Jesse Jackson to the rescue -- but whose?

With his star turn in the Schiavo circus, Jackson provides political cover for Tom DeLay and the religious right.

By Tim Grieve
Published March 29, 2005 6:21PM (EST)

Reasonable people can argue over whether the Democrats in Congress should have put up more of a fight -- or any fight at all, really -- over the Republicans' attempt to intervene in the Terri Schiavo case. Resistance would have been futile, ultimately: The Republicans had the numbers to do what they wanted to do. And there's an argument to be made that the Democrats did the best they could do by simply staying out of the way. It was the Republicans' show, and -- in the end -- the public didn't much like it. While Democrats are off enjoying their spring recess, Republicans have to be worrying about the damage they've done by kow-towing one more time to the religious right.

But here comes Jesse Jackson.

Terri Schiavo's parents invited Jackson to visit with them in Pinellas Park today, and he took them up on the offer. Emerging from the meeting, Jackson told CNN that Schiavo is being "starved to death" and "dehydrated to death." "That's inhumane, it's immoral and it's unnecessary," Jackson said. "There is no rational reason for this to happen."

Jackson said he would work with legislators in Florida to come up with some last-ditch fix that would lead to the re-insertion of Schiavo's feeding tube. As Jackson spoke to the TV cameras, a protestor behind him held up a sign bearing the Nike logo and urging Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to "just do it" -- a reference, apparently, to calls that the governor seize Schiavo to save her life. Meanwhile, a man CNN identified as a Bible teacher from Scranton, Penn., made a run at the hospice and wouldn't stop until he was Tasered by police.

Jackson has the right to his views, and he certainly has the right to express him. But don't expect the Democratic Party to send him a thank you note. By making a star turn in the Schiavo circus, Jackson just handed the religious right the gift that Terri Schiavo wasn't. As soon as Randall Terry and Tom DeLay stand up and say -- fairly or not -- that "even Jesse Jackson" agrees with them on the Schiavo case, the Republicans will begin the climb out of the hole they have dug for themselves.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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