Monday, March 21, 2005

Lies, Damn Lies, and Federalism

Caving in to its pro-life constituents, the Stupid Party finally got off its rear end and did something that would simulatneously protect the culture of life and garner lots of controversy and hostile attention from the culture of death. That culture has, predictably, responded with its usual shotgun-spray of hypocrisy and half-truths. Such as the weekend's editorial from The New York Times:
Congressional leaders are playing a dangerous game with their intrusion into the hotly publicized fight in Florida over maintaining life support for a severely brain-damaged woman. With state legislative and court appeals being exhausted, the House and Senate began some grim one-upsmanship to stop the removal of the feeding tube from Terri Schiavo. She is the 41-year-old woman who has been in a persistent vegetative state for the last 15 years, with her parents contesting that sad diagnosis. They also challenged the careful decisions by Florida's trial and appellate courts, based largely on the testimony of her husband that their daughter would have chosen to die rather than live indefinitely in such condition.
But some types of leftist cant are too rancid for even intelligent liberals to swallow. Thus Nat Henthoff nails the Times's intentional stupidity on the facts of the case:
For 13 years, Terri Schiavo has not been able to speak for herself. But she is not brain-dead, not in a comatose state, not terminal, and not connected to a respirator. If the feeding tube is removed, she will starve to death. Whatever she may or may not have said, did she consider food and water "artificial means?"

The media continually report that Terri is in a persistent vegetative state, and a number of neurologists and bioethicists have more than implied to the press that "persistent" is actually synonymous with "permanent." This is not true, as I shall factually demonstrate in upcoming columns. I will also provide statements from neurologists who say that if Terri were given the proper therapy—denied to her by her husband and guardian after he decided therapy was becoming too expensive despite $750,000 from a malpractice suit—she could learn to eat by herself and become more responsive.

Terri is responsive, beyond mere reflexes. Having this degree of sentience, if she is starved to death, she will not "die in peace" as The New York Times predicts in an uninformed October 23 editorial supporting the husband. What happens to someone who can feel pain during the process of starvation is ghastly.

Increasingly, New York Times editorials are not as indicative of conscious liberal "bias" as they are of ignorance or denial of the facts . . .
Henthoff is too generous. The Times's ignorance and denial of the facts is dictated by its liberal "bias" toward the culture of death. That culture sees human beings as disposable, and just as Bill Clinton let Ricky Ray Rector die to serve the "higher purposes" of ambition and leftist politics, the usual suspects are happy to starve Terri Shaivo to death so that we might all learn a lesson about how disposable we ought to be.

So much for lies. Now we turn to damn lies and federalism. Federalism is the rallying cry of the losing side. Thus the editorial board of the L.A. Times sounds the tocsin to defend state's rats 'ginst them thar' Pro-Lahf Yankee Hordes (feel free to hum "Dixie," or "Bonnie Blue Flag," as you read):
Conservatives are the historical defenders of states' rights, and the supposed proponents of keeping big government out of people's lives, but this case once again shows that some social conservatives are happy to see the federal government acquire Stalinist proportions when imposing their morality on the rest of the country. . . . Congress does act in other extraordinary cases on behalf of a specific individual, such as when it grants someone U.S. citizenship. But here, Congress is breaking new ground, trying to overturn a judicial decision by altering the Constitution's federalist scheme.
What's next? Probably the L.A. Times' editors standing on the steps of the hospice where Terri's being starved to death, Guccis on their feet and bottled mineral water in their hands, doing their best to mimic a southern drawl and shouting, "Denahl of nutrition today! Denahl of nutrition tomorrow! Denahl of nutrition foah-evah!"

The L.A. Times' mockery notwithstanding, the federalist principle is the only one which gave me pause in contemplating the Republican "coup d'etat." I believe in federalism. I believe in states' rights. I believe there are matters which fall under the inherent sovereignty of the states, a sovereignty which does not come from the federal Constitution but which is independent of, and antecedent to, that document. Think I'm a throwback? Go read Heath v. Alabama, 474 U.S. 82 (1985):
"The States are no less sovereign with respect to each other than they are with respect to the Federal Government. Their powers to undertake criminal prosecutions derive from separate and independent sources of power and authority originally belonging to them before admission to the Union and preserved to them by the Tenth Amendment.
My belief in federalism is reinforced by my Catholicism, because the doctrine of federalism finds a congenial analog in Catholicism's teachings on subsidiarity:
The teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of subsidiarity, according to which "a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co- ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good." -- Catechism, Paragraph 1883.
But, if "federalism" is to mean anything, it must mean the authority of the states to make laws which are unpopular and the authority of state courts to make judgments which are unjust. You can't have a "sovereign" that exists only when its decisions are popular any more than you can have a "right" to free speech that depends on people agreeing with what you say.

I dislike drugs, but I also don't like the federal government stepping in to overturn marijuana-legalization laws; if Arizona or California want to let their people smoke dope then that's a terrible, ridiculous thing, but it's their business and not mine. I'm a fanatic opponent of "gun control," but I don't like the NRA pushing for a national right-to-carry law that supercedes the judgments of all fifty state legislatures. In terms of a more recent controversy dear to conservative hearts, federalism means the right of the states to put juveniles to death for crimes even if most of the other states (not to mention Belgium, Austria, and the Central African Republic) think that's a bad idea. And if Massachusetts wants the social hell that gay marriage will unleash, I won't stand in its way.

There's an old body of jurisprudence that allows states to refuse "full faith and credit" to other states' ridiculous and socially-destructive laws, and I favor reviving that jurisprudence with a vengeance. So far as I'm concerned, if some dope-smoking Californians get so stoned they don't realize they've crossed into my state, they can damn well spend two years paying for their ignorance by detasseling corn on our state farm. If a gay married couple with children moves here from Boston and settles down next door, they'd better be prepared for Child Protective Services to swoop in and do their duty. If the dope-smoking Californians and the gay married couple from Boston want local autonomy, then they can start by respecting it when they're deciding where to do their dope-smoking and gay-marrying.

To put it more bluntly, real federalism requires that everyone tolerate injustice. Gay married couples from Oregon or wherever-the-hell have to tolerate, in some form or other, the injustice of my state's "bigoted, anti-gay" laws. Christian married couples in my state have to tolerate, in some form or other, the injustice of "Sodom-on-Charles." Injustice is part and parcel of government, and one (indispensible) way to define sovereignty is the power to do injustice without let or hindrance.

State courts have put innocent people to death before and, humanity being what it is, will do so again. But only the most ardent collectivists want us to abolish state criminal laws and death-penalty laws on that fact alone. So I ask the hard question: If conservatives have a principled belief in federalism, and are thus committed to ending perpetual federal interference and second-guessing in state judicial matters, then isn't Terri's plight a hard case which will make bad law?

Of course it is. That's why, I suspect, the federal court to which Terri's plea is addressed will spit the thing back out. Oh, the real reason will most likely be sneaky sympathy with the Culture of Death, itself in large measure the creation of federal courts. (Roe v. Wade is only one example among many. And you won't find federal judges dismissing lawsuits against pro-life protestors out of concern for "federalism" and "state's rights," nor will you find anyone who believes what they read in the L.A. Times and New York Times urging them to do so.) But the "good reasons" like federalism, comity, and equal protection will protrude from that opinion like spikes on a mace. We might even be treated to the kind of judicial flippery not seen since Reconstruction as federal judges explain why Terri's right to life is too important, too precious and sacred, to be protected by the Constitution. The bellweather will be the issue of reinstating Terri's feeding tube -- if the federal court hems and haws on that request, or denies it, you'll know what we've gotten with all this midnight legislating. I should note that I'm accustomed to making dire predictions about the federal bench, but then I should also note that I've been mostly right.

But what of federalism, our supposedly-cherished constitutional scheme of limited and nested governments? Is the L.A. Times right? Are social conservatives hypocritically imposing "Stalinism" on the free and happy republics which comprise our federal union? Leftists and nationalizers have been trampling and shredding federalism for over 150 years. Sometimes they've done it in the name of causes which are good, like the end of slavery and institutionalized racism. More often, they've done it for causes which were evil, like abortion and contraception, or for causes which were questionable at best, like economic uniformity and environmental protection. I'll stand by states' rights if everyone else will, but I won't spend time worrying about federalism if all it's come to represent is the chance for degenerates with their own brand of "Stalinism" to fling rhetorical darts at their opponents.

If leftists and nationalizers really think that federalism forbids savimg Terri's life, then let them say that federalism requires the immediate overruling of Roe -- and let them sic their ACLU attack-dogs on that job without delay. Let's see them stop crying for national "Brady Bills" and "Assault-Weapon Bans" and see them rebuke the gun-control lobby with talk of federalism. Let's see them hold hearings on the continued tenure of Supreme Court justices who use Finlandian jurisprudence to interpret the federal Constitution. Let's see the Senate's Democrats shut down the judicial-nominating process over those issues.

Until then, I say let the leftists and nationalizers live in the unitary national system they've so eagerly built. If this illegal, ridiculous mess of a government, created by 150 years of special pleading, moral jerrymandering, brute force, and disregard for the truly-republican vision of citizenship, can produce even one saved life, then more good will have come of it than was ever likely to. So to all the leftists and nationalizers who're crying crocodile tears for federalism and the tenth amendment -- the law-school faculties, the federal bench, the New York Times and the New Republic, ABC, CBS, NBC, and everyone else who's fought for the usurpation of local rights by federal power -- I say, You've sown this wind, folks. Welcome to the whirlwind, and be damned to you.

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