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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Just Another Baby-Kissing Pol

There, above the fold, in this morning’s Washington Post was a photo of George W. Bush performing that most hackneyed ritual of the politician: kissing a baby. The baby in question, it transpires, is what certain life-begins-at-conception advocates call a “Snowflake”–a child that develops from an embryo “rescued” through adoption from a fertility clinic.This photo-op was designed to dramatize Bush’s threat to veto a stem cell research bill passed yesterday by the U.S. House, and that is certain to pass the Senate as well. But what it really does is to graphically illustrate the intellectual incoherence, moral relativism, and political opportunism of his position.Matt Yglesias has a good summary of the manifold absurdities of Bush making this the first veto of his presidency. But the worst of these absurdities is at the very center of his allegedly “principled” stand against federal funding of research on new embryonic stem cells obtained from embyros scheduled for destruction at IV fertility clinics.He’s not for banning federal funds for research on existing stem cells, mind you–even though the “moral complicity” arguments applies as much to old as new stem cell lines. He’s not for banning research so long as it’s funded by somebody other than Uncle Sam. And most importantly, he’s not for banning the deliberate creation and destruction of embryos at fertility clinics, even though that is where all of the “destruction of human life” goes on.But those aren’t all the “anti-life” practices George W. Bush doesn’t seem to be against. The only possible rationale for his position on federal funding of stem cell research is that he shares the hard-line Right to Life movement belief that human beings deserving the full protection of the law exist from the moment of conception. So why isn’t he calling for ban on IUDs or “morning after” pills? (To be sure, his FDA is trying to make it harder for women to get morning-after pills, but if there’s been any talk of a ban, I haven’t heard it). All these practics, in addition to the creation of “excess” embryos at fertility clinics, and surgical abortion procedures, are part of what the moment-of-conception people regard as a vast slaughter of innocent human beings far worse than anything that has happened in recorded history.So George W. Bush’s “deeply principled” response to all this alleged homicide is to take it out on scientists who are at least trying to get some positive, pro-life healing from just one of these practices?That’s why this is perhaps the worst of many cynical panders that Bush continues to make to the Cultural Right. He’s with them, he says, so long as it does not discomfit the vast majority of Americans who may be troubled by the number and nature of some abortions, but who think, if they think about it at all, that the life-begins-at-conception positionis metaphysical mumbo-jumbo that defies common sense.So on the stem cell issue, Bush does not deserve praise for being courageous or principled. He’s just another baby-kissing pol who thinks he’s found a convenient way to appeal to one group without completely alienating others.

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