The battle for Maryland's Senate seat is intensifying, and stem-cell research has become one of the primary issues for voters in that state. On Sunday's Meet the Press, the controversial subject was discussed in a debate between Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (R) and Democratic challenger Rep. Ben Cardin (D). On several occasions, host Tim Russert pinned the Repug candidate's back to the wall and left him stammering for a cogent reply.
Russert asked Steele to substantiate the claim in his new ad--which features his sister, who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis--that Cardin's Michael J. Fox ad is "tasteless and deceptive." Steele said he in fact supports stem cell research, which Fox claims he doesn't. Both candidates claim to support stem-cell research, but while Cardin supports both adult and embryonic stem-cell research, Steele advocates research on adult-only cells.
Russert then said to Steele: I went up on the Web site for the National Institute of Health frequently asked questions. And let me share those with you and our viewers. "Question: Why not use adult stem cells instead of using human embryonic stem cells in research? National Institute of Health: Human embryonic stem cells are thought to have much greater developmental potential than adult stem cells." That's the issue. And...
Steele: That's the, that's the issue.
Russert: ...you're opposed to using something that has more promise than adult stem cells.
Russert continued: Why are you opposed to using embryonic stem cells? Taking of a life?
Steele: It's taking, yes, I see that as a life, and I, and I don't think that we should use federal funds to do that. And that's, and that's the difference to me.
Now here's where it gets interesting...and, quite frankly, bizarre.
Russert: Here...here's, here's a question that I have to pose: There are fertility clinics all across the country, several in Maryland--Shady Grove, Baltimore...
Steele: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Yeah.
Russert: ...where they take embryonic stem cells and discard them because they're not used in pregnancies--embryos. What--will you close down those fertility clinics?
Steele: I won't close down the fertility clinics. We have options there. We could, we could set up adoptions for those, for those embryos. There are so many other options that we can pursue that we don't. And, and the key thing to keep in here-- keep in mind here, and for me, and I think for--hopefully for Ben, too, and I-- because he's a good man on this, on this subject: Science moves us in a certain direction, and it pushes the envelope, as it should. But as a society, we also must, must consider the, the, the religious, the moral, and the ethical values of that society, and that needs to be a part of this as well. So we cannot just because it's in a bill, we cannot just because a scientist or a group of scientists say,--Yeah, let's do this,--that we don't step back and, and assess for ourselves is this the moral, ethical and, and, and appropriate thing to do?
Russert: But I'm trying to, I'm trying to understand the logic. If, in fact, these embryos are being discarded by fertility clinics, and you think that's the taking of a life, how can you tolerate or allow it?
Steele: But my point is that we need to look at exactly how, how we store them, we have 400,000, I think, across the country. I, I would pursue options that would allow us to look at adoption of some of those embryos and, and to the extent that they...they'e no longer viable, that they have expired or whatever, then you have to look at what you do there. My only point is, let's step back and evaluate what our options are before we go headlong into a sear--into a science or a research that is not fully developed.
Russert: Would you forbid fertility clinics from destroying embryos?
Steele: Would I forbid them from destroying embryos? Probably would like to look at that a little bit more closely. I don't, I don't know exactly how that mechanism is set up right now with respect to each, each clinic
The reason Russert can't understand the logic is because there is no logic. The lunacy of Steele's positions on stem-cell research knows no bounds. He equates embryonic stem-cell research with the taking of life, but then refuses to emphatically agree that fertility clinics, which discard unused cells which in turn could be used in this research, should be shut down. He'd rather see these valuable cells destroyed than used for scientific/medical research. But the thing that made my head spin was his proposal to possibly put these cells up for adoption. On the eve of Halloween, I must say, nothing could be more twisted and macabre than that.