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March 23, 2005

Big Brother Government - Big Time

Roy Meachum

In an effort to simplify their own rhetoric, right wing radicals revel in labeling people whose ideas they detest as "liberals," whom they define as exponents of increased taxation and encroaching laws. By their use, the label has taken on much of the approbation once restricted to four-letter words.

For folks who want to keep government out of private lives in every way possible, particularly our pockets, they have invented "libertarian," which rhymes with vegetarian and we all know that means "no beef." (And that's another way of saying a lack of substance, according to 1984 presidential candidate Walter Mondale, who used Wendy's advertising campaign "Where's the beef?" to twit a primary opponent.)

In fact, true conservatives and liberals find themselves huddling together on a political traffic island while radicals, of all persuasions, wreck and maim everything in sight, especially the republic. Two prime examples rest on my plate.

The lesser matter positions the United States Congress prepared to legislate morality for Major League Baseball on the issue of steroid use. Last week's House hearings reminded me of nothing so much as Estes (coonskin cap) Kefauver posting a claim on the White House by parading a series of real and alleged Italian-American Mafiosi before early TV's cameras.

In the end, of course, the senator from Tennessee failed, at both his announced objective of squashing the nation's criminal empire and gaining the Oval Office. He did manage to snag the second spot on Adlai Stevenson's 1956 ticket, which went down in flames before Ike's popularity (and turmoil in the Suez Canal and Hungary).

At this writing, I'm still waiting for someone to explain how the public good was served by embarrassing home run star Mark McGwire whose steroid use rates with Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, something that will never be repeated.

I am not defending drugs but pointing to the obvious: the sport's previous tolerance - or at least blind-eye - belongs to history. As with Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction," measures have already been taken to exclude a possibility of its happening again.

The notion of a U.S. Anti-Doping Agency would be laughed off Capitol Hill, except for the political climate that commands the nation's legislators preside over faith and morality, a prospect that provokes confusion and consternation, at least for me.

As a longtime journalist, I reported on the peccadilloes of the likes of Wilbur Mills, Wayne Hays and those with lesser names. At Washington parties and in saloons, I witnessed "off duty" politicos on the prowl, flirting with sexual assault charges but safe in the knowledge they would receive protection from police and others who courted their favor at budget time.

Yet memory cannot recall any act so egregiously hypocritical as the current federal establishment's hijacking of the Terri Schiavo case. Piously intoning the need to protect the severely brain damaged woman from a Florida judge's "merciless directive," the congressional majority moved - and the president signed - legislation that effectively destroys the constitutional separation of state and federal jurisdictions. This is big brother government - big time!

Of course, that is not the view taken by the legislative majority or the White House. The chairman of the House judiciary committee said: "The Florida courts have brought Terri and the nation to an ugly crossroads by commanding medical professionals sworn to protect life to end Terri's life."

Of course, the gentleman fails to note that testimony and evidence from "medical professionals" provided the foundation for the judge's decision. Nor does he mention that appeals to federal courts had been rebuffed because of the lack of persuasive legal arguments. In assuming control, the Congress has rebuffed the rule of law, on both federal and state levels.

Her family's fight to keep her alive, in whatever state, demands respect as well as sympathy; but, in fact, the husband bears responsibility for his wife. No legal maneuvers have been able to remove his authority. Allegations that he is heartless, uncaring and irresponsible fail to accord with his record over the 15 years she has been condemned to an existence described by doctors as a "persistent vegetative state."

In the end, I suspect the right wing crusade for Terri Schiavo will be tossed aside for another cause; that's not my cynicism speaking but knowledge of how the political world turns.

Meanwhile, the very same men (and women) who cry the need to protect "the sanctity of life" stand poised to reduce assistance for veterans forced to turn to the government for medical assistance to sustain their survival.

The first GOP president pledged the nation "to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and orphan."

By turning their back on Mr. Lincoln while shoving aside a series of court decisions, today's Republican Congress and White House label themselves as radicals, not the conservatives they claim to be.

My poor country!

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