Obama's Stem Cell Spinning
September 30, 2008
His radio ad is wrong: McCain still supports federal funding for stem cell research.
An Obama-Biden radio ad hammers McCain for being opposed to stem cell research. Not true. Meanwhile two spots from the McCain-Palin campaign, together with the Republican National Committee, describe McCain's support for the research; they're largely accurate. By saying that "John McCain has stood in the way – he's opposed stem cell research," the Obama ad seriously misstates the view that McCain has held on this issue since 2001, when he began backing embryonic stem cell research, a position that was out of step with that of many of his fellow Republicans.The McCain/RNC ads would probably lead listeners to believe that Palin shares McCain's views on this topic. That's not true. But we find that to be a minor flaw compared with the misrepresentation in Obama's ad.
We first noticed that stem cell research had become a subject of campaign radio ads when Sen. John McCain and the Republican National Committee released one on Sept. 12 touting his support for it. Then Sen. Barack Obama came back with his own ad, saying that "John McCain has stood in the way – he's opposed stem cell research." McCain and the RNC countered with yet another, this time taking the Obama campaign to task for its ad.
Republican National Committee Ad:"Stem Cell"Announcer: They're the original mavericks. Leaders. Reformers. Fighting for real change. John McCain will lead his congressional allies to improve America's health. Stem cell research to unlock the mystery of cancer, diabetes, heart disease. Stem cell research to help free families from the fear and devastation of illness. Stem cell research to help doctors repair spinal cord damage, knee injuries, serious burns. Stem cell research to help stroke victims.And, John McCain and his congressional allies will invest millions more in new NIH medical research to prevent disease.
Medical breakthroughs to help you get better, faster.Change is coming. McCain-Palin and congressional allies. The leadership and experience to really change Washington and improve your health.Paid for by McCain-Palin 2008 and the Republican National Committee.McCain: I'm John McCain and I approve this message.What'd We Miss?
McCain has been known for supporting federally funded stem cell research since 2001, so his first ad didn't ring any alarm bells with us. It touted McCain's support for "stem cell research to unlock the mystery of cancer, diabetes, heart disease."
Obama's ad did set sirens off, however. McCain "stood in the way" and "opposed stem cell research"? Maybe we'd missed something.
McCain didn't mention embryonic stem cell research in his ad, a subject that has put him at odds with some in his party, including President George W. Bush (though, notably, not former First Lady Nancy Reagan, whom he credited with helping to change his stance back in '01). Was he now in favor of using only adult stem cell lines for research, and had he done something to "stand in the way" of other options?
Nope. It turns out nothing much has changed at all. In 2004, McCain was one of 14 GOP members of Congress who signed a letter to Bush asking him to lift restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, citing its potential to lead to treatments or cures for deadly and crippling diseases and conditions. In 2006, he was one of 19 Republicans to vote for federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, a bill that Bush vetoed. The bill allowed use only of embryos that were frozen or slated for destruction anyway by fertility clinics. There was a similar vote in 2007, in which McCain voted the same way.
McCain's response to a question about funding embryonic stem cell research at an MSNBC Republican candidate debate in 2007 was strongly supportive.
Q: Would you expand federal funding of embryonic stem cell research?McCain (May 3, 2007): I believe that we need to fund this. This is a tough issue for those of us in the pro-life community. I would remind you that these stem cells are either going to be discarded or perpetually frozen. We need to do what we can to relieve human suffering. It's a tough issue. I support federal funding.
And now? The McCain-Palin campaign's Web site says the ticket supports embryonic stem cell research, but not the creation of embryos for that purpose, which is right in line with previous statements he's made:
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