Morris joined effort to downplay President Bush's role in Schiavo case, claimed he “has stepped lightly on the issue”

Following the lead of Fox News host Brit Hume, Fox News contributor Dick Morris attempted to downplay President Bush's involvement in the Terri Schiavo case. In his March 30 column in The Hill, Morris claimed that Bush “has stepped lightly on the issue, and his popularity and effectiveness will not be affected.” In fact, Bush and his staff have played a leading role in the case.

Morris's and Hume's statements ignored Bush's unusual and highly publicized actions on the night of March 20. Beyond signing the unprecedented legislation that granted a federal court jurisdiction in the Schiavo case, news reports noted the extraordinary steps Bush took to sign the measure as soon as possible after Congress passed the bill, including his abrupt return to the White House from a vacation in Texas. A March 21 New York Times article noted that Bush “made the rare decision to interrupt his Texas vacation and rush back to Washington to be in place to sign a bill that could restore Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube” and that “the White House said that the issue had become one of 'defending life,' and that time was of the essence.” The article further noted that Bush's “dramatic return was seen as a powerful embrace of the 'culture of life' issues of religious conservatives who helped him win the White House in 2004.”

Furthermore, the Bush administration helped lawmakers with “technical advice” in drafting the legislation that Bush later signed, and Bush's own Justice Department filed legal arguments in federal court supporting the efforts of Terri Schiavo's parents to have their daughter's feeding tube restored, according to a March 22 New York Times article.

Others have noted similar efforts by conservatives to minimize the role that Bush and members of Congress played in passing the legislation. In his March 28 “White House Briefing,” Washington Post online columnist Dan Froomkin noted Bush's apparent “retreat into silence” on the Schiavo case following the release of opinion polls showing an overwhelming bipartisan consensus that Bush and Congress should not have intervened, as well as Bush's own recent drop in public approval ratings.