Senate candidate Michael Steele’s campaign has a new ad out featuring his sister, who seeks to rebut an opponent’s ad (one of those starring Michael J. Fox) attacking him on stem cell research. According to the sister, who reveals that she herself suffers from MS, the other ad falsely claims Steele is opposed to such research, when he in fact supports it. Glenn Reynolds calls the commercial “hard-hitting,” while Captain’s quarters dubs it “devestating.”
Just one question: Precisely how stupid do these guys think that we, and voters, are? The Fox commercial says that, like president Bush, Steele would “put limits on the most promising stem-cell research,” which is true. Steele’s campaign says this is misleading, because Steele favors adult stem cell research, and embryonic stem cell research that wouldn’t destroy embryos—which would be a wonderfully convenient way to take this debate off the table, if scientists had found a way to do that successfully. Well, but so what? Everybody supports that kind of research. The whole stem cell debate is only about embryonic stem cell research, which at this point means research that destroys very-early-stage embryos. So this rebuttal is like claiming your dovish opponent “supported the war,” by which you mean “World War II.” It’s true… if you ignore every common-sense assumption an ordinary viewer makes about the referent of “the war.”
So it’s really the rebuttal that’s a bit of clumsy misdirection; the original claim that Steele, who once compared embryonic stem-cell research to the Holocaust, would limit some of the most promising research is perfectly accurate. Incidentally, those of you wondering why a libertarian gets at all exercised about limits on federal funding for science research might want to take a peek at this old post. Short version: In a world where government funding for research is pervasive, a ban on both direct and indirect funding will, in practice, deter labs who accept any government funding from doing embryonic stem-cell research, since it’s hard to hermetically seal resources used for different projects.