Friday, July 29, 2005

... And Then Frist Flip-Flops On Stem Cell Research Funding

That was quick.

A day after blocking several bills that would increase federal funding for stem cell research, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) abruptly flip-flopped, and now says he advocates such funding.

"It's not just a matter of faith, it's a matter of science," Frist said on the floor of the Senate this morning.

Frist, a heart-lung transplant surgeon who opposes abortion, said modifying Bush's strict limitations on stem cell research would lead to scientific advances and "bridge the moral and ethical differences" that have made the issue politically charged.

"While human embryonic stem cell research is still at a very early stage, the limitation put into place in 2001 will, over time, slow our ability to bring potential new treatments for certain diseases," the Tennessee lawmaker said in his speech.

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), who is fighting cancer, told the San Francisco Chronicle that Frist's talk "perhaps the most important speech made on the floor this year, and perhaps the most important speech made in many years. ... It has an enormous impact."

The chief House sponsor of the bill, Representative Michael N. Castle, Republican of Delaware, told the New York Times: "His support is of huge significance."

Bush has threatened to veto legislation for expanded financial support for stem cell research. A bill to finance more stem cell research has passed the House, but has been stalled in the Senate. Frist's support could push it closer to passage and set up a confrontation with Bush.


Most mainsteam media, in reporting on Frist's speech this morning, failed to point out yesterday's events.

Of the handful of articles I checked reporting on Frist's speech, only the Boston Globe seemed aware of yesterday's events.

"As recently as yesterday morning, Frist rebuffed Democrats' attempts to force an immediate vote on the House-approved bill, saying he would allow such a vote only after reaching an agreement to bring up a range of other measures that are related to stem cell research. That drew a harsh rebuke from Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, who has been consistently lobbying Frist to change his mind and support the bill," the Globe reported.

The Times noted: "Last week Mr. Castle accused the White House and Mr. Frist of "doing everything in their power to deflect votes away from" the bill. On Thursday night, Mr. Castle said he had written a letter to Mr. Frist just that morning urging him to support the measure."


What made Frist change his mind so abruptly?

Various newspapers suggest that Frist may have thought twice about the ramifications of a medical doctor coming down, once again, on the side of conservative spin instead of science.

"The move could also have implications for Mr. Frist's political future. The senator is widely considered a potential candidate for the presidency in 2008, and supporting an expansion of the policy will put him at odds not only with the White House but also with Christian conservatives, whose support he will need in the race for the Republican nomination. But the decision could also help him win support among centrists," the Times reported.

Frist also received pressure from several leading Republicans, including Specter and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), to bring a stem cell research bill to the Senate floor, in spite of Bush's stated intent to veto any such legislation.


Anonymous Anthony Patch said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think subsequent references to Frist in Jabbs should have a clause after them, no matter what.

"Frist, currently the most inept politician in America," or

"Frist, who once again broke his own record today for the size of the shoe he inserted in his mouth..."

10:36 AM  
Anonymous Gloria said...

Might I ask why Mr. Patch's blogg was removed? He seems like a fair-minded blogger. I can't imagine he would have said something offensive.

11:41 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

For cryin' out loud! Can't the Republicans even stay consistently inconsistent? For two days in a row at least?!

So is it now morally "good" or "bad" to do stem cell research in Bush's World? Or will we have to wait to hear from the medical lobbyist and the latest poll numbers to answer that question?

I assume there will be some move by the Senate to compensate all the Americans who suffered and died as a result of their pointless dithering and political posturing on this extremely important issue. <crickets>

11:59 AM  
Blogger David R. Mark said...

Patch's comment was not offensive. However, it was excessively long and unrelated to the post. I was afraid it would dissuade others from commenting.

1:59 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

You're right David, AP reports show no hint of the recent turnaround but do note that Frist "championed broader stem cell research in July 2001 -- but then endorsed the strict limits Bush imposed a month later." So this is actually a flip-flop-flap.

Unbelievably this blatant vote-chasing is almost being presented as Frist standing up for his principles against the force of the White House. Complete rubbish!!!

At least they make the point that "word of Frist's decision sent shares of companies involved in the field sharply higher." And we see where he gets his morality: from wherever the political and financial gain is highest.

Is this how Republicans do things?

4:33 PM  
Blogger Publius Rendezvous said...

He is only doing it to geerate neutral support for his upcoming announcement that he will run for Prez in '08

7:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a perfect example of how somebody cannot win for losing. One day he is criticized by jabbs for not doing what Sen. Kennedy would have liked him to do. The following day, he changes him mind and does what Sen. Kennedy would like him to do, and he is criticized for doing so. Why bother?

2:43 PM  
Anonymous rob of wilmington, del. said...

I don't see how this is a negative article? It simply points out that Frist changed his mind, and wonders aloud why.

And, since this is a blog about conservative spin, it raises the question of whether Frist is trying to spin this issue to put himself in better stead for the 2008 presidential race.

Why are conservatives so defensive?

5:29 PM  
Anonymous alias: "cutiepie" johnson said...

If JABBS didn't post the "follow-up," conservatives would say he was being unfair, too. So maybe JABBS can't win either way?

3:14 AM  
Anonymous alias: "cutiepie" johnson said...

By the way, for those who think that it's mean to use the term flip-flop to describe Frist's change of heart, I offer you this:

Frist's Embryonic Stem Cell Research Flip-Flop Hurts Prez Chances

by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 29, 2005

Washington, DC ( -- Last month, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist indicated he did not favor overturning President Bush's position against expanded embryonic stem cell research funding "at this juncture." Frist's flip-flop today could drastically affect his chances of securing the Republican presidential nomination in 2008.

Not to be outdone was this posting:

Frist's Flip-Flop; CWA Severely Disappointed By Sen. Frist's Decision to Support Funding for Embryonic Stem-Cell Research

WASHINGTON, July 29 /Christian Wire Service/ -- Concerned Women for America (CWA) expressed disappointment in Majority Leader William Frist's (R-Tennessee) recent decision to go public with his support of embryonic stem-cell research (ESCR). While he had previously claimed to support the President's policy, today Sen. Frist flip-flopped on federal funding of ESCR. He spoke at length on the Senate floor this morning about his concerns with the current policy that restricts the federal funding of ESCR, a failed science that is structured around the destruction of human life.

3:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My point was not that criticizing jabbs for pointing out that he had flip flopped, he did in fact do that. But, somehow jabbs managed to spin each position as being bad, or politically driven. Even when Sen. Frist's position was consistent to that of the left, he was still criticized for his motives.

2:11 PM  
Anonymous alias: "cutiepie" johnson said...

Was he criticized, or questioned?

Frist has changed positions twice on the issue. Once, in 2001, he changed his opinion to back Bush, and one can conclude that this decision was to court the religious conservatives, who had helped Bush win just a few months earlier.

Now, he changes positions again, and a lot of analysts -- including one of the conservative responses posted above -- suggest he is doing so to move away from the president, perhaps because he has one eye on 2008.

We should question our leaders' motivations -- left or right -- when they are inconsistent. Certainly, conservatives did a lot of that at Kerry's expense during the 2004 presidential campaign.

10:37 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

The difference is that Kerry took an unpopular stand (on the Vietnam war) and then stuck to it, in spite of the mud and lies hurled at him from the Republican spin brigade. Then on the Iraq war he supported Bush based on the information Bush gave, but withdrew that support after it was revealed how trumped up and untruthful the justification for pre-emptive war was.

At no time did Kerry switch his position just to be in agreement with a politically powerful ally. And at no time did he switch his position just to be more politically palatable to a larger block of voters.

What is interesting about this is the apparent realisation that the rabid right is too fringe to count on for political success.

9:58 AM  

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