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Friday, May 20, 2005  

Politics: Bush to veto stem cell research bill

President George W. Bush is a stubborn man. That trait is evident in his recent positions: Insisting that man whose character is not suited to diplomacy be name America's ambassador to the United Nations. Insisting that Right Wing extremists be considered for vacancies in the federal judiciary. Insisting that 'reforms' to Social Security are beneficial to most Americans, when, actually, they increase the risk of Americans being poor in their old age.

But, Bush will demonstrate perhaps his most unreasonable act of stubbornness next week. He will again seek to block meaningful research into embryonic stem cells. The New York Times reports.

WASHINGTON, May 20 - Setting up a showdown with Congress over the thorny issue of embryonic stem cell research, President Bush vowed today to veto any measure that would expand federal funding for the studies - an extremely rare personal threat from a president who has never exercised his veto power.

"I am a strong supporter of stem cell research, but I've made very clear to Congress that the use of federal taxpayer money to promote science that destroys life in order to save life, I am against this," said Mr. Bush, speaking in the Oval Office during a brief joint appearance with the Danish prime minister, Anders Rasmussen. "Therefore, if the bill does that, I will veto it."

The president also expressed grave concerns about a report that South Korean researchers have perfected a method of cloning human embryos to extract their stem cells that could, theoretically, be used to develop treatments and cures that would be exact genetic matches to patients.

"I'm very concerned about cloning," Mr. Bush said. "I worry about a world in which cloning becomes acceptable."

The veto threat, coming just days before the House is set to vote on the bill Mr. Bush opposes, sets up a confrontation between the White House and Congress at a time when Mr. Bush is already having trouble on Capitol Hill. His Social Security proposal is not gaining traction, and his nominee for ambassador to the United Nations, John R. Bolton, has attracted intense opposition. Now some Republicans are pressing to loosen federal restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, creating deep divisions within the party and reviving a contentious issue that dominated the early days of the Bush presidency.

The core of the President's error is the Right to Life movement's insistence that any intervention once human ova are fertilized is murder. No life is destroyed because of embryonic stem cell research. The embryos are either left over from fertility treatments or developed solely for research. The irony, of course, is that, potentially, lives -- real ones -- could be saved by successful applications of the research.

Support for embryonic stem cell research crosses political lines. Some Republicans, realists in regard to this matter at least, believe the benefit to be derived from the research is much more important than qualms about experimenting with human genetic material.

The Republican sponsor of the House bill, Representative Mike Castle of Delaware, said today he was not dissuaded by the veto threat, and believes the measure will pass when it comes up for a vote Tuesday. And the sponsor of an identical Senate measure, Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, vowed to "bring the matter to a head" in his Senate subcommittee, which controls federal funding for medical research.

I do not expect President Bush to have a sudden attack of insight. Embryonic stem cell research is one of the issues he can use to curry favor with Christian evangelicals. He will continue to exploit it for that purpose. It is up to leaders not compromised by a need to appeal to that constituency to prevent or override the veto of this very important legislation. They must confront the President's stubbornness head on.

What's the art?

The late actor Christopher Reeve was an activist in favor of embryonic stem cell research.

11:28 PM