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August 02, 2005

The Sounds of Repositioning

As Congress slips out of the August Washington swamp and John Bolton slips into the United Nations, that other sound you hear this summer is that of potential presidential candidates re-positioning themselves for an election that is still three years away.

Hillary Clinton has been doing the sidestroke to the right all year, and last week it appeared that Bill Frist was paddling slightly to the left. I’m not certain the Senate Majority Leader was doing anything but staking out a position on stem cell research that should not be surprising, given his urging of President Bush to consider federal funding of the research in the past.

But the criticism of Frist from conservatives has been bitter and despondent, as if they’d been betrayed by a friend.

Frist’s position, though, is not all that radical, and it is close to that of Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Although opposing the creation of embryos for the purposes of research, embryos that would be destroyed by fertility clinics could instead be used for research.

I agree with Romney and Frist on that proposal. It would not result in the creation of human life for the purpose of destroying it—even for laudatory research. But rather than embryos being destroyed with no further benefit, they could be used to advance science and the quality of life.

There’s more on Romney’s repositioning in a NY Times article today.

On many social issues, Mr. Romney has recently appeared to stake out ground to the right of many constituents but slightly to the left of the country's most conservative Republicans.

Instead of taking the pure conservative position of opposing all embryonic stem cell research, Mr. Romney, whose state is full of leading scientists, has said he supports using embryos if they are leftovers from fertility clinics, but not if they were created solely for research.

Mr. Romney wants to reinstate capital punishment in Massachusetts, but his proposal for a "foolproof" death penalty restricts when it can be applied to the point that some conservatives say it would make executions exceedingly rare.

Even on gay marriage, which Mr. Romney has consistently opposed, his record is not universally praised by conservatives. They applaud that he invoked a 1913 law to prohibit same-sex couples residing outside Massachusetts from getting married in the state. But Mr. Romney's support of a constitutional amendment last year to ban gay marriage but also create civil unions upset some conservatives.

Posted by Jim at August 2, 2005 08:26 AM

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When Ronald Reagan ran on a solidly conservative, empowering platform, well, we all know what happened. Why politicians and their handlers think that shifting to the center is required is beyond me.

What I said in my post on Frist v Embroys ( ) and what I referred to at in this ( ) post pretty much says what I think on the embryonic stem cell research issue. Basically 1) since embryos can be adopted, they're unwanted right up until the moment someone wants them, so we can't really know if they will be wanted, and 2) regardless of the source, experimenting on human embryos is human experimentation, something I'm not comfortable with.

As with taxes, if you encourage a behavior, you get more of it. If taking "unwanted" IVF embryos for science is perceived as a Good Thing, then folks will have less of a constraint when creating more and more "unwanted" embryos. ("Well, at least they'll be harvested for a greater good.") Is that a direction we want to be going?

Posted by: Doug Payton at August 2, 2005 12:20 PM

Actually, I don't like Frist because I see him as being a highly ineffective Senate majority leader. The Peter Principle at work.

Posted by: eLarson at August 2, 2005 04:30 PM

Jim, you are very wrong, and underestimate human nature. Once there's a crack in the dam, human nature will run it's course and provide a supply. It's incremental, and it's wrong.

Posted by: Matt Feliksa at August 3, 2005 01:27 AM