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.
TDS Strategy Memos
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By Ed Kilgore
After a week of efforts to equate the controversial remarks of two particular members of Congress, I pushed back a bit at New York:
It looks like House Republicans are going to deal with outrage over their perennial problem child Marjorie Taylor Greene by finding a Democrat to punish. That would be Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar, according to Politico’s Huddle:
“’I think that Ilan should receive the same type of punishment as Marjorie because if it’s good for one, it is good for another,’ Rep. Maria Salazar (R-Fla.), who voted to remove Greene from her committees, told me. ‘Anti-semitism is the same thing as anti-semitism. It’s just that Nancy is afraid …'”
There are others who want to push for Omar’s removal as well as those looking to censure her over her war crimes remarks — and a few Dems may join them.
The idea of equating Omar’s complaints about unequal treatment of countries in investigating military misconduct with Greene’s comparisons of mask and vaccine requirements to the Holocaust is deeply satisfying to a lot of people. Republicans can continue their now-ancient habit of waving away extremism in their ranks by claiming it’s more prevalent on the other side of the aisle. Nervous centrist Democrats can document their nervous centrism by firing thunderbolts left and right. And most of all, accusing both parties of harboring those prone to “false equivalence” appeals to the false equivalence many Beltway media folks want to draw between Democrats and Republicans, who are engaged in the mutually assured destruction of partisan polarization.
There’s only one problem: Treating what MTG and Omar have said as equal expressions of false equivalence actually is false, as any honest evaluation of their words quickly shows. Greene bluntly compared COVID-19 precautions to the Holocaust, analogized vaccine documentation mandates to the Nazi practice of making Jews wear yellow stars, and, for good measure, said Democrats are like Nazis because they are “socialists.” Omar said this in the midst of a virtual exchange with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken over investigations of the brief but intense war between Israel and Hamas:
“’We must have the same level of accountability and justice for all victims of crimes against humanity,’ she wrote. “We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban.’”
Her point wasn’t to say the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban were equally culpable in their commission of atrocities, but that all should be equally subject to international investigation. I suppose there are superpatriots who would dispute the idea that America has ever committed “unthinkable atrocities,” though the victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear attacks, and of countless genocidal assaults on Native Americans, among many examples, suggest otherwise. But in any event, when challenged by Republicans and Democrats alike to make it clear she was not imputing equivalent culpability to these various nations and coalitions of fighters, Omar complied instantly:
“U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar said Thursday that she was ‘in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems … ‘
“’To be clear: the conversation was about accountability for specific incidents regarding [International Criminal Court] cases, not a moral comparison between Hamas and the Taliban and the U.S. and Israel.’”
MTG, meanwhile, kept doubling down on her comparisons of public-health measures with the slaughter of many millions by Nazi Germany, and finally, after more than three weeks and a tour of the Holocaust Museum, she issued an apology that betrayed little understanding of the full scope of the Holocaust, and then refused to apologize for the Democrat-Nazi analogy.
Looking more broadly at the two women and their records of controversial utterances, Ilhan made an unfortunate and erroneous reference to “the Benjamins,” in a gratuitous comment about support for Israel in the United States, for which she “unequivocally” apologized:
“Anti-semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-semitic tropes. My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole. We have to always be able to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack my identity. This is why I unequivocally apologize.”
Greene lost her committee assignments earlier this year after media focus on an almost incredible blizzard of incendiary statements she made on social media before coming to Congress (barely anyone even noticed her practice of brandishing an AR-15 when discussing her enemies in campaign ads). In February, she apologized for claiming that school shootings were fake and for promoting QAnon conspiracy theories. She never apologized for happily contemplating violence against congressional Democrats (including, very specifically, Ilhan Omar) and the Speaker of the House, or for her unusually aggressive support of Trump’s electoral big lie and the effort in January to overturn the presidential election results, or for her own subscription to very weird anti-Semitic claims.
If you cannot discern a qualitative difference between Omar’s “outrages” and Greene’s, and between the speed and coherence of their clarifications and apologies, it may be time for some remedial work in logic and rhetoric. These two members of Congress aren’t alike at all, and as much as I sometimes disagree with Ilhan Omar, treating her as a left-wing MTG is lazy and just plain wrong.