Monday, July 10, 2006

Stem-cell legislation -- Bush's first veto?

The Denver Post is reporting that "President Bush will likely cast the first veto of his presidency if the Senate, as expected, passes legislation to expand federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research". The source: Karl Rove himself.

This is bipartisan legislation. It even has the support of flip-flopper Bill Frist in the Senate. As I put it last year: "It is imperative that there be more federal support for stem-cell research to support and complement efforts in the private sector, and Bush now finds himself alienated from both the overwhelming majority of Americans and his own party's majority leader in the Senate. (Bush may still end up vetoing the bill. It would be his first.)"

Well, there you go. And here we are.

Conservatives like to think that they promote a so-called culture of life. Some of them express this culture, and their promotion of it, in absolute terms in contradistinction to villainous liberals who, presumably, promote a culture of death. (For more on the ridiculousness of this claim, see here.)

But this veto threat from the base-pandering Bush shows that the truth is quite the reverse. I would not use the terms "culture of life" and "culture of death," nor would I argue that conservatives consistently promote the latter, but stem-cell research can and will save lives. It is, simply, pro-life.

Thankfully, many Republicans, including the Senate majority leader, have come around -- belatedly, but better late than never -- to the right side of this issue. It's quite unfortunate, however, if not surprising, that Bush resists. He may or may not be a "pro-life" absolutist, but many of his supporters are. And he and these supporters, I would argue, get the meaning of "pro-life" wrong. A veto would not necessarily mean that Bush is "pro-death," but it would show that he is closed off -- politically and morally -- to the possibilities of science and to a beneficial (and hopefully benevolent) technology that will save the lives of the living.

The first veto will say a lot about this president and his priorities. If he vetos this stem-cell legislation, he should go before the American people and tell them why he doesn't support this bipartisan effort. And he should explain to those who could benefit from stem-cell research, as well as to their loved ones, just why he refuses to help them.

Are their lives meaningless in the conservative "culture of life"?

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