Stem Cell Veto and the Summer of 2001
It's interesting what will trigger a memory. For example this Stem Cell Veto propelled my mind back to the summer of 2001, when President Bush was vacationing for a month down in Texas, and ignoring memos with titles like, "Osama Intends to Attack the United States, So Stop Clearing Brush at Your Ranch and Pay Attention". He did venture to the microphones to announce a decision on stem cell research, and with the morally decisive leadership of a man who's not just pretending to be religious, but actually means it, he announced a Kerry-like attempt to have it both ways, or as I wrote at the time, "The benefits of stem cells are potentially so fantastic that making a principled stand against them might cause a loss of support. President Bush sure figured that out this summer when he said stem cell research was abhorrent but we’ll continue doing it with the lines we already have. This Texas-sized straddling of the issue proved he could read polls, too." It was true, for all you moral clarity fans: The President tried to please everyone with a compromise of his "values." Almost immediately stories began to emerge about the poor quality of the stem cell lines Bush wanted us to use - mainly that they had been mixed with mice cells. That led to my following piece called "Of Mice and Men": Last week the Washington Post had an interesting story saying that all 60 of the famous stem cell lines had most likely been mixed with the cells of mice. Something about these mice “feeder” cells keeps the stem cells healthy although they don’t know what it is. Visions shot through my head of the consequences: “Yes, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, we can now cure your son of his disease, however, he will develop a strong fear of cats.”
Every bad science fiction movie has one guy in a leading role who makes a plan. Even as the audience hears it they groan, knowing it can’t possibly come off. Okay, maybe if things went perfectly, but there’s always one additional development usually performed by an incompetent assistant who goes to the lab and gets the wrong brain. Cut to the scene of the horrified townspeople fleeing.
The impressive thing about President George W. Bush is that there is no part in a science fiction movie he couldn’t play. In fact, the hardest thing for the audience to accept would be that he’s the guy in charge. That would be a real stretch. The only way it would work is if you had a few scenes of how his father used to be the main man. That’s it. His father was the brilliant scientist and his son is less gifted but uses his family connections to take over the castle. It’s implausible but they just might go for it. Especially if the castle had a Supreme Court.
Less of a tough sell would be convincing the audience that he could play the bumbling assistant. Just put Dick Cheney in the lead role, and you might be closer to reality than many people want to think. George is a man who can play the klutz. If he helps build a house for poor people, for instance, you just know George is going to hit himself with a hammer. Heck, it already happened.
Finally, the easiest scenario: That this man had been given it all. Okay, not an education or anything, but he’d been set up with dubious business partnerships and sweetheart deals to claim a place of real power. Then at the last moment there was a horrible mistake: he accidentally received the wrong brain. Don’t try to tell me the audience wouldn’t buy into that.
So our science fiction movie is underway and the President is about to announce his decision in the little speech from the ranch. Does he mention that the stem lines are all mixed up with mice cells? No, the point is to sell the plan and deal with the consequences later.
Those consequences could be varied. For example, we might have to change a certain holiday poem: “It was the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse/human hybrid.”
To assuage our fears, scientists have pointed out that pig cells have already been placed in a man’s brain with only subtle changes. For example, the man used to love exotic dancing, but since he got the pig tissue, he’s now more into mud wrestling.
Oh yeah, the horrified townspeople fleeing? That would be us."
Ahh, the memories. Of course 9/11 happened the next month and this was forgotten. But the Stem Cell Veto reminded me of the time President Bush stood stall in the saddle and tried to ride forward facing the horse's ass.