You know, later today, apparently, the president will veto a bill passed by Congress to support stem cell research.
Now, this is research that...holds such promise for devastating diseases. Yesterday, I met with a group of children suffering from juvenile diabetes. I co-chair the Alzheimer's caucus in the Senate. I've worked on helping to boost funding for research to look for cures and a way to prevent so many devastating diseases. And we know that stem cell research holds the key to our understanding more about what we can do. So let me be very clear: When I am president, I will lift the ban on stem cell research.
This is just one example of how the President puts ideology before science, politics before the needs of our families, just one more example of how out of touch with reality he and his party have become. And it's just one more example as to why we're going to send them packing in January 2009, and return progressive leadership to the White House.
No mention of the president's actual reasons for vetoing the bill. No mention that a large percentage of U.S. voters have strong moral objections to their tax dollars funding the deaths of human embryos. The way she tells the story, there are the people who want to help look for cures for diseases, and there are those who are just mean and prefer that sick people to get better.
Further, she gives a very clear implicature that there is a ban on stem cell research by talking about lifting it. But there is no such ban. Period. There is a ban on federal funding for such research, but no one has ever banned the research itself, at least in this country, and several states are now funding the research. So she misrepresents the position of the president and much of the opposing party, and then she says something about the current policy that's pretty much the moral equivalent of a lie.Next, she makes it sound as if this is ideology and politics on one side and science and the needs of families on the other side. Yet there's no need to deny anything that scientific study has shown on the issue in order to argue against federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. There is information that each side of the debate downplays (e.g. the successes of adult stem cells, the potential for other methods of getting stem cells, and so on). Both sides want to tilt the evidence a little in their direction, but there's no way she can make the argument that her side is always on the side of science, while the other side is always against it. Neither case is based on science, in fact, since both views can admit the same scientific information. The real issue is about whether certain kinds of scientific research are immoral, and a lot of people do think this particular kind is thoroughly immoral, while others think there's absolutely nothing wrong with it.
As for ideology, I don't think Senator Clinton is in a neutral enough position to judge. She is strongly committed to the absoluteness of "a woman's right to choose" (while usually avoiding using any words that indicate what that expression is a euphemism for), so strongly that pretty much nothing else can ever violate such a sacred right. No restriction on abortion has ever gotten her endorsement as far as I can tell. That makes it very hard for me to believe her repetition of the "safe, legal, and rare" mantra that her husband started. I can't think of any politician who uses that line who actually votes for any legislation that would restrict abortion even in minor ways. They couldn't, because it would be anathema to those who think the right to an abortion outweighs pretty much any other moral consideration. Saying it should be rare is required for getting moderates' votes. Actually doing it, however, would lose the Democratic base. So she gets the best of both worlds by saying it and doing nothing, hoping that no one will actually call her on it.
John Edwards has some of the same rhetoric in his statement on the president's veto, as does Barack Obama. The latter senator pulls an interesting trick. He says some true things but leaves out some equally important true things, which make all the difference. For instance, his last sentence (well, it's a run-on, so it's technically two sentences in the garb of one) points out that whatever hope stem cells have comes from science. True. Of course, the biggest obstacles to that hope also come from science, e.g. that they have no way of preventing immune systems from rejecting stem cells and that the treatments they envision will probably cause cancer.
The promise of hope does not come from an ideology. It does come from science, or at least it comes from optimistic attitudes about what science will produce. But that doesn't mean Senator Obama's view doesn't come from ideology, because the view that it's ok to go along with science in this case does come from ideology. Given that this research would involve killing human embryos, you can't get to its moral permissibility without a moral premise, i.e. that killing human embyros is morally ok when it might (but might not) produce huge increases in medical technology at some point perhaps not too soon in the future. The view behind the resistance to funding this research does come from ideology, i.e. a moral view. But then so does the view that considers the research morally permissible.
Both positions rely on moral premises. One is that there's nothing wrong with killing human embryos, human organisms with their own DNA (or at least that any wrongness to it is outweighed by the potential benefits). The other is that there is something wrong with such killing, even with the admittedly high hopes that this research presents (leaving aside whether the scientific results that mitigate such hopes should lower the expectations).
Both of these positions are moral views, i.e. philosophical positions, i.e. ideology. Neither side could have its policy position without taking a stand on that issue. You could have both sides agreeing with each other on the actual science, and there would still be a debate over what he's calling ideology. Pretending that his position is not ideologically-based is just that. It is a pretence, a facade, to make one side of the debate come out looking scientific and the other end up appearing anti-scientific. But it is a falsehood in the end, even if it isn't as outright or blatant as Senator Clinton's.
A fourth Democratic presidential candidate, Governor Bill Richardson, begins his statement with a similar falsehood. That makes the top four candidates for the Democratic nomination misrepresenting the other side in a way that is either seriously dishonest or seriously ignorant of the other side. Either way, it reflects badly on them.