Michelle Cottle will blog for Beliefnet during the week of July 18. Cottle has been a Senior Editor at The New Republic since 1999. She was previously an editor for The Washington Monthly and has done freelance commentary and writing for PBS, CNN, The New York Times, Slate, and The Atlantic Monthly, among others. She is also a regular contributor to Time magazine.

Specter Sneaks in Stem Cell Bill

Today I want to give a quick shout out to Republican Sen. Arlen Specter. Fed up with the Senate's refusal to vote on a bill that would loosen the Bush White House's restrictive policy on stem cell research, the honorable gentleman from Pennsylvania has threatened to break the impasse by tacking the bill onto an appropriations measure for the Department of Health and Human Services.

Now, I've heard all the stem-cell-related concerns about devaluing life and treating embryos as nothing more than raw materials. But until religious conservatives start seriously acknoweldging the moral issues involved with the eye-popping overproduction of fertilized eggs produced by IVF treatments in this country, I don't want to hear anything about the depravity of using those excess eggs--the vast majority of which will never wind up in a nice warm womb--for important research that could relieve the suffering of millions. You go, Arlen.

A Silver Lining

Yesterday's transit explosions in London were awful, and it's easy to see how they would frighten folks into thinking that such events are going to become a regular part of life. But on some level, the terrorists' abject failure to repeat the carnage of July 7 is also reassuring. (Zero casualties. One injury. Minimal damage.) It's nice to be reminded that these blood-thirsty nutters aren't all great sinister masterminds who can wreak widespread death and destruction whenever they please. Some of them are terrified losers who just drop their defective bombs and flee. While scary and disruptive, this latest episode gives you the sense that this particular batch of would be-butchers are incompetent boobs.

Sharon's Big Risks

I also want to give a shout out to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Say what you will about his past politics, the guy seems to standing tough on this Gaza pullout--going so far as to float the possibility of accelerating the evacuation in the face of mass protests and carloads of settler-sympathizers sneaking into the area to disrupt the process. One journalist keeping a close eye on the process commented to me this morning that he wouldn't be surprised if Sharon got himself shot over this. ("How do you protect the Israeli prime minister from the Israeli people?") God, what an awful thought. We can only pray that Sharon is all-too-aware of this possibility and is taking every precaution imaginable.

A Democratic Victory?

Maybe the Dems are approaching this whole Supreme Court nomination the wrong way. Instead of looking so disappointed that John Roberts seems too reasonable to aggressively oppose, why not declare victory? Say that, of course Bush was going to pick a conservative, as is his right, but that clearly he knew that the majority of the country did not want--and Democrats would not stand for--a firebreathing right-winger ala Scalia.

It may well be that Roberts later turns out to be a winger. But, for now, claiming to have scored points on the President would be better for the Dems than just sitting around looking confused and dejected. Plus, it would drive the conservative groups crazy.

Spotlight on Rove

And finally, because it's Friday and I just can't help myself: the Karl Rove madness. The one glaring flaw in Bush's Supreme Court announcement this week is that the nominee isn't generating nearly enough partisan heat to keep the spotlight from drifting back to the leak story. This latest wave of reports about the classified State Department memo floating around Air Force One in the days just before the leak--with the information about Valerie Plame's status as a CIA agent clearly labeled as secret--has Washington all atwitter about whether Loose-Lips Karl's legal fortunes just took a turn for the worse.