Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Jesse Jackson and Terri Schiavo

Jesse Jackson spent the day praying with the Schindlers today for Terri's life. I honestly never thought I would find myself on the same side of the fence as Jesse Jackson. Yet here I am, hoping for the first time (and hopefully the last) that Jesse is succesfull in his last ditch bid to save Terri's life.

PINELLAS PARK, Fla. — The parents of Terri Schiavo (search) received more high-profile support for their cause Tuesday as Rev. Jesse Jackson (search) visited them in Florida and urged their daughter's feeding tube be reinserted.

Jackson prayed with Bob and Mary Schindler (search) at the hospice where their severely brain-damaged daughter was enduring her 12th day without food or water. The liberal crusader called Schiavo's impending death an "injustice" and said he would call state senators who opposed legislation that would have reinserted her feeding tube and ask them to reconsider.

"I feel so passionate about this injustice being done, how unnecessary it is to deny her a feeding tube, water, not even ice to be used for her parched lips," said Jackson, who has run for president as a Democrat. "This is a moral issue and it transcends politics and family disputes."

Also on Tuesday, first lady Laura Bush (search) said she thought the government was right to try to step in.

"I just feel like the federal government has to be involved," Mrs. Bush said. "It is a life issue that really does require government to be involved."

Mrs. Bush said she has been encouraged to hear that the case has prompted more people to inquire about living wills.

"I think that is really good," she said. "The president and I have living wills and, of course, our parents do. They wanted us always to be aware of it. I think that it is important for families to have opportunities to talk about these issues."

President Bush and his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, have both been outspoken supporters of Schiavo's parents.

University of South Florida political science professor Susan MacManus said Jackson's appearance showed that the life-and-death issues surrounding their daughter resonate beyond white, Christian conservatives.

"I wanted the Reverend Jackson here for moral support," said Mary Schindler, Terri Schiavo's mother. "I feel good with him here. Very strong. He gives me strength."

Jackson was invited by Schiavo's parents to meet with activists outside Schiavo's hospice. His arrival was greeted by some applause and cries of "This is about civil rights!"

"A person of faith, and not just a white, conservative person of faith will be seen as a welcomed change," MacManus said.

Jackson said he asked Michael Schiavo, Terri Schiavo's husband, for permission to see the brain-damaged woman but was denied. George Felos, Michael Schiavo's attorney, did not return phone messages seeking comment.

Michael Schiavo insists he is carrying out his wife's wishes by having the feeding tube pulled.

Terri Schiavo's father, Bob Schindler, said he visited his daughter Tuesday and said she was "failing."

"She still looks pretty darn good under the circumstances," Schindler said. "You can see the impact of no food and water for 12 days. Her bodily functions are still working. We still have her."

Dr. Sean Morrision of the Mount Sinai Medical Center spoke with FOX News' Linda Vester Tuesday and said he often treats patients in a similar condition to that of Terri Schiavo. "It's rare for someone to be awake" in a persistent vegetative state, Morrision said.

During an interview on DaySide With Linda Vester, Morrision said the parts of the brain that feel are not working. "She does look awake, but she's not processing any of those feelings."

Jackson telephoned black legislators on Tuesday in a last-ditch effort to bring back a bill that would prohibit severely brain-damaged patients from being denied food and water if they didn't express their wishes in writing. Lawmakers rejected the legislation earlier this month and appeared unlikely to reconsider it.

One of those contacted by Jackson, Democratic state Sen. Gary Siplin, said he told Jackson the issue had been "thoroughly discussed." Senate Democratic leader Les Miller added, "I have voted. It's time to move on."

The chief sponsor of the measure, state Sen. Daniel Webster, said he knew of no changed votes and that Jackson's efforts may have come too late.

Webster told FOX that it would be difficult at this point to ask fellow lawmakers to consider voting in favor of the reinsertion. "I'm pretty optimistic ... but there comes a time when no one steps forward" and it's hard to say we can win, he said. "I don't believe we can."

Webster also defended Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (search), who has been criticized by some supporters of Terri Schiavo. "The governor is totally dedicated to this issue" and Terri would be dead if he hadn't stepped in a year ago, Webster said during an appearance on DaySide.

Schiavo's husband and guardian, Michael Schiavo (search), has insisted that he was carrying out her wishes by having her feeding tube pulled. His lawyer said Monday that an autopsy was planned to show the extent of Terri Schiavo's brain damage.

On Monday, George Felos, the attorney for husband and guardian Michael Schiavo, said that the chief medical examiner for Pinellas County, Dr. John Thogmartin, had agreed to perform an autopsy.

He said her husband wants definitive proof showing the extent of the brain damage.

An attorney for the Schindlers, David Gibbs III, said her family also wants an autopsy. "We would certainly support and encourage an autopsy to be done, with all the unanswered questions," Gibbs said.

Felos said he had visited Schiavo for more than an hour Monday and said she looked "very peaceful. She looked calm."

"I saw no evidence of any bodily discomfort whatsoever," Felos said, although he added her breathing seemed "a little on the rapid side" and her eyes were sunken.

Doctors have said Terri Schiavo, 41, would probably die within a week or two when the tube was removed on March 18. She suffered catastrophic brain damage in 1990 when her heart stopped for several minutes because of a chemical imbalance.

President Bush's aides have said they have run out of legal options.

At least two more appeals filed by the state seeking the feeding tube's reconnection were pending, but those challenges were before a Florida appeals court that had rejected the governor's previous efforts in the case.

Emotions were high among supporters. After Jackson's news conference, a man was tackled to the ground by officers when he tried to storm into the hospice, Pinellas Park police said.

Dow Pursley, 56, of Scranton, Pa., was shocked with a Taser stun gun and was arrested on charges of attempted burglary and resisting arrest without violence, police spokesman Sanfield Forseth said. The man had two bottles of water with him but did not reach the hospice door, police said. He is the 47th protester arrested.

Suppose I need to start watching the sky for those flying monkeys.

Update: I want to add, I think personally that ole' Jess is doing this for his own reasons. Make no mistake, he has some sort of alterior motive; whether it be a case for universal healthcare, or to somehow turn it against the Bush cabinet. None the less, desperate times make for strange bedfellows and I'll take any ally we can get.

Update Again: It looks like ole' Jesse isn't the only lefty jumping on board. Joe Lieberman (not a bad lefty really) and (gulp) Ralph Nadar have both come out in support of Terri. Ouch....me and Nadar on the same damned page?? Excuse me, I have to go out now and see if the seas have all turned to blood....