Friday, June 03, 2005

Battle lines

A couple of weeks ago, I discussed the looming showdown between the president and Congressional Republicans over a bill that would authorize more federal funding for stem cell research. I questioned why die-hard opponents of stem cell research don't also oppose invitro fertilization, a process that routinely results in the disposal of extra embryos.

Well, it turns out that they do, and as William Saletan notes in Slate, the next clash in the abortion debate will take place over invitro fertilization:

Four years ago, when Bush first discussed stem-cell research, he remarked sympathetically that IVF "helps so many couples conceive children" and that some leftover embryos were "donated to science." He referred three times not to the embryo's "life" but to its "potential" for life. "Many people are finding that the more they know about stem cell research, the less certain they are about the right ethical and moral conclusions," he said.

Since then, Bush's language has hardened. Last week, he called IVF embryos "real human lives" just like "the lives of those with diseases that might find cures" through stem-cell research. Embryos were no longer being "donated to science" (pro-lifers hate the term "donate" since it implies generosity and property rights); according to the president, their parents had chosen to "turn them over for research that destroys them." Bush implicitly contrasted these parents with those who chose the "life-affirming alternative" of embryo adoption. On the House floor, Majority Leader Tom DeLay called embryonic stem-cell research "the dismemberment of living, distinct human beings." Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., called it "the slaughter of human life."

It's hard to see how people who think this way can go on tolerating the surplus creation, freezing, and disposal of millions of IVF embryos. If you think they'll leave it to you because you're the parent, you don't understand pro-lifers. They believe what DeLay and other House Republicans said last week: Embryos belong to "the human family." It takes more than you and your spouse to decide your embryo's fate. It takes a village.

You think politics in this country is ugly now? Just wait until the religious right starts telling childless couples they are actually killing babies by trying to have one. And I thought Bush was a uniter, not a divider.


Blogger djhlights said...

It will ultimately come down to money. Since the majority of couples who can even afford in-vitro fertilization are in a higher tax bracket I seriously doubt the GOP would cut off a source of funding over a pro-life stance.

They do nothing to stop the forced abortions in Siapan, an American territory, because the companies who make goods there need keep the women working so we can by clothes at the GAP. All for a Made in the USA label.

Why would this be any different?

6:54 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

That's a very salient point. But this could accelerate the inevitable split between religious conservatives and the moderate/libertarian wing of the GOP. That would be a good thing.

8:59 AM

Blogger djhlights said...

I do think a split of some sort is coming but who is really spliting?

Part of the problem is that the majority of that moderate mem that is pushed by the media regarding their darlings of the middle really is a giant load of crap.

I love how if you ask the majority of Americans to name a moderate republican they would name John McCain. You even hear some Democrats say they would vote for him because he's a moderate.

Moderate my ass!

This is the same guy who supported every item in Newt Gingrich's Contract with America.

McCain has voted to cut funding for toxic-waste cleanups, supported subsidies for mining on public lands, and favors reopening national forest lands to logging.

He voted against the Brady Bill in 1993. Voted for the articles of impeachment against Clinton. He has repeatedly voted against minimum-wage increases, equal pay for women, and the AFL-CIO considers him a reliable anti-union vote.

Plus he even voted against the Martin L. King holiday in Arizona.

If this is what a moderate is in todays GOP, what's the difference?

3:04 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

Moderate probably isn't the best term to use. But not every conservative is a religious conservative. I'd fight McCain on a lot of the issues you mentioned (not to mention the disasterous campaign finance law that bears his name) but I would feel much safer if he was representative of the modern GOP, and not Santorum or George W. Bush.

6:09 PM

Blogger djhlights said...

I understand your point that you would "feel safer," but I think there is a question we who clamor for “moderates” need to ask.

Yes, there are two segments of the GOP that are about to come to heads. Basically it is religious conservatives v the non-religious conservative and the place, role, power structure and agenda each want to pursue as a top priority. This split centers on the fact that the Christian Right wants their part of the pie now. I think we are on the same lines sensing that this will get quite ugly sooner rather than later.

The “moderate” GOP brought the conservative religious fundamentalists right beside them in order to get elected and can no longer control them. Just because a small segment now has regrets doesn't excuse them from the fact that they brought them into the fold in the first place.

I too would feel better if the split would actually knock some sense into the GOP and place us in a position when we can truly discuss the complex issues we now face and try and find an amicable solution. I just think that has as much chance of happening as my powerball ticket having the winning numbers.

What I think is getting lost is who has been setting the agenda so far.

The agenda of the non-religious conservative GOP has been in effect since Bush took office. It is that agenda that has placed us in the foreign policy situation we are in, uses international agreements when they are in their best interests and ignore them when they are not, transformed our nations progressive tax structure into a system biased towards the wealthy further expanding the gap between the have and have nots, consistently uses subterfuge when explaining or defending their actions, and consistently uses race, gender, and sexuality as a bridge to the fundamentalists in order to gain and keep political power.

Which is worse; the attack on science, culture, the arts, and individual liberties or the attack freedoms and ideals in which this nation was founded on and developed over 200 years as a republic?

Whether the face of the party is Santorum or Specter, both by their actions and their party’s actions have placed us in the situation we are in.

8:49 PM

Blogger Maria said...

I think that there are three main types of Republicans/Conservatives (with lots of crossover):

1. The Religious Right: Their top priority is to make the US a Christian theocracy. As they believe that the US is specially blessed by God, they have no problem with the US as an Empire that should rightly rule the world. A subset cares only about religion and these are the ones who will feel betrayed if something concrete isn't accomplished on abortion/gays/prayer in school/etc. The subset of this group that is lower and middle class will willingly vote against their own economic interests if they feel that their religious issues are being addressed.

2. US Empire: The Neocons who's real concern is ruling the world. They are willing to bust the budget if necessary to achieve their goals.

3. Don't Tax Me: Lowering taxes and decreasing the size of government is their true cause. They have mixed feelings about the Empire crowd because Empires cost money. Libertarians who are more concerned with taxes than with civil rights fall into this group.

The best chance for the Democrats:

1. A. Preventing Bush from satisfying the Religious Right so that they don't come out to vote. Rove was able to increase the number of RR that came out in 2004. He was able to register people who hadn't voted in the past. Curbing the RR agenda will suppress this vote. They already felt betrayed when Bush announced right after being elected that an antigay marriage proposal was not going to top his list.

B. The subset of this group where Bush also made some inroads was in the minority community. Kerry didn't seem able to connect with African Americans or Latinos. If your church is telling you to vote Republican and you can't connect with the Democratic candidate, then where is your incentive to ignore your pastor/priest? We need a candidate who can connect with this group.

2. Constantly remind the Rockefeller/Heinz Republicans that you can't trust the Neocons with your money. Hammer them and the Libertarians with the Neocon's Big Government agenda/civil rights curtailments.

4:07 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The agenda of the non-religious conservative GOP has been in effect since Bush took office. It is that agenda that has placed us in the foreign policy situation we are in, uses international agreements when they are in their best interests and ignore them when they are not" (...)

I've seen a few canards in my day, but this one must be placed near the top.

The so-called "neo-Conservative" argument for unipolar use of hegemonic American power is decidedly NOT a plank of the conservative movement.

If you recall a certain brief and untroubling air war over the Balkans during the Clinton administration, it was a group of former Scoop Jackson Democrats (led by Richard Perle, among others) advocating the use of American power to create a meaningful peace in Serbia's Kosovar region.

Clinton had the unenviable luck to be opposed by both far left Dems and nearly the entire GOP, led by Gingrich, not to mention the majority of the American public.

But he was right. And he should have used American sea and air power projection in Rwanda, too.

Perhaps just how wrong DJ is can be best illustrated in his unlikely ally in the war against the war. Richard M. Scaife's Tribune-Review editorialized BEFORE the Post-Gazette that international inspections should be allowed to take their course, and more coalition building should occur, before troops crossed into Iraq.

That's a conservative argument. Bush I understood it perfectly. Bush II has a much more radical, more Democratic (if you will) foreign policy, which is why he was supported by Clinton (both husband and wife).

If one reads Dissent regularly, you can see these sorts of fractures in the Left over the Iraq War. It's not the monolithic opposition Michael Moore or Howard Dean would lead you to believe.

Christopher Hitchens, as JP points out, is one of these making the intellectual argument that American power should be used, for humanitarian reasons, when other options fail.

I subscribe to that view -- as do the Clintons, Lieberman, et al -- but I have major problems with how Bush II has prosecuted this war, and wish Gore/Lieberman had been running the WoT, and not Bush/Cheney.

Rich, free-trading country club Republicans -- best exemplified by my father -- don't much like foreign adventures, unless they're part of a group.

You may now resume the debate.

12:46 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way, as much as I hate to say it, and as horrible as Bush has been as a Commander in Chief in Iraq, he's probably the better man for the job than Kerry.

Thanks, Iowa!

12:47 PM

Blogger djhlights said...

"I've seen a few canards in my day, but this one must be placed near the top.

The so-called "neo-Conservative" argument for unipolar use of hegemonic American power is decidedly NOT a plank of the conservative movement."

I never said it was!

The quote you pulled and I wrote was, ""The agenda of the non-religious conservative GOP has been in effect since Bush took office. It is that agenda that has placed us in the foreign policy situation we are in, uses international agreements when they are in their best interests and ignore them when they are not" (...)"

Is this or is this not the agenda of the Bush administration for the past 5 years and the platform of the GOP whether or not they are religious conservative? According to your post you agree with me.

My point, which you fail to grasp, is that the GOP allowing the neo-conservative viewpoint on global affairs become the platform of the party without any dissent from the so-called moderates or the conservative movement republicans means they are implicitly agreeing with it and support it.

Goldwater would be screaming from the rooftops if he were alive.

It has nothing to do with Clinton and the Balkans and that whole ball of talking points which takes us down a road that has nothing to do with the issue at hand.

The discussion is regarding the debate of issues within the modern GOP and whether there will be a split between the religious plank and the non. That includes the neo-conservative and the "true conservative" movement members of the party. I'm saying that there are no true conservatives left. Last time I checked Goldwater was dead and Alan Simpson is no longer a Senator. So for all of your argument that neo-conservatism is not the same as the conservative movement, who stands for the true "conservative" movement within the GOP and is vocal in their disagreement with the entire Bush Doctrine?

One other question for you anon. If you truly believe that a neo-conservative foreign policy which has been in place is detrimental to the conservative movement within the GOP, how can you say that continuing that same foreign policy is better than not? If it better than the alternative is it really that detrimental to the "conservative movement?"

And thanks Iowa for George H.W. Bush in 1980, Bob Dole in 1988, Dick Gephardt in 1988, and Tom Harkin in 1992 because the Iowa caucus always determines the winner of the primary.

3:50 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I should let cats or children or, at least, Pittsburgh Democrats take care of my light work, but I'll take this one, again.

"The agenda of the non-religious conservative GOP has been in effect since Bush took office. It is that agenda that has placed us in the foreign policy situation we are in, uses international agreements when they are in their best interests and ignore them when they are not."

Your point, if the English is correct, is that:

(1) the "non-religious conservative GOP" has a foreign policy, and that it's reflected in the Bush Doctrine of pre-emption and hegemonic use of American power project to affect political change in states that either support terrorism or could support terroristic attacks against the U.S. and our allies; and,

(2) A key component of this cabal of neo-conservative thought involves ignorning international conventions.

I would humbly submit that this most assuredly is at odds with the vast majority of conservatives, both elected and unelected, in the GOP.

I would humbly submit that Bush II's foreign policy is a radical departure from GOP norms and, if anything, is closer to the Clintonian doctrine as applied in Bosnia and Kosovo.

The Bush II doctrine has found favor on the prudently intellectual left (see Dissent, Hitchens, the Scoop Jackson outliers) and some -- but not most -- Republicans. Much of his strongest support has come from the religious right, but for cultural reasons that aren't really religious.

In a word, these peoples, demographically, are closer in makeup to the very troops giving battle today in Iraq and Afghanistan (religious, fairly well educated, middle class), which is to say they support the men in the field when their country goes to war, even though they rarely serve as boosters for such foreign adventures before the shooting starts.

If anything, most "mainline" conservatives veer toward the Powell or Skowcroft version of military use, not today's Rumsfeldian notion of applying power.

As for ignoring international "laws" or "procedures," one could make a decent living explaining why great powers have always used, or abused, international standards when applying power to global politics, to their great gain, realizing that smaller, weaker states forever seek to use these norms to contain the thrust and vitality of the major powers.

This does much to explain French and Russian trepidation in the UN Security Council (like Moscow asked for the UN's nod for the Chenya debacle or Paris for intervention in Cote D'Ivoire, unless, of course, they required U.S. help or approval).

Not that it makes any difference whether France or Russia or any other sovereign country would've wanted to help in Iraq anyway. They are toothless tigers, more stripe than fight, unable to project meaningful power for any great length of time.

Perhaps the U.S. should prove better at making Paris or Moscow or Berlin feel as if they are competent, strong, deserving military powers, but why fool ourselves?

The Arkansas National Guard could roll over France in an afternoon.

5:19 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way, DJ is correct about one thing: I also should thank Democratic primary voters in nearly every other state for giving us the worst candidate since McGovern.

Not only did John Forbes Kerry lose an election against the most beatable candidate since, well, his father, but he branded my party as a bunch of limp-wristed metrosexuals.

So much for Scoop Jackson, Daniel Inouye and Joe Lieberman. Now we have such brilliant military strategists as Michael Moore, Paul Krugman and Howard Dean influencing the party.

Great. Might was well surrender the next national election, too, unless Hillary runs. Odd that a chick has bigger balls than Dean, Moore and Krugman combined.

Says something about the party, if you ask me.

6:20 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

I'll throw this into the mix:

9:26 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a big fan of Marshall Wittman (a Hudson Institute fellow, no less!) -- who has been savaged by a great many Dems lately -- because he speaks the very real truth about the "electoral" center.

While he endorsed Kerry/Edwards last year, they tend to forget he started out as a Republican, and remains firmly in the tradition of Teddy Roosevelt and John McCain, the latter his former boss.

In other writings, he's explored the problem of weighting issues. Let me give you an example: Most Americans likely don't share GW's preoccupation with privatizing every sphere of federal government.

But in the last election, should that be weighted as more important than securing the nation from terrorists, reforming the military or killing the Iraqi insurgency?

Most Americans, despite their lack of lust for the prosecution of the war in Iraq, would still give Bush votes because he, better than the opposition, reflected where they want to go on defense issues.

That's why the DNC has a real problem when it comes to selecting presidential candidates through the primary process. What goes unremarked in the linked piece is that the U.S. Senate, unlike the House, is still a bastion of compromise.

It has to be because the margins are so tight, unlike the House, and because of a tradition -- frayed but still flapping -- of senators seeing themselves not through the prism of party loyalty, but of stewards of a great, compromising institution.

At this point someone is going to mention Frist and Santorum. And I'm going to respond, 'Yes, but it was a handful of GOP moderates who stepped up and made the compromise on federal judiciary selections. These men continue to see themselves as above the party in many ways. They did so during the Clinton impeachment vote, too.'

Working in the Senate tends to do that. It's much like watching justices on the SC move toward an uneasy center to make sure the nation's judicial business gets done. A core group realizes that to mind the country's helm, they have to put aside bickering and "war of the worlds" positioning and do something meaningful.

By the way, it helps that these guys are all running later as incumbents with six-year (not two-year) terms.

So when it comes to finding a sober man given to compromise who can appeal, somewhat, to the middle ranks of general election voters, Iowa, et al, chose John Forbes Kerry.

The problem is that the Dems in these key northern primary states have moved so far to the no-war side that they can't understand why the rest of the country won't stomach a guy like Kerry or Dean.

The long-term problem for Dems is that they increasingly are shy about doing the hard work necessary to understand the military and power projection. I mean, Kerry chose as his advisor on this subject Sandy Berger.

Don't get me started on his felonious behavior at the National Archives; suffice it to say that Berger was a horrible, horrible, horrible advisor for Bill Clinton, and he would have been just as terrible for Kerry.

9/11 should have been a wake up call for our party. We should realize that the middle of the nation very much wants a country that can fight wars, deter aggression through a strong military, and affect political change through either force or the threat of action, if necessary.

Kerry was not the sort of man who could do this. His public career, albeit long, was short on this kind of yeoman's work. He was forced into basing his creds on a war fought nearly 40 years ago.

The problem, of course, is that his own military record, while admirable in many ways, was open to certain questions, questions that have dogged him since he left active duty.

His decision -- which he now whispers was a poor one -- to meet in Paris with the Viet Cong while his brothers in arms were dying in Indo-China was that sort of niggling detail that gives a more hawkishly leaning American population justifiable pause.

Not to mention his decision to parrot most of Bush's points on the WoT, except to say it's mostly a "police action." Yes, that's how you clear out the hornet's nest of terrorists in Kabul. You issue arrest warrants and wait for the Interpol net to fall on them.

So, Kerry was the absolute worst candidate for the 2004 general election. Now to the people who should have been running.

Al Gore and Joe Lieberman. Had the Dems not botched the 2000 runoff, they would have been three years into the WoT when the GOP challenged them.

I know many out there won't believe this, but I verily believe that we would still have been in Iraq, although in a different way, and U.S. troops would be used, around the world, to kill terrorists.

I don't believe Bush's radical foreign policy -- which has its roots in Democratic strategy, not Republican traditions -- would be all that different from a Gore system.

Gore, in many ways, was the perfect candidate. He was a military veteran, but more importantly was one of the leading Senate experts on defense issues, and was universally respected in the GOP for his knowledge of arcane military questions.

Lieberman is a domestic policy genius who would have helped usher in a more comprehensive, effective Homeland Security complex. Our Middle East policy also would have been more nuanced, more balanced, than the monolithic Bush barrage.

I think the best hopes for the Dems -- if Hillary doesn't run -- will be the nomination of McCain on the GOP side. At least then we can vote for a man who truly will represent the nation's security interests, and not another hopeless case like Kerry.

12:26 PM


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