October 25, 2006
POLITICS: Ben Cardin's Stem Cell Hypocrisy
So, Democrats think they have found a winning political issue with public funding of embryonic stem cell research. The issue seems to present a classic battle of science versus religion, and Democrats always know which side of that fight they want. And in fact, polls regularly show that many voters, weighing the benefits of improved healthcare against the loss of microscopic embryos, take the side of encouraging such research. As a result, pro-life Republican opponents of the research are often reduced to windy explanations of the distinctions between types of stem cells and between the government banning such research (which it has not tried to do) and simply refusing to fund it with taxpayer dollars.
But as was true with the Terri Schiavo case, I remain skeptical that public support for the liberal/Democratic position is as warm, deep, or unconflicted as it sometimes seems. Again and again, we face hard questions about when and where life begins, who gets to decide who is and is not a human being worthy of the law's protection, what rights we have to end our own lives, and what rights we have to place the utility of living and speaking adults above the claims of the very old, the very sick, and the unborn. Sure, these questions are painful ones - even those of us who find it easy to see the taking of a human life in abortion sometimes weary of doing battle on behalf of microscopic embryos who are unlikely ever to find a home in a mother's womb. But just as pro-lifers can be ambivalent on these issues, so are those who come out on the other side. To be an enthusiastic supporter of stem cell research that destroys embryos, or of pulling the plug on a living human adult whose quality of life has deteriorated almost to nothing, you have to have blithe, cold-blooded confidence that there is no moral issue at all in these questions. And I just don't think most Americans are in that place.
As we have seen from Claire McCaskill's effort to make the Missouri Senate race a single-issue referendum on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, Democratic campaign consultants clearly believe that the public shares their lack of moral ambiguity. And other Democrats are flogging this issue as well, now including Maryland Senate candidate Ben Cardin, who is running an ad with Canadian actor Michael J. Fox, exhorting Americans to spend their tax dollars on such research. (Apparently, Fox isn't satisfied with public funding by his own home country; but even the Canadians have guidelines that betray their own sense that this is an issue fraught with moral peril, as well as dissenters from the governing status quo).
As Michael Steele's campaign has pointed out, however, the problem with Cardin's unbridled enthusiasm for throwing taxpayer money at stem cell research that destroys embryos is that Cardin voted against legislation designed to fund stem cell research that doesn't destroy embryos. That's a position so extreme even Maryland's two liberal Democratic Senators, Barbara Mikulski and the retiring Paul Sarbanes, didn't take it.
Apparently, Cardin isn't in it for the benefits of the research - just for the political benefits he thinks he can get by demanding the destruction of embryos. What a great humanitarian Ben Cardin is.
The Schiavo case is one of those things that every now and then hits a nerve, and becomes more than the case itself. Both sides then decided to hitch a bandwagon to it. This time, it worked against the right wing. And there is nothing wrong with trying to make political capital out of one side of an emotional issue. The right wing has been doing just that for years.
In the Schiavo case, I can identify with it easily. My daughter was in a coma (due to a brain tumor) in 1993. After 2 weeks, it was becoming clearer that she was not going to come out of it. In fact, just as we had that conversation with her doctors, meaning if and when we decided to pull the plug, nature tooks its course. I'm not looking for sympathy with this, only the understanding that it was a decision that was my wife's and mine, NOT the governor of the state of New York. The issues involved in Schiavo include her parents getting involved. It was a case of husband vs. parents, and it should have ended there.
It didn't, and now the backlash is there, and deservedly so. For stem cell research, it's really the abortion issue again, only now, instead of the right wing grabbing the Pro Life name, which sounds really good, the left wing (well really, abortion and stem cell issues are middle ones, as most are) is Pro Cure. Who wants to be called Anti-Cure, especially when everyone has family members who are diabetic, or have alzheimers, or MS, PArkinsons, paralysis, you name it. The republicans lose on this issue, and tough.
If I were the DNC (still populated by dopes I must say), I would run ads with FDR on his "We have nothign to fear but fear itself" speech alongside with the republican fearmongering ads.
Sorry to run on here, I guess it hit my own nerve. I ususally prefer less government intrusion, not less.
Daryl - My condolonces. I know a thing like that doesn't get any less painful 13 years later.
There was a reason, more than one reason, why I didn't write about Schiavo here at the time. I did think the state had to be involved in determining what Terri Schiavo would have wanted, and I remain skeptical that it made the right call. On the other hand, making it a federal issue was a poor decision on several levels.
Thanks for sharing a very sad story. It must've been very tough on you and your family. I'm sorry.
I agree with a point you've made. As both you & Crank know, I'm not anti-abortion, and I strongly favor individual choice in "Living Will" issues.
That said, I was appalled at the attitudes of both sides in that case. Terri Schiavo's parents were willing to take care of her. She was no longer married -- in any sense that we understand -- to Michael. At that point, in my opinion, the government, the courts, & all advocates, left & right, should've butted out and allowed her parents to take care of their daughter.
It was no one's business other than theirs at that point, and it's to my shame as an American and especially as a liberal/leftist, that so many folks who knew nothing about the case spoke up loudly, as if it were a crime for her parents to keep her alive.
Strange times we live in.
Daryl - I know you are not looking for sympathy, but you have it anyway. My mother and I were faced with the same decisions involving my Dad, so I can relate.
What really bothers me about the stem cell debate is what neither side is saying. To date there are 72 treatments that ahve been derived from adult stem cell research and none from embryonic stem cells. Further there are none on the horizon. The much more promising avenue is with the adult stem cells.
I can only speak for Missouri here, but stem cell research of ALL kinds is already legal. Therefore, why would we need a constitutional amendment to legalize it? The actual language of the amendment legalizes cloning and that is the aim of this initiative, not research.
Obfustication of the Stem Cell issue is the name of the game. Facts that are covered up by these ads:
1. There are two kinds of Stem Cell reasearch - Embryonic and Adult.
2. All Stem Cell research is legal.
3. Adult stem cells to date have been more effective in developing treatments.
4. The issue at hand is federal funding of such research.
I don't know how I feel about legality and morality of ESCR - I haven't gotten into all the details, but in principle I'm against the federal funding. People who say the goverment is the only one who can fund this stuff are wrong: How big is the Harvard's endowment and other leading reasearch institutes? How big is the R&D budget for major corporations? Not only can non goverment ectors fund this, they will get better results.
The approach of the Dems in the MJFox ads is to obfusticate the facts, and apeal to people's raw emotions, for political gain - that will largely have no effect on the issue at hand anyways.
It's fair for them to try this tactic, but it's fair for others to criticize them for it.
A minor point: Fox is a U.S. citizen since 2000, and has lived in the U.S. for 20+ years. He still holds dual Canadian citizenship because that's the way Canada does things.
Is it worse to come out for stem cell research and show your opponents do not want to fund it, or make fun of people with Parkinsons Disease as Rush Limbaugh did? Your outrage should have been with Limbaugh for putting this on the front page. I think most people don't care what test tube cells do, and the religiosity movement knows it. It is no more unfair than Rethugs trying to put late term abortions as an issue. All fair in love and the abortion war, fellas.
As usual with people who use the word "Rethugs," so many errors, so little time. Let's break this down to two general issues:
1. This issue came up because Democratic candidates have been running campaign commercials, which were intended to persuade people how to vote in Senate elections. Rush responded to those ads. Rush doesn't own a newspaper; if his comments and not the ads were news in your town, talk to the editor.
2. "Make fun"? Rush's point was that Fox was likely overemphasizing his symptoms in the ad, either by acting or because he was not taking the medication that controls the symptoms. Personally, I would not have gone there, myself, but as it turns out Rush was right - Fox has admitted elsewhere that he sometimes goes off the meds when he makes public appearances, so as to dramatize his symptoms.
Rush was amazingly prescient with his comments this week. He knew that the Democrats would trot out Fox because he was someone who people would be disinclined to argue with for fear of being called "heartless," and indeed that has been the case, as all criticism of the ad has been turned around on the critquers. Rush has made no personal attack save to wonder whether Fox had been off his meds to film the commercial. Now, as it turns out Fox claims that the reverse is true - it was over-medication that was causing the physcial symptoms he displayed. But based on his own admission, he has gone off of his meds when testifying before Congress before, so Rush's question was certainly within bounds.
And of course what all this has done is obscure the actual substance of the issue. Fox is claiming things in the ad which, to put it charitably, stretch the bounds of truth. That he has taken this position is understandable based on his condition, but it does not excuse him for making distorted claims.
And even better, Fox made the ads and then ran them in favor of a candidate who has actually voted against stem cell research. I was actually listening to Rush when he made the comments. At the time I was kind of taken aback, but as I listened to the rest of his comments I saw where he was coming from. As always, all that was played was soundbites.
I always love it when uninformed people talk about procedural votes as if they are substantive. Disingenuous and misinformed come to mind.
Rush responded to an ad by making fun of Parkinsons patients. Whether Michael J. Fox was on or off the medication, it is a real suffering.
And does anyone think that Cardin is not FOR stem cell research? C'mon
How about backing up your assertions with fact? Rush did no such thing. As someone who actually listened to the program, Rush at no time EVER made fun of Parkinsons patients.
If you're going to go off on people for being uninformed, it would be nice if you would follow your own advice and actually know what the hell you are talking about.
Hey, you gotta go with Rush here. If anyone knows anything about prescription medication it's that big fat guy.
Actually, Zummo, you don't have to just listen to Rush, he was also on TV when he made his comments and followed them by imitating Fox's movements (waving his arms, rocking back and forth in a CLEAR caricature). If you don't want to call that "making fun," that's your choice--but it's hard not to see it that way. I'm sure if some Dem had mimicked Terry Schiavo's movements during that debate, not a word would be raised by the Republican side.
Secondly, Crank--Rush not only insinuated that he didn't take his meds, he also called it "purely an act." Fox has pointed out that the rocking is CAUSED by the medication, not a reaction to not taking it. Anyone who knows anyone with Parkinsons knows that is the truth.
Third, that "Canadian" comment is a deliberate untruth and an attempt to make Fox look like his butting in to an "american" issue. He has citizenship in both Canada and the States, and he's lived here for 20 years. What's more, this has been pointed out to you, yet it remains uncorrected in your post. Any chance you'll ever change it?
I have to admit, it's funny watching the Republicans falling apart. Insulting and lying about Michael J Fox is not only pretty vile, but it's also such a stupid move to make. Seems like the sort of terrible error the Dems would have made 4 years ago. That ain't good.
Fox was born and raised in Canada. How is it a "deliberate untruth" to call the man Canadian?
Fox appeared in a paid political advertisement for a political candidate airing two weeks before an election. Pardon me if I am not shocked that he was criticized by a political commentator for what was in the ad.
1) Because he's an American as well. Pays taxes here. You brought it up because you wanted to paint him as an interloper--otherwise, why bring it up? Do you bring up the birthplace of everyone you write about? Give me a break, Crank.
2) Because instead of raising questions with the content, Rush decided to critique the movements of a man suffering from a terrible illness.
Is it really that hard to grasp? You're smarter than that. You surely can see how this is a dumb misstep (just like you saw Spencer's critique of Hillary's appearance) by a slanted commentator who sees what's about to happen this November.
The Facts: He isn't acting. He did take his meds. Rush should attack the message, not the fact that a guy with Parkinson's is moving around.
The amazing thing is that instead of saying "Yes, Rush was out of line" all the neo's and Repubs are marching lockstep in support. Just another mistake in a year filled with them.