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Read my lips: No new killing

By Doug Patton
web posted August 13, 2001

The enormity of President George W. Bush's decision to allow federal funding of limited embryonic stem cell research cannot be overstated. Think of every vision you've ever seen about the genetic nature of life in the future -- from Huxley's "Brave New World" to the recent film "Gattaca" -- and know this: we're there, with a vengeance. And whether you like it or not, your hard-earned tax dollars are going to pay for it.

Every taxpayer in the United States of America has just been flung headlong into the abyss that contains the ghost of you-know-who's evil desire to create a master human race. Our president has decided that, morality aside, we will fund the quest to create a better, healthier race of human beings.

Mr. Bush says that federally funded research will only be done on the cells of those embryos that have already been destroyed. This is hairsplitting raised to a political art form. One can almost hear the echo down through the ages: "Read my lips: No new killing."

Like his father, the president has broken a significant campaign promise. But unlike his father, who squandered his considerable political capital on a huge tax increase, it would appear that Mr. Bush has managed to perform a political masterstroke while breaking a vow to those who elected him. Bush Sr. angered almost everyone with his flip-flop. Dubya, it would seem, has managed to pull off "Read My Lips II" while tiptoeing through a political minefield and escaping unscathed.

Amazingly, pro-life giants such as Charles Colson and James Dobson have praised this decision, as has National Right to Life. The Right, it seems, is appeased -- or at least fractured -- while the Left, though grumbling that the policy "doesn't go far enough," is secretly gleeful and content in the knowledge that this decision is only the first step in the incremental march toward their goal of giving scientists the funding to use human life any way they see fit. What more could a politician looking toward re-election ask for?

For the first time in our history, the United States government will fund research on human life that was killed specifically for that purpose. As one pro-life leader has said, "We may not be funding the killing, but we are funding the killers."

Which brings us to the folly of the president's guidelines. Does anyone honestly believe that this policy will stand if significant medical breakthroughs are made using this research? And with hundreds of millions -- eventually billions -- of dollars at stake, is it that difficult to imagine a whole host of scientists willing to destroy new embryos in order to "qualify" under the Bush Administration policy?

If we truly believe that life begins when the wonder of sperm and egg produces something completely new, and that this new thing is a human life at the earliest stage of development, endowed with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, then we must believe that any policy that encourages the destruction of this life is wrong.

Incredibly, when the debate over partial-birth abortion was raging in 1995 and 1996, Bill Clinton got away with vetoing the ban on this horrific procedure, even though the majority of Americans wanted it banned.

President Bush could have used his bully pulpit in a similar fashion on this issue. He could have told the nation three months ago that, true to his campaign pledge, under no circumstances would he authorize the use of tax dollars to fund this research -- period. The furor would have raged for about three days, those who were never likely to vote for him anyway would have expressed their outrage, and the story would have been over. Instead, Mr. Bush chose to drag this decision through the public eye until the political stakes were so high that there was no choice but to strike some sort of compromise on the issue. Perhaps that was the idea all along.

As a political analyst and former campaign strategist, I can appreciate the political savvy of the Bush White House. Mr. Bush and his advisors have masterfully dodged a bullet and pleased enough voters to keep him viable for 2004.

But as a passionate pro-life activist who looks at the big picture and mourns the direction of our nation, I condemn this decision with every fiber of my being. It is wrong, and history will judge it so. ESR

Doug Patton is a freelance columnist who has served as a speechwriter and
policy advisor to federal, state and local candidates and elected officials.
He can be contacted at dpatton@neonramp.com. (When writing, please include
your city and state.) © 2001 by Doug Patton

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