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May 30, 2005


Likely the Washington news will be best followed in the local papers this week until Congress is back. In the meantime, check in with the weathermen (like Fineman) to see which way the wind blows.

I’m wondering if we haven’t just witnessed a turning point in politics. Years from now, when we look back on the “Gang of 14” deal, will we see it as the moment when the tide of conservative Republicanism crested?

Fineman wrote about what a disaster Condi's testimony to the 9/11 commission was, only to reverse himself within a week when no one else would get on board. So it's interesting that it's been a full week and he hasn't yet shifted.
Bill Frist has already been buffeted by both parties. But if he thought that was tough, wait till he tries to navigate the thorny politics of stem-cell research.

I'll keep saying it until it happens. Stem cells threaten to be the fundie's Waterloo.

Stem cells will be piggybacking on Terry Schiavo -- the former reinforcing the latter as the Road to Damascus moment for moderates, when they realized (or were forced to admit) their hopes for a return to the center in the GOP is ever more wishful.

It rather amazes me that people harp on the impact of Bush's falling numbers today, but don't deal with how weak he was on Election Day. 50.4% in a two-man race is just a terribly weak place from which to begin a second term (ask Harry Truman); only the modest GOP Congressional gains (forged from some paper-thin results in the Senate, and the outrageous re-redistricting in the House) created the illusion that conservatism had gained in the country (and we know that Dems actually moved upward in state legislatures). I think Fineman's flip is fine a far as conventional wisdom goes, and if it means a reduction in right-wing media sway, I'll take that. But, in my opinion, the conservative tide crested some time ago, and it's been clinging to (or marginally gaining) power through tactical rather than persuasive means.

Stem cells, in addition to its other virtues as an issue, presents in stark relief the hypocrisy of the GOP's misappropriation of "culture of life." Especially the counterpoint of Specter and Brownback. It's like the opposition of the Righteous Right (I like that term) to the HPV vaccine.

Another interesting point will be the Italian referendum on their law restricting fertility treatments pushed through by Berlusconi and the Catholic Church. It is the logical extension of the Bush stem cell position. It limits the ability of married couples to use IVF because it requires the destruction of embryos, and requires that after fertilization, ALL of the (3 at a time) embryos must be implanted. It prohibits IVF for unmarried couples, gays and women over chilbearing age. Once again, it is a triumph of religious belief over womens's health and people's choices. So much for the "culture of life" and "family values."

Latest from Gallup:

George W. Bush Approval Rating
Most Recent Rating: 2005 May 23-26
48% Approve
47% Disapprove

"State of the Country" Satisfaction Rating
Most Recent: 2005 May 23-26
41% Satisfied
55% Dissatisfied

Economic Confidence Ratings
Most Recent: 2005 May 23-26
40% Excellent/Good
60% Only fair/Poor

I may not be feeling their pain, but I am certainly enjoying it. :)

-- Rick Robinson

Last week, in reporting the Stem Cell debate and vote, CBS introduced an issue that has not been widely discussed, but should be. The Reporter (on the evening news) made the point that if Stem Cell Research is publicly financed and regulated, then the "ownership" of the end product belongs to the public -- but it the research and development process is entirely in private hands, then access to the "cures" or whatever is developed is totally a market commodity -- charge as much as you want without reseriction or regulation.

I am not sure of how black and white this is -- but it is an issue that should be raised, and raised as a public policy matter. Could it be that the "objections" of the Religious Right really are being used for the utility of making the "process" of stem cell work, and the "product" of the research something only for the rich? If you debate this in the context of Juvenile Onset Diabetes, for instance, you can make a lovely case for allowing economic status of parents be the "discriminator" in healthy versus problematic life.

In otherwords -- public funded research puts the outcome into the commons -- privately funded research makes the outcome a costly commodity. I think you can have lots of fun with the moral rights and wrongs of this.

Truly excellent point, Sara. Alas, this is not a black and white issue, as you note. For example:

1. public funds for research (think AIDS drugs) often wind up profiting private enterprises
2. state funding in CA, MA, NJ, CT etc should in theory make this public domain
3. Harvard's Stem Cell joint is privately funded. What if it's shared research?

Nonetheless, there's an advantage for us if it is presented and seen (and IS - we're not frank Luntz) as for the public common good.

Speaking of Brownback, did anybody happen to catch any of this wonderful piece George Will penned for Newsweek (? - don't know the exact source, as its from a Kos diary).

Here are some of the money grafs:

Brownback says that what Robertson did in a few states 17 years ago, the president's re-election campaign did nationwide last year. So Brownback's plan for 2008 is to reprise his 1996 experience, when he capitalized on Robertson's work. In 2008, he plans to build upon the "tens of millions of dollars'' the Bush campaign spent to mobilize evangelical Christians. "They didn't go away'' after the election, he says.

Brownback says opposition to same-sex marriages has "broadened the movement'' of social conservatism. However, opposition to abortion is still the movement's molten core. He insists there is a pro-life majority--a majority opposed to abortion other than in cases of rape or incest or when it is necessary to save the mother's life. And he says the youngest voters, ages 18 to 25, are the most pro-life cohort. They were born, he says, when abortion rates were highest, so "many of them feel they're the survivors of a holocaust: one in four of their compatriots are not here.'' Actually, almost one in three: the abortion rate peaked in 1983 at 30.4 percent.

I don't know whether to be scared or glad. If Brownback does attempt something like this, it will be very bad for the GOP's 2008 prospects. But then again, that thing about the "holocaust" is a bit freaky.

Ben P

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