Democrats & Liberals Archives

Frist Shifting Away from Extremism

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, the same guy who offered a long-distance diagnosis to Terri Schiavo, has now stated that he favors “modifying” Bush’s stem cell policy and he supports expanding the federal stem cell research program. Evidently, Frist has decided his future as a presidential candidate would be better served by this switch. Though the move is not that significant for stem cell research, it does show that support for religious extremism is cracking. And that makes me happy.

You remember how Frist catered to the religious right, eagerly seeking a way to keep Terri Schiavo "alive" and even speaking to the Justice Sunday religious extremists who wanted Frist to exercise the "nuclear option" to get judges favored by fundamentalists on the courts? Guys like James Dobson and Tony Perkins praised him to the sky. These religious extremists are now extremely unhappy with Frist.

Frist is becoming rational again. For so long he was trying to appease the extremists. At one time on TV he was not sure whether sweat could bring HIV/AIDS. For a smart physician he was beginning to look like a nincompoop. Now he says he is a healer and wants to further stem cell research. Great.

Arlen Specter, who is pushing stem-cell legislation in the senate, is encouraged. He now says he has 62 senators on his side and expects to have a veto-proof 67 senators soon.

This is a great change. But it is not as great as appears at first. As the Times makes clear, the legislation in the senate is limited since it does not include therapeutic cloning:

"That is a step forward, but a pathetically small one. The bill would not allow financing for the most promising kind of stem cell research, known as therapeutic cloning, which involves the creation of embryos genetically matched to patients with particular diseases."

To which I say, Rome wasn't built in a day. At least Congress is on the right track. At least we're doing something to get rid of diseases - making this a true culture of life move.

To me, the most important aspect of this news is that Frist is shifting away from religious extremism. This means that the power of religious extremists is beginning to fade. Instead of dogma, fiat and strictures we'll be talking about ideas, logic and proposals. Maybe our democracy will improve.

Posted by Paul Siegel at August 1, 2005 5:43 PM