President Bush has threatened to veto legislation aimed at loosening US goverment restrictions on stem cell research.
I don’t know enough specifics of this bill to say too much about it. That said, if Bush chooses this issue for his first veto in 4 and a half years, that really says something about his priorities. Federal spending is so bloated that it threatens the economy and the signature of his Presidency, the tax cuts, but Bush has never vetoed a spending bill. Bush is pro-trade, but has knuckled under to liberalism on the trade issue on several occasions. There seems to be a willingness to compromise with liberalism on economic issues coupled with an extreme hardline on those social issues most important to the most extreme elements of the hardcore Christian right. The irony is that this isn’t an issue where all social conservatives, all Christian conservatives or even all pro-life conservatives agree with the President’s stance. Many of us agree with Senator Hatch’s statement that “Stem cell research facilitates life.” And Orrin Hatch is about as conservative and pro-life as they come. (Of course, I realize that to the extremist Christians, Mormons aren’t Christians, so Hatch doesn’t count. On the other hand, they also think all Catholics are going to Hell, but they will hold hands with Catholics to pass laws they like.)
This isn’t about any kind of ideological purity, or perhaps it is about an overabundance of it. It’s about the administration feeling utterly beholden to one group of activists but repeatedly ignoring the rest of the people who got them elected. If they (Bush, Rove, Cheney, whoever) care at all about electing a conservative or even Republican successor, they need to wake up and realize that while the Christian right was important in their election, the Christian right alone is not enough. And the extreme Luddite know-nothing Christian right that would throw away frozen embryos (leaving them just as dead) rather than allow them to be used in research is such a slim margin of society that unless they are going to vote their dead, they aren’t relevant.
I fully expect the President to pick his battles. I’m also not surprised to see him fight on this issue, though I think he needs to listen to some of the reasonable arguments made by pro-life, pro-science people like Hatch. The problem I have is that he has not made a serious attempt to deal effectively on core economic issues since the tax cuts. With the exception of the highway bill, there hasn’t been a veto threat on a spending bill and with 89 Senators voting for that bill a veto will be purely symbolic. On trade issues, there have been bilateral trade agreements, but all the public attention has gone to raising tariffs or enforcing quotas, perhaps winning battles but ceding the rhetorical war to the “fair trade” crowd.
Social Security is somewhat of an exception, but there the devil is in the details of “private accounts” that would be limited to government approved investments.
To be fair, the tax cuts were incredible. They were one of two defining features of the Bush Presidency and will have made it worth voting for him regardless of anything else. To some extent the expectations from the tax cuts are the issue, seeing them and taking that as a signal of an administration serious about pro-growth policies. To see so little since is disappointing.