7.29.2005

Bill Frist throws curveball at White House

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has endorsed embryonic stell cell research, putting a rift between him and President Bush, who has threatened to veto the bill currently waiting a vote in the Senate. Frist, a doctor, made a speech that puzzled me as to his position. He is using phrases like "within ethical bounds", and saying "I give huge moral significance to the human embryo, it is nascent human life", to come across as centrist on the issue and, well, confused. I believe Pres. Bush has made clear he will only allow research on embryos that will be discarded if not used for science. Frist's position on when to use the cells is not clear, but we can assume he remains against creation of embryos for the sole purpose of destroying them. So what does this mean?

Well, since the beginning here I have tried to avoid '08 presidential politics as much as possible, but this announcement screams for commentary. Prior to this announcement, Frist was considered the frontrunner among the vital religious conservative vote in the '08 primary. Sen. George Allen (R-Virginia)(who has a convoluted abortion stance) and Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) were also courting this moral vote. Rudy Guiliani and Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), though leading polls including all Republicans at this time, are probably going to have to work hard to win, given that they are not as conservative as the primary voters. The leadership establishment seems to like Allen best at this time. Brownback could emerge as the candidate of the religious right instead of Frist, which would make his run much more potent.

But perhaps the condemnation of the comments by the Christian Defense Coalition was exactly what Frist wanted. He, like Hillary, might be playing the centrist game, figuring that a candidate labeled as "the candidate of the religious right" would fail in a general election. If you have to split with the base on an issue, stem cell research is probably the least damaging to you. Thought I suspect that most Republicans would support using embryonic stem cells that were scheduled to be destroyed anyways, the argument against it is somewhat of a slippery slope. I will leave you with this quote from the MSN story linked above, and would like you the readers to tell me the difference between the positions, because I can't figure it out:
When Bush announced his position on stem cell research, he said the government should pay only for research of stem cell colonies, or lines, that had already been created at that time, so that the “life or death” decision had already been made.

Frist said additional stem cells should be used, so long as there was a careful process of informed consent in which the parents had decided that the embryos should be discarded, not adopted or frozen.

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