Via The Carpetbagger Report, I got turned on to a controversy developing over what must be the most emotional ad of the campaign season. It's in Missouri, and it's an ad that Michael J. Fox did on stem cell research.
CR forwards us to Balloon Juice which has the ad.
CR also has Rush Limbaugh's "pushback" to the ad, which includes the allegation that Fox was acting and off his meds.
The interesting thing about this ad is it will no doubt spur some sort of partisan bickering -- it is the campaign season afterall. Republicans over here.... Democrats over there. But lost in that will be the one thing that people on both sides probably do agree on: Parkinson's sucks.
Normally, agreement is the foundation for action, but in politics, agreement often seems of little use. You can't beat your opponent over the head with agreement.
The debate springing from this ad will be embryonic stem cell research, I presume, and Parkinson's (disclaimer: my father in law has Parkinson's) will be linked to that issue, but no candidate, as far as I know, has called for a national initiative to wipe out Parkinson's. If the goal really is a cure for the disease, wouldn't there usually be some sort of rally around the disease, rather than the particular method of finding the cure?
No candidate this season, as near as I can tell, has called for a national initiative to cure the disease, but many have called for a position on stem cell research. Huh?
Is that the tail wagging the dog?
Is stem cell research an issue because it's an issue that breaks down along party lines? Or is the real issue mobilizing all resources and human brainpower to wipe out a disease, which does not lend itself to being politically expedient (who's against finding a cure for Parkinson's). Granted some folks think one begats the other, but without getting in the middle of that debate, there are more ways to research Parkinson's than stem cells. That's an issue that can be settled later.
Here, by the way, is some information on Parkinson's research. There actually is some going on that doesn't depend on solving the political glacier that is stem cell research.
If the issue really is about Parkinson's, how come nobody is bringing it up?
Heck of an ad, though.
But given the nature of politics in this country right now, a sure way not to find a cure for Parkinson's, is to inject it into a campaign.
I saw Fox interviewed by Leonard Malkin this year, and after seeing his commercial I blogged that it must have taken many, many takes because he seemed much more under control than when he did the interview.
Limbaugh's words are inexcusable and no better than mocking a cripple for being "different."
I saw the interview with Fox on Inside the Actors Studio and I notice they're replaying it on October 30.
But, you realize, Michael J. Fox is irrelevant to the point of the post. The post is about whether people are really interested in curing Parkinson's or winning the stem-cell debate
It seems to me that if the two are considered as one, ironically, the real losers in the politicization of it all will be those who suffer from Parkinson's.
Bob, only a religious ideologue would say there are two sides to the stem cell debate, and unless those ideologues are willing to condemn in vitro fertilization, they're being hypocritical.
There is no controversy over stem cells other than that which has been engineered by Bush's people as a wedge issue. I would challenge you to find a single reputable biologist who condemns stem cell research.
You can say I'm being political, but I'd just respond that you're being political by acknowledging the marginal and highly irrational position taken by this administration on this subject. The he said/she said'ism here exists only because Bush has a very uninformed belief about this topic. Countless Republican leaders have differed with Bush on this, making it clear this is NOT a Republican issue, just a Bush/Rove wedge issue.
And efforts to allow federal funding for embryonic stem cell research are bi-partisan. Orin Hatch (R, Utah) has historically been a big supporter - and it's the major issue for the Republican Mainstreet Coalition.
I think you guys have missed my point, and yet proven it at the same time.
Ain't politics grand?
Bob asked, "If the issue really is about Parkinson's, how come nobody is bringing it up?"
The cynical might say, "Because their campaign managers haven't told them to."
Bob, it is a lost opportunity for a politician. Who wouldn't want to be THE political champion to call for a national initiative to cure the disease? Do voters, bloggers, the media have to demand it to see it happen?
While the Fox ad certainly ranks high on the emotion scale, I thought the time bomb/heart beat/Terrorists WILL KILL YOU AD took the cake.
Let's not jump to conclusions what the #1 ad will be - October's not even over yet!
As for the point of the post:
Insofar as this particular campaign ad is concerned, the focus is not on curing Parkinson's. It's clearly about winning the stem cell debate and that's ok. The speaker in the ad could have easily been Christopher Reeve or anyone with a condition that might benefit from stem cell research.
I don't know of anyone who confuses the stem cell debate with curing any disease. The point isn't to cannibalize any "cure movement" but to show that opposition to empirical or applied research of this kind sets a dangerous precedent and endangers the progress of medicine as a whole.
Thanks for the Parkinson's research links.
Interesting point, Noah. And, it's obviously true that the issue here is the stem cell "debate," because- of course -- we're at the point in the campaign in which we point out differences between the candidates.
It's OK with me if someone uses the stem cell issue to make those differences -- assuming nobody is lying, of course.
But I'm just thinking out loud, here....why DOESN'T a candidate set a national goal of eradicating Parkinson's (or another disease) by a date certain and THEN outline the steps he/she would favor to accomplish that? I assume stem cells could be part of that, but not all.
Wouldn't that differentiate a candidate, too?
My guess is the problem with that is it sets a standard by which a candidate can be judge din the future. It sets an easy way to determine success or failure, something politicians are loathe to do.
Quite often, I wonder where the issues come from? Who sets them? The media? The pollsters?
My guess is that more people feel the effects of cancer, Parkinson's and, say, Alzheimer's in this country than a lot of the "issues," (which, aren't really "issues" at all, but philosophies.), and yet these never really come up.
Why not? Lots of reasons. The potential issues you suggest aren't sexy. They'd be difficult to boil down to a snappy catch phrase. There's not a natural constituency to establish as a 'base.' The stem cell debate is really just a branch off the Roe v Wade tree, but its a new issue that helps reinvigorate the base. More importantly, it invigorates one base more than the other. The religious right can get more people to the polls on that issue than liberals can, which makes it a brilliant issue to promote, if the RR is voting for you. Parkinson's or Alzheimer's or even cancer won't have that kind of imact at the polls, so the pols don't talk about them.
Calling for a general "war" on a specific disease may be admirable, but I seriously doubt that it gains any political advantage. Nixon called for a War on Cancer 35 years ago (tossing $100 million into research) and that hasn't exactly panned out. The NIH estimated that cancer cost the US $180 billion in 2000 (one third of which was treatment costs and two thirds was lost productivity due to morbidity and mortality).
Just throwing money at a problem isn't always productive. Congress has earmarked funds for breast cancer research in the past and my experience is that although it has increased the quantity of breast cancer research, it hasn't had the same effect on quality. Many grant applications were rewritten to include breast cancer models, even though the real emphasis was elsewhere, simply because of the perception that breast cancer related funding was easier to get (principle investigators have to be part marketing huckster and part scientist).
The stem cell debate is a bit different since it doesn't just throw money at a problem. It allows for a new line of (currently proscribed - or at least severely crippled) investigation.
Bush's 2001 Solomon-like decision on embryonic stem cell lines allowed for some basic research, but none of the lines approved will ever be used therapeutically. Too much potential contamination. They're OK for "proof of principle" research but little else.
If embryonic stem cells will ever be used therapeutically, new lines have to be established.
So... what's the real issue here?
"So... what's the real issue here?"
Good question. The real issue is difficult to reduce to a coherent sound-bite.
Embryonic stem cell lines may be a panacea that will lead to the cure of hundreds of diseases. Or not. Adult derived stem cells may be able to do the same thing (although they aren't nearly as pluripotent). Or not.
Federal funding _is_ available for research on some stem cell lines, but not others. The line between acceptable research materials and unacceptable research materials is arbitrary.
Federally-funded labs can't do research on new embryonic stem cell lines, but private companies can slice and dice all the fertilized ovum they want.
The current federal stance on stem cell research is hopelessly muddled. Some lines are OK for research, others aren't. Federally funded labs can't do some types of stem cell research, but private companies can do pretty much what they want.
If the administration was really against stem cell research, and really concerned that every fertilized ovum was a human, they would outlaw all embryonic stem cell research _and_ crack down on the IVF industry which stores thousands of fertilized embryos in liquid nitrogen every year (the vast majority of whom will never see a uterus).