

Some religious conservative leaders are drawing a line in the sand over the Schiavo case, seeing it as a legal test of light to life issues. And a test of their political clout as well. But not all Republicans see eye to eye on this issue.

The reverend Pat Robertson joins us now from Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Reverend Robertson, thank you so much for being here.


CROWLEY: Let me ask you, do you feel that the president of the United States has done everything he could as regards to this case? Has he exhausted his power at this point?

ROBERTSON: Candy, as far as I can tell, he has. This is essentially a state issue, and I think for the president to come back from Texas at a late-night hour, for the Congress to pass this legislation, I tell you, my beef is with that federal district court judge who spurned the Congress and just thought they didn't count. I think it's the dismissive attitude, the arrogance of the federal judiciary that's got me upset about this one.

CROWLEY: And let me put you the same question about Governor Jeb Bush. Has he done -- are you satisfied that he has gone to the limits of his power?

ROBERTSON: He's done everything he can do, although, you know, Candy, what I can't understand is here is a woman who has parents. The parents say we'll take care of our daughter. Here is the governor of a state who says we'll take care of this woman.

Why does a judge want to kill her? I mean, this is judicial murder. And for some reason, I can't understand it.

I think Jeb Bush is going to go the extra mile. He can move in and just take charge. He doesn't have to let some little piddly (ph) circuit court judge run the state of Florida.

And I think he's governor, and if he wants to exercise his executive power, he can do it. Whether he wants to do it, I don't know. But it's -- that judge can't hold him in contempt, that's for sure. CROWLEY: Now, let me go to what seems to be becoming a bit of a litmus test if you listen to some religious conservatives. I don't know if you heard Randall Terry earlier, but he said there was going to be hell to pay if they don't go in there. I mean, if you listen to the Webs, they're talking about National Guard.

There was a CBS poll out that I want to quote to you and to show our listeners. And it was among evangelicals -- white evangelicals.

The question was, "Should Congress and the president be involved in the Schiavo case?" Yes, 25 percent; no, 68 percent.

So even among white evangelicals people think that Congress and the president had no business being in, you know, the hospice of this young woman. Do you agree with that?

ROBERTSON: Well, I agreed with taking extraordinary action. As the president said, if we're going to err on the side of life -- and I agree with that. Basically, I'm for state rights and federalism. I don't want the federal government moving in on areas like this.

Were it not for what seems to be an unusual situation in Florida, the Congress does have the right to look out for the lives of the citizens of this country. They have that right under the Constitution. And they took it.

The thing that struck me so strangely is that the judge wouldn't do anything about it. But the governor of a state certainly has that right. There is no question about it. If he wants to -- if he wants to act, I mean, I'm saying I'm all for him, but I think the other evangelicals will feel the same way.

CROWLEY: Do you think there are political ramifications here for Governor Bush, for President Bush? Do you believe that the leadership of evangelicals see this as something that they really have to go to extreme lengths to correct?

ROBERTSON: This is a very difficult case. I don't think there is probably a person in your audience who hasn't had a loved one somewhere along the way, an extremist, and the decision has to be made by a family to say, well, heroic measures just aren't appropriate any longer, we're going to have to let that beloved grandmother, mother die.

This isn't the case here. This is judicial murder. This is a different matter. And I think something has got to be done just in the interest of justice.

Here comes the pope, the Vatican weighing in on this one, saying America should take care -- you see, what the consequence of this one, Candy, is that everybody who is infirm, everybody who's in a wheelchair, everybody who is incapacitated, just think of that heroic person who just died recently who had an injury, and are we going to put people like that to death? Is that the kind of nation we want to have? And the answer is, no, it isn't. So I think our legislators need to do something. But this isn't an extreme, get the National Guard out and go shooting people. I mean, you know.

She is one of many people who have been incapacitated. It's a tragic case, but after awhile, you know, there is only so much you can do.

CROWLEY: Reverend Robertson, if Terri Schiavo should die, who will you blame?

ROBERTSON: I'll blame her husband, who obviously wanted to kill her. I'll blame that judge who didn't take many ways out to save her life and who executed her.

Candy, you wouldn't do this to a criminal on death row, a murderer. It's against the law to starve a horse to death or to starve a dog to death. And to do this, who knows how long that poor woman will have to linger?

We've got no guarantee that she's going to die. This is the seventh day. Would it be a week or two weeks?

It's agony! No food. No water. To do this to somebody who is absolutely innocent?

So who do you blame? I blame her husband and I blame the judge. Nobody else.

CROWLEY: Reverend Pat Robertson, as always, very interesting. We appreciate it.

ROBERTSON: Thank you. OK.

CROWLEY: Everyone on the right does not agree that the government should intervene in the Schiavo case. Just ahead, a conservative with a different view from Pat Robertson.

Also ahead, President Bush is said to be so disappointed by today's rulings against Schiavo's parents. He is on the wrong side -- is he on the wrong side of this story politically? We will check new poll numbers.

And later, are members of the Congress feeling snubbed by the Supreme Court after its latest ruling on Schiavo's fate? We'll have a live report from the high court.


CROWLEY: We are continuing our look at the political debate over the Terri Schiavo case. I'm joined here in Washington by David Boaz. He is the executive vice president of the Libertarian Cato Institute. We should point out that in general the Cato Institute agrees more with -- a lot more with the Republican side.

Most of your -- most of your policies are in sync with the Republicans.

DAVID BOAZ, CATO INSTITUTE: Well, most of our policies are in sync with what the Republicans ought to believe.

CROWLEY: So, which leads us to this case. It does seem that there is a split among Republicans, those who believe that the right to life does require this federal intervention. You take a different point of view.

BOAZ: Well, that's right. I think that is a classic example of something that should have been left in the state courts or even the state political system, but that's what states are for. Marriage law, family law, health law like this ought to stay in the states. There was no need for federal intervention.

And one of the issues is, if you're really a federalist, you accept that sometimes the states will do things that you don't like. And if you turn to the federal government every time you don't like the outcome in a state, whether it's gay marriage in Massachusetts or anti-gay laws in Virginia, or the Terri Schiavo case in Florida, then you are not a federalist, you actually are a nationalist.

CROWLEY: But when -- but what is argued back is, what about the rights of the individual? Aren't the rights of the individual paramount?

BOAZ: We do believe in the rights of the individual, but in thinking about how to protect them. The founders set up a constitution of limited powers. We have division between the executive, the legislative and the judicial, and also we have the states that created the federal government.

They retain power in most of these areas. So you don't go to the federal government for everything.

Now, Democrats are just as guilty. Democrats have spent 50 years taking everything to the federal government, so they sound kind of hypocritical when they talk about Republicans being hypocritical.

CROWLEY: So let me -- let's talk about the politics of this, because it does -- it does show a split within the Republican Party. Is there political gains here? Let's not talk about motivation. Let's just talk about the outcome.

Did the president gain politically, does he gain politically among Republicans for this?

BOAZ: He presumably gains with a religious right base. But as you just showed Reverend Robertson, polls say even two-thirds of white evangelicals don't agree with Congress getting involved in this.

So I think it may have been a miscalculation, or it may have been they acted genuinely on principle and it won't pay off politically. There are some people who are very much in favor of this, but polls are showing 70 and 80 percent of the public saying the government should stay out of it. So I think in that sense, the Republicans are not split within the congressional party. It was almost unanimous in the House vote. But they seem to have split, the congressional Republicans, from the public, including 76 percent of conservatives said they don't think the government should get involved.

CROWLEY: So your feeling is that the conservative thing to have done, the conservative Republican thing on to have done in this case was never of to have had either Congress or the president involved?

BOAZ: Certainly the limited government, small government thing, the federalist thing would have been to stay out. Now, conservatives may say we have to balance right to life and individual rights versus federalism. But, yes, I think this is a classic example of where you leave things in the states.

And they went through five years in the state courts. That gives you a pretty good answer.

CROWLEY: David Boaz of the Cato Institute. Thank you so much for joining us.

BOAZ: Thank you.

CROWLEY: Just ahead, new CNN poll results. Is the Schiavo case taking a toll on the president's approval rating? Our Bill Schneider has the numbers when INSIDE POLITICS returns.


CROWLEY: The latest CNN-"USA Today"-Gallup poll finds the president's ratings are down. And there's evidence the Terri Schiavo case could be one reason for the decline.

Here is CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): President Bush's job rating over the weekend, before he and Congress acted in the Terri Schiavo case, 52 percent. President Bush's job rating in a poll taken this week, after the bill to turn the case over to the federal courts was passed into law, 45 percent. A CBS News poll shows a similar decline in the president's ratings from 49 percent last month to 43 percent now.

Are we seeing evidence of political backlash from the Schiavo case? We have to be careful.

Gas prices are up. And so are negative views about the economy.

Just in the past two weeks, the number of Americans who say the economy is getting worse has jumped nine points to nearly 60 percent. But there are also reasons to suspect a Schiavo backlash. Congress has been in the spotlight on the Schiavo case, and approval of Congress has been dropping as well, down seven points since last month.

Public opinion about the Schiavo case is very one-sided. Particularly on this question: Should Congress and the president be involved in deciding what happens to Terri Schiavo? Only 13 percent of Americans say yes. An overwhelming 82 percent say no, including large majorities of conservatives, Republicans, church-goers and even two-thirds of white evangelicals. The public does not want a case like this contaminated by politics.

REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Does anyone think that this decision will be made without consideration of actual support of party ideology? Of course not.

SCHNEIDER: Among the minority of Americans who believe Congress and the president should be involved in the Schiavo case, Bush's job approval is 67 percent. The president's approval drops to less than 40 percent among the huge majority who think politicians should stay out of it. Which may explain why the president is sounding more cautious.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have not discussed the next steps with the brother -- my brother, who is the governor of Florida.


SCHNEIDER: Some activists are threatening political payback if Terri Schiavo is allowed to die. It's an issue they're not likely to forget. But if the issue damages President Bush's standing with the voters, that could have immediate political consequences for his agenda -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Bill Schneider, thanks so much.

President Bush and congressional Republicans have gone to great lengths to try to keep Terri Schiavo alive. Still ahead, the Supreme Court ruling that effectively rejected their efforts and Republican reaction. We'll have a live report from the high court.

Plus, President Bush's reaction to today's legal twists in the Schiavo case and more on the political fallout he may be facing.


CROWLEY: The markets are getting set to close on Wall Street, which means I am joined by Lou Dobbs in New York with "The Dobbs Report" -- Lou.

LOU DOBBS, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Indeed you are, candy. Good to see you.

Stocks on Wall Street today trading mixed. The Dow Jones industrials right now as we are nearing the close down better than eight points. The Nasdaq is trading slightly higher. The markets will be closed tomorrow for Good Friday. After a three-day sell-off, oil prices today rose more than $1 a barrel, settling just below $55. And gasoline futures are near their all-time record high. The major factor, an explosion yesterday at a British Petroleum refinery. It killed 15 people. A hundred others were injured in the explosion. That plant produces 3 percent of the country's daily gasoline production. BP says the incident should, however, not affect supplies.

As interest rates are climbing, families are jumping to buy their own homes. Sales of new homes rising nearly 10 percent last month. That the biggest increase in more than four years, in fact. Mortgage interest rates this week topped 6 percent for the first time since last July.

And a major retail deal to report today. Receiving final approval from its shareholders, K-Mart now can complete its $12 billion buy-out of Sears Roebuck. The new company will have annual sales of $55 billion, but will still be a distant second to Wal-Mart, which has $285 billion in sales. Sears' shares tumbling 12 percent on the news.

Coming up tonight here on CNN at 6:00 Eastern, the U.S. death toll in Iraq has dropped since the January elections and insurgent attacks have slowed. Are we turning an important corner in Iraq?


MICHAEL O'HANLAN, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Things are definitely looking better in Iraq in the last few weeks. If you measure the number of attacks, the number of American casualties, or this harder to gauge but still real sense among the Iraqi people that it's their country and the transfer of sovereignty and the elections really mean that attacks against coalition forces or against Iraqi troops are attacks against Iraq now, not just against the United States.


DOBBS: Tonight on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT," we will have that special report on a marked improvement in the situation on the ground in Iraq.

And a special report on wasted minds. A disturbing study finds nearly half of Latino and African-American students in California have failed to graduate high school.

Also, Mark Mills, the co-author of the book "The Bottomless Well," says the energy crisis isn't a crisis because there isn't enough energy. He'll be with us to explain why he says wasting energy is both necessary and desirable.

And the Supreme Court refuses to hear the Terri Schiavo case. My guest tonight Dr. Joseph Fence (ph), director of Medical Ethics at New York Presbyterian. All of that and a great deal more here on CNN tonight at 6:00 Eastern on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT." We hope you'll be with us. Now back to Washington and Candy Crowley.

CROWLEY: Well, Lou, while I have you here, as you know, in the past week, everyone and their lawyer has pretty much weighed in on the Terri Schiavo situation. I wanted to get you to weigh in and get your take on the week's events.

DOBBS: They're tragic, Candy. I think all of us agree with that. The fact that the issue has created a deep rift within the family of Terri Schiavo, the inability of the family to come to a conclusion on their own, the the politicization, if you will, of the case and the legal frustration.

After all, this has been a situation for Terri Schiavo that has persisted for 15 years. I guess my only position is it is tragic. I have no Solomon-like counsel to offer, other than to say that I deeply sympathize and empathize with Terri Schiavo, her family and everyone directly involved.

CROWLEY: In the end, I guess what you're saying here is that despite all the politics and despite all the legalisms, this is a very deep, very human tragedy.

DOBBS: Absolutely.

CROWLEY: Thanks so much, Lou. Of course, we will see you at 6:00, but INSIDE POLITICS continues right now.


ANNOUNCER: The courtroom action may be winding down in the Terri Schiavo case, but the political fallout could just be beginning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If she dies, there's going to be hell to pay with the pro-life, pro-family, Republican people of various legislative levels.

ANNOUNCER: Did top Republicans go too far or not far enough to try to save Schiavo's life?

The U.S. Supreme Court rebuffs Congress. What are lawmakers saying about the court's refusal to reconnect Schiavo's feeding tube?

Now, live from Washington, Judy Woodruff's INSIDE POLITICS.


CROWLEY: Welcome back. I'm Candy Crowley, in for Judy today. Two hours from now, a federal court in Tampa is scheduled to hold a hearing in the Terri Schiavo case, yet another last-ditch appeal to keep the brain-damaged Florida woman alive. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court and a state judge refused to order the reinsertion of Schiavo's feeding tube, removed six days ago and that state judge also refused to hear Florida governor Jeb Bush's request it take custody of Schiavo. The Supreme Court ruled against Schiavo's parents even after President Bush and Congress acted to move the case into the federal court system.

CNN's Kathleen Koch joins us now from the high court -- Kathleen. KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Candy, the Schindlers, Terri Schiavo's parents, knew that this was a long shot, making this emergency filing just before 11:00 last night here, to a Supreme Court which had four times already in the past refused to intervene in their daughter's case. So, again, this decision today, not a surprise to them.

Basically, their emergency filing initially went to Justice Anthony Kennedy (ph). He has the responsibility for all cases emanating from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. He even passed it on to the entire nine justices.

Part of their deliberations also included taking a look at a filing from Terri Schiavo's husband, Michael Schiavo. We have an excerpt of that. He was asking them to maintain the status quo, saying quote, "The status quo today is that Mrs. Schiavo is exactly where she would want to be. She has been released from unwanted, intrusive medical procedures according to her wishes. Preservation of the status quo would allow her to die in peace and to maintain her dignity and autonomy."

Now, it was around 10:30 this morning that in a terse, one- sentence statement, the court declined to intervene in the case. They did not release their final tally of who voted which way, nor did they discuss in any way their decision-making process in reaching this final decision on the case.

Of course, there's been a lot of reaction, here in Washington, here on Capitol Hill in particular, where lawmakers intervened last weekend to give the Schindler's access to the federal courts, one last opportunity to try to prolong their daughter's life.

One response coming from House Majority Leader, Congressman Tom DeLay and Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner. In a joint statement saying, among other things, quote, referring to the Supreme Court, quote: "Once again, they have chosen to ignore the clear intent of Congress. While federal remedies have been exhausted, we urge Governor Bush and the Florida legislature to continue examining all options to save Terri's life."

And again, as you mentioned, right now, Candy, it is in a Florida court, where apparently the last judicial option remains now for Terri Schiavo. Now, here at the Supreme Court, physically, there hasn't been much of a reaction to this ruling. There have been a small cluster of protesters here the last couple of days standing silently with red tape across their mouths that reads "Life," but, really, no major reaction other than that.

CROWLEY: Outside the Supreme Court, Kathleen Koch, thanks very much.

A spokesman says President Bush is saddened by today's Supreme Court ruling on Schiavo, but there doesn't seem to be anything more he can do about it. Let's bring in our senior White House correspondent John King, with the president in Crawford, Texas -- John. JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, the president keeping track of all this at his ranch here in Crawford, Texas. One question that we do not know the answer to is whether the president, since yesterday, has reached out and spoken to his brother, Governor Jeb Bush of Florida. Yesterday Mr. Bush said he had not discussed any steps, any strategies, perhaps, that might be taken to save Terri Schiavo's life with his brother. Unclear if he has in this defining 24 hours we have gone through in the legal battle.

As you noted, we did get a statement earlier today. The president was informed this morning, late this morning, by the deputy White House chief of staff Joe Hagin, of the Supreme Court's decision in Washington not to intervene.

And Deputy White House Press Secretary Dana Perino telling us, quote, "The president is saddened by the latest ruling. When there is a complex case such as this and serious questions have been raised, the president believes we ought to err on the side of life. This is an extraordinary case and the president will continue to stand on the side of those defending life."

Stand with them, Candy, in terms of moral support and rhetorical support, but White House officials tell us as the president made clear yesterday, they believe any avenue for federal remedies has now been exhausted.

CROWLEY: John, let me ask you, the president flew back from Crawford, as we know, on Sunday, to sign a bill that would have -- that did put the issue in the federal courts, didn't get what he wanted. We're now seeing that since Sunday, at least in our polling, there's been a seven-point drop in the president's approval rating. Has the White House seen that? Do they connect it with this case?

KING: The White House is aware of this polling. The Republican National Committee polls for the president, of course. They see all these public polls. White House officials say they would not draw a direct connection to this case, although, if you look at the polling, the president's position on the Terri Schiavo case is certainly contrary to the majority of public opinion in the country.

What the White House would say is that this is a controversial case. It may have taken a little effect on the president's polling. They attribute much more of the president's decline in recent days to the fact that they say he is under this onslaught of advertising by the AARP and other groups opposed to his Social Security plan. And what they also say, Candy, is the president is not getting, as he has in past big fights, an echo of support from fellow Republicans. Many Republicans are uneasy about the signature domestic initiative of this president, so he's not getting help on the Social Security issue.

And White House aides, although they don't think there is any lasting effect, they do concede the president's position, which they say, is based on his deep moral beliefs, not any politics, in the Terri Schiavo case, might be hurting just a little. They think if that's the case, it's a very short-term dynamic.

CROWLEY: John King, thanks a lot. With the president in Crawford. We appreciate it.

The Schiavo case is striking a chord across America on a number of levels as a debate about life and death, and as a debate about if or when the government should step in. Up next, the protest and the politics. We'll get perspective from a couple of Washington vets.

And are bloggers still all over the Schiavo story? We'll go "Inside the Blogs" and find out.


CROWLEY: As we continue our coverage of the Terri Schiavo case, I'm joined by Jack Valenti, former adviser to President Lyndon Johnson, and Ron Kaufman, a Republican strategist who served both President Reagan and the first President Bush.

Terri Schiavo. Let me just talk a little bit here about the politics of it. Seems to be a very real split within the Republican party between those who think the federal government ought to stay out of life as much as possible and those who want to save her life. Do you see it that way?

RON KAUFMAN, GOP STRATEGIST: I don't. It's a bigger issue than that, Candy. I mean, this is about civil right, one person's civil rights and making sure that person has her rights upheld. And the courts made the decision and so be it. And I think it's a good process. I don't think it's political at all. I think those folks who think it is political is wrong.

I think it's about her, the case, and bigger things. There two issues here, I think, as America grays the issue of right to choose the way you die -- is very important. And I think it's touched that nerve across the country. People care about that a great deal.

CROWLEY: My theory is, actually, that Baby Boomers dealing with this with their parents and also seeing themselves, that this is sort of a double whammy. No politics in this?

JACK VALENTI, FMR. AIDE TO PRES. JOHNSON: Oh, I think there's politics, all right. But I think this is a tragedy on an epic scale. As a father of two daughters, I can understand the Schindler's passion for their daughter. I feel for them. As a husband, I understand what Mr. Schiavo's doing. His wife's been in a vegetative state, according to the doctors, for 15 years.

But what disturbs me the most, though, is the entry of the Congress into something that I think is family business. I do not believe that Congress belongs in this and it's a repudiation of a lot of Republicans' views of state rights and federalism and the founding fathers and how they believed that there were certain things for the states and certain things for the country. This is not a place for the Congress to be. I believe that most definitely.

CROWLEY: Ron, do you think the state, or the Congress, should have intervened? KAUFMAN: I'm pleased to hear my friend Jack and my friend Bonnie Frank (ph) defending states' rights all of a sudden. That's terrific. Welcome over to our side. But listen, like Jack, I've got daughters. My mother-in-law and father-in-law lived with us before they died. One had Parkinson's, one had Alzheimer's. We had to face the same exact problem twice, and it's a hard problem. We did the right thing in both cases. I have to be honest, I could not do it with my daughters. If the parents want to take care of her, common sense, forget the law, quite frankly. Common sense -- let them.

VALENTI: But I think, also -- it seems to me that there's some evidence, at least that I've seen on television, that in the presence of others, Terri Schiavo did not want to be kept artificially alive. And according to the medical experts, and I'm certainly not one, she is being kept alive artificially. She didn't want that. And I think what her husband is saying, let's honor the wishes of Terri Schiavo.

And my wife and I have a living will and I hope everybody has one in which we say we do say we don't want to be kept on life support. And we have it legalized and signed, so we're not going to have to go through this. But I feel, as I said, I feel great compassion for the Schindlers and I feel great compassion for her husband, as well. There are no villains in this.

But I say, again, and I repeat, I was disturbed greatly by the celerity and the resolve and the swiftness with which the Congress moved on this. There are hundreds of thousands of other such cases, I guess, at least tens of thousands, in this country. Is Congress going to intervene every time a human life is at stake like this? I do not believe so.

This is not a case for the Congress. This is a case for the courts to resolve a dispute, a controversy, between the parents of Terri and the husband of Terri. And I think, in this case, the courts have ruled that the husband's right in trying to protect what his wife wanted to do is paramount over everything.

CROWLEY: We have to stop it there, but you'll come back, I know. Jack Valenti, Ron Kaufman, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

KAUFMAN: We enjoyed it.

CROWLEY: The Schiavo case still dominates discussion on the blogs. Up next, we'll go inside the blogosphere for the latest on the debates online.


CROWLEY: Time now to check what's being said in the blogosphere. Standing by for us, as always, Political Producer Abbi Tatton and blog reporter Jacki Schechner. Jacki, what are people saying?

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN BLOG REPORTER: Hi, Candy. We're going to start out today over at Even at this last hour, they're refusing to give up the fight to try to keep Terri Schiavo alive. They have -- updating throughout the day, as usual. And their call to action, their latest one right now is "The Schiavo Action Alert," as it's titled. They're calling for Governor Jeb Bush to, in fact, take her into custody. They say that "he does not need to justify himself to the court nor file any more petitions. Simply needs to give the orders to take her into protective custody without delay. It's upon the court to explain how its orders do not violate her rights, not the other way around."

So they are still rallying for Terri Schiavo even at this late hour.

ABBI TATTON, CNN POLITICAL PRODUCER: And the role of Governor Jeb Bush is picked up by Jerome Armstrong at a, a liberal blog. He is saying that with Jeb Bush now personally involved, "I guess we should believe him when he says he's not running for president, because this is his big moment to forever sink the Bush battleship.

SCHECHNER: Mydd also has a link to the Cbs News poll that came out that said 82 percent of the American public doesn't think that Congress and President Bush should be involved in the situation.

Over at, sort of an interesting comment. He say, "Eighty-two percent. Wow, when was the last time 82 percent of Americans agreed on anything, and especially on a so-called moral issue? The intensity factor, which the GOP, which was figuring was on their side, it's on both sides."

TATTON: Now over here at, they're looking ahead to what political impact this might have on the GOP and on President Bush -- this is another liberal site here -- because of this Supreme Court ruling. "Wonders what great political calculus went on in the heads of Karl Rove and George W. Bush to get involved in this case in the first place."

Now, over to This is not a blog. This is a column written by Peggy Noonan today, which is being linked to left, right and center -- very strong column. "In Love With Death: The Bizarre Passion of the Pull-The-Tube People." At "The Moderate Voice," this is Joe Gandalman (ph) blogging from the center. He has a real problem with this column. Wonders "what Peggy Noonan has been drinking or smoking today," he says. And it relates back to that poll again. "So all the GOPers -- Catholics, Evangelicals, Protestants, Democrats, Independent -- the 80 percent of Americans who thought Congress and the president should have stayed out of all this, all of us love death? he asks.

SCHECHNER: Now there is no telling whether the Schiavo chatter is dying down a little bit just because it's been going on for so long, and things seem to be reaching an end point to some respects. But there are other things that are popping up on the blogs. And one of them is in regard to FEC -- Federal Election Commission -- regulation on the Internet, or supposed regulation on the Internet. It came up a while ago. Yesterday, the FEC released a draft of possible regulations regarding this Internet regulation.

We went over to, and they've got the draft rules. It's actually a .pdf file. So if you click on it, you can have that file. You can look through it for yourself. That's what it's there for is take a look at it, go through it with a fine- tooth comb. That's what Rick Hassen (ph) says. He's an election law expert. If you click here to, he's got the beginning of his commentary on it. And he's actually sifted through it, so you can get an idea what's going on if you don't understand it so easily yourself. He has a very good round-up. And down at the bottom, he's sort of got the next steps that he's asking people to take.

He says, "Bloggers and others need to go over the proposed regulations very carefully and examine what's unclear and what's missing. The draft itself raises many questions, questions that the final set of regulations should answer clearly." This again is just a draft and something to take a look at. It's what the FEC is considering. And then he says, "Without clarity, you can bet that complaints will be filed at the FEC against the most successful partisan bloggers on both sides of the political aisle in 2006 or 2008."

TATTON: And over here at, they're mad that there are even proposed rules at all on the Internet, but says, "Fortunately, there is something you can do. The FEC is asking for your comments on the proposed rules," inviting all the bloggers out there to write in, read through the document and comment on it.


CROWLEY: Abbi Tatton, Jacki Schechner, thanks so much.

Just ahead, does Katherine Harris have her eye on higher office? A Florida Senate race looms on the horizon. We'll assess Harris' prospects and tell you who she's meeting with in our "Political Bytes."


CROWLEY: Checking today's "Political Bytes," a source close to Florida Congresswoman Katherine Harris confirms that Harris meets regularly with White House Deputy Chief o0f Staff Karl Rove. But the source disputes a recent report that the White House has discouraged Harris from running for the Senate next year. The source tells CNN Rove and Harris met as recently as last week and that Rove did not discourage her from running. Harris is best known for her role as Florida secretary of state in the 2000 election recount.

In Rhode Island, Democratic Congressman Jim Langevin says he will not run for the Senate in 2006, and he wants Secretary of State Matt Brown, fellow Democrat, to get out of the race as well. Langevin says he's like to see Congressman Patrick Kennedy run against Republican incumbent Lincoln Chafee. Kennedy is said to be considering it.

In Texas, the director of Republican Governor Rick Perry's re- election campaign has acknowledged that two campaign workers videotaped a recent event in D.C. featuring Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. At the event, Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton spoke kindly of her fellow senator. Hutchison is considering a primary challenge to Perry next year. The Austin-American Statesman reports the video linking Bailey with Clinton has been circulating through Republican circles via the Internet.

And in Louisiana, a state senator has introduced a bill he says is designed to avoid a controversy similar to the Terri Schiavo case in Florida. The legislation is intended to assist family members or other legal guardians who try to prevent the death of an incapacitated person through starvation or dehydration.

Now this reminder: The next legal development in the Terri Schiavo case happens about 90 minutes from now, 6:00 p.m. Eastern, as a federal judge in Tampa takes up her parents' latest appeal. CNN is following all of this, and we'll keep you up to date with the latest developments.

For now, that's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Candy Crowley. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.


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