bragging rights

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles ) | Jul 21, 2006

Over on the First Things blog, editor Joseph Bottum furnishes an enthusiastic eyewitness account of a speech in which President Bush explains his veto of legislation expanding federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research:

His body language and, particularly, the “on fire” look in his eyes, convinced me that, agree or disagree with Bush, he believes in his stem cell policy wholeheartedly.... He truly believes that he has drawn an important moral and ethical line that does not place the imprimatur of the United States on harvesting nascent human life—as if so many ears of corn—but which at the same time does not impose his moral view on a country that substantially disagrees (at least when the embryos are “leftover IVF embryos due to be destroyed anyway” are concerned).

Sounds good, right? That last line might cause a bit of concern, but it's only a shadow on an otherwise bright sunny day.

Then you click over to Amy Wellborn's blog, and you find her mystified-- not by the President's speech, but by the post-veto comments of Tony Snow, the presidential spokesman, who boasted that President Bush is "the first ever to have financed research using embryonic stem-cell lines."

OK, that's a simple factual statement-- albeit of not too much historical merit. It's true that Rutherford Hayes didn't fund stem-cell research, just as Abraham Lincoln didn't support space exploration. But what does it mean? Snow continued:

This is a President who's spent more money on embryonic stem cell research and stem cell research generally than any President in American history. He's got the track record. What's happening now is that people are trying to politicize it by accusing him of standing in the way of science, when he's the guy who's made it possible to open up the way to science.

Now that sure sounds as if he's boasting. If he is, will someone please explain what he's boasting about?

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Clorox - Jul. 26, 2006 9:58 AM ET USA

    Look, we're Catholics. The glass is half empty AND half full.

  • Posted by: Oedipus Tex - Jul. 26, 2006 1:24 AM ET USA

    Sterling, was Bush wrong to veto this legislation? Of course not. That is the salient matter here, not some extemporaneous remarks by Tony Snow.

  • Posted by: - Jul. 25, 2006 2:55 PM ET USA

    Echoes of the doctor at Nuremberg who used the medical data gained from his experiments as a justification for his actions.

  • Posted by: Sterling - Jul. 25, 2006 1:32 PM ET USA

    How is it "cynicism" to criticize where George Bush is dead wrong? God does not give me or you some slack when it comes to approving "just a few" gravely moral things just because we may do some other things right. The same goes for a President. Doesn't the Bible tell us God is no respecter of persons? As for thanks, aren't we supposed to consider ourselves useless servants when we simply do what we are commanded?

  • Posted by: Oedipus Tex - Jul. 24, 2006 9:51 AM ET USA

    What is it about my fellow orthodox Catholics that make them look for defeat in every victory? Yes, yes, there is more work to be done but there always will be until the Second Coming. Discard the cynicism and display the hope that being a true follower of Christ brings. And, by the way, thank you President Bush.

  • Posted by: - Jul. 24, 2006 5:40 AM ET USA

    > Is a frozen embryo a product of "conception?" This (left-wing) Catholic (often foolish & worldly) replies that frozen embryos are products of conception. The means of conception is unconventional, but they are conceived. >If yes, why have marriage and mothers and fathers? If no, why protect it? Kids tend to do better raised by a mother & father married to each other. (This isn't always true—my early life confirms that—but it's usually true.) Also, God likes marriage & moms & dads :-)

  • Posted by: Cupertino - Jul. 23, 2006 11:36 AM ET USA

    President Bush has acted according to his lights which are emphatically evangelical, i.e. he has a one to one relationship with God and can come to contradictory conclusions without any sense of moral dissonance since he heard God's voice directly. We should be thankful that he got it right to the extent he did. However, Catholics need to ask and answer these questions: Is a frozen embryo a product of "conception?" If yes, why have marriage and mothers and fathers? If no, why protect it?

  • Posted by: TheJournalist64 - Jul. 22, 2006 10:05 AM ET USA

    We need to understand why the culture of death NEEDS embryonic stem-cell research successes. Right now, the only thing they can show from 33 years of legal abortion is a mountain of dead babies. If ESCRE can give them ONE MEDICAL CURE, then they can come to us and say "of course we can't stop [abortion] [IVF] {cloning} [whatever]. LOOK AT ALL IT IS DOING FOR HUMAN PROGRESS! So ESCRE is a vital part of their equation of death = progress.

  • Posted by: - Jul. 22, 2006 5:18 AM ET USA

    Bush is neither a biologist nor an ethitican. Hence his statements of "personal belief" are full of sound and fury signifying nothing. AMDG

  • Posted by: Gregory108 - Jul. 21, 2006 8:33 PM ET USA

    I disagree with Bush's decision to use only some embryos and not others. I agree that "if it was right before" with some embryos (which it never was!), it should be right now. I think his previous decision was ill-advised, done as a compromise, in a hurry. Yet, it took a lot of courage to do what he did yesterday. Instead of bashing Bush, we need to make a better case to our own Catholic people as to why this is wrong! Most people don't understand this and can't undestand not helping "the sick."

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Jul. 21, 2006 7:53 PM ET USA

    All it does is demonstrate that George W. Bush is a politician. Why anybody would be surprised that a President is a politician I'm not sure. I doubt that the Psalmist had Mr. Bush personally in mind when he warned (143), "Put not your trust in princes," but since we hold that God is the primary author of Scripture, he may well have had the eventually-to-be-born Bush on his very long list.

  • Posted by: Clorox - Jul. 21, 2006 6:39 PM ET USA

    Isn't Tony Snow Catholic?

  • Posted by: - Jul. 21, 2006 2:56 PM ET USA

    Sure. He is boasting about laying the groundwork for the institutionalization of embryonic child killing. When Bush adopted his current policy in 2001 it was clear that his arbitrarty limitations were unsustainable. If there is nothing wrong with funding research on embryonic stem cell lines, then it naturally follows that there is nothing wrong with funding all that is NECESSARY for that research to exist, namely, the killing of human embryos. The political pro-life movement is officially dead

  • Posted by: - Jul. 21, 2006 12:36 PM ET USA

    moral relativism