Thursday, September 2

Lies, Damned Lies, and Convention Speeches*

Sometimes I despair at the asymmetry between offense and defense. I'm not talking about the "war on terrorism", I'm talking about liars.

To protect commercial airliners from a couple of nuts with boxcutters we have to spend billions on baggage scanners and add an hour or more of delay for each of the million plus airline travelers each day.

Similarly, I could write a book exhaustively refuting just two sentences from Laura Bush's convention speech:

I could talk about the fact that my husband is the first President to provide federal funding for stem cell research. And he did it in a principled way, allowing science to explore its potential while respecting the dignity of human life.

I could talk about the fact that the $25 million in federal stem-cell research funds her husband allocated is less than 0.004% of the federal healthcare research budget. That it's less than 1/10th the funding put up by little Singapore, an economy 1/100th the size of the US. That it's about the amount of money being spent on political advertising for California's Prop 71 (which proposes $3 billion of state money for stem-cell research).

But I may as well rely on Michael Kingsley excellent LA Times Editorial:

It is true indeed that Bush's predecessors, from George Washington to Bill Clinton, failed to fund embryonic stem-cell research. Even Abraham Lincoln. Not a penny for stem-cell research from any of them. Historians believe this might have been because it didn't exist yet. But that's just a guess.

George W. Bush gave this nascent research a tiny sliver of money and piled on a smothering load of restrictions. As Laura Bush did not note, that makes Bush the only president to ever authorize federal rules against stem-cell research.

It is characteristic of Bush that he would not see, or have no patience for, the irony of justifying a policy on moral grounds and then, when it comes under attack, claiming that the policy is not having the very effect he is supposed to want. Meanwhile, it is characteristic of the Bush political machine to be utterly fearless about insisting that things are the way it would be convenient for them to be, despite the evidence that things are the way they really are.

The purpose of Bush's stem-cell policy is to discourage medical research using embryos. Bush supposedly thinks that these clumps of a few dozen cells are every bit as human as the people who will suffer and/or die from diseases that stem cells could cure. He had better believe that, because stem-cell research uses embryos being discarded by fertility clinics and doesn't actually add to the embryonic death toll at all. Only a deep conviction about the humanity of these microscopic dots (which have fewer human characteristics than a potato) could justify sacrificing real human lives to make the purely symbolic point that the dots are human too.

Scientists are in agreement that Bush's policy is succeeding. Stem-cell research has been drastically slowed. Yet Bush surrogates now pretend that the policy's real success is its failure to stop this research completely. Hey! You're supposed to think all those embryos being used in privately funded research are human victims, remember? It's a huge tragedy, remember? Stop bragging about it.

You should read the whole thing.

I could go on about this, but I'd never be able to get to Laura's next sentence, let alone her husband's speech.

[*] (Updated 10pm) Damn it, I just noticed that Fred Kaplan of Slate posted an article earlier today with the same title as this one. Well, that's just too bad, I'm not changing it.

1 comment:

Rabbi Jonathan B. Freirich said...

But you didn't go on to talk about Laura's subsequent lines, or the hours of lies that led up to and then made up her husband's speech.

Anyway, I gave a talk on Sunday at a church about the need for reconciliation between divisive sides so that we could actually work on solutions. The group was receptive, but hardly a convincing campaign strategy. I guess that I should keep my day job.