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In the last debate between Senators Obama and Clinton, the candidates were asked what their greatest mistake had been. Clinton went to her Iraq vote but Obama said it was his agreeing to the federal law that tried to save Terri Schiavo’s life. He stated:
I think professionally, the biggest mistake that I made was when I first arrived in the Senate. There was debate about Terri Schiavo and a lot of us, including me, left the Senate with a bill that allowed Congress to intrude where it shouldn’t. And I think I should have stayed in the Senate and fought more for making sure that families make those kinds of decisions and not bureaucrats and politicians.
Fat chance that would have ever happened. The Senate Democratic leadership was all for the bill. It was pushed behind the scenes by Senators Reid and Harkin, for example. Only one senator voting against unanimous consent would have derailed the whole thing. But none did because the politics of the case at that time were uncertain.

It was only after Terri dehydrated to death, and one poll showed that the American people disagreed with the federal action, that the entire political paradigm changed. Suddenly for the Democrats and media, the whole thing had been an incursion by the Religious Right and intrusive Republicans wanting to put the government at the death bed, and Howard Dean promised to make it a big campaign issue. That stimulated this response from SHS:
I don’t recall Howard Dean opposing the bill at the time. But if Dean and Democrats try to revise history and claim that the law was exclusively a Republican venture, then they will be branding themselves cynics and demagogues,who, when the heat was on, meekly went along. But later, when some polls showed that the move was unpopular, they claim federal intervention was an attempt to impose theocracy. Talk about political cowardice and cynicism!
That’s politics, of course, but I doubt that Obama would have given that debate answer had the federal law proved popular.

But Terri’s death—and the way she died— isn’t about mere politics for her family and Obama’s answer was a knife in the heart. In response, they released a press release (full disclosure, at their request, I reviewed it for them) which stated in part:
“Is it so incredulous that a family had the ‘audacity of hope’ to believe its government would care about one profoundly disabled woman?” [Robert] Schindler [Terri’s father] asked. “It is a shame that Senator Obama, who claims to embody ‘hope,’ is crushing it for the families of people with profound disabilities.”
Beyond that matter, Obama’s answer was brilliantly cynical because it was a response that could not be criticized. You see, Hillary Clinton also gave unanimous consent to the federal bill. So did John McCain. That means he could admit a “mistake” and still not be criticized for the original decision by his political opponents. Clever, but it shows that Obama is as Machiavellian as any other politician.

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