Wednesday, March 30


There's an early scene in the movie, "The Gladiator," in which the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius' son Commodus reveals his essential character flaw and why, while bloodline heir to his father's throne, he'll nonetheless be passed over. Maximus, a beloved general in Emperor Marcus Aurelius' army has just led his troops to a magnificent defeat of the fearsome barbarians of Germania and with Marcus Aurelius looking on in admiration of not only Maximus' splendid generalship, but his unwavering, son-like loyalty to him. As the two men -- Caesar and his triumphant general -- stroll together through the ranks of victorious Roman legions, there suddenly appears out of nowhere on a hard-charging, white stallion none other than Commodus, resplendent in full body armor. Commodus leaps from his horse, rushes up to his father, and breathlessly asks: "Have I missed it -- have I missed the battle?" To which Marcus Aurelius responds contemptuously: "You have missed the war!"

That scene and Commodus' pusillanimity came to mind this morning as I read the reports of Reverend Jessie Jackson's belated entry into the fight to save Terri Schindler Schiavo's life. He's arrived in time to still get sufficient camera time before a vulturous worldwide press -- as is his proclivity -- but likely to accomplish little else, as Terri completes her 12th day without food or water. And, to be sure, he's arrived at the behest of the Schindler family and their late-inning appeal to him, although that desparate importunity seems to have been lost in the shuffle of the auspicious opportunity afforded him for showboating. If Jackson regards himself as a moral force, then where was he early on when he might have been of use to the pro-life forces? If, in Jackson's own words, the Terri Schiavo case is "one of the profound moral and ethical issues of our time," then why was he not compelled of his own volition to enter the fray much earlier when he might have accomplished something meaningful for her, rather than just for himself? He says he cares. Why does he care now in the final days and hours of the death watch?

A typical example of Jackson's self-aggrandizing grandstanding were his unsuccessful efforts yesterday to enter the Woodside Hospice and assist a Catholic priest in giving Terri Communion. Was this necessary? After all, where was he the day Terri's feeding tube was removed by order of Circuit Court Judge George Greer and the "Last Rites" of the Church administered to her? And to be calling Governor Jeb Bush (and waiting for a return call) to imply to the press that his lobbying of Florida's Senators has been more productive than the governor's smacks of petty politics. It's highly questionable at this point that his 11th hour lobbying can accomplish anything anyway!

Jesse Jackson has run for the Democratic Party's nomination more than once hoping to win the ultimate brass ring -- the presidency of the United States. In doing so, he has been willing, as a minister of the church, to represent a party platform supportive of abortion rights. So how can abortion be acceptable to him in the context of his political aspirations, but Terri Schiavo's court-ordered death unacceptable in the context of his ministry? It's not just center-right Republicans like myself asking that question. Jackson's histrionics are a most unwelcome addition to what should be the solemnity of the moment, as a handicapped woman's life is snuffed out by the state of Florida.

UPDATE: Jessie admits to failure in belated efforts. But, he garnered a lot of publicity and his morality meter probably enjoyed an uptick. (HAT TIP: ProLifeBlogs)