Charles Krauthammer has a real doozy of an Op-Ed in today's WaPo. It begins simply enough:
A decade ago, Thomson was the first to isolate human embryonic stem cells. Last week, he (and Japan's Shinya Yamanaka) announced one of the great scientific breakthroughs since the discovery of DNA: an embryo-free way to produce genetically matched stem cells.
Except that one likely way to say ‘embryo free way to produce genetically matched stem cells" in light of current procedures is ’cloned.’ Which plenty of ignorant, mostly conservative politicians also oppose. But this sucker gets worse, much worse. Steel yourselves:
The embryonic stem cell debate is over. Which allows a bit of reflection on the storm that has raged ever since the August 2001 announcement of President Bush's stem cell policy. The verdict is clear: Rarely has a president -- so vilified for a moral stance -- been so thoroughly vindicated.
And that's the tone for the rest of the article more or less: George Bush is a genius -- one could almost read savior in the editorial -- because his unpopular policy forced those lazy scientists to do without embryonic stem cells. Of course, the real moral objection to Bush’s ban on Federally Funded lines is that the blastocysts used to produced them are slated for destruction anyway. A few could be saved for ESC research. Preventing that in anyway won’t 'save them,' quite the opposite in fact.
But the real kicker: This research wasn’t made because of Bush’s pointless ban, it was made in spite of it. It might well have happened here in the US years ago if not for that ban. And Bush’s rejection and subsequent veto of Federal Funding of embryonic stem cell lines is nothing but a big, expensive, pain-in-the-ass obstacle for future research building on this work. Hell, even Time Magazine managed to get this partially right:
But any Republicans who think the stem-cell breakthrough gets them off the hook are going to end up very unhappy. This issue will not go away. First, even the scientists who achieved the latest success believe strongly that embryonic-stem-cell research should continue.
It is hard to imagine how scientists could learn to tweak existing cells into developing like embryonic stem cells, without understanding how embryonic stem cells develop. The announcement Krauthammer back-spins into PR gold would not have occured without that insight. Which may explain in part why the only American who matched the Japanese effort is one of the nation’s foremost embryonic stem cell researchers.
Krauthammer is no adolescent ditto head writing on Myspace in his parents basement. He surely has to know these facts. This is afterall a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist who is said to be critical of Intelligent Design Creationism, pro-choice and, astonishingly, an advocate of embryonic stem cell research. So why the deceptive spin job?
Maybe it's because Charles Krauthammer is a neoconservative by some accounts. And if there’s one thing that distinguishes neocons these days above other US political factions past and present -- aside from their stunning incompetence in handling everything they touch, followed by a confession of abject ignorance -- it’s their willingness to lie at the drop of a hat on TV, in print, online, in a train or on a plane, to salvage their failed ideology and miserable track record. Given the choice between intellectual honesty and political expediency it's pretty clear where he landed. And in that capacity, intentional or not, Charles Krauthammer delivered.
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