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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

Terri Schiavo's parents say an appellate court in Atlanta is their best hope right now for keeping their brain-damaged daughter alive.

Aired March 25, 2005 - 15:02   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BOB SCHINDLER, TERRI SCHIAVO'S FATHER: Terri is weakening as, you know, she's down to her last hours. So something has to be done and has to be done quick.
ANNOUNCER: It's a matter of time for Terri Schiavo. One week after the removal of her feeding tube, the fight over her fate still isn't over.

How long can the Schiavo case keep bouncing from court to court? We'll help steer you through the legal questions and confusion.

A Florida Democrat is targeted by some Republicans in connection with the Schiavo case. Is Senator Bill Nelson worried about fallout.

SEN. BILL NELSON, (D) FL (video clip): To inject politics into this tragic situation where a family is torn apart, as that memo did inject the politics, is absolutely inexcusable.

ANNOUNCER: Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN HOST: Thank you for joining us. Judy is off today. I'm Candy Crowley. Terri Schiavo's parents say an appellate court in Atlanta is their best hope right now for keeping their brain- damaged daughter alive. But their legal prospects keep dimming. This morning a federal judge in Tampa again refused to order the reconnection of Schiavo's feeding tube removed one week ago. We want to begin our coverage at the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta with CNN'S Sara Dorsey. Sara?

SARA DORSEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: OK, Candy, I hold in my hand the 50-page appeal filed by Bob and Mary Schindler, that is the parents of Terri Schiavo. Not the first appeal they filed here, but the first one we have in our hands today. To give you an idea what it is they're asking for, basically it's a restraining order to get Terri's feeding tube put back in while they argue this out in court.

But we're really reading this and seeing that it's more of an emotional appeal than any of the other ones before, they are calling this now a mercy killing and asking for the courts to listen to them basically on three different grounds. The first is they say Terri Schiavo's right to due process has been violated because there is a significant difference of opinion concerning her present physical state, meaning many of the doctors don't agree on if she is in that persistent vegetative state that we all have been hearing about.

The second is, Terri is a practicing Catholic and they say her religious rights have been violated because the Catholic Church prohibits the termination of an incapacitated individual's assisted feeding. They say if Terri were able to speak herself, she would side with the Catholic Church and not want this feeding tube removed.

Now, the Schindlers are also saying that Terri'S rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the rehab act have been violated because she's being discriminated against because she is indeed a disabled person and hasn't been able to participate in this process, the decision on whether or not that feeding tube should remain.

Now, we must say that a very similar appeal was made to this very same court on Wednesday and basically the process is this, the court took a look at it, a three-judge panel did that. They ruled against the family's appeal on Wednesday two to one.

From there it goes to the higher court -- this court. But a 12- judge panel. So the entire court gets involved. They ruled against the parents 10-2 on Wednesday. And it will be basically the same process here today. The court could either do one of two things.

They could either decide to not look at this at all and say we've already heard this, we're not going to do it again or they could look at it. It will go through the same process, three-judge panel first 12-judge panel if it's kicked out from the three-judge. We're told that Michael Schiavo's attorneys have until 5:00 tonight to file a response with this court. So we would expect to hear anything from the court after that 5:00 deadline. Candy?

CROWLEY: CNN's Sara Dorsey outside the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta while we await the latest in the parents' appeal to try to save their daughter's life. Appreciate it, Sara.

Both parents and her husband -- the husband of Terri Schiavo seem to agree Schiavo is in the process of dying at a Florida hospice while they continue to vehemently disagree about whether this is what she would have wanted. We want to check in with CNN'S Bob Franken in Pinellas Park, Bob?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, as Terri Schiavo fades and the legal hopes of the family seems to fade, their activities in the legal arena get more frenetic. We've been told there is a state court, a circuit court hearing that is going to be conducted by telephone conference, the reason is the court is closed today on Good Friday, conducted later this afternoon.

There are probably issues that have to do with the custody, I say probably because we have not been told the specifics yet, but the issues before this judge are consistently issues having to do with the custody of Terri Schiavo and whether the state for some reason or another would have the right to take custody away, guardianship away, from the husband, Michael Schiavo. As I mentioned, at the same time all of this is going on, there is a decided difference in the demeanor of the parents as they come out with one of their daily efforts to talk to the press.

SCHINDLER (video clip): Terri is weakening as, you know, she's down to her last hours. So something has to be done and has to be done quick.

FRANKEN: Terri Schiavo's nutrition tube, Candy, was removed a week ago, last Friday, most medical experts believe that if it is not reconnected, she will probably have passed away by next Friday. Candy?

CROWLEY: Bob Franken outside the hospice in Pinellas County, appreciate it.

So now we have the Schiavo case again winding its way through courts that have already past judgment on her fate. We want to talk about the appeals process and when it may end with Professor Kathy Cerminara of the Nova Southeastern University Law Center in Florida. Thank you so much, professor.

I want to start with this -- what seems this emergency hearing that Bob Franken just referred to. We're not really sure what it's about, although it's in Judge Greer's court. So we assume it's about the custody of Terri Schiavo and whether the governor can take over custody. What are the legalities of this?

PROF. KATHY CERMINARA, NOVA SOUTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY LAW CENTER: I think that the question would be whether the governor could take over custody, perhaps under the same DCF authority that's been argued. Alternatively, there could be some sort of motion raised, I suppose, once again, about some additional new evidence that the court should hear.

You have to remember that this case has actually been a final judgment since fall of 2003, and since then, in addition to the appeals process that's been going on through the court system, repeatedly Judge Greer had to deal with various types of motions asserting new evidence, asserting some other finding, and almost in every case it has been the case that what'S being asserted on the new motion is merely a reiteration of what was said before.

CROWLEY: So is there some point at which the options have run out? To those of us in the lay world that aren't lawyers, it seems as though this keeps going through the same route, ends up in the Supreme Court, and then we start all over again with a new motion.

CERMINARA: It certainly does seem like that. It's been quite a wild ride and a twisting road on this case. The Schindlers have managed to file many more new motions than most attorneys manage to raise in a case. Right now, realistically, the last motion, the last events that can take place really are this federal court proceeding. The Court of Appeals, whether it decides to affirm or deny -- dismiss the appeal regarding the District Court's decision, then the appeals on up in the federal court system, I think that state court system has shown now both the DCA and Judge Greer have shown motions that allege new evidence that really aren't new iterations of facts are going to be dealt with very quickly. CROWLEY: Professor, can you tell me -- is it too early to tell me I guess what you call it is case law is being made here? Are there precedents being made here or is -- are all of these judgments just specific to this case?

CERMINARA: Well, there's definitely precedent being made in a number of different ways. In one sense, any of the higher level courts, the 11th Circuit's decision -- well, the 11th Circuit'S yesterday would not really constitute binding precedent, but it's certainly suggesting, you know, suggestive authority on certain issues.

Within the district, the district court's opinion is precedent. In the state court, Judge Greer's rulings are really only Judge Greer's rulings. But any higher level court, of course, is precedent for the area that it governs. There's been very little in this case really that is groundbreaking in any sense in the sense of end of life decision-making law. There's been a lot that's been ground breaking in the sense of constitutional law.

CROWLEY: Professor Kathy Cerminara of the Nova Southeastern University Law Center in Florida, thanks for your time. We'll get back to you when we need to wind through this legal process again. Appreciate it.

CERMINARA: Thank you.

CROWLEY: There has been lots of speculation about which politicians may pay a price for intervening on Schiavo's behalf or for failing to do so. Up next, Senator Bill Nelson of Florida talks about a Republican memo suggesting there could be fall out for him. Also ahead, more strong opinions on the Schiavo case and the political reaction from the left and the right.

And later, the outcry for Florida Governor Jeb Bush to go farther than he apparently is willing to go to keep Schiavo alive.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: As a Florida Senator Democrat Bill Nelson has been pressured from all sides in the political debate over Terri Schiavo. Earlier today I spoke with Senator Nelson and I started by asking him where he stands in this case and if he believes that everything has been done to give Terri Schiavo's parents a fair hearing.

NELSON (video clip): We are a nation of laws and operate under the rule of law, and when Congress passed the final version which I supported of the law, the previous versions I did not support, it gave the family one final appeal. And if I'd been in the place of the parents, since I am a parent, I wanted them to have that one final appeal. But it's gone through the entire judiciary now, the state courts and all the way to the highest court in the land. And so I think the rule of law has indicated what is the disposition.

CROWLEY: Senator Nelson, you were specifically mentioned in a memo generated out of the Republican office but rejected by the Republican leadership we should say, that said there would be a political price to pay for those who did not support both this bill and use every effort in behalf of keeping Terri Schiavo alive. I am interested in what if any political heat you have taken.

NELSON: Well, to inject politics into this tragic situation, where a family is torn apart as that memo did inject the politics, is absolutely inexcusable. I haven't seen the memo, but it's clearly there. Now it's time to move on.

CROWLEY: Have you, in fact, received any emails, any calls, anyone talking to you saying, look, you're on the wrong side of this and you'll pay a price in your reelection?

NELSON: Well, in any contentious issue, as this one is, there are people on both sides of this issue. There are people that took great objection to the fact that I wouldn't co-sponsor the overreaching bills that were first filed, and then there are those that take exception to the fact that I voted for the family to have one final appeal. But the fact is, it was to keep it within the courts and the courts have ruled.

CROWLEY: When you look at what has happened here, what we hear most is that from the American people is that Congress had absolutely no right to get into this, that this was a state'S affair, and that you all made a huge mistake by injecting yourself into this. As one who voted for it, can you respond to that?

NELSON: Yes. I think that's generally true.

CROWLEY: Then why did you do it?

NELSON: Well, as I said, because I felt like where you could narrow the bill just to this one case for the parents to have one final appeal in the federal courts. If it had been my child, that's what I would have wanted. Now the courts have ruled and I think the rule of law has reigned the established rule of law in this country.

CROWLEY: Just so I have it straight, you do think, though, that it was a mistake for Congress to get involved?

NELSON: Not in this final case. If we had gotten involved with that sweeping bill that would have cut out all the other states laws involved in this, then that would have been a mistake. But in this very narrowly defined bill where it gave one final appeal just for the parents of Terri Schiavo, then I felt like that was reasonable and so did a majority of the Democrats in the U.S. Senate.

CROWLEY: But what if another such case should come along? Don't you set yourself up for doing narrow bills throughout time for people whom have captured your attention and sympathies?

NELSON: Well, that's the possible pitfall that you have to face, but you just have to face each one on an ad hoc basis and make your judgment.

CROWLEY: Still ahead, Donna Brazil and Bay Buchanan join me. I'll ask them about the emotional and sometimes bitter political debate surrounding the case of Terri Schiavo.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Among those keeping a close eye on the legal debate in the Schiavo case are people who work to protect the rights of the disabled. Joining me to share his perspective is Andy Imparato, the president and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities. Thank you so much for being her here. What -- why do people with disabilities and those who represent them feel so strongly about this case? What's at the heart of it?

ANDY IMPARATO, CEO, AMERICAN ASSN. OF PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: First, let me thank you for bringing this perspective on your show, not only am I the president of the American Association of People With Disabilities, but I do have a disability, bipolar disorder. And you may see not a lot of connection between what I go through and what Terri Schiavo's situation brings up, but there's two core principles, really, from a disability perspective.

One is that life with a disability is worth living. It's not a fate worst than death. And a lot of people in American culture still think disability is a fate worse than death and we think that helps them -- the people on this side to let Terri Schiavo die, it helps them feel okay with that.

Part of that is devaluing the life of a person with a disability. The other principle which is equally important is self-determination. People with disabilities should be able to determine for themselves what happens to them. That issue, the disability community is split on. Some people feel that Terri Schiavo should be able to determine for herself to not have food and hydration. Other people feel she may have made that decision in her early 20s, but she hasn't been given an opportunity to change her mind.

Part of self-determination is the ability to change your mind if your situation changes. A lot of people who are living with severe or significant disabilities, after they've lived with the disability for a few years, their perspective on their own condition changes dramatically and they actually see their quality of life as much higher than they might have imagined that it would have been before they acquired the disability.

CROWLEY: But in this case, Terri Schiavo's unable to tell us, to communicate in any way what her wishes might be. In that case, do you believe that the husband's word that his wife, indeed, would not have wanted to live like that is still not good enough?

IMPARATO: And again, I want to be clear the disability community on that question you just asked is split. I can tell you what I personally believe, but I'm not speaking for the whole community. From my perspective, we need safeguards for people in Terri Schiavo's situation. Because we can't determine what her views are. If we accept it we cannot determine that, we need safeguards.

One of the things we're most concerned about is that not enough effort was made to see if she could communicate what her wishes are. The husband has kept rehabilitation professionals, communication therapists, people who could try to determine if there is an ability to communicate a desire here, they've been kept away from her. She hasn't got the occupational therapy, the kinds of services we would expect somebody in her situation to get.

CROWLEY: To be perfectly blunt and honest and none of these questions are all that pretty, is the fear here that there could be a level of acceptance of this that would include people who will be denied medical treatment who want it?

Isn't that fear, people will die that don't want to die?

IMPARATO: Absolutely. The fear here is there is a slippery slope and when we start devaluing the lives of peoples with disabilities, we don't know where that's going to stop. You also need to take into account the financial implications of all of this. We have an economy that is not doing as well as it once was and a lot of people are looking at how can we save money. One way to save money is make it easier for people with disabilities to die. We don't want to see that happen.

CROWLEY: Andy Imparato, we really appreciate your input and following this case with you. Appreciate it.

IMPARATO: Thank you.

CROWLEY: Stay with CNN for the latest developments in the Terri Schiavo case. Still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, the Catholic Church's take on what's happening to Schiavo on this Good Friday. I'll talk with a Vatican correspondent. And yet another political figure weighs the on the Schiavo case.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: Prayer and appeal for Terri Schiavo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (video clip): Her lips are cracking. Her tongue is swollen. Her nose is bleeding. Governor Bush, intervene today.

ANNOUNCER: (audio gap) the coverage of the Schiavo case and the political pressure it's generating.

GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: I can't go beyond what my powers are.

ANNOUNCER: Heading into a weekend focused on faith and renewal. Has anything positive come out of one family's heart-wrenching drama?

Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.

CROWLEY: Welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Candy Crowley sitting in for Judy today. We are now following two lines, to legal lines aimed at reinserting the feeding tube into Terri Schiavo. One is the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. That was an appeal taken there by her parents. There is now another legal maneuvering going on and that is taking place in the state of Florida. We believe it may be a custody issue, a continuation of the discussion over whether the governor of Florida can, in fact, take custody of Terri Schiavo. He, of course, has been one of her ? one of the parents' biggest advocates.

So we want to turn back to Professor Kathy Cerminara of the Nova Southeastern University Law Center to try and tell us the difference between these two appeals and where they might be headed.

CERMINARA: Certainly, Candy. The difference between these two appeals is, in essence, as you said, they're really in two entirely different court systems. There is state court matter, the matter before Judge Greer, and that's in a court called a circuit court, but it's a trial-level court here in our state of Florida. That has to do with guardianship proceedings. That's how Judge Greer is involved. He's the judge in charge of the guardianship proceeding regarding Terri Schiavo.

And, as you said, this motion has to have something to do with state law. It has to do with whether DCF can intervene, once again, to attempt to reinsert the tube. Or it might have to do with some new evidence arising regarding her condition or something to that effect. It's about the substantive decision.

On the other side, in the federal court system, at the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, the issue is very, very, very narrow at this point. It's only whether Judge Whittemore erred in issuing the decision he did, which was only a decision that said there would be no reinsertion of the feeding tube in advance of the hearing of the merits of the case.

CROWLEY: So, when you look at the two cases together, which sounds as though you think maybe the one in the state court has a slightly larger chance of going somewhere, if the issue is so narrow in the Circuit Court of Appeals?

CERMINARA: Well, I certainly don't think that there's much chance in the Court of Appeals, although, of course, that is for the court to decide. In the state court, however, I'm not sure I would characterize my view as being that that motion might go somewhere because there has been so much fact-finding in this case. There have been so much information out there over the 15 years that poor Ms. Schiavo has been in this persistent vegetative state, that it would be really hard to imagine that, A, on one side, there was some new evidence. Or, B, on the custody end, that there's some legal basis for authority that the DCF attorneys didn't think of the first time.

CROWLEY: On the issue of whether or not the governor could take custody, is able to, has the authority to take custody of Terri Schiavo, is that a matter from litigation or is that a matter of law?

CERMINARA: Well, there are statutes in Florida that say, for example, that DCF, under certain circumstances, can go in to take custody of a patient. Well, of any disabled adult who is suspected of being subjected to abuse. And that's what the claim here, that there's some abuse going on. In 2003, the governor did use his power to go in and have the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to seize Ms. Schiavo after Terri's law was passed, because the law gave him the power to do that.

Here, DCF has already asked the court whether it has the power to go in and get her under the provisions of the law that say that sometimes it can, and the court has said no. So, there's really very little to argue, it seems. At least based on what we know.

CROWLEY: Professor Kathy Cerimara, again, thank you.

CERMINARA: Thank you.

CROWLEY: Numerous religious figures and organizations have come out in support of reconnecting Terri Schiavo's feeding tube, including the Vatican. The religious overtones of this story only seem enhanced during this Holy Week for Christians around the world.

John Allen is the Vatican correspondent for the "National Catholic Reporter." He is with us from Rome to talk about the Schiavo case, as well as the pope's health.

John, I know you know that a short while ago the pontiff appeared via video at the Good Friday procession in Rome from his chapel in the Vatican. He obviously was too frail to appear in person at the procession. For the first time in 26 years, that's happened for this pope. What can you tell us about the state of his health?

JOHN ALLEN, "NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER": Well, Candy, officially the Vatican has not said very much more, beyond what they told us when the pope came back from the Gemelli Hospital on March 13th. Unofficially, we know that the pope's recovery is not coming along as quickly and as smoothly as the Vatican had hoped. He's continuing to have episodic difficulty with the breathing and apparently there's also some other knocks and pings, to speak, in the system.

But the Vatican is clearly trying to tell us that those problems are, from a certain point of the view, to be expected, that the recovery is proceeding and they expect him to pull through. And of course, here in Rome, this is Good Friday, a day in which Christians recall the suffering of Christ. And as you've indicated, from a certain point of view, it's fitting that the eyes of the world would be on two suffering people today, John Paul II and of course, Terri Schiavo in the United States.

CROWLEY: So, as regards Terri Schiavo, tell us what the Vatican has said and in what manner they said it.

ALLEN: Well, this actually has been an unusually outspoken Vatican response. I mean, typically, when something comes up in a particular country, the Vatican will take the position that, you know, they will enunciate general principals, but responding to the specifics of the case is a job for the local bishops to do.

But in this instance, the Vatican -- and by that, I mean several senior Vatican officials, as well as the Vatican's official newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, have addressed the Schiavo case in remarkably blunt and forceful language. We had the president of the Pontifical Academy of Life, for example, talking about what's happening in Florida as a grave sin.

The Vatican newspaper has said that Schiavo is, in effect, being executed. And another Vatican official has said that in Florida, there are stiffer penalties for withholding food and water from animals than there are for doing it in the case of human beings such in Terri Schiavo. This is remarkably forceful language from the Vatican on this case.

CROWLEY: And we know that this is certainly in keeping with this Vatican, certainly in keeping with Catholic teaching. I wonder what the Vatican expects the effect to be of that.

ALLEN: Well, I think the concern here, Candy, from the Vatican's point of view, is that when you start defining the dignity of human life in terms of what a person is capable of doing; that is, whether they are capable of thought, capable of communication, capable of emotional response. Now, as opposed to the mirror fact of being human, then what you do is put whole classes of human beings at risk. The weak, the elderly, the sick, the unborn and so on.

And so they would see this as a really central matter of the defense of human life. And I think, from a certain point of view, you know, they would believe that they've got to speak on this, almost regardless of what the effect is going it be. I mean, you know, most people in the Vatican are great realists. They can read the handwriting on the wall as well as the rest of us can. And it does seem that the legal avenues that the parents of Terri Schiavo have to explore are beginning to run out.

I don't know that the Vatican realistically believes that its campaign is going to change that tide, but I do think they're, in a sense, putting down a marker in trying to keep this debate open, a debate that they see as cutting to the very core of the defense of human life.

CROWLEY: John Allen, who covers the Vatican for the "National Catholic Reporter." Thank you so much for joining us.

ALLEN: You bet, Candy.

CROWLEY: On Fridays, we usually highlight the political play of the week, not today, since by many people's accounts, there is no place for politics in a story that has dominated the news this week.

Here's our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): When Congress and the president intervened in the Terri Schiavo case last weekend, they insisted their motives were not political.

REP. TOM DELAY (R), MAJORITY LEADER: It has nothing to do with politics and it's disgusting to even suggest it.

SCHNEIDER: Their opponents beg to differ.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not about values, this is not about religion. It is pandering for political gain.

SCHNEIDER: But in the latest CBS News poll, nearly three quarters of Americans believe Congress acted for political reasons. Florida governor Jeb Bush is not supposed to have political motives. He can't run for governor again and he says he's not running for president. But at least one headline suggests there's politics involved. Governor Bush even has critics on the right, who claim his failure to do more is driven by politics.

BROTHER PAUL O'CONNELL, SCHINDLER FAMILY SPOKESMAN: ... he still has the power to take Terri into protective custody. Now, he may not want to do that because the public image and how that would look.

SCHNEIDER: Courts claim to be non-political, but by disagreeing with the governor, the state legislature, Congress and President Bush, judges have made themselves a juicy political target.

REV. PATRICK MAHONEY, CHRISTIAN DEFENSE COALITION: One of the issues that is being -- that is driving it, outside of saving Terri, is this. Judicial activism.

SCHNEIDER: Religious activists who claim to be driven wholly by moral concern sound awfully political.

RANDALL TERRY, SCHINDLER FAMILY SPOKESMAN: But I promise you, if she dies, there is going to be hell to pay.

SCHNEIDER: The American public has a loud and clear message. Keep politics out of this. Democrats have, by and large, stood aside, but that's brought them criticism from liberals who claim they're being timid and there is no evidence it's done Democrats any good politically. After all...

REP. JIM MORAN (R), VIRGINIA: And it's about politics and we are politicians.

SCHNEIDER: Has any good come out of this wrenching personal tragedy? Perhaps this -- half of Americans say that as a result of the Schiavo case, they have discussed with friends or family members what they would want done if they were in the same situation. That's something.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: We can put the lesson in religious terms appropriate to the season. In this case, it's a sin to be political. Candy.

CROWLEY: Bill Schneider, thanks very much.

In the Schiavo case, have some politicians and interest groups crossed a critical line. Bay Buchanan and Donna Brazile will debate that. And are bloggers still engrossed with the Schiavo story? We will hear about the online buzz, ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Just to give you an idea of where the case of Terri Schiavo stand right now, there are two avenues still apparently open to the parents of Terri Schiavo. One is an appeal which is now at the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Still no word on their ruling. There is also a state emergency hearing expected to take place soon. We believe that is on the matter of custody of Terri Schiavo. Of course, CNN will keep you updated on all the events that occur. With me now, Bay Buchanan, president of American Cause, and from the CROSSFIRE set at George Washington University, former Gore campaign manager Donna Brazille.

Donna, let me start with you, because what we -- it's almost impossible, even if you don't doubt the motivation of people, that are always political implications of anything that involves Washington. What do you think are the political implications at this point?

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, as you can see from the polls, it's already hurting the president. His poll ratings have dipped from last week. I think this will cause major repercussions with Republicans who tend to pull together a religious conservative base, a culturally conservative base and of course libertarians. This causes major rifts within their own camp.

So I see some significant erosions not only with swing voters but perhaps with some evangelical conservatives, who may not join the Democratic party, but clearly will stay home in 2006.

BAY BUCHANAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: So wrong. There's nothing that's going to energize the "culture of life" group out there, those people who voted so overwhelmingly for President Bush last November. This is an issue that the polls have been influence by the press. And the press has suggested that there's two compelling principals here, but there is not. When the facts are out there, there's only one reason that they want this person to die, and that's because they've decided this woman is the property of her husband and he can do what he wants. He is not an honorable person and that is quite clear if you look at the information.

I ask you, where are the feminists. They are treating this woman like she is the property of her husband, that he can just go in and starve her to death because he doesn't like the quality of her life at this stage.

CROWLEY: Donna, are you troubled by the fact that we don't have a written -- anything written from Terri Schiavo, that we are, in fact, going on one person's word, you know, be it her husband's or anybody else? There is no written directive here.

BRAZILE: Well, you know, once again, it points out all the contradictions that the conservatives are really showing the American people. On one hand, they believe in the sanctity of marriage, but when the husband in this case decides to do what's the best interest of his wife based on conversations, they say, oh, well, this marriage should be dissolved.

And then of course they go and demonize his motives, and we have no evidence that this man has done anything to harm his wife. He has loved for her. He's cared for her. He's treated her well with dignity. And at a time when people should be praying for her, what conservatives are now doing is trying to cash in and exploit this lady even further.

So, I don't see where, you know -- Bay's made the point that feminists should get involved. Why should anyone get involved in this matter? This is a matter that should have been left to the court and to the families to resolve.

BUCHANAN: You know, Donna, you're basing your argument on something that is not fact. This man was -- seven years, this woman was in this state, seven years, and he never mentioned the fact that she had said that she wanted to -- did not want to live this way.

BRAZILE: Maybe because he was he was spending time -- he was spending time --

BUCHANAN: No, Donna, let me finish. Donna, it's my turn.

BRAZILE: -- loving this woman, going to California --

BUCHANAN: No.

BRAZILE: -- trying to get medical advice and treating her.

BUCHANAN: Donna.

BRAZILE: Never -- not one bed sore, Bay.

CROWLEY: Can I -- can I -- let me interrupt here because I want to ask Bay about something that Donna brought up, which is that there are conservative groups out there now that are trying to help Terri Schiavo, but that are also fund-raising off of this -- some of it obliquely, but some of it, you know, quite out front. Are you uncomfortable with that?

BUCHANAN: I would not do it. But this is the key here: There is going to be an enormous movement in this country. We see the real problem with the judges. They are abusing their power. I mean, this judge has basically told her husband, here, take a gun and shoot her. I mean, it's the same thing. And so, we need to make certain we get conservative judges. That is what energizes our base. We're going to be out there just working our heads off to make certain that we can turn this country around where everyone has a possibility that their life is respected.

CROWLEY: Donna, I don't feel bad about cutting you off, because I know you've got a half-hour of "CROSSFIRE" coming up. But I've got to run here, but thank you very much.

BRAZILE: This judge was a conservative, and he was -- he's also a regular churchgoer. I just had to put that out. BUCHANAN: He's also wrong, Donna. He is wrong.

CROWLEY: I've lost control here. Bay Buchanan, Donna Brazile, thanks so much.

BRAZILE: Happy Easter, Bay.

CROWLEY: Up next, we go inside the blogs. Our blog reporters are standing by with the latest about the Schiavo case and other stories being talked about on the web.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: As always, we're keeping an eye on the blogs -- well, a couple of eyes, actually. Standing by for us are CNN Political Producer Abbi Tatton and our blog reporter, Jacki Schechner. Jacki?

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN BLOG REPORTER: Hi, Candy.

There is noticeably less Terri Schiavo conversation, but there is still some chatter, and a lot of it has to do with the phrase "culture of life." Some of the bloggers are noting that the same people who are struggling so hard to keep Terri Schiavo alive are now willing to advocate violence and drastic measures in order to do so -- that irony not lost on the Republic of Tea under the heading "Kill for Life." He has two examples here: one of them being an article about the man who was arrested after trying to steal a weapon from a gun shop so he could, quote, "take some action and rescue Terri Schiavo."

The other example that he gives -- it's a link. It says, "Today must mark the beginning of a new era of civil disobedience, with simultaneous efforts to curb the authority of the courts and restore government to the people through their elected representatives" -- this a press release from the Priests for Life.

Now, over at The Corner, a conservative site, the debate rages on. They've been back and forth all week long on this. The latest over there now is Tom DeLay and his comments about Terri Schiavo being brought so that we could focus our attention on what truly matters. Now they're saying that that speech was, in fact, taken out of context. More discussion from Jonah Goldberg a little farther down, saying that she has not, in fact -- Terri Schiavo has not, in fact, refused food and water, but she has been denied food and water. If she must be put to death, he says, can we at least speak clearly this is what's being done.

So that's the Terri Schiavo conversation.

ABBI TATTON, CNN POLITICAL PRODUCER: Another news story that's getting a lot of attention on the Web is the school shooting that happened on Monday at Red Lake in Minnesota. This has been discussed all week -- some people in the blogs saying that this hasn't been getting enough attention from either the White House or the media. "Reason" magazine, they run a blog there -- it's a libertarian magazine -- they run a blog called Hit and Run where the staff weigh in. They're asking the question, It's interesting that the Red Lake school shooting -- the second deadliest in history -- hasn't started the 24/7 "national conversation" that Columbine did.

Now, today, President Bush telephoned the tribal chairman of that reservation, spoke to him on the phone. But some -- his critics -- in the blogs, of the president there, saying that this isn't enough. Over to Genius of Insanity -- this is an example of the kind of thing we're seeing from the liberal blogs on this subject. James in Colorado -- "President Bush flies back to Washington, D.C., on a moment's notes to sign the Congress bill associated with Terri Schiavo but cannot visit the reservation in Red Lake to console and comfort those who lost family members.

SCHECHNER: In contrast, over on the right, Outside the Beltway, in defense of President Bush, scrolling down, he says, What exactly is he supposed to say, here? Columbine fit into Bill Clinton's gun control agenda as Terri Schiavo fit into Bush's sanctity of life agenda. What public policy position do these murders relate to, they say.

TATTON: An interesting blog, here, that's quick to note here -- Kent Nerburn -- he's a blogger who actually was a teacher at that reservation at that high school. He offers at his web blog, here, many insights into the community. It's definitely worth checking out -- kentnerburn.com.

SCHECHNER: Also the Federal Elections Commission possible cracking down on political activity on the blogs making news today -- a lot of the blogs talking about what this might mean.

TATTON: Right, over here at redstate.org, they do a roundup one day later -- a blogosphere roundup of some of the blogs on the left and the right -- the big ones -- what they're saying about it.

SCHECHNER: Also, making the rounds today is techcentralstation.com's James D. Miller, over there, writing an article called "The Coming War on Blogs," where he suggests the main stream media and the Democrats may actually bring the burden to the bloggers and crack down on them. Pejman over at pejmanesque.com, willing to rally the troops at this point, he says, as we celebrate blogging because it puts the process of gathering and distributing the news into our own hands, we should show the same degree of initiative in fighting to preserve and enhance blogging in the face of some very powerful opposition.

So, lots of stuff going on today, Candy -- not all of it Terri Schiavo.

CROWLEY: Thanks a lot -- Jacki Schechner, Abbi Tatton. Appreciate it.

Up next, Ralph Nader made his name taking stands on economic issues. Now, he's weighing in on the Terri Schiavo case. Taking sides with some unlikely allies.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Checking the Friday political bytes: former Presidential Candidate Ralph Nader is known for his progressive stance on economic issues, but at times he breaks ranks with his left-leaning allies on social issues. Today, along with author Wesley Smith, Nader issued a statement opposing the removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube -- in their words, "a profound injustice is being inflicted on Terri Schiavo. Worse, this slow death by dehydration is being imposed upon her under the color of law, in proceedings in which every benefit of the doubt -- and there are many doubts in this case -- has been given to her death, rather than her continued life."

Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney removed a reference to Roe v. Wade in a state proclamation this week, a decision some said is yet another signal he is trying to finesse his stand on abortion in case he decides to run for president. The Boston Globe reports the reference was removed from an annual proclamation that establishes what is called "Right to Privacy Day" in Massachusetts.

And here in Washington, the House Republican leadership has agreed to allow debate on legislation that would ease restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. An aide to Congressman Michael Castle, the bill's sponsor, is hoping for a vote by July 4th. Embryonic stem cell research is controversial because it uses cells from human embryos, which are destroyed during the research process.

We want to remind you that there are now two avenues still open in the case of Terri Schiavo: one is an appeal by the parents to the appellate court in Atlanta, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. The other is in the state court. A hearing in the state court is expected around 5:30 Eastern Time. We are, of course, covering it all and we'll bring it to you.

That is it for "Inside Politics." I'm Candy Crowley. Have a great and safe holiday weekend. "CROSSFIRE" starts rights now.

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