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March 29, 2005

I'VE BEEN FOLLOWING THE DEBATE between Jeff Jarvis and Hugh Hewitt on the role of "theocrats" in the Terri Schiavo matter.

Hugh's right that it's hard to ascribe the Congressional legislation to "theocrats" when it was supported by Tom Harkin (and Ralph Nader!). There's much more going on than that; this is a matter on which all sorts of people, of all sorts of persuasions, can be found on both sides.

On the other hand, here's some advice, very similar to advice I gave to the antiwar movement: If you don't want to be confused with a movement led by theocrats, don't let actual theocrats be seen as your spokesmen. It may be impossible to shut Randall Terry up -- though if I were Karl Rove, I would have tried really hard -- but he needs to be loudly and regularly denounced as a nut. Otherwise you're in the same boat as lefties who don't want to be identified with Ward Churchill, but happily use him when they want to draw a crowd.

(In fact, the Terry / Churchill axis is surprisingly close -- they both view 9/11 as a necessary chastisement for a sinful America. If that's not a distinguishing mark of full-bore idiotarianism, I don't know what is).

Terry's getting what he wants from this: Attention, and a measure of undeserved legitimacy. But Bush seems to have fallen into a no-win situation. The Terryesque nuts on the far-right are mad at him for not standing in the hospice door a la George Wallace, while lots of other people see Randall Terry speaking, and George W. Bush rushing to sign the Schiavo bill, and associate the two. That may be unfair, but it's inevitable, and I think it may turn out to be costly.

As Rich Lowry wrote about Randall Terry: "I'm guessing that everytime he opens his mouth on TV support for keeping Terri Schiavo alive drops another couple of points." I don't think he's doing much for Bush, either. As I said about the antiwar people, you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas. Randall Terry's a dog.

UPDATE: More comments on the fleas here, and here. Jarvis taken to task here. And reader Troy Hinrichs emails:

Interesting that Randall Terry is back. I thought that guy was dead or handling snakes out in your neck of the woods.

Last night I was driving home from work and left the radio on Michael Savage (a show I can barely stand) and Randall Terry was there. I forgot how much of an ass he truly is. I'm a Southern Baptist pro-life GW Bush voter (4x -- twice as Gov. of the THE great state). If I think Randall Terry is a complete jackass, then how much moreso an agnostic who is unsure which way to think of the Schiavo situation?

Oh and btw -- the liberal worry about theocracy is mostly a canard. There have been NO greater advocates of separation of church and state than Baptists (maybe individual exceptions, but not as a body of believers) -- going back to Roger Williams. Somebody's god is always in control, no matter if GW Bush, John Kerry, or Ward Churchill were President. Everybody worships at somebody's altar.

I think that first crack is unfair to the snake-handlers.

MORE: The Anchoress, as always, makes this point better than I could.

STILL MORE: And here's a sensible post from Jesse Walker on the excesses of the other side:

Reasonable people reading the evidence can differ as to what Schiavo would have preferred, but one thing they can't do is declare there's no question about what she wanted 16 years ago. In the last few weeks, alas, reasonable people have sometimes been scarce.

This is what makes it a hard case, of course.

MORE STILL: Terri Schiavo as Christ? Seems a bit sacrilegious to me.