Every once in a while The New York Times will count the number of repetitions of a word or phrase in a political speech — a fun trick that attempts to identify the significance of a given topic. The results are in: at the Democratic National Convention, the phrase “stem cell” was used 20 times. That’s more than twice as many times as the word “unemployment,” and an infinite number of times more than the phrase “girlie men.” In a radio address to the nation, presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry had as his talking-points: “Three years ago, the President enacted a far-reaching ban on stem cell research,” “because of the stem cell ban, [treatments] remain beyond our reach,” “we must lift the ban on stem cell research — and do so immediately,” and, as if the election were in the bag, “when John Edwards and I are sworn into office, we’re going to lift the ban on stem cell research.”
Sen. Hillary Clinton said, “We also need to lift the ban on stem cell research.” What no Democratic leader bothers to clarify is a minor detail — there is no ban on stem cell research. These and other Democrats are intentionally clouding the issue. Ask five people, excluding Yalies because of their superior academic and political knowledge, what the current status of stem cell research is, and you’ll get five different answers, none of them right, and all using the word “ban.”
In 2001, our 43rd president signed an executive order granting federal funding for stem cell research for the first time in history. As a result, funding for embryonic stem cell research increased to $24.8 million, while adult stem cell research increased to $250 million. If you just read those numbers and thought, “That’s not enough!” then you’re probably a liberal; throw money at the problem and it will go away. Even though I don’t agree with the liberal tax and spend perspective, I agree in this case. I think more money should be used to determine if this science does in fact have medical miracle potential.
Luckily, Bush has not issued a ban on stem cell research in the private sector. If the “ban” of which Kerry and Clinton speak was factual, then stem cell research would not exist, just as human cloning does not currently exist. But just one year after Bush allotted federal money for the cause, more than 1,000 scientists and 30 private companies spent $208 million researching their medical benefits. The National Institutes of Health have supplied an additional $190 million to the advancement of adult stem cell research. Kerry and Clinton have thus been irresponsible with their statements and have mislead voters. They would argue, however, that their use of the word “ban” applies to Bush’s placement of limits on the number of stem cell lines available for federal research.
At the time the limits were placed, there were 60 lines available, although some sources say the actual number was 20. Either way, the lines can regenerate indefinitely. And, again, the executive order only limits the number of lines that can be produced with federal funding. Bush’s actions have no impact on private production of stem cell lines. NIH has created a National Embryonic Stem Cell Bank that provides embryonic stem cells to scientists. Seventeen new lines were created by last March, and there are now more lines and funding for research advancement in the United States than in any other country in the world.
Ron Reagan Jr., every liberal’s favorite Republican president’s son, claims Bush is pandering to the “conservative right.” He said during his “non-partisan” DNC speech, “The theology of a few should not be allowed to forestall the health and well-being of the many.” Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings called Bush’s executive order, “the worst sort of special interest pandering. His policy is designed to appease his supporters on the far right.” This isn’t the first time Bush has been accused of pandering to the “religious right,” but in this case it wouldn’t do him any good. A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll found that 72 percent of white Roman Catholics favor stem cell research.
So who is he pandering to now? Religion is not the only issue here. As George Bush stated in his address to the nation, “My administration must decide whether to allow federal funds, your tax dollars, to be used for scientific research on stem cells.” He decided that, yes, they should be. Our tax dollars — a lot of them — are currently being used to fund this research. So why are liberals complaining? Shouldn’t the conservatives be complaining? More funding means higher taxes. Maybe conservatives are more compassionate than some think.
In perhaps a rare moment of humility, Bush admits that he had trouble reaching this decision. He does not know the right answer; no one does. But as president, he had to make a decision and he “prays it is the right one.” He made a compromise.
Here’s the bottom line: if you want Bush to allot more federal money for embryonic stem cell research, that’s fine, but say that. Don’t tell people Bush has banned stem cell research, because this is simply not true. This election is too important for the facts not to be heard, and deliberately clouding the issues does not help any responsible voter.
Mike Slater is a sophomore in Jonathan Edwards College.