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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, July 20, 2006

Leaders must answer for stem cell decision

Just what President Bush hopes to accomplish with his veto of the embryonic stem cell research bill is open for debate.

Some will say that he fervently believes fertility clinics sacrificing unwanted embryos for research represents crossing a moral line on the use of living tissue.

Others say it's all politics, that the president has painted himself into a corner by proclaiming repeatedly his intent to veto the bill. His conservative base, they add, would see capitulation as weakness and a failure of commitment.

It's likely that both are true to some extent. When members of his own party have broken away to support the bill, partisan politics is clearly not the only agenda.

Regardless, the president has clung to his stated convictions beyond all reason. The frozen cells targeted for use by scientists are routinely destroyed in any case. Where was all this concern for the humanity of the embryos up to this point?

The value of this research to medicine is immeasurable, and many in that scientific community fear that the U.S. will fall behind in this field, as it has in other technological sectors. Hopes for progress in the fight against many diseases should not be dashed at a point so close to breakthrough. American society should not have to wait in limbo for another presidential election when time is so precious, particularly for those with life-threatening ailments for which stem cell research holds such promise.

Sadly, Congress could not muster the two-thirds vote needed for an override. The voters now must hold their failed leaders accountable for turning their backs on those whose suffering might have been abated through research. It won't be long before more sensible minds will prevail.

It's distressing that Bush chose to draw his line in the sand, his first presidential veto, over this issue. It underscores a policy that's seriously out of step with the wishes of the electorate and our most promising scientists.

The rest of the nation doesn't need to follow him over this particular cliff.