On some level, we all know Michael Schiavo's story. But it's always in general terms, and always through the lens of those who saw the Terri Schiavo case in black and white.
Michael Schiavo is speaking out, and America had better hear what he's saying now, rather than later.
Sitting recently on his brick back patio here, Michael Schiavo called Jeb Bush a vindictive, untrustworthy coward.
For years, the self-described “average Joe” felt harassed, targeted and tormented by the most important person in the state.
“It was a living hell,” he said, “and I blame him.”
Michael Schiavo was the husband of Terri Schiavo, the brain-dead woman from the Tampa Bay area who ended up at the center of one of the most contentious, drawn-out conflicts in the history of America’s culture wars. The fight over her death lasted almost a decade. It started as a private legal back-and-forth between her husband and her parents. Before it ended, it moved from circuit courts to district courts to state courts to federal courts, to the U.S. Supreme Court, from the state legislature in Tallahassee to Congress in Washington. The president got involved. So did the pope.
But it never would have become what it became if not for the dogged intervention of the governor of Florida at the time, the second son of the 41st president, the younger brother of the 43rd, the man who sits near the top of the extended early list of likely 2016 Republican presidential candidates. On sustained, concentrated display, seen in thousands of pages of court records and hundreds of emails he sent, was Jeb the converted Catholic, Jeb the pro-life conservative, Jeb the hands-on workaholic, Jeb the all-hours emailer—confident, competitive, powerful, obstinate Jeb. Longtime watchers of John Ellis Bush say what he did throughout the Terri Schiavo case demonstrates how he would operate in the Oval Office. They say it’s the Jebbest thing Jeb’s ever done.
The case showed he “will pursue whatever he thinks is right, virtually forever,” said Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor at the University of Central Florida. “It’s a theme of Jeb’s governorship: He really pushed executive power to the limits.”
Here's what Jeb did: He intervened in what should have been a matter decided by the courts, and when he didn't get the desired result, he appealed to then-President George W. Bush to intervene. Meanwhile, he got his toady legislature to pass a one-time exception contravening the judge's decision in the case. After a judge and the Florida Supreme Court ruled "Terri's Law" unconstitutional, Jeb took it to the United States Supreme Court, where the case was refused. Ultimately he got his brother and the United States Congress to intervene, but it was too late. Terri Schiavo's feeding tube had been removed and she was mercifully allowed to pass with some measure of dignity.
Small government, right? Not so much, nor did the case end with Terri's death. After the autopsy confirmed what doctors had been saying all along, Jeb tried to suggest her collapse was the result of some wrongdoing by Michael Schiavo.
If you can't win, slime your opposition.
Here are five facts about Jeb hidden in the article:
Jeb Bush is a hard-core conservative - There is nothing moderate about him. He's as hard-core as any of them, but he's better at hiding it.
“I want to be able to look my father in the eye and say, ‘I continued the legacy,’” he told the Miami Herald in 1994.
That year, he ran for governor of Florida—as an ultra-conservative, a “head-banging conservative,” as he put it—and lost. In 1998, he ran again, sanding those hard-right edges—and won.
Jeb's idea of smaller government is a concentration of more power with the executive
His ascension coincided with both houses of the state legislature being Republican majorities for the first time since Reconstruction. Voters also opted to alter the state constitution to shrink the size of the cabinet, leaving the governor, the position itself, with more executive power. Bush did a lot with it. He was reelected in 2002, easily, winning 61 of the state’s 67 counties. By this time, of course, his brother was the president.
Jeb Bush is comfortable governing as an activist
“My gift, perhaps,” Bush would say toward the end of his two-term tenure, in an interview with the Tampa Tribune, “is that with this office now, we’ve shown that governors can be activist …”
Jeb Bush is vindictive when he loses
Today, looking back, what makes Felos, the attorney for Michael Schiavo, angriest about the case is Bush’s letter to McCabe. Even after 18 months of legal wrangling, even after her death, even after the autopsy—after all that—the governor asked a prosecutor to initiate a retroactive criminal investigation of his client. It struck Felos as “odd,” “bizarre”—“personal.”
“It was such an abuse of authority,” Felos said. “I think that really raises red flags about his character and his fitness to be president. Jeb didn’t get his way in the Schiavo case. I think he tried to take it out on Michael.”
Jeb Bush will do anything necessary to win
“He doesn’t accept loss. He doesn’t accept that the answer is no. He couldn’t possibly consider that he may be wrong,” Wasserman Schultz said this month. “If he had the chance to be president, he’ll do what he’s always done—he’ll do everything he can to implement his very rigid, ideological view of how the world should be. Voters are going to have to ask: Do you want a president who thinks the executive, the president, is supreme, above all else? It’s frightening to think about what he could do with that kind of power as president.”
“Trying to write laws that clearly are outside the constitutionality of his state, trying to override the entire judicial system, that’s very, very dangerous,” said Arthur Caplan, a New York University bioethicist who edited a book about the Schiavo case. “When you’re willing to do that, you’re willing to break the back of the country.”
Unsaid in the article but just as germane: This case was personal for Jeb because he knew it would cement his credibility with the hard-right evangelical core. Catholics and Baptists alike would revere him for being willing to ignore the rule of law to carry out their will.
This is why he can't be elected President. We cannot have another Bush in the White House, and certainly not Jeb. The press and pundits will spend a lot of time trying to convince us all that Jeb Bush is a moderate candidate who can appeal to Latino voters and the white working class voter alike. It's up to all of us to make sure each and every voter understands that behind the veneer, the heart of a cold-hearted, hard-core conservative lurks.