Kirsten Powers: Obama’s Stem Cell Decision Designed to Please Anti-Bush Base

On Monday’s Special Report with Bret Baier on FNC, during the Fox All Stars panel discussion, liberal FNC analyst Kirsten Powers, also a columnist for the New York Post, characterized Barack Obama's recent decision to allow federal funding of embryonic stem cell research as merely a political move designed to please members of his base who blame President Bush for the plight of those who suffer from paralysis or Alzheimer’s, as she also brought up the progress made in stem cell research using adult stem cells. Powers: "He also talks about, you know, putting science before politics, whereas this actually seems to be a very political decision from where I'm sitting. It's something that the base is very excited about."

After noting the advances made in non-embryo destroying adult stem cell research, she continued: "So this is, really, sort of, to me, a political move to satisfy people who really wanted this to happen and blame George Bush, essentially, for people who are paralyzed or suffering from Alzheimer's."

After anchor Bret Baier opened the discussion, conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, who expressed general support for research on those human embryos that would otherwise be discarded by fertility clinics, took Obama to task for leaving open the possibility that human embryos could be cloned or even created specifically for the purpose of being destroyed during research. As he informed viewers that he had declined an invitation from President Obama to join him at the signing ceremony, Krauthammer related:

I declined for three reasons. One is the President has left open the cloning of human embryos in order to destroy them in experiments. Secondly, he leaves open the creation of human embryos entirely for the purpose of research and experimentation. And thirdly, he had a memorandum which he signed in which he talks about restoring the scientific integrity in government decisions, which was an outrageous attack on Bush. I disagreed with where Bush ended up drawing the line on permissible research, but he gave in August of 2001 the single most morally serious presidential speech on medical ethics ever given, and Obama did not, even though I agree on where he, I agree more on where he ended up.

Powers then voiced her own criticism of Obama:

He also talks about, you know, putting science before politics, whereas this actually seems to be a very political decision from where I'm sitting. It's something that the base is very excited about. And I think that the reality is, is the debate has moved, science has moved a lot further than the debate, and we now know more than we knew when it started. For example, adult stem cells, we can do a lot more with them than we could when this debate started. There's a lot of research being done with the placenta. So this is, really, sort of, to me, a political move to satisfy people who really wanted this to happen, and blame George Bush, essentially, for people who are paralyzed or suffering from Alzheimer's.

Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard also brought up the advances that have been made in adult stem cell research: "The great progress that's been made in recent years has been in non-embryonic stem cell research, and it hasn't been because of the inability to get embryonic stem cells. It's just been that's been a more fruitful area where scientists have gone."

Below is a complete transcript of the discussion from the Monday, March 9, Special Report with Bret Baier on FNC:

BARACK OBAMA: In recent years, when it comes to stem cell research, rather than furthering discovery, our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values.SENATOR JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): The President would be wiser to pursue a policy to look into more and invest more in adult stem cell research as well as cord blood stem cell research which, I think, would be more productive in the long run and less divisive.

BRET BAIER: President Obama today signed an order allowing federal taxpayer dollars to fund expanded embryonic stem cell research, reversing one of former President Bush's policies, viewed by some in the scientific field as blocking. However, there’s a lot of controversy about what exactly happened under President Bush's administration and what is happening after today's signing of the order. Let's bring in our panel: Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard; Kirsten Powers, columnist at the New York Post; and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Charles, first of all, let's straighten out what happened and what happened today.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: What Obama is doing is he's expanding the range of the federal funding of research involving embryonic stem cells. He is allowing the use of embryos that were created in fertility clinics and are not going to be used anymore. Now, I supported that when I was on the President's council of bioethics and in my writing, which I suppose is why the White House invited me to the signing ceremony. But I declined for three reasons.

One is the President has left open the cloning of human embryos in order to destroy them in experiments. Secondly, he leaves open the creation of human embryos entirely for the purpose of research and experimentation. And thirdly, he had a memorandum which he signed in which he talks about restoring the scientific integrity in government decisions, which was an outrageous attack on Bush. I disagreed with where Bush ended up drawing the line on permissible research, but he gave in August of 2001 the single most morally serious presidential speech on medical ethics ever given, and Obama did not, even though I agree on where he, I agree more on where he ended up. So I think it was disrespectful. And in pretending, as Obama did, that there's never a conflict between ethics and science, he was wrong. I suspect that they're not going to be asking me to any more signing ceremonies in the future.

BAIER: Kirsten?

KIRSTEN POWERS, NEW YORK POST: Yeah, well, I mean, it was a rebuke of George Bush. That was very clear. And I think what he said is very right, that Obama sort of pretends that there is, if there is a clash between science and values, he’s going to err on the side of science, as if we don't ever consider maybe ethics or, you know, or our values on the other side, and that that isn't a, you know, a lesson that we should value. He also talks about, you know, putting science before politics, whereas this actually seems to be a very political decision from where I'm sitting. It's something that the base is very excited about.

And I think that the reality is, is the debate has moved, science has moved a lot further than the debate, and we now know more than we knew when it started. For example, adult stem cells, we can do a lot more with them than we could when this debate started. There’s a lot of research being done with the placenta. So this is, really, sort of, to me, a political move to satisfy people who really wanted this to happen and blame George Bush, essentially, for people who are paralyzed or suffering from Alzheimer's.

BAIER: Fred?

FRED BARNES: Absolutely. It was a very political decision. President Obama always tries to make his decisions sound as if he’s rising above mere politics that the rest of us here are chatting about and embracing something, you know, a higher plane. In this case, sound science was what he said had dictated this. But, as Charles pointed out, when you got to the serious moral choice here about cloning, he ducked it, and said Congress will have to act. To be really serious about dealing with this issue, then he ought to deal with that because that's the big issue now.

The big issue is not embryonic stem cell research, though I oppose it, because where has the progress been made? And I think Charles knows more about this than I do, and he can correct me if I'm wrong, but I, and I think Kirsten does too, that the great progress that's been made in recent years has been in non-embryonic stem cell research, and it hasn't been because of the inability to get embryonic stem cells. It's just been that's been a more fruitful area where scientists have gone.

I want to point out one other thing because President Obama does this all the time, and Charles referred to it. It's the straw man he uses. He’s always attacking those who would have government do nothing, you know, to help the economy. The straw man here is the one where he says he’s standing firmly against those who would falsify or hide or somehow distort science or something like that. Well, nobody was doing that.

BAIER: Charles, what about this premise that the tough decisions he’s really leaving to Congress here?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, he will. And I think what he’s asking Congress to do is to decide whether it's going to allow all kinds of experimentation on human embryos, which would be a radical step. There was a law in Congress that passed in the mid-90's which outlawed actual experimentation on the embryo with federal funds. So that’s going to be open now, and Obama, in not taking a stance, is taking a stance. The man who invented embryonic stem cells, a scientist by the name of Thompson, has said recently that if you haven't had any moral qualms about it, you haven't thought about it enough. And it looks as if Obama hasn't thought about it a lot.