Monday, March 28, 2005

What a remarkable moment

I don't know that I can remember a more dramatic turnabout. Two weeks ago the Schiavo case was a backburner story on the National wire. Then the ruling party's leadership decided to fan it into a forest fire, a passion play, a cultural proxy diverting unwanted attention from real business.

Today, those Republican leaders are clearly the ones getting burned. Schiavo didn't make our front this morning, but the story on yesterday's absurdities ran inside with a photo of a woman praying ecstatically in front of a protester holding a hand-lettered sign: "Barbara Bush: Are You Proud of Your Son NOW?"

Maybe she's proud of Jeb. He sent state police to take custody of Terry Schiavo, but they were acting on no legal authority and backed down when confronted by local police who wisely enforced the rule of law.

Randall Terry on the radio this morning: If she dies, the GOP will have Hell to pay from the religious right. Meanwhile, Bo Gritz is famously still driving cross-country to "arrest" Judge Greer, a Baptist whose pastor wrote him a letter saying it would be best if he stopped attending services. Meanwhile, back in North Carolina, a wingnut was arrested for putting out a contract on Greer and Michael Schiavo. Forces of life indeed.

The LA Times: Tom DeLay and his family faced a similar decision with his father. Result: Pulled plug.

Dubya's approval rating? Lowest of his presidency (45 percent), and it's not just the Schiavo case that people dislike. Iraq, the economy, blah blah blah. Consequently, the White House and Fox News backed off the Schiavo story this weekend, but I'm afraid that feline is out of the sack.

There's going to be a retrenchment after this one, a new direction for the GOP coming from Rove. But I think it's safe to say that the power Rove et al weilded two weeks ago has been vastly diminished. That's not to say they're finished by any means. These are smart people who should be able to adjust and return to the offensive (yes, that's also a double entendre), reclaiming and perhaps even expanding their power.

But it's worth noting: The GOP jauggernaut that passed the ANWAR bill three weeks ago just to show that they could do it (even the oil industry is leery of the idea) won't have automatic access to party discipline now. True conservatives are going to be re-evaluating their positions and talking seriously about damage control.

Maybe I'm misinterpreting events (I've done it before), and maybe they'll handle Schiavo's death with characteristic skill and turn this thing around yet. But my take is pretty simple: Dubya, Rove, DeLay and the rest of the gang have gone too far this time, and they're starting to wake up to that realization, hangover and all.

At least one head will have to roll, and it's going to be interesting watching them pick the sacrificial lamb. If I were DeLay, I'd be watching my back.