[ExI] What Makes People Vote Republican

PJ Manney pjmanney at gmail.com
Thu Sep 18 00:23:53 UTC 2008

On Wed, Sep 17, 2008 at 5:04 PM, Lee Corbin <lcorbin at rawbw.com> wrote:
> So whether I'll vote Republican is based on "for" 75 percent economics,
> "for" 30 percent international relations, and "against" 30 percent stem-cell
> and related research.

McCain Makes Sharp Right Turn on Stem Cells

Republican presidential nominee John McCain would criminalize a
promising branch of stem cell research, according to a statement
issued by the candidate's campaign. Though such legislation would
probably not survive Congress, he might extend President Bush's
much-criticized limitation of embryonic stem cell research.

"I read the statement as a bad omen for stem cell research under a
McCain administration," said George Daley, a leukemia researcher at
the Harvard Stem Cell Institute.

The McCain campaign responded on Monday to questions about stem cell
research posed by ScienceDebate2008, a nonpartisan science advocacy

In his statement, McCain at first claimed to support ESC research.
However, he said "clear lines should be drawn that reflect a refusal
to sacrifice moral values and ethical principles for the sake of
scientific progress" -- a qualification that disturbed many scientists
and bioethicists with its ambiguity.

McCain also took a harder line than the Bush administration with
somatic cell nuclear transfer, better known as therapeutic cloning --
a cutting-edge process that could some day provide personalized
embryonic stem cell therapies. Though currently legal, McCain would
outlaw the technique.

The new stance is an abrupt reversal for the Arizona senator. As
recently as 2007, McCain appeared to favor embryonic stem cell
research more strongly than most of the Republican party, especially
its most religiously conservative members. "I believe that we need to
fund this," he said during a presidential candidates' debate in May

Since then, he's become steadily cagier in his support, courting
Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, an ardent opponent of all ESC research, and
avoiding discussion of ESCs in favor of alternative cell types. Those
familiar with the debate interpreted McCain's latest platform, which
framed his support in the language of research opponents, as a signal
that President Bush's research-limiting policies may continue.

"He cannot be trusted to be a supporter of embryonic stem cell
research," said University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Art Caplan. "He
is moving toward a straight pro-life stance and this sort of answer
can only be read as such."

The language of this week's statement, said University of Wisconsin
bioethicist R. Alta Charo, "is a close echo of Bush's language used to
support the ban on funding for work with newer lines."

Under President Bush, federal funding is denied for all research on
ESC lines developed after Aug. 9, 2001 -- the date of the moratorium's

Only 21 such lines exist, and many of these are contaminated;
scientists say they are insufficient for serious research, much to
fulfill their potential for treating a wide range of diseases.

"McCain's answer is deliberately ambiguous," said Charo. "Nowhere does
he state that he will continue to support expanding embryonic stem
cell research funding beyond the Bush policy."

McCain also denounced "the intentional creation of human embryos for
research purposes" -- a near-verbatim version of the Republican Party
platform -- and calls somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) a form of
"fetal farming."

In SCNT, an egg's nucleus is removed and replaced with the nucleus of
a patient's cell. Under chemical inducement, it forms an embryo from
which, after five days of growth, scientists can harvest
patient-specific embryonic stem cells -- the Holy Grail of
regenerative medicine.

Under President Bush's policy, SCNT is denied federal funding, but
still legal. McCain would make it "a federal crime for researchers to
use cells or fetal tissue from an embryo created for research

"I am researching SCNT and so would be considered a criminal if McCain
gets his way," said the Harvard researcher Daley. "It's a sad society
that starts criminalizing legitimate science."

Robert Lanza, chief scientific officer of Advanced Cell Technology,
noted that the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, the
National Academy of Sciences, and the American Medical Association all
support SCNT. McCain "would fine and/or imprison scientists for this
work," said Lanza.

Thomas Murray, president of the Hastings Center, a nonpartisan
bioethics think tank, said that McCain's proposition would almost
certainly be rejected by Congress, which has repeatedly rejected
ESC-criminalizing legislation. Instead, he said, McCain was likely
trying to placate religious fundamentalists.

"But if implemented, this could have quite radical implications," he
said. "It's a far leap from anything resembling current U.S. policy."

The McCain campaign did not respond to e-mail or telephone queries
regarding this story.

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