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Radio interview
Alan Keyes on News Beat with Blanquita Cullum
March 10, 2005

BLANQUITA CULLUM, HOST: The Terri Schiavo issue is back in court. Poor thing. Her parents, Rob and Mary Schindler, want to have new testing of Terri Schiavo to try to determine whether she really is in a vegetative state. This is at a time when they've determined that people who are in a coma really know what's going on, and Terri Schiavo--her eyes move, she looks like she wants to talk.

And to talk with us about this, who has not been on the show for a very long time, he's the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Social and Economic Council. He ran for President from the Republican Party back in the year 2000, and he's been fighting for Terri Schiavo's life, is Ambassador Alan Keyes. How are you?

ALAN KEYES: I'm fine. How are you? Glad to be with you.

CULLUM: I know. It's a long time.

KEYES: It has been a while. You do really good work.

CULLUM: Let's talk about poor Terri Schiavo. Now, the situation was that she and her husband were married for a short period of time. She lapses into this mysterious coma. He determines, he says to her mother and dad that she never wanted to be in a vegetative state, that she always wanted to have the plug pulled, and they disagree.

KEYES: Well, see, and the interesting thing is that when he was looking--in the malpractice suit--for an award, he didn't talk about her being in a "persistent vegetative state," or anything like that.

As a matter of fact, he said that he was committed to taking care of her for the rest of his life, and they put estimates on the table that said she might live for fifty years. No question was raised about wanting to terminate her life. And then, within a few months after he gets the award, he suddenly discovers that she had desired to die in these circumstances--which, by the way, are not circumstances where she is hooked up to some elaborate life support, or anything like that. Her body functions just like yours and mine, on its own, and it needs to be fed. The same way we have to eat, she has to eat. That's all.

CULLUM: Well, and, you know, isn't there a situation where Terri Schiavo, they had a certain amount of money that was supposed to be granted for her rehabilitation, and he received, I think, over two million dollars on her behalf and has misappropriated the money? I mean, he spent money with attorneys, trying to have her cut off life support, and has not, in any case, tried to help her to have any kind of rehabilitation in any method at all?

KEYES: I believe that's correct. I've heard various numbers for the amount of the award, but it was several hundred thousand dollars at least, and one site says nearly a million dollars. I'm not sure. It was supposed to be spent on medical care and, instead, much of it has been used on these legal expenses which have nothing to do with it, and she hasn't had any significant therapy since 1991. And that's very odd, especially since--as you and I both know--there have been some significant advances made . . .

CULLUM: (talking over) Oh, absolutely.

KEYES: In terms of the understanding of people in this situation, and what can be done with it. And it just seems very strange. And, by the way, people often say, "Well, this is so he can get on with his life," and so forth. At one level, he has already gotten on with his life, right? Which is why, in some sense, it's odd to suggest that he is still somebody in a position to be guardian without conflict of interest. I mean, he started another family, even though they're not divorced, and so forth. But at the same time,

CULLUM: (talking over) But even the--

KEYES: The parents have actually offered to pay for everything--

CULLUM: (talking over) Yeah!

KEYES: And he has rejected that.

CULLUM: Which I think is so incredible, because the mother and dad have said, "Get on with your life. It's OK. Just divorce her. We forgive you. We'll take care of her for the rest of our lives." And he refuses to do that, which I don't understand that.

KEYES: What's also really strange is that, in the latest decision by this Judge Greer, he is not only saying, now, that she can be removed from the feeding tube. He has actually mandated that she be starved to death, and is forbidding anyone to give her food by the usual means--right?--even though it has been agreed that she has a swallow mechanism. So it is quite possible that she could be given liquid nourishment that would keep her alive. And the judge is now saying, "No, you can't do that." So, the judge is now insisting that she be done to death by starvation.

CULLUM: That's a really horrible thing, because, needless to say, she can't speak for herself, although she has, the mother has implied that she's tried to say, "Love you," or some words in response to her, because she gets some sort of word out of her. It just implies that they think that, because Terri Schiavo can't speak, [it means] that she can't feel. They'll--you know, they wouldn't do that to a dog.

KEYES: They wouldn't do it to a dog, and even in our criminal system. If this was somebody accused of some terrible and heinous crime--right?

CULLUM: Right.

KEYES: When you are being tried for a terrible and heinous crime, you are given the benefit of the doubt.

CULLUM: Well, look at the guy that was involved in the--you know, Timothy McVeigh. They wouldn't execute Timothy McVeigh by starvation.

KEYES: That's right. And in this particular case, the doubt is over whether or not she is in what's called a "persistent vegetative state." And there are a lot of things--in the videos that have been done, in the interaction that the family has had--that suggest that this is not so, and that, in point of fact, she responds to stimuli. She communicates, follows limited commands, laughs or cries.

Under Florida law, a "persistent vegetative state" is "the absence of voluntary action or cognitive behavior of any kind, and an inability to communicate or interact purposefully with your environment." Those two things have to be satisfied, and they are not, in her case.

CULLUM: Is Governor Jeb Bush attempting to do anything on behalf of her, and to try to protect her life?

KEYES: Well, you know that he has taken a position trying to protect her life. He was a mover behind the legislative action that was taken and then struck down by the courts--acting, by the way, as judges in their own cause, in terms of their powers and prerogatives--but I have been trying to make the point that he also has both the right and the obligation to act, if he believes that there is a fundamental violation of her constitutional rights taking place.

Some people argue and believe that the judges just get to do whatever they please, but that is not so, because--as was pointed out in Federalist 78, and in other places--the judges per se have no executive power. They can't carry out their decisions. They must look for the cooperation and acquiescence of the executive, and the executive is a separate, independent branch with separate will and judgment, and if that will and judgment differs from that of the courts, the Executive by his oath has an obligation to act in defense and preservation of constitutional right.

And so, Jeb Bush, I hope, will see that, and will act to make sure that nobody is allowed to kill this lady.

CULLUM: Former Ambassador Alan Keyes, any thoughts? Is there any hope that she will have a last-minute bailout?

KEYES: Well, I think they are moving ahead--because there were questions raised about the impartiality of Judge Greer in the latest actions that he's taken, where he has acted as a party in the dispute, and is really, I think, pursuing an ideological agenda now, in terms of "right-to-die" and all of this, rather than making an impartial judgment about the case. And there's also the hope that Jeb Bush, in pursuance of his executive responsibilities, will intervene to make sure that she is not allowed to be done to death in this way.

CULLUM: Ambassador Alan Keyes. Thank you so much for joining us here on News Beat. I'm Blanquita Cullum. Stay tuned.

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