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Radio interview
Alan Keyes on Mickelson in the Morning
March 17, 2005
Newsradio 1040 WHO, Des Moines

JAN MICKELSON, HOST: Alan Keyes, it is such a joy to talk to you again, sir.

ALAN KEYES: Hi, Jan. How are you?

MICKELSON: I am doing great.

KEYES: It has been too long.

MICKELSON: Yes, it has. You never call, you never write . . .

KEYES: [laughs]

MICKELSON: [laughs]

You are on the warpath of the [Terri] Schiavo case. Bring us up to speed. What is the latest? There is some legislation being pondered and some court action being pondered?

KEYES: Well, unfortunately we are up against, however, a hard and fast deadline that might make everything else academic, because the judge has set tomorrow, noon, as the time when the feeding tubes can be removed. And he has also issued an order saying that she cannot be fed by other means, so that even though the parents contend that she can swallow, and that other ways of nourishing, like liquid nourishment, would be possible, the judge has said, "No. She must die."

MICKELSON: How can a judge make those kinds of rulings?

KEYES: Well, he started out in a position where this was supposedly carrying out the will of the husband as guardian, who said that Terri Schiavo wanted it this way--even though the only evidence that there has been of that is his statement about a casual remark she once made, whereas friends and others have come forward to say this is not the case.

There has been a great controversy over the years about whether [removing the feeding tube] is in fact her will and would correspond to her intention, but the husband has insisted on it.

I think that in the last couple of rulings, the judge has moved from being somebody who was letting something happen to being someone who has put himself in the position of being an advocate that this woman should die--and I think that that is obviously inconsistent with his position as judge. And in their pleadings, the attorneys for Terri Schiavo have so argued that he has in fact moved from being a judge to being a party to the case, and that this makes the whole situation, where he is concerned, inappropriate.

I think you have a fundamental issue also of whether, when you are dealing with something as elementary as feeding, right?--


KEYES: Whether or not you can look at that as some sort of extraordinary medical situation. It's not.

You and I need to be fed every day. Our children, when they are young, are helpless to feed themselves, and have to be fed. If we are basically going to say that if someone is starved to death by their guardian, this is death by "natural means," we are in serious trouble as a society.


KEYES: So, I think that this case raises a lot of very serious issues about whether we are going to get careless now in dealing with this issue of life--or we are going to apply our common-sense standard.

In our society, even if you are accused of a terrible crime where the death penalty is involved, you can't be subject to it unless you are proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Well, there is more than a reasonable doubt in this situation, about whether or not Terri Schiavo would want this done--and if she doesn't, then you are clearly in violation of her rights. Under the Florida constitution, people have not just the right to life, but the right to defend their lives. Right?


KEYES: That's what is specified in their declaration of rights.

MICKELSON: What I've never understood, Alan Keyes, is why, if you have a willing guardian, who is willing to take care and do all the work and fund all of this stuff, why would the "former" husband--who is kind of living as a lowlife knuckle-dragger here at the moment--why would he not just say, "OK. I relinquish any ties here"? If her parents really want to do the heavy-lifting, want to do all the hard work, and are willing to absorb all of the time, why would he care at this point?

KEYES: I agree with you. I think that there have, really from the very beginning, been some real incongruities, shall we call them, in this situation. Here you have a husband who had gone into the malpractice suit, giving moving testimony about how much he loved and was devoted to his wife, how he would care for her for the rest of his life.


I was struck by that quote from the proceedings, because he didn't say, the rest of her life. He said, care for her for the rest of his life.


KEYES: And they estimated, for purposes of the damage award, that she could live in her present condition for 50 years. That didn't seem to phase him during the malpractice suit. He was perfectly willing to acknowledge that.

This is not a case, either, where somebody is in some kind of pain, where you might be feeling compassion for someone because they are suffering terribly, and so forth. She's not; her body is not in a condition where it needs extraordinary, costly measures to stay alive. She just needs, like you and I, to be fed. Other than that, her body is sustaining itself, heart beating, breathing.

There are signs that she can interact with people, and has done so when her parents have visited. They have videos on her website,, that people can go and look at and make a judgment for themselves.

So, this is not a situation where, I think, there is any extraordinary plea of compassion--and because the parents will take the burden off of him, he has no plea that this is putting some terrible inconvenience in his life. He has, in fact, gone ahead with his life. He has got basically another family started already.

MICKELSON: It seems like this is not the thing itself. This is a symptom of something else, isn't it?

KEYES: Well, I would think so. And obviously there have been speculation, even at one point, charges made about what might be his motive. I do find it kind of extraordinary that he has put himself in a position where, as far as I have been able to ascertain it, he has not allowed any significant therapy for her, despite the advances that have been made in the last decade and more in dealing with situations like this. No therapy since 1991. It's almost as if he doesn't want her to wake up.

MICKELSON: ABC News reported a poll this morning, Alan Keyes. It said that 65% of Americans want the spouse to have the final say, rather than the parents.

KEYES: I think that's under ordinary circumstances. I'm a spouse, and think that that is perfectly reasonable. But I think the reason that you look at specifics, and that you usually would be having courts and judges, is to look at the specific situation, to make sure that it corresponds to the general norm. I don't think that this one does, in any particular. That's why it has raised such hackles, because it really seems that we are getting pretty casual now about these determinations.

I also find it disturbing at a constitutional level, because we have a case in Florida in which both the governor and the legislature feel that this is being done in contravention of Terri Schiavo's basic rights, given the circumstances, and yet we are acting as if the only word to be spoken on these deep constitutional matters is by the courts--and that is a lie.

Each branch has a responsibility to respect the Constitution and the laws, especially the executive. And in a case where the executive feels that something is going forward, either by mandate of the court or whatever, that violates that basic premises of the Constitution, he is bound by his oath--

MICKELSON: Which executive here?

KEYES: The Florida executive, Jeb Bush. He is bound by his oath to act in accordance with his conscientious understanding of what the Constitution and the laws of Florida require, because the judge has no executive power. The notion that judge's orders are self-executing is a dangerous notion that violates the whole understanding of the separation of powers.

MICKELSON: Alan Keyes is on our newsmaker line. Do you have a couple more minutes, sir?

KEYES: Sure.

MICKELSON: A brief timeout. Back in a moment, Ambassador Keyes--more recently, a Senate candidate in Illinois. We are talking about the Schiavo case. This is extremely important, and this is one of the flashpoints, again, in the culture war. By what rights will we decide who lives, who dies, under what circumstances? Huge politics involved with all of this, and this is really a culture clash, extraordinary.


MICKELSON: We're talking with Alan Keyes, Ambassador Keyes. He is on our newsmaker line, and he is an indefatigable advocate of life. Here's what the first paragraph in a news story I just read this morning says: "Doctors and health officials will consider whether more guidance on abortions is needed following the decision of the Crown Prosecution Service not to prosecute two doctors who authorized a late abortion on a fetus with a cleft lip and palate." That's how far we've come now. Eugenics--just for something like a cleft palate.

Life is on the balance in all these different levels, right?

KEYES: Well, I think that, sadly, we are reaching a stage were people are starting to treat life as if it is just a utilitarian consideration. And as I often remind people, that was the mentality that was being promoted in Germany, as in after the Nazis came to power--this notion that somehow you look at it in terms of the usefulness of people's lives. They had a phrase back in those days called "useless eaters," to refer to people whose quality of life and contribution didn't match up with some idea that they had about what ought to be done, rather than looking at it as each individual having intrinsic worth that comes from the hand of God--which is what our country has been based upon from the being--and that therefore requires that you treat that life, even if it is just one life, you treat it with the utmost respect, and you take the greatest care when you are making life-and-death decisions, rather than treating them as if it's just a matter of calculation, if you see what I mean.

MICKELSON: Who's going to win down in Florida, in the Schiavo case?

KEYES: I really don't know. I have been making the case, as I was just doing, that this is an instance where Jeb Bush needs to intervene in order to prevent death from being administered to this poor woman. And at the same time, her parents are moving forward, trying to get the Supreme Court of the United States to take a look, to see if they can do something about what the Florida court has done, since the basic issue of right to life, which is a basic constitutional right, is involved.

We will see, but I think that we are in a situation where, also, of course, consideration is going forward in the legislature. They tried once with a bill that would deal with this and prevent it from happening.


KEYES: Obviously, as one might expect, the courts struck it down--because I think the notion that the judiciary is going to act to curtail its own powers is an absurd notion. That's not how our Constitution is set up.

MICKELSON: Alan Keyes, thank you for your expertise, and thank you for your continued passion on these issues, sir.

KEYES: Well, good to be with you. Thanks, Jan.

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