Friday, June 11, 2004


Well, it doesn't say that literally, but how else would you characterize William Clark's attack op-ed in today's New York Times, which begins this way:

Ronald Reagan had not passed from this life for 48 hours before proponents of human embryonic stem-cell research began to suggest that such ethically questionable scientific work should be promoted under his name.

Granted, Nancy hasn't spoken publicly on stem-cell research this week, and her name never appears in Clark's op-ed, but she's the best-known supporter of this research, and here's Clark calling it "ethically questionable." This op-ed, following closely on the Washington Post story "Stem Cells An Unlikely Therapy for Alzheimer's," suggests that, far from being consumed with grief, the Right has a rapid-response team working in a war room somewhere to thwart Nancy and other supporters of this research.

Clark's op-ed is nasty and dishonest. He says that "Ronald Reagan's record reveals that no issue was of greater importance to him than the dignity and sanctity of all human life." Really? More important than defeating the commies, destroying the Sandinistas, getting Star Wars funded, using the tax code to line the pockets of the rich? Clark says Reagan "did what he could" to defend the unborn. So why was his first Supreme Court nominee a woman denounced at the time by the Religious Right as insufficiently hard-line on abortion? And what major anti-abortion legislation did he risk political capital to fight for?

What you and I think of as government funding of research on deadly and debilitating diseases, Clark calls "picking the people's pocket to support commercial research" -- as if fighting Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, ALS, and other diseases is just a big scheme to make a fortune. He says Reagan would have "questioned" the appropriateness of such pocket-picking -- suggesting that Reagan categorically rejected the notion that government should fund scientific research. (Even Reagan never went that far.) And he says,

if human embryonic research is so clearly promising as the researchers assert, why aren't private investors putting money into it, as they are in adult stem cell research?

-- ignoring the fact that they are putting money into such reasearch (though, inevitably, not as much as government could).

You know, if Clark isn't even holding his fire until the body is buried, then things could get really ugly. It's hard to imagine Nancy would pick a fight with the GOP in an election year, but who knows? She may think she won't be pressured to recant, but if there's a fight between the GOP's biggest pressure group and the wife of the party's principal saint, the wife will lose.

UPDATE: A little update on the issue Clark says was so important to Reagan -- as the Mahablog points out,

In 1967, as governor of California, "circumstances" inspired Reagan to sign the most liberal abortion law of the times, allowing freedom of choice during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. This was six years before [the Supreme Court] decided Roe v. Wade.

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