Friday, July 21, 2006

Stem Cell Research and the Bush Presidency

One could argue that George W. Bush is a fighter and has some excellent public relations skills. Would he have ever become president if he had not been the son of a president? Probably not. But luck and some modest skills put him in an extraordinary position to do some useful things. Too bad he never found anything reasonably realistic that was worth fighting for.

Calvin Coolidge, the last president to treat his office as something of a fluke, was famous for doing nothing and it can be argued that he set the stage for the Great Depression much more so than Herbert Hoover. What is it that Bush is setting the stage for with his politics, his wheeling and dealing and his blind devotion to the 'base'?

According to Republicans, of course, depressions just happen. During the looting after the fall of Baghdad, Donald Rumsfeld borrowed that old way of thinking to say: stuff happens. One is almost inclined to believe that the first and last man to accept responsibility in the Republican party was Abraham Lincoln.

Bush hasn't accepted responsibility for his foreign policy fiascos or his failures along the gulf coast, but he still has opportunities over the next two years to make himself useful. Signing the stem cell research bill would have been one of those opportunities. John W. Mashek of US News have some thoughts on Bush's veto:
President Bush's veto of the stem cell research bill is more than a political loss for Republicans. It was a move of ignorance, selecting darkness over light and squashing the dreams of those with debilitating illnesses and their loved ones.

After threatening many times to veto legislation over the past five years plus, Bush selected this issue for his first veto. What a shame. A strong majority of the American people is in favor, and even some conservative Republicans, including Majority Leader Sen. Bill Frist, backed the measure. No matter to the president.

The administration backs the troubled space program with tens of millions of taxpayer dollars. The rewards from space exploration are fairly limited now, but there's no hesitation to move forward.

However, Bush turns his back on those seeking medical breakthroughs with embryos that are to be destroyed. The opponents call it murder, but it is nothing of the sort....

Bush's strange anti-science presidency continues. If America is to keep its technological edge, we need to invest in new ideas, science and technology. What has Bush invested in other than chaos? Clinton invested in the internet, Reagan in computer chip innovation, Kennedy and Johnson in the great innovations of the early space program, Eisenhower in highways, and so on it goes. In the 19th century, government at the federal and local level and business invested in railroads and canals. There was a time when working for the common good was not such a strange idea.

America has become so successful that we now need new kinds of innovations, innovations that clean up some of our errors, and innovations that guarantee a reasonably decent future. Bush largely denies the reality of pollution and global warming (or at least the need to do something) and barely gives lip service to developing alternative energy or dealing with our energy future. We're not the only country in the world that is innovative but we are the best at it (and therefore the world's best hope) and Bush chooses to turn a blind eye to where our country needs to go. A nation that turns its back on its own best qualities probably doesn't have much of a future. But there is a growing restlessness in the country and there is still time to back away from the abyss and to turn things around, starting this November or two years from now or four years....

I'm a cautious optimist but time is becoming a factor.


Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

The scary thing is that conservative, pro-corporate Republicans' reigns of error tend to die of the consequences of their own excesses. The Great Depression is a good example.

Right now, the U.S. is in the most precarious situation I've ever seen in my life. If our many big creditors or big oil traders cause the dollar to decline precipitously, which they easily could, what follows will make the 1930s Depression look like a minor glitch.

It appears there's big trouble ahead getting enough of the foreign oil we're hooked on, even if we pay through the nose. Yet, of course, we're not seriously pursuing alternatives.

The federal government, military included, will need reforming and refurbishing on a massive scale, once Bush is finally back in Texas for good. Cleaning up the mess he and his cronies have made of just about everything will take more than one eight-year administration and a cooperative Congress.

Let's just hope no major calamity befalls us before Bush's term is up. It's painfully clear from the Katrina response and current laggardly extrication of our people from Lebanon how motivated and capable Bush & Co. is at dealing with big trouble.

1:14 PM  

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