October 27, 2006

Morton's Monstrous Dilemma

Hatched by Dafydd

UPDATE October 28th: Corrected the spelling of Mort Kondracke's name; hat tip to commenter Keys!

Today, Republican Michael Steele slapped back at his opponent in the Maryland Senate race, Ben Cardin... with a sledge hammer.

Michael J. Fox has been running a tear-jerker ad in numerous venues, in which we discover that the Republican in the race, [Jim Talent | Michael Steele | Tom Kean, jr. | Mark Green | Peter Roscam], is a heartless bastard who doesn't care about sick people, and who actually wants to see Michael J. Fox suffer and die; whereas the Democrat in the race, [Claire McCaskill | Ben Cardin | Bob Menendez | Jim Doyle | Tammy Duckworth], is a bold visionary who supports scientific research and actually cares about suffering people... and if we elect the Democrat, then Michael J. Fox will be cured of Parkinson's Disease.

Today, Steele fired a response-ad right back at Ben Cardin. Here is the text; you can watch the ad at the Power Line link above:

STEELE: I’m Michael Steele, and I approve this message.

TURNER: I’m Dr. Monica Turner.

Congressman Ben Cardin is attacking Michael Steele with deceptive, tasteless ads. He is using the victim of a terrible disease to frighten people all for his own political gain.

Mr. Cardin should be ashamed.

There’s something you should know about Michael Steele. He does support stem cell research, and he cares deeply for those who suffer from disease.

How do I know? I’m Michael Steele’s little sister.

I have MS, and I know he cares about me.

In fact, it's even worse: Ben Cardin, Steele's Democratic opponent, actually opposes research using embryonic stem-cells -- but only when it's non-destructively taken from the embryo without killing it. If you kill the embryo to get the stem cells, then Cardin is all for it; but if medical researchers manage to find a way to extract the stem cell from the embryo without killing the thing, then kindly Congressman Cardin loses all interest.

From a smack-back press release from the Steele campaign:

Michael Steele said, “There is only one candidate in this race who voted against stem cell research and it’s Congressman Ben Cardin. Ben Cardin had a chance to support stem cell research that would not destroy human embryos, and he voted against it – not because of his beliefs on the issue, but as a transparent political stunt. Both Senators Barbara Mikulski and Paul Sarbanes voted for this legislation. Ben Cardin wanted to politicize the issue instead of getting something done, so he voted against it. Marylanders deserve better than Congressman Cardin’s continued Washington double-talk, mistruths and sheer political gamesmanship on an issue as important as stem cell research.”

On September 6, 2006, the Frederick News Post reported: “[Cardin] opposes suggestions that stem cell research is acceptable if the embryo isn't destroyed. (Liam Farrell, “Pursuing Change,” Frederick News Post, September 2, 2006)

Michael Steele added, “I am an enthusiastic supporter of cord blood, adult stem cell and embryonic stem cell research that does not destroy the embryo, and I fully support expanding innovations in technology that make it possible to treat and prevent disease without the willful destruction of human embryos.”

In other words, the Michael J. Fox ad is even running in a race where the Democrat (but not the Republican) supports embryonic stem-cell research that does kill the embryo... and the Republican (but not the Democrat) supports embryonic stem-cell research that doesn't kill the embryo!

Nice, principled stand there, Mr. Fox.

So who's Morton? What am I talking about? As usual, I've lost my -- oh yes, here they are.

Consider all of the above prelude. Today, Hugh Hewitt, as is his wont, had on Fred Barnes and Mort Kondracke, the "Boyz In Da Beltway." They discussed the Fox ad, Ben Turpin, Michael Steele, and young Doc Turner... and when Morton heard the Turner ad, he practically exploded.

I think that should have been "Ben Cardin" up there, not Ben Turpin; but I'm too lazy to go back and correct it. Oh, how perversely anti-work-ethic am I, am I! I don't know why I made such a mistake; they look absolutely nothing like each other: Cardin wears glasses and Turpin just desperately needs them:

Rep. Ben Cardin (D-MD)    Non-Lookalike Ben Turpin

The Big Bens: Cardin looks almost nothing like Turpin

Back to the point. Mort began shouting and screaming, attacking Michael Steele (in absentia, of course), and culminated with this particularly gruesome attack on Steele:

I think it’s a very effective ad. If Michael Steele were really so interested in having his sister cured, he would be in favor of all kinds of stem cell research.

I must admit, that brought me up cold; I don't think I've ever heard such a harsh, bitter, and unfair verbal assault from Mort, who is normally quite the gentleman. Granted, his wife Millie died of Parkenson's, the same disease that Fox has; but even so, considering that Steele is in favor of every, single form of stem-cell research that does not kill an embryo, Mort's intemperate attack is awfully misleading.

But he followed it up with another; and this attack revealed a soft spot in his argument so vast, I can poke it with my eyes closed. Consider this:

I mean, look. If…when my wife was ill with Parkinson’s disease, do you think that I would reject a potential therapy that could be good for her?

All right, Mort, consider this hypothetical: there is a therapy that could potentially cure your wife's Parkenson's, allowing her to live out a normal life free of the disease. There is one catch, however: the therapy requires the sacrifice of a five year old child. The kid must die in order that your wife should live.

So tell us, Mort... would you accept that trade? More to the point, would MIllie? I think we all know the answer to both questions is No: neither Mort nor his late wife would have accepted such a horrible trade, a child's life for hers.

But I didn't just pull this thought experiment out of left air. For those people who actually believe that human life and personhood begins at conception, that is exactly the trade embryonic stem-cell research demands of them. Instead of a five year old child, it's a child who hasn't been born yet; but it's still the sacrifice of a child so that Michael J. Fox, Millie Kondracke, or Dr. Monica Turner might -- might -- live.

I personally do not believe that personhood begins at conception; so I don't have that ethical dilemma. But Michael Steele does; and to tell him that he doesn't really care about his sister -- which is what Mort said -- because he isn't willing to sacrifice the lives of hundreds of babies to try to cure her disease is just this side of despicable.

I think Mort spoke without thinking; and I hope he realizes later what a horrible thing he said. Perhaps he'll say something about it tomorrow on his show. But even if he doesn't dredge it up again, he cannot possibly really mean what he says, because Morton Kondracke is not a monster.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 27, 2006, at the time of 9:51 PM

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A great ad. Just the latest in a whole string of really great, upbeat, human ads which have avoided the gutterbrawling we’re seeing in so many other campaigns. I have not sent a dime to any candidates in this election. I’m making an o... [Read More]

Tracked on October 28, 2006 10:51 AM


The following hissed in response by: Mr. Michael

I've heard Mr. Kondrake speak in favor of Stem Cell research before... I truly think that he has looked at all sides of the issue deeply, and then decided that he was 'for it'.

Then, he shut off his mind and started speaking from the heart. Understandable; he's lost a loved one to a terrible disease that has been the target of much Stem Cell research. But when you speak with emotions, you are not speaking with intelligence.

I'd like to hold that man to what he meant, not what he said... but he's going to HAVE to address this insane questioning of Steele's love of his Sister and tell us what he meant or lose so much of the respect he has built up over the years of his intelligent commentary.

You never want to be a 'go to' guy for commentary "except if it's about X" where "X" is any kind of controvercial subject... and proclaiming that a Senatorial Candidate's love for his Sister doesn't live up to your standards is silly, and a career ender if you let it stand.

The above hissed in response by: Mr. Michael [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 28, 2006 12:40 AM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye

I think Mort's grief is talking here. He also says that whatever the Democrats say in their ads a vote for Democrats is a vote for surrender in Iraq.

So he gives as well as he takes away.

I work for a home health care agency and many of our clients have spinal cord injuries or Pakinsons or some other affliction. And many of them also think that people like Fox are being used by politicians. Just because they are sick or hurt does not mean they don't know when someone is using them.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 28, 2006 2:58 AM

The following hissed in response by: Robert Schwartz

It will be a generation before the basic biology is well enough understood to say whether embryonic stem cells can be medically usefully.

Stem cells might cause brain tumors, study finds, Sun Oct 22, Washington, (Reuters):

Injecting human embryonic stem cells into the brains of Parkinson's disease patients may cause tumors to form, U.S. researchers reported on Sunday. ...

Goldman's team used human embryonic stem cells. ... This batch had been cultured in substances aimed at making them become brain cells. ... Goldman's team apparently succeeded and transplanted them into the rats with an equivalent of Parkinson's damage. The animals did get better. But the grafted cells started to show areas that no longer consisted of dopamine-releasing neurons, but of dividing cells that had the potential to give rise to tumors.

The researchers killed the animals before they could know for sure, and said any experiments in humans would have to be done very cautiously. Scientists have long feared that human embryonic stem cells could turn into tumors, because of their pliability.

The above hissed in response by: Robert Schwartz [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 28, 2006 11:47 AM

The following hissed in response by: Robert Schwartz

Oh, yes. Mort is a blowhard.

The above hissed in response by: Robert Schwartz [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 28, 2006 11:48 AM

The following hissed in response by: bpilch

I am exactly where you are on this issue. I don't believe that life starts at conception, but I understand that others do and that is their right to have that belief and we should honor it as much as possible. What is amazing is that in O'Reilly's war of the secularists vs the people of faith, somehow I am on the side of faith, although I am the least religious person around. I think it is more my libertarian streak and that I actually believe that people have rights to their beliefs and their speech and I don't feel threatened by it. Anyway, this is just one more issue that puts me on that side. I also am extremely concerned about cloning and letting that genie out of the bottle, because regulation after the fact will be as effective as the United Nations currently is with Iran and North Korea. From all I have read, the real advances are happening in the nonembryonic stem cell area, and the big advance was that we may not need to destroy the embryos to get the stem cells, in any case. So, I am of the belief that throwing more government money at that part of stem cell research that particularly offends a large part of our population for neglible benefit is something that can wait until we find out more. Throwing Michael J Fox's predicament at us to rush us to judgement is disingenuous at best...

The above hissed in response by: bpilch [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 28, 2006 1:52 PM

The following hissed in response by: bpilch

ps Mort is a blowhard and he takes too long to say what he means...

The above hissed in response by: bpilch [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 28, 2006 1:58 PM

The following hissed in response by: Keys

[Rub this out as soon as possible. Mort Kondracke's surname is spelled that way, not Kondrake. I hope you'll read this and make the needed changes.]

The Turner ad is dynamite: one can understand why it exploded Mort. Has anyone ever seen a better and more effective response? Michael Steele may be the Great Black Hope, who floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee. Lesser people would have let Benjo Cardin get away with his stem cell vote. Lesser people would not be as swift and deft as Steeleyman: messing with him is like going nose to nose with a cobra, or perhaps a lizard.

As to the meaning of that uncharacteristic use of Benjo, you will have to consult with the resident expert on an esteemed East Asian language. This graduate of the University of Terrapins and former resident of Cambridge, St. Michaels, and Salisbury on the Eastern Shore hopes that Steele wins. He's the real audacious deal, isn’t he? He’s the one with the real compelling life story.

My blogspot is blank. Haven't had time to learn how to do what skilled people like you do. Perhaps a winter in Boynton Beach, Florida will get me started. (Someone has to occupy a condo there; might as well be me.) This former newspaper reporter wants to blog on press distortions and failures. Has the press explained the content of the Missouri amendment? Don’t think so, and that’s central: Fox and Limbaugh are sideshows.

The above hissed in response by: Keys [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 28, 2006 6:03 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


[Rub this out as soon as possible. Mort Kondracke's surname is spelled that way, not Kondrake. I hope you'll read this and make the needed changes.]

I read and corrected my misspelling; thanks! But let me set everyone straight on one thing: the lizards never "rub out" their mistakes, especially when somebody else catches them.

We announce the correction and give credit to the eagle-eyed commenter who noted the error in the first place.

The only exception is if I, personally, notice a trivial mistake... for example, if I reread one of my posts a couple, three days later, and I notice I misspelled "this" as "tihs," I will just correct it without comment.

But if it's substantial, then even if I am the one who noticed it, I will still make the correction and add an update noting what I corrected.

Maybe it's my obsession with total, brutal honesty (which comes from deep-rooted negative family issues, don't ask!) but I cannot bear "stealth corrections," as many newspapers (and even some blogs) commit.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 28, 2006 6:45 PM

The following hissed in response by: snochasr

I think we should consider all the points together, and see that the "standard" Democrat position is a dangerous foolishness-- not that we need more examples of that near-axiomatic truth at this point.

First, the federal government funds all kinds of stem cell research, including embryonic stem cell research. The only restriction is that /new/ embryos may not be killed.

2. There is no restriction on private ESC research. That no one is doing it says it isn't what proponents claim. But that isn't the issue, is it? Democrats are for whatever Republicans are against; it's all they have.

3. Everyone admits (or should)that ESC research is the least promising avenue, with cures years if not decades away, while other stem cell research has already produced cures.

4. The ethical dilemma for some is the death of unborn life. The ethical dilemma for the rest of us should be what happens if ESC research eventually succeeds. Can we really stomach a market in human embryos, with women as "factories" for the miracle cure?

The above hissed in response by: snochasr [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 28, 2006 8:28 PM

The following hissed in response by: Big D

Not much to add, other than...wow. Whether you are Republican or Democrat, Steele just scored a haymaker of epic proportions. He deserves to win if only because he has played the game to perfection.

Snochasr has is exactly right - there is no ban on embryonic stem cell research! Just because the U.S. Federal government doesn't pay for it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. What about other countries? Private funding? The entire argument is absurd.

Another analogy - I'm sure that Joseph Mengele learned lots of useful things during his studies...so what are the limits? Are there limits?

Let's take the abortion issue out of it. What if Mort's wife could have been saved by sending her to the micro-gravity environment of space? We could have launched her into orbit, built a special habitat for here, and she could live out the rest of her natural years. We would do the same for everyone suffereing the same desiese.

Of course, it would bankrupt the treasury. But wouldn't we be evil rotten sots for not doing that? Don't we care?

This is why the immediate family should often not be the people to decide policy in such issues. The same logic applies to the 911 memorial.

Sheesh. I'm all over the map here.

The above hissed in response by: Big D [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 30, 2006 10:51 AM

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