It seems that Jeb Bush, now reduced to an asterisk (*) in the 2016 Republican Presidential contest, has concluded that the best way to quickly burn through those millions upon millions of dollars in campaign donations he received is to perform a supreme act of self-immolation, by resurrecting the infamous Terry Schiavo fiasco in a new campaign ad, paid for, morbidly enough, by a Bush PAC that calls itself “Right To Rise."
In addition to touting his high score with the NRA , the voice-over in Bush’s new ad celebrates how then-Florida governor Bush “fought time and again for the right to life," with an image of someone leaning over Schiavo, lying in a helpless vegetative state in her hospital bed.
And while the general electorate will likely recoil in horror at this kind of crass opportunism, Bush apparently hopes the Republican base will be shocked and awed as they are reminded of his role in forcing the irreversibly and profoundly brain-damaged Schiavo to cling to life in direct contravention of what her husband explained would have been her own desires, simply to bolster his credentials among the forced-birth crowd of ghouls who demanded that the poor woman be kept resuscitated at all costs, no matter how much pain it caused to others. Because abortion or something.
The Schiavo episode served as a teachable moment for the rest of the country to see just how extreme the Republican Party could be in attempting to impose and enforce its twisted sense of values upon the rest of us. All pretense of “keeping government" out of the people’s lives went straight out the window. By raising the specter of venal politicians exercising wanton control over other people’s personal life and death decisions, the GOP showed its true colors as it never had before:
Schiavo, a Florida woman who lived in a medically irreversible, persistent vegetative state for 15 years, became a huge cause célèbre for social conservatives in the late-’90’s and early 2000’s. Although her husband insisted that his wife would not have wanted to live that way and would instead opt for euthanasia, her parents fought this course of action.
Several prominent Republicans, including Jeb Bush, the then-governor of Florida, rallied to her parents’ side, despite polling that showed that the overwhelming majority of Americans backed her husband and believed that politicians should stay out of the family squabble.
For anyone who may have forgotten, Bush, enabled by a Republican-dominated Florida state legislature which had passed something called “Terri's Law," spearheaded the effort to maintain Schiavo’s feeding tubes in the face of multiple Court rulings (including one by a Florida Judge which held that law “summarily deprived Florida residents of their right of privacy.”) That law, and Jeb Bush's actions, were ultimately repudiated by a unanimous Florida Supreme Court.
This was a textbook example of right-wing overreach. One would have thought that Jeb Bush would have learned his lesson and avoided this episode like the plague. But now he’s faced with angry billionaire donors sending him furious ultimatums about how little return they’ve got for their money. It's Hail Mary time for Jeb Bush, and apparently anything goes.
Ms. Schiavo’s husband, Mike Schiavo, reacted to Bush’s newly resurrected exploitation of his wife’s suffering with understandable horror:
“It is simply disgusting that Jeb Bush and his super PAC would exploit my wife’s tragedy for his crude political gain,” Mike Schiavo said in a statement about the ad published by Politico. “Shame on Jeb Bush.”
“Using his disgraceful intervention in our family’s private trauma to advance his political career shows that he has learned nothing. He’s proud of the fact that he used the machinery of government to keep a person alive through extraordinary artificial means — contrary to the orders of the court that were based on the court’s determination, made over six years of litigation, that doing so would be against her wishes,” he added. “What the campaign video shows is that if he ever got his hands on the power of government again, he would do the same thing again, maybe next time to your family.”
As things currently stand it does not appear likely that Jeb Bush will ever “get his hands on the power of government again.” But the fact that he is running this ad solely to please an audience of rabid conservative Republican voters should tell us something terribly disquieting about the candidate they actually do end up selecting for us.