Many people are doubtful of claims now being made by liberal Democrats regarding global warming, health care and reducing the budget deficit. They are skeptical because we have been down this path before.
The utopian rhetoric of the Democratic Party’s left wing has not been based on facts, and it often results in real harm to taxpayers. For example, there has been tremendous hype concerning global warming and this was especially true in Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth.”
It has now been documented that many of Gore’s claims were grossly exaggerated. The movie graphics show cities being flooded and sea levels rising by 20 feet, while the UN IPCC was predicting a modest rise of 8 inches over 100 years, and even that is doubtful.
Another issue tremendously hyped by liberals concerns federal funding for embryonic-stem-cell research (ESCR). As usual, the debate has been about politics and has little to do with science. President Obama signed an executive order last March reversing the Bush administrations ban on research related to embryonic stem cells.
In August of 2001, President George W. Bush barred the National Institutes of Health from funding research on embryonic stem cells beyond the 60 cell lines which existed at that time. Bush was advised to do this because embryonic stem cells are known to cause cancer and brain tumors, and they require the permanent use of dangerous immunosuppressive drugs. Their genetic programming does not work in adults.
Nine years have passed so this is an excellent time to review the track record. Actually, if you count research using animal embryos, the data goes back to 1981. To date, no one has been successfully treated because of embryonic-stem-cell research.
The claims made about the potential immediate benefits of ESC were described as fairy tales by many prominent scientists and researchers, but they were an excellent political issue which helped Democrats capture the center in 2004, 2006 and 2008. The left wing started to focus on ESCR after a 2004 Mark Mellman poll for the Democratic National Committee demonstrated that 70% of the American people supported increased funding for stem cell research.
The Democrats made science a political issue and it was at the forefront of Sen. John Kerry’s (D-MA) 2004 challenge to Bush’s re-election. The leading spokesman for the Democrats was the actor Michael J. Fox, who is suffering from Parkinson’s disease. He frequently implied that there would be immediate progress if federal funding was obtained.
Fox is best known for the “Family Ties” and “Spin City” television series, and the “Back to the Future” movies. He was a star at many events for liberal candidates in 2004 and that year’s Democratic convention was addressed by Ronald Reagan, Jr., the son of the then recently deceased GOP President. He was given a prime time speaking slot.
The young Reagan said Republicans were cruel to deny sick people treatments because of “theological objections.” He said this “may be the greatest medical breakthrough in our or any lifetime – the use of embryonic stem cells.” These cells could “cure a wide range of fatal and debilitating illnesses: Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, lymphoma, spinal cord injuries, and much more.”
Rep. James R. Langevin (D-RI) introduced Reagan by saying taxpayer subsidies for ESCR would make him walk again. Langevin has been paralyzed from the waist down since the age of 16 when he was seriously injured in an accidental shooting.
Then Senator John Edwards (D-NC), the 2004 vice presidential nominee, said on October 11th of that year: “If we do the work that we can do in this country, the work that we will do when John Kerry is president, people like Christopher Reeve are going to walk — get up out of that wheelchair and walk again.”
Senator Kerry said President Bush “turned his back on science” at a time when “millions of lives” are stake. A national Kerry TV ad stated: “It’s time to lift the political barriers blocking the stem cell research that could treat or cure diseases like Parkinson’s.” The Bay State Senator said “We stand at the next frontier, but instead of leading the way, we’re stuck on the sidelines. The majority of the American people support stem cell research, and it’s high time we had a president of the United States who does, too. We can’t afford any more stubborn refusal to face the facts.”
Once again, Michael J. Fox was always in the spotlight. He made numerous campaign appearances and was featured in TV ads for successful Senate candidates Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ). A typical Michael Fox TV ad is below:
FOX: As you might know, I care deeply about stem cell research. In Maryland, you can elect Ben Cardin, who shares my hope for cures. Stem cell research offers hope to millions of Americans with diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. But George Bush and Michael Steele would put limits on the most promising stem cell research. They say all politics is local, but that’s not always the case. What you do in Maryland matters to millions of Americans, Americans like me.
CARDIN: I’m Ben Cardin, and I approve this message.”
Republican candidates were never against stem cell research. The first break through happened in 1957, and the first president to fund this research was George W. Bush. You would never know that if you listened to the 2004 and 2006 TV ads. The GOP fully supported funding for adult stem cell and cord blood research, but they wanted embryonic stem cell support to be within moral and ethical limits.
Embryonic stem cell researcher Ron McKay of the National Institutes of Health said the idea that stem cells would offer hope for Alzheimer’s patients was a “fairy tale.” Dr. Mehmet Oz appeared with Fox on the Oprah Winfrey show and demonstrated why ESCR would not be useful for Parkinson’s patients.
John Kerry lost the 2004 election but the ESCR campaign culminated in passage of California’s Proposition 71. This allowed the state to borrow $3 billion for ESCR. A California Institute for Regenerative Medicine was established, and now after five years of research there have been no cures, no therapies and little progress. They were established to focus 100% of their work on ESCR, but now this has been largely abandoned.
Other ESCR advocates are at last embracing research on adult stem cells which they once opposed. As I indicated, ESCR has been a highly effective issue for Democrats. Survey research indicates that similar to global warming, ESCR helped them attract significant support from independent voters, and they successfully portrayed Republican candidates as insensitive and uncaring.
The Bush Administration maintained that ESC were not a productive area of research because their nature is to reproduce rapidly to form a whole new human being. Even if they did cure a disease, the person would still have to worry about lethal side effects. There were also moral concerns because many people saw the destruction of an embryo as the ending of a human life.
Bush spoke of religious groups who were opposed to ESCR because it involved the destruction of human embryos, which they claim have a right to life. The Catholic Church vigorously opposes ESCR and Pope Benedict XVI said the destruction of human embryos to harvest stem cells is “not only devoid of the light of God but is also devoid of humanity” and “does not truly serve humanity.”
Researchers were later able to reprogram adult skin cells to act like embryonic stem cells which ended the moral concerns. There is no longer any need for a program that focuses only on embryonic stem cells, which is what the liberals were seeking.
Furthermore, the Bush restrictions were only on federal funding of stem cell lines which required the sacrifice of new embryos. Private and state funding was allowed, and considerable research has taken place overseas. The claim that research on new embryos was the most promising has never been supported by evidence.
Republicans tend to be pro-life, and that is why they favor stem cell research. They believe in saving human life, and they want cures to be found. That is why the Bush Administration provided funding for adult stem cell research which did not involve the moral concerns of working with embryos.
The focal point for the Bush administration was adult stem cells which have been successfully used since 1957, and they have cured some cancers. They are now being used to treat 83 different diseases.
They have been used to rebuild livers damaged by otherwise irreversible cirrhosis. Adult stem cells from nasal passages have been used to repair spinal cord injuries, and Type 1 diabetes in mice has been treated by using adult spleen cells. They have also put Crohn’s disease into remission and they have repaired heart attack damage.
The Bush Administration emphasized that it was best to concentrate on adult stem cells because they had a track record of not being rejected by a patients body while ESC often cause rejection and multiply uncontrollably similar to a cancer.
The hype of the past campaigns has now died down. The groups which once fought only for ESCR have now shifted to adult stem cells where there is universal agreement on their value. Unlike the past, science will hopefully not be a political issue in the 2010 campaign.