Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Esch Stem Cell Gymnastics

My initial reaction when I heard that Jim Esch had switched back to opposing destruction of embryos for stem cell research was: Hurrah, the prodigal son has returned to the fold on stem cell research. I was about to call my Dad and tell him to put the brakes on the Catholic outreach program for the Lee Terry campaign. But after reading about it in the newspaper, I'm puzzled.

Why didn't Jim announce this in a press conference? He's criticizing Lee Terry for allegedly misrepresenting the record. There's nothing in the record about Jim changing his position.

I had heard that the Esch campaign was telling people that the stem cell research problem had been "resolved." I had seen Jim a couple times at events in recent months, but he didn't say anything about it. I didn't bring it up because I didn't want to press what I thought was a point of disagreement with a friend.

I went to the Esch campaign web site: "I believe one can be both pro-life and pro-research. I will support ways to unlock the potential of stem cell research that is ethical and does not destroy human life."

Couldn't tell from that, so I e-mailed Joe Sibilia, Jim's communications director, at 10:27 a.m. Aug. 22 to ask if Jim had changed his position. No reply.

I follow this issue closely and I didn't know of the change. Why didn't Jim go on the record and explain himself instead of slipping it into a debate and then complaining about his position being misrepresented?

It seems like he didn't want to say it unless he felt he had to. I think I know why. A news story says Jim now rejects destruction of embryos because there are alternatives. Does that mean that if there were no alternatives, he would still be saying yes to destruction of embryos?

On pro-life issues, I tell candidates and office holders to search their consciences and then pick a hole and run through it. Don't dance. Don't juke. Don't try to please everybody -- you'll just aggravate everybody.

Trying to get by with "I'm against abortion" doesn't cut it in the 21st century. The pro-life litmus test is stem cell research.

If you think it's OK to destroy embryos, then hit that hole hard. There are plenty of people and organizations and big donors ready to block for you.

If you believe human life begins at the beginning, at fertilization, then you can't be for destruction of embryos for research. There's not as much money on the pro-life side, but there are people who will block for you and help advance your message.

And anyway, as I said, it's an issue on which you search your conscience and then go for it.

Jim seems to be trying to run through two holes at once, like a running back trying to avoid contact. You're going to face contact whichever way you go on this issue. If you try to straddle two holes, you'll just get splattered. Choose your hole, follow your blocking, and hit that hole hard.

Jim seems to be saying: I'm not one of those "extremists" who believe embryos are human beings, but let's not destroy embryos now that alternatives are moving forward so quickly.

At first blush that has a nice, moderate ring to it. But I don't know if it will satisfy people who care about this issue.

People who favor embryo-destructive research are giving a polite nod to the breakthroughs Jim mentioned -- and then insisting that destruction of embryos continue. People on my side would prefer less political maneuvering back and forth on the issue and more of a clear statement of principle.

If Jim Esch goes to Congress, there will be people screaming in his face -- perhaps literally -- to stop denying hope to suffering children. There will be people offering campaign dollars to "see the light" on embryo-destructive research. The Democratic Party leadership will be all over him. Certainly a President Obama will lean on him. Perhaps even a President McCain will do so.

Imagine how hard the University of Nebraska Medical Center will lobby a rookie representative -- from UNMC's district! -- to come around on embryo-destructive research. Don't worry, we have the financial and political clout to protect you back home. It will be a net gain for you.

It's probably a relatively small percentage of voters who care about this issue, but it might be a bloc that could decide the race. Pro-life voters will be looking for the political running back they believe will run through the pro-life hole no matter what.

1 comment:

OmaSteak said...

Since Esch...a complete joke of a candidate not matter what party...labeled all pro-life people as "extremists" in a published interview with the ultra-leftie New Nebraska Network blog, this sounds like a desperate losing candidate trying anything now just to get some media attention. Esch was on KFAB yesterday with Becka...who hates Lee Terry...and couldn't even give a single reasonable answer to Becka's softballs and leading questions on energy. How can this guy who has never held a job and only earned $14k last year...which is more than the rent on his condo...be taken seriously on anything? I just hope a serious conservative takes Terry on in the next primary...if you look up RINO, little Lee's photo is there.