This close to an election, it's rare that one partyled by the presidenthands the other party an issue on a silver platter. Yet the president's veto this weekagainst increased funding for embryonic stem cell research, approved by a majority of both houses of Congressdoes just that. Imagine this: A majority of the American public wants this kind of research, as do an increasing number of GOP candidatesincluding big names like Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Sen. John McCainbut the president can't seem to get off the dime and change his position from August 2001. At that time, he said federal money could go only to stem cells already in existence.
Of course, as it turns out, those stem cell lines have not panned out as hoped. I spoke with George Daley of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, who is working with some of the original stem cell linesthey call them "presidential" lines because they were sanctioned by Bushand he says they are behaving "bizarrely," almost as if they have some genetic defect. So that's not going to help much with potential cures for diseases like diabetes and Parkinson's.
As for the GOP base, sure, this veto could helpbut probably not as much as you think. Everyone knows someone who could be helped by a robust federal funding program for embryonic stem cell research. And while the pro-life question still has salience with some, there are many pro-lifers (including prominent senators like Frist or Orrin Hatch of Utah) who say: We're pro-life, and since these embryos frozen in in-vitro clinics are going to be thrown away anyway, what about really saving lives? And, as it turns out, the president's position that this is a moral line he refuses to cross is not the majority position even within his own partyand suburbanites really disagree with him.
So will this be an issue in the fall? Only where the Democrats raise itand they will. Just watch.