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Tempest in a Petri Dish
August 15, 2001
by Maren L. Hickton

Swirling in a halo of religious rhetoric, Bush offered a conflicting decision to allocate $250,000,000 of taxpayer money to fund continued research of an estimated 60 lines of stem cells, according to counts by the NIH, extracted from destroyed embryos around the world. In his televised speech, which some politicos lauded and others decried, most did agree on one point: Bush clearly broke his campaign promise to block federal funding of this research. How worthwhile this taxpayer investment will be is another story.

The resident at-large, from a "working vacation" in Crawford, Texas, stated that, "Embryonic stem cell research is at the leading edge of a series of moral hazards." But, Bush continued, "...we should allow stem cell research on these [60] existing stem cell lines, where the life-and-death decision has already been made." In the final analysis, Bush compromised real hope for cures by essentially deciding to cut the research in half: He will give scientists his blessing to experiment with existing uncertain colonies of stem cells from destroyed embryos, but will not allow the extraction of stem cells from numerous other frozen embryos that are expected to be more viable and will otherwise be discarded. According to Bush, "This allows us to explore the promise and potential of stem cell research without crossing a fundamental moral line by providing taxpayer funding that would sanction or encourage further destruction of human embryos that have at least the potential for life." In other words, now that that line has already been crossed.

If there is any reason to mix politics and religion, this is a perfect example: It's a great way to delude people.

This is what happens when you have a President who is slumping in the polls. A President who claims he is a man of Christian principles, unless of course those principles begin to conflict with public approval ratings. Time for Bush's political code red, which is to divide and unite: Distract the public with what has the potential to be an emotionally divisive issue, such as this research, win empathy by feigning personal conflict when he really made this decision a month ago according to press reports, and then construct what appears to be a popular decision.

In his struggle to up the poll numbers that he claims he disregards, this construct is just another one of Bush's familiar PR schemes of creating a melodrama where he casts himself as the hero of a promise and then does nothing. No different from his centerpiece campaign promise of saving our dilapidated school system where he promised to "leave no child behind." Nothing. No different from "fixing" Social Security and Medicare. He fixed these programs all right; there's little money left. No different from when he ticked off a list of patient protection measures he enacted in Texas during his debate with Gore. And now? Threats of vetoes with a similar national Patients' Bill of Rights and working back door deals to derail this legislation. No different from promising along the campaign trail to improve the standard of living to military men and women, then closing bases and promoting expensive phony missile defense tests. No different from appointing himself as savior of an alleged energy crisis which suddenly seemed to disappear the second the Democrats assumed poll-position in the Senate and energy exploration of a different kind began.

As part of his current plot, Bush welcomed and engaged interested parties around the world from a diverse group of religious, scientific, and potential beneficiaries of stem cell research, all of whom Bush claimed influenced his "agonizing" and "prayerful" decision. And what do we have? We have ended up with nothing more than a yellow light decision in front of a blastocyst in a Petri dish and another one of Bush's infamous stall-committees, headed by none other than Dr. Leon Kass, the leading biased-conservative bioethicist from the University of Chicago, whose essays include such subjects as, "Babies by means of in vitro fertilization: Unethical experiments on the unborn?" Another 80s-vintage Bush appointee from the decade he never left.

Is this research going to go anywhere with Bush's generous outlay of our tax dollars? Don't count on it. The research will be slowed with restrictions attached to federal monies unless and until the medical community, businesses, the media, the public, and most importantly - Congress, all wake up and realize that the man called Bush is nothing more than an architect of political baloney with an IQ that is approximately the current temperature in Texas.

 
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