Greenberg On The Physician Suidice Case

Ken AshfordBush & Co., Constitution, Sex/Morality/Family Values, Supreme CourtLeave a Comment

I said it, but Greenwald said it better when he writes that the assisted suicide case shows the Administration’s true colors:

[O]nce the Bush Administration took power, democratic processes in this area ceased to matter. John Ashcroft was hell-bent on putting an end to physician-assisted suicide in Oregon because he personally believes it to be morally wrong, and he wasn’t going to let any legal barriers stand in his way of imposing his moral framework on Oregon.


It cannot be overstated how reprehensible this is. Ever since September 11, the Bush Administration has insisted again and again that the threat of terrorism is an unprecedented existential threat. We are at "war," and must devote our full attention to capturing terrorists and winning the war, even if it means severely restricting our constitutional liberties and taking other extreme measures to fight this war.

And yet, less than two months after September 11, what was the Justice Department doing? What was the Attorney General’s attention devoted to? Working in secret, and in violation of its promises to the State of Oregon, to figure out how it could trample on the democratic process and on principles of states rights which conservatives claim to believe in, all in order to block terminally ill people from choosing how to die because John Ashcroft and James Dobson think that it’s immoral to exercise that choice. That’s what Ashcroft’s DoJ was doing in the weeks after September 11.

For the last four years, this Administration has cynically exploited the September 11 attacks and the supposedly overarching terrorist threat to work unnoticed, wielding the ever-expanding powers of the Federal Government in order to implement a whole slew of moralizing, intrusive measures. In this time of alleged "war," the Administration has devoted substantial resources of the Federal Government — including the DoJ, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies — to measures as pressing as waging the war against adult pornography, the war against the morning after pill, and the vicious war against adult gambling.

But when it comes to anti-democratic impulses and rank hypocrisy, none of those things match the Administration’s behavior with regard to Oregon’s assisted suicide law. These crusaders for the democratic process, majority will, and states’ rights simply lied to the State of Oregon, trampled on the will of a majority of Oregon’s citizens, and used the power of the Federal Government to override laws regulating medical treatment, an area which has always been reserved for the states.

And this was all done inside the Justice Department, engineered by John Ashcroft, literally in the weeks (before and) after September 11. This was all happening while the country was focused on September 11, the anthrax attacks which the DoJ never solved, enactment of the Patriot Act, and scores of other newly pressing concerns brought about by these terrorist attacks. But in the weeks before September 11 and in the weeks immediately after, the priority of the Attorney General was figuring out how to override the will of Oregon voters in order to prevent terminally ill patients from choosing how to die.