July 30, 2005

Frist, Stem Cells, and Value Voters

from - smijer

Hearing the news yesterday that Bill Frist has decided to support expansion of funding for stem cell research was as shocking to me as hearing Bush support gay marriage or present a balanced budget would have been. I haven't quite figured out what Bill is up to with this, but I have a couple of guesses. If I may be permitted to speculate...

Scenario 1: Frist has reflected on the issue, and decided to support stem cell research as a matter of conscience. Personally, I don't give him that much credit. If he had a conscience, he wouldn't have practiced the worst form of medical quackery on the Senate floor. And, he probably wouldn't have killed all those cats.

Scenario 2: Frist has his finger in the wind, and recognizes something that the Bush and others higher up in the party do not. James Dobson said, "he has gravely miscalculated. To push for the expansion of this suspect and unethical science will be rightly seen by America's values voters as the worst kind of betrayal -- choosing politics over principle." But, would Frist make such a calculation if he wasn't sure to win votes for it? Perhaps Dobson is overstating the opposition to stem cell research from "values voters" (I hate this term. I vote my values, not James Dobson's. That should make me at least as much a "values voter" as any Church Lady who votes straight Republican ticket). Perhaps Frist knows that the "values voters" (and Republicans generally) aren't on board with SpongeDob's stem cell agenda, and perhaps he's calling that bluff.

From personal observations, the Religious Right is uniformly opposed to embryonic stem cell research, but not zealously so. Only a relative few crackpots go to the extreme of setting up adoption agencies for frozen embryos that would otherwise be discarded by fertility clinics. It may be more difficult than Dobson and Bush realize to mobilize voters around rescuing the thousands of embryos that are discarded regularly by these clinics. It may be that Frist is calculating this move to distance himself from the religious right on a low-fallout issue in order to reassure the rest of the Republican base, which may be getting the jitters about the direction the fundies are taking their party. It may even be that Frist is the first rat off of a sinking ship... he may perceive a schism between the fundies on one side and the fiscal and neo- cons on the other. He may be putting his money on the fiscal and neo's hoping to get their support in what would utlimately be a very messy 2008 primary.

Scenario 3: Frist has a pie-in-the-sky scheme cooked up. The money quote for this scenario is:

'Embryonic stem-cell research should be encouraged and supported, but . . . it should advance in a manner that affords all human life dignity and respect, the same dignity and respect we bring to the table as we work with children and adults to advance the frontiers of medicine and health.

So, does Frist have a crackpot unorthodox scientist whispering into his ear about the possibility of extracting embryonic stem cells without destroying the embryo?

So... what's your guess?

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Posted by smijer at July 30, 2005 03:19 PM
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