Yesterday’s announced breakthrough on stem-cell research is obviously good news for medicine, public health, and scientific advancements. The Bush White House, which has stood in the laboratory door for seven years, suddenly feels justified.
[N]ow that scientists in Japan and Wisconsin have apparently achieved what Mr. Bush envisioned, the White House is saying, “I told you so.”
Indeed, presidential aides were so proud of themselves yesterday, they insisted that Bush drove the breakthrough experiments by claiming some ambiguous moral standard. “This is very much in accord with the president’s vision from the get-go,” said Karl Zinsmeister, a Bush domestic policy adviser. “I don’t think there’s any doubt that the president’s drawing of lines on cloning and embryo use was a positive factor in making this come to fruition.”
Look, we should all be really pleased by yesterday’s news, and the scientific advancements offer hope for life-saving medical research. But for the White House to suggest that Bush deserves some kind of credit for the progress is nonsense. In fact, the opposite is true.
One of the researchers involved in yesterday’s reports said the Bush restrictions may have slowed discovery of the new method, since scientists first had to study embryonic cells to find out how to accomplish the same thing without embryos.
“My feeling is that the political controversy set the field back four or five years,” said James Thomson, who led a team at the University of Wisconsin and who discovered human embryonic stem cells in 1998.