Does Senator Frist Have Principles?

Well, we've lost Senator Bill Frist. Frist has not only broken with President Bush's limitations on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research but he is now also speaking gibberish.

What on earth does the good senator mean when he argues that pouring more money towards new scientific advances will help "bridge the moral and ethical differences" of the stem cell issue? Since when do scientific advances bridge moral and ethical gaps? Beats me.

Ramesh Ponnuru also notices the Fribberish: "Re-read one of the lines in Frist's speech: '[Embryonic stem-cell research] should advance in a manner that affords all human life dignity and respect -- the same dignity and respect we bring to the table as we work with children and adults to advance the frontiers of medicine and health.' If it's going to be 'the same dignity and respect,' does that mean we're going to carve up, and kill, children and adults whenever there's a chance to make a medical advance?"

Wesley J. Smith, one of the most prolific and astute writers on the subject of embryonic stem cell research, is "not in the least surprised" by Frist's new position (and, in fact, Smith implies that it's not such a deviation from Frist's old position):

"Four years ago [Frist] stated he favored federal funding ESCR on condition that only leftover embryos from IVF treatments be used to derive the stem cell lines.

"But Frist's support for increased funding for ESCR was not supposed to be a stand-alone proposal. Rather, Frist envisioned the (then proposed) federal funding of ESCR as one part of an overarching federal policy that the good senator humbly labeled the 'Frist Principles.' Under the Frist Principles funding of ESCR was to be joined with the outlawing of all human cloning. In other words, Frist advocated trading greater funding for ESCR in return for a total ban on human somatic cell nuclear.

"One can agree or disagree with that position. But by explicitly not conditioning his support for expanded federal funding of ESCR with the passage of a cloning ban, Frist has surrendered his own supposed principles."

Without a personality transplant, the heart and lung transplant doc was probably never going to be president. This makes that just about certain. It ruins Frist with the all-important religious right, though it wins plaudits from Democrats. Whoopee.

Sizing Up the Debate

Speaking of embryonic stem cell research, Mona Charen says there is a battle between Democrats and Republicans that might be answered by science:

"[T]he argument we are engaged in concerns whether it is moral or ethical to use normal, fully functioning human embryos as mere research material. If we can produce embryonic stem cells some other way, we will be able to obtain the full benefits of medical research using these cells (bearing in mind that the potential for cures has been wildly oversold by advocates) without transgressing important moral boundaries. ...

"Advocates of unrestricted embryo destruction make two principal arguments; first, that 400,000 embryos left over from fertility treatments are going to be thrown away anyway, and second, that an embryo is not a human being because it is extremely tiny.

"As to the first argument, the RAND Law and Health Initiative examined the matter and found that while nearly 400,000 embryos remain frozen in fertility clinics around the nation, only about 11,000 of these have been designated for medical research. The vast majority are held for future family building. Of those 11,000, only about 65 percent would survive the thawing process, resulting in 7,334 embryos. Only about 25 percent of those would likely develop to the blastocyst stage, and even fewer would be able to produce stem cells. Honest proponents of embryonic research admit that cloning of embryos would probably be necessary to obtain the optimum number of stem cell lines.