It took more than five years and 1,130 bills, but President Bush is finally on the board with his first-ever veto. Given he was zero for his last 1,130, you can’t blame the guy for looking to hit a homerun with that first veto. Hurled at legislation that aimed to reduce federal barriers to embryonic stem-cell research, the veto did just that, putting up one big run for nonsensical benightedness and polarizing bigotry – not to mention leaving potentially life-saving research in a deep hole to climb out from.
Though this was Bush’s first official veto, he’s no stranger to turning his back on legislation after signing it. In a column posted on the website FindLaw.com at the beginning of the year, former White House counsel to President Nixon John W. Dean – naturally a man who ought to know a thing or two about the abuses of executive power – cited a rather enlightening tally. According to Philip Cooper, an expert on presidential signing statements, wrote Dean, President Bush appended signing statements to 107 different bills he signed into law during his first term.
The signing statement – a traditionally rare executive tactic used to defang legislation the president opposes but cannot veto without losing face – has thus always been Bush’s unofficial veto. But could he simply defang legislation that would open up for federal funds for research that the majority of scientists and Democrats, and even a good number of House and Senate Republicans, deem vital? Of course not. Crucial, bipartisan, common-sense legislation should be shot down outright.
Embryonic stem-cell research is a vital part of the future of productive health science research, one that has been unnecessarily and dangerously suffocated by prohibitive federal – and in Michigan’s case, state – laws. Bush and his supporters (surprisingly few, though they include Michigan gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos), claim that the benefits of stem-cell research can be fully extracted by researching only adult stem cells and existing embryonic lines (never mind that they’re contaminated), thereby eliminating the need to, as they see it, “destroy life” by using human embryos obtained from places like fertility clinics. But the vast majority of such embryos would otherwise be discarded, so why not study them and potentially develop cures for debilitating diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s? We’re baffled.
Senator Arlen Spector (R-Pa.), former First Lady Nancy Reagan, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-Calif.) and 50 Republican members of the U.S. House aren’t so sure either; they support embryonic stem-cell research despite the incessant misguided and shallow rhetoric of the religious right. Sure, the president could listen to them – or the plurality of the scientists and vast majority of Democrats – but it wouldn’t be the Bush White House be if irrationality, closed-mindedness and divisiveness didn’t rule the day.