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All The President's Embryos
What will it take for the lazy voting public to learn? We have the numbnuts Democrats in the wings and the rapture-obsessed Republicans in office because we don't demand any better. How many of you lazily voted for George Bush, the poster boy of anti-science, pre-enlightenment thinking? Better hope you don't come down with M.S. Frank Rich lays out the presidential priorities in The New York Time$:

HOW time flies when democracy is on the march in the Middle East! Five whole years have passed since ominous Qaeda chatter reached its pre-9/11 fever pitch, culminating in the President’s Daily Brief of Aug. 6, 2001: “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.”

History has since condemned President Bush for ignoring that intelligence. But to say that he did nothing that summer is a bum rap. Just three days later, on Aug. 9, he took a break from clearing brush in Crawford to reveal the real priority of his presidency, which had nothing to do with a nuisance like terrorism. His first prime-time address after more than six months in office was devoted to embryonic stem-cell research instead. Placing his profound religious convictions above the pagan narcissism of Americans hoping for cures to diseases like Parkinson’s and diabetes, he decreed restrictions to shackle the advance of medical science.

Whatever else is to be said about the Decider, he’s consistent. Having dallied again this summer while terrorism upends the world, he has once more roused himself to take action — on stem cells. His first presidential veto may be bad news for the critically ill, but it was a twofer for the White House. It not only flattered the president’s base. It also drowned out some awkward news: the prime minister he installed in Baghdad, Nuri al-Maliki, and the fractious Parliament of Iraq’s marvelous new democracy had called a brief timeout from their civil war to endorse the sole cause that unites them, the condemnation of Israel.

The news is not all dire, however. While Mr. Bush’s Iraq project threatens to deliver the entire region to Iran’s ayatollahs, this month may also be remembered as a turning point in America’s own religious wars. The president’s politically self-destructive stem-cell veto and the simultaneous undoing of the religious right’s former golden boy, Ralph Reed, in a Republican primary for lieutenant governor in Georgia are landmark defeats for the faith-based politics enshrined by Mr. Bush’s presidency. If we can’t beat the ayatollahs over there, maybe we’re at least starting to rout them here.

That the administration’s stem-cell policy is a political fiasco for its proponents is evident from a single fact: Bill Frist, the most craven politician in Washington, ditched the president. In past pandering to his party’s far-right fringe, Mr. Frist, who calls himself a doctor, misdiagnosed the comatose Terri Schiavo’s condition after watching her on videotape and, in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, refused to dispute an abstinence program’s canard that tears and sweat could transmit AIDS. If Senator Frist is belatedly standing up for stem-cell research, you can bet he’s read some eye-popping polls. His ignorance about H.I.V. notwithstanding, he also knows that the facts about stem cells are not on Mr. Bush’s side.

The voting public has learned this, too. Back in 2001, many Americans gave the president the benefit of the doubt when he said that his stem-cell “compromise” could make “more than 60” cell lines available for federally financed study. Those lines turned out to be as illusory as Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction: there were only 22, possibly all of them now contaminated or otherwise useless. Fittingly, the only medical authority to endorse the Bush policy at the time, the Houston cancer doctor John Mendelsohn, was a Bush family friend. He would later become notorious for lending his empirical skills to the Enron board’s audit committee.

This time around, with the administration’s credibility ruined by Iraq, official lies about science didn’t fly. When Karl Rove said that embryonic stem cells weren’t required because there was “far more promise from adult stem cells,” The Chicago Tribune investigated and found that the White House couldn’t produce a single stem-cell researcher who agreed. (Ahmad Chalabi, alas, has no medical degree.) In the journal Science, three researchers summed up the consensus of the reality-based scientific community: misleading promises about adult stem cells “cruelly deceive patients.”

By the way, if Mr. Bush thinks federally funded stem cell research is murder, don't you think the same goes for unfederally funded stem cell research? As the old joke about hookers goes, "We've already established what you are; we're just haggling over the price."

Posted by aalkon at July 23, 2006 7:12 AM

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This is kinda off topic, but I read your articles on confidence, and how that is appealing to people. Bush, Rumsfield, Condi and the Big Dick are supremely confident in what they do.

So what is the difference between confidence (like above) and confidence (like Michael Jordan or Steven Spielberg or Muhammad Ali)? How/when can you tell the diff? When does it become apparent?

Posted by: Bird Jaguar at July 23, 2006 3:15 PM

Wordplay. People trip over "stature" in a very similar way

Posted by: Crid at July 23, 2006 6:41 PM

Ah yes, those pesky cells/zygotes! Looks like we'll have to turn to the Bible and see what god has to say about this: " ." ____Amen.

Posted by: Bill Henry at July 24, 2006 3:01 AM

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