Friday, March 25

WHAT IS NEEDED IS AN ACT OF POLITICAL COURAGE

John F. Kennedy had a deep, abiding admiration for acts of political courage and enough so that he felt compelled to write a book on that very subject, "Profiles In Courage," that went on to win the prestigious Pulitzer Prize. In that book he wrote:

In whatever arena of life one may meet the challenge of courage, whatever may be the sacrifices he faces if he follows his conscience – the loss of his friends, his fortune, his contentment, even the esteem of his fellow men – each man must decide for himself the course he will follow. The stories of past courage can define that ingredient – they can teach, they can offer hope, they can provide inspiration. But they cannot supply courage itself. For this, each man must look into his own soul.
That is precisely what is needed now. Floridians, the nation, indeed the world, are looking to Florida Governor Jeb Bush to step up in the Theresa Maria Schindler Schiavo controversy and do the right thing, rather than continuing to seek a permission slip from Circuit Court Judge George Greer before protecting a handicapped woman's civil rights and saving her from the clutches of starvation and dehydration -- the ignominy of a Catholic woman being executed because she is perceived as expendable and not worth saving by secularists with their noses in the law, rather than their hearts in that hospice room.

Political courage has many meanings. As used by President Kennedy, the words refer to elected officials who, acting in accord with their conscience, risk their careers by pursuing a larger vision of the national, state or local interest in opposition to popular opinion or powerful pressures from their constituents.
Jeb Bush is a good-hearted man -- a moral man with strength of character. He wants to do the right thing. He believes with all his heart and soul that Terri Schiavo deserves to live and that her parents should become her legal guardians. But he keeps looking for a course of action that will leave him legally and politically unscathed and no such convenient, trouble-free path exists for him. If the rule of law is irrevocably sacrosanct in this country, if the barricades are never to be stormed, if doing the right thing must inevitably succumb to that which the black robes permit, then this nation would have a much different history and may not have even become a nation. It never would have defied King George; it never would have ended slavery; it never would have had a civil rights movement.

The famous, now deceased, political columnist Walter Lippmann once wrote:

With exceptions so rare they are regarded as miracles of nature, successful democratic politicians are insecure and intimidated men. They advance politically only as they placate, appease, bribe, seduce, bamboozle, or otherwise manage to manipulate the demanding threatening elements in their constituencies. The decisive consideration is not whether the proposition is good but whether it is popular-not whether it will work well and prove itself, but whether the active-talking constituents like it immediately.

Perhaps Governor Jeb Bush ought to reflect on this statement by President Teddy Roosevelt:

There is nothing brilliant or outstanding in my record, except perhaps this one thing. I do the things I believe ought to be done. And when I make up my mind to do a thing, I act.