CBS's Bob Schieffer on Sunday and Gloria Borger last week urged Bush to move forward on embryonic stem cell research as both dismissed the concerns of opponents as unenlightened.
Schieffer concluded Sunday’s Face the Nation by contrasting two types of people, those who want to cross mountains and those who are afraid of what is on the other side the type “who refused to look through Galileo's telescope.” Schieffer lectured Bush: “If he reads history, he will know that history remembers those who climbed the mountain, not those who stayed home in fear of the unknown.”
Schieffer seemed particularly ill-informed, however, as he repeatedly referred to Bush’s decision as involving “stem cell research” that’s research virtually no one opposes and which is not facing any presidential decision. What is up for a presidential decision is research on embryonic stem cells.
Reminding readers of how “Bill Clinton took on rapper Sister Souljah on lyrics,” in U.S. News Borger argued Bush should use the debate “as an opportunity to lead,” not “to cement Catholic conservatives for the GOP but to encourage science.” She concluded: “The Pope, shaking from a disease that could benefit from embryonic-stem-cell research, rejected the idea. No one can question his heart. Ideally, Bush will disagree with him because he has questioned his own.”
Bob Schieffer at the end of the August 5 Face the Nation:
“Finally today, some thoughts as the President decides whether or not the government should back stem cell research. History's longest argument has been over what to do about the mountain. One group has always wanted to cross the mountain, to explore and see what is on the other side. The other group, no less sincere, has always been willing to let well enough alone. That group worries there might be things on the other side of the mountain we didn't want to know. They were the ones who refused to look through Galileo's telescope. They already knew all they needed to know about the moon and the sun and the stars.
“Some will argue that the debate over stem cell research is more complicated than that, and perhaps it is. But there is no argument about what history teaches: The store of knowledge increases when one generation is free to explore and build on what the previous generation has learned. The ancient Chinese invented gunpowder and set it afire to ward off evil spirits, but the next generation harnessed the explosive power of gunpowder in a container and created the cannon. Later generations built on that knowledge and produced the internal combustion engine.
“Science tells us the next step in stem cell research may yield cures for crippling diseases and ease the pain and suffering of millions. Are we not obligated to see what is on the other side of this mountain? History argues yes. The President says it is the hardest decision he will ever make, but if he reads history, he will know that history remembers those who climbed the mountain, not those who stayed home in fear of the unknown.”
Schieffer’s Face the Nation co-host Gloria Borger in her August 6 issue of U.S. News & World Report:
…[T]he clerical hierarchy is out of touch with most Catholics, 72 percent of whom support stem-cell research. In fact, even those more conservative, regular churchgoers (about one quarter of all Catholics) are split evenly on the issue. “The politics of this decision just isn't that compelling,” says pollster Andrew Kohut. “Conservative Catholics aren't going to go dashing off because of one opinion.”
And what if they did? “The fallout would not be good,” predicts Deal Hudson, an informal White House adviser who edits Crisis, a Catholic magazine. But where would these Catholics go? To a pro-choice Democrat? Hardly. And if politics is a consideration here, what's wrong with Bush expressing a heartfelt disagreement with a key constituency? Bill Clinton took on rapper Sister Souljah on lyrics and organized labor on trade, and it helped him with moderate voters. Hudson calls the stem-cell decision “an authentic struggle” inside the White House. If Bush decides against the church hierarchy on a matter over which he has agonized, they can't challenge his motives.
How about looking at this as an opportunity to lead? Not to cement Catholic conservatives for the GOP but to encourage science while making sure the legitimate “slippery slope” arguments are addressed. To wit: Bush can call for the criminalization of human cloning. He can propose to outlaw the creation of embryos solely for science. He can set guidelines–for public and private research. Who can growl at that?
The Pope, shaking from a disease that could benefit from embryonic-stem-cell research, rejected the idea. No one can question his heart. Ideally, Bush will disagree with him because he has questioned his own.
(This update courtesy of the Media Research Center.)