Evidence that Cafferty had it wrong and that the politicians were different from the journalists came with Sunday's vote in the House. The party-line polarization ended with Democrats who came back to vote splitting down the middle -- 47 for, 53 against. It was significant that Chet Edwards was one of the 47. Although he calls himself a "moderate," his liberal voting record (as measured by Americans for Democratic Action) is usually around 80 percent. He is a partisan Democrat who last year narrowly escaped Majority Leader Tom DeLay's Texas redistricting.
While 102 House Democrats did not find their way back, Edwards made sure he got there. Finding all seats filled on Continental and United planes from Houston to Washington, he managed to get a seat on a Southwest flight to Baltimore. When he listened to the debate, he was struck that Republicans seemed to be pleading for help for the unfortunate while Democrats were arguing legalisms. "It was difficult," Edwards told me, "but if we had to err, it would be better to err to keep her alive."
Nine members of the Congressional Black Caucus agreed. So did such tried-and-true Democratic stalwarts as James Oberstar of Minnesota, Dale Kildee of Michigan and Jose Serrano of New York.
On Monday night, Ralph Nader was substituting as left-wing host on CNN's "Crossfire" and seemed uncomfortable grilling Republican Rep. David Dreier of California. After the show, the old reformer noted to me that it was illegal to starve a dog to death but it was being done to Terri Schiavo. This is an issue truly transcending normal political boundaries.
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