My colleague "Greg" and I had to drive yesterday from Chicago to Springfield, the forlorn state capitol, to look at a potential acquisition for the affordable housing nonprofit I'm still trying to get off the ground. Suffice it to say that if you want to look at the similarities between state government and a neutron bomb, Springfield, Illinois is Exhibit A.
It's a drive of some 250 miles -- each way -- so another "Cage Death Match" on issues political was virtually inevitable.
However, as it turned out, this match featured me against -- not Greg, but my most feared enemy: me. Greg sat by and watched me pummel myself.
I brought up the Terri Schiavo case, and Greg said he hadn't been following it that closely but, in his view -- remarkably consistent with Amba's -- he didn't see why the parents couldn't assume guardianship of Terri Schiavo, since they were willing to do so. I then wondered aloud:
What if someone were wrongly convicted of murder, in a state that had the death penalty, and was awaiting lethal injection; and what if appeals had been exhausted, but some kind of new and compelling evidence had been presented to Congress itself? Would Congress be wrong to insert itself into this case? Would an effort by Federal legislators to overturn state and appellate court rulings, when clear evidence in favor of saving an innocent life were presented, be unethical, or setting a troubling precedent?
"Well," said Greg, as fields of stubble glided by behind him, "I don't see how they could worry about legal precedent when they had the opportunity to save an innocent life. I mean, c'mon, which is more important? Are you going to tell me they should say, 'Oh, well, it's clear this guy is innocent, but we don't want to set a bad legal precedent'?"
"The Schiavo case is different," I said.
"How?," he asked.
"I don't know," I said, " but it is. It's been adjudicated to death, if you'll pardon the expression. The woman's guardian is clear that she would not have wanted to live under these circumstances. And if Congress is willing to insert itself here, in nothing more than a cynical attempt for political gain, what's to stop them from doing it to anyone else?"
"David, first of all," Greg said, "if someone had been convicted of murder, sentenced to death, and they'd exhausted all appeals, wouldn't you say that had been 'adjudicated to death' as well?"
"Second of all," Greg went on, "if Congress believes there's clear evidence of either misapplication of law, or clear and present danger to an innocent person, and the power Congress possesses can avert that danger, would you consider it effective leadership for them to sit idly by? Wouldn't you be worried about that kind of precedent?"
"OK," I said. "I'm losing my own argument, and you're piling on. I don't know what it is, but I still maintain that an innocent victim on Death Row awaiting execution is not the same as Terri Schiavo. I just can't figure out how it's different."
Greg just said, "You can't have it both ways, dude."
Not the first time in my life I've heard that one.
So, you tell me: there is a clear difference -- in principle and in law -- between Terri Schiavo and an innocent awaiting execution... isn't there?