Maybe you remember Michael Kinsley from his Crossfire days opposite Pat Buchanan, back when the show had a level of civility lost with the Carville/Tucker approach. He has Parkinson's disease which means he's a moral authority on stem cell research. Even though it was found that skin cells could be cloned to resemble embryonic stem cells, that's not enough for the ailing Kinsley.
But any Republicans who think the stem-cell breakthrough gets them off the hook are going to end up very unhappy. This issue will not go away.
First, even the scientists who achieved the latest success believe strongly that embryonic-stem-cell research should continue.
No law says they can't.
No one knows for sure whether the new method of producing pluripotent cells will pan out or where the next big developments will come from.
SPECIAL BULLETIN: No one knows the future!
We are still many thresholds away from anything that can be of practical value to me and others. Scientifically, it makes no sense to abandon any promising avenue just because another has opened up.
If scientists say that it should continue and it's perfectly legal to continue it then what's your point?
Second, even if this were a true turning point in stem-cell research, people like me are not going to quickly forget those six lost years. I am 56. Last year I had a kind of brain surgery that dramatically reduces the symptoms of Parkinson's. It received government approval only five years ago. Every year that goes by, science opens new doors, and every year, as you get older and your symptoms perhaps get worse, doors get shut. Six years of delay in a field moving as fast as stem-cell research means a lot of people for whom doors may not open until it is time for them to shut.
Again, what delay except by the FDA that takes forever to approve anything.
The embryos used in stem-cell research come from fertility clinics, which otherwise would discard them. This has been a powerful argument in favor of such research. Why let these embryos go to waste?
In what way are they going to waste if scientists want to do the research and the research is legal?
Even if all embryonic-stem-cell research stopped tomorrow, this far larger mass slaughter of embryos would continue. There is no political effort to stop it. Bush even praised in vitro fertilization in his 2001 speech about the horrors of stem-cell research. In vitro has become too popular for politicians to take on. But their failure to do so makes a mockery of their alleged agony over embryonic stem cells.
Is the Justice Department raiding laboratories and rounding up scientists?
Finally, the position a politician takes on an issue tells you something about his or her character, values and intellect. And that understanding doesn't disappear even if the issue itself does. Over the past six years, Bush and most Republicans in Congress have done their best to stop medical research that could cure many diseases, including one that I have.
If all knowledge, innovation and discovery can only be found at the bottom of a crate of government funding then this statement is true.
What does that mean for Kinsley's position on funding the war? This is from his column in June.
Last week President Bush condescended to sign a bill authorizing $100 billion for his war, but only after any serious timetables or criteria or deadlines for troop withdrawal were stripped from the legislation. . . it is considered the height of naivete, irresponsibility and indifference to the fate of American soldiers to suggest the possibility of any exit strategy short of triumph. If you do, you are betraying the troops. And no one sees actual triumph in the cards, so there is no exit strategy.
Kinsley mocks that anything less than victory in Iraq is a betrayal of the troops, but thinks that anything less than a government victory in stem cell research is a betrayal that shows a lack of "character, values and intellect." Stem Cell research can go on with or without government funding, but defeating our enemies is illegal without funding.
And woe betide any politician who suggests that waiting for complete triumph might not be the only alternative -- just in case democracy, prosperity, peace and brotherhood don't flower in Iraq next week. Sens . Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama opposed the war-funding bill because it lacked even the mealy-mouthed timetables in an earlier version that Bush vetoed.
But no timetable for government funding of stem cells should ever be discussed because the breakthrough is always right around the corner.
For this they got crocodile tears from Sen. John McCain. Squandering a bit more of his war-hero capital, McCain came close to accusing the two leading Democratic presidential candidates of treason: "I was very disappointed to see Senator Obama and Senator Clinton embrace the policy of surrender."
Maybe Clinton and Obama just lack the "Character, Values and Intellect" that it takes to see the importance of an American victory.
So there is a "power of the purse," you see. Congress can cut off funds for a war that people don't like. In this connection, older readers might recall the Iran-contra affair, in which sources of money were found to keep the contra war going in Nicaragua without Congress's even knowing about it. This met with the enthusiastic approval of the Wall Street Journal, even though funds you do not know about are hard to cut off.
This is the perfect example of which I speak. Congress cut off funding for the Contras so Oliver North and company raised their own money despite Congress. Kinsley, of course, didn't like it and would have liked to have seen people go to jail for it. He would have liked to have seen the funding on anti-communist freedom fighters criminalized. The action of North and company brought about free elections in Nicargua despite Congress.
Has anyone in Congress treated scientists the way the Contras and their supporters were treated? Kinsley pretends that people are treating scientists the way Congress treated Oliver North.
That Wall Street Journal editorial accuses these three Democratic senators of "vot[ing] to undermine U.S. troops in the middle of a difficult mission." If this is true of last week's vote, it will always be true of any attempt to cut off a war by cutting off funds.
So it undermines scientists to lose funding but the troops just have to deal?