More Tidbits From the Debate

Moving on, we then had an interesting exchange with Governor Romney:

MR. MATTHEWS: Governor Romney, what do you say to Roman Catholic bishops who would deny communion to elected officials who support abortion rights?

MR. ROMNEY: I don’t say anything to Roman Catholic bishops. They can do whatever the heck they want. (Laughter.) Roman Catholic bishops are in a private institution, a religion, and they can do whatever they want in a religion. America –

MR. MATTHEWS: Do you see that as interference in public life?

MR. ROMNEY: Well, I can’t imagine a government telling a church who can have communion in their church. I can’t — we have a separation of church and state; it’s served us well in this country.

MR. MATTHEWS: Okay.

MR. ROMNEY: This is a nation, after all, that wants a leader that’s a person of faith, but we don’t choose our leader based on which church they go to. This is a nation which also comes together. We unite over faith and over the right of people to worship as they choose. The people we’re fighting, they’re the ones who divide over faith and decide matters of this nature in the public forum. This is a place where we celebrate different religions and different faiths.


Of course, the government shouldn’t tell the Catholic Church what to do. But they can certainly take away the church’s tax exemption for getting involved in politics. As George Carlin once said, if the church wants to meddle in politics, let them pay the entrance fee like everyone else.

I like Romney’s idea that what’s important is that our leaders believe in something for no particular reason, but the specifics of that faith aren’t so important. What a charming fellow.

Governore Hucakabee, however, was less impressed:

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Governor.

Governor Huckabee, you’ve criticized Governor Romney for saying his faith wouldn’t get in the way of his public life, his governing. Do you want to back that up tonight?

MR. HUCKABEE: I’ve never criticized Governor Romney for that.

MR. ROMNEY: Thank you! (Laughs.)

MR. HUCKABEE: I’ve said in general, and I would say this tonight to any of us, when a person says my faith doesn’t affect my decision- making, I would say that the person’s saying their faith is not significant enough to impact their decision process. I tell people up front my faith does affect my decision process. It explains me. No apology for that. My faith says, “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.”

Chris Matthews cut him off at this point for some more badgering. Which is a pity. I was hoping Hucakbee would explain precisely what it means that his faith affects his decision process. What decisions would he make one way if he were an atheist, that he makes differently because he has faith?

So Romney thinks it is important to faith in something. Huckabee thinks it’s important to let your faith influence the decisions you make as an elected leader. Senator Brownback, what’s your view of the matter?

SEN. BROWNBACK: Chris, this is a key point, I think. And I think it’s a key point for the country, because we’ve had 40 or 50 years now of trying to run faith out of the public square. And we’re a nation of faith, as my colleague Senator Lieberman, a Jew, says. America’s a faith-based experiment as a country. We should celebrate and invite faith. And our motto is, “In God We Trust.” This isn’t something that divides, this is something that pulls together and lifts us up. And it’s key. And it’s important. We shouldn’t be trying to run it out of the public square, we should invite it in and celebrate it.

Senator Lieberman’s Jewish? Who knew?!

Have faith in something. Let that faith influence your decisions. Celebrate your faith in public. Quite the little progression.

Moving on, here’s Duncan Hunter following Tancredo’s lead on global warming:

MR. VANDEHEI: Congressman Hunter, Kenyu Thomas (sp) from Honolulu, Hawaii, wants to know if you watched Al Gore’s environmental documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth.”l (Laughter.)

REP. HUNTER: No, I didn’t watch it. But, you know, I think that global warming and the need to be energy independent gives us a great opportunity. I think we should bring together all of our colleges, our universities, the private sector, government laboratories and undertake what for this next generation will be a great opportunity and a great challenge to remove energy dependence on the Middle East and at the same time help the climate. I think we can do that.

We need to take taxes down to zero for the alternative energy sources.

We need to make sure that all the licensing from our laboratories goes to the private sector, goes to the American manufacturing sector for these energy systems. I think we can do it.

Interesting. Two of the most conservative candidates taking a soft line on global warming. Instead of decrying it as a hoax, as people like James Inhofe and Tom DeLay do, they change the subject to the importance of energy conservation. Looks like progress to me.

Stem cells were up next. The theme here was: Embryonic stem-cells are bad and unnecessary because adult-stem cells cna give us everything we need. Let’s sample the responses:

MR. ROMNEY: Altered Nuclear Transfer creates embryo-like cells that can be used for stem cell research. In my view, that’s the most promising source. I have a deep concern about curing disease. I have a wife that has a serious disease that could be affected by stem cell research and others, but I will not create new ebryos through cloning or through embryo farming because that would be creating life for the purpose of destroying it.

SEN. BROWNBACK: It will not — with all due respect to Mrs. Reagan and her desires here, I’ve studied this matter a great deal. We are curing and healing people with adult stem cells. It is not necessary to kill a human life for us to heal people, and we’re doing it with adult stem cell work and it’s getting done.

MR. GILMORE: We can’t create people in order to experiment with people.

MR. HUCKABEE: I would concur. I don’t think it’s right to create a life to end a life. That’s not a good health decision.

REP. HUNTER: No. I’d like to show Mrs. Reagan the alternatives, which are adult stem cells.

Well, that’s all pretty clear. But doesn’t anyone think this issue is more complciated than the answers so far suggest?

MR. THOMPSON: There’s so much research going on, Chris, you cannot answer that question yes or no. There’s research currently going on right now at the Waisman Center in Madison, Wisconsin, that’s going to allow for adult stem cells –

MR. MATTHEWS: Right.

MR. THOMPSON: — to become pluripotent, which will have the same characteristics of embryonic stem cells. So you do not have to kill an embryo.

Pluripotent? Now where’d the guv’ner learn a big word like that? You really had to see the debate to get the full effect. You just had to hear Thompson’s stern, lecturing tone.

McCain then came out unambiguously in favor of stem-cell research. Coupled with his support for evolution, that officially makes him the only non-crazy candidate on the stage. Faint praise indeed.

Rep. Paul, what do you think?

REP. PAUL: Programs like this are not authorized under the Constitution. The trouble with this — issues like this is in Washington we either prohibit it or subsidize it.

MR. MATTHEWS: Right.

REP. PAUL: And the market should deal with it and the states should deal with it.

Have I mentioned recently how much llibertarians bug me? Giuliani then gave a typically squishy answer for this kind of question. Happily, Rep. Tancredo was there to bring everything back to normal:

REP. TANCREDO: There are billions of dollars going into this research right now. It does not require me taking money from federal –

MR. MATTHEWS: Okay –

REP. TANCREDO: — from taxpayers in the United States to fund it and — because it is morally, I think, reprehensible in certain ways.

Which ways would those be, Mr. Congressman? So, with a handful of exceptions, it would seem the Republicans are officially pro-suffering, disease and death. How’s that for framing?

Comments

  1. #1 Aaron
    May 4, 2007

    Psst… Sen. Brownback, our motto is actually “e pluribus unum.”

  2. #2 Aaron
    May 4, 2007

    *sigh* If Wikipedia can be believed in this instance, then I retract my comment. Now I’m angry at Sen Brownback AND the 1956 Congress.

  3. #3 lazarou
    May 4, 2007

    Rep. Hunter.

    We need to make sure that all the licensing from our laboratories goes to the private sector, goes to the American manufacturing sector for these energy systems. I think we can do it.

    You mean we need to develop alternative energies using public money but then turn over all the patents gratis to corporate giants so they can fleece the public for every penny they’ve got? Is that what you’re saying Mr Hunter? Imbecile…

  4. #4 Wes
    May 4, 2007

    MR. ROMNEY: Well, I can’t imagine a government telling a church who can have communion in their church. I can’t — we have a separation of church and state; it’s served us well in this country.

    I think it’s funny how the minority religions, such as Mormonism and Cathlicism (in America), love separation of church and state, but only so far as it protects them from being hassled by the majority religion, Protestant Christianity.

    But see if these guys talk about separation of church and state when it comes to, say, pray in schools, or creationism. When it’s just those dirty evilutionists or secularists that would be protected by it, suddenly separation of church and state doesn’t exist any more.

    In the 1700s, the Baptists were among the most vocal supporters of separation of church and state. Why? ‘Cause at the time they were a small religion without much political power. It benefitted them. But they stopped supporting it as soon as they became politically ascendent, and it began getting in the way of their plans to inject “faith” into every aspect of government.

  5. #5 James McGrath
    May 4, 2007

    Many Baptists (particularly Southern Baptists, but even there not all) are being absolutely hypocritical, as the previous comment pointed out. The first amendment only protects your freedoms if it also protects the freedoms of those you disagree with. I am happy to say that some Baptists still remember this point – but alas, apparently many others view the First Amendment in far more Machiavellian terms, as something useful to protect them until they can get into a position to take over.

    I hope we’ll see some further exploration of the implications of the Dover decision (and other similar ones). One cannot oppose a scientific conclusion (at least at a state institution) because you don’t like it on religious grounds. Does this help accomplish what Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris have all recently advocated, namely that religious beliefs stop being exempted from rational, critical inquiry? We will still have freedom of personal opinion on such matters, but not in a way that allows one to trump reason, science, and evidence. If that is a legitimate reading of the Dover decision then it is an important one and should be trumpeted loud and clear!

    http://blue.butler.edu/~jfmcgrat/blog/

  6. #6 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    May 4, 2007

    *sigh* If Wikipedia can be believed in this instance

    Unfortunately, it can.

  7. #7 PC
    May 4, 2007

    I think it is very respectable of the politicians to consider the rights of all life, even an embryo. It sounds as if they considered the options to relieve suffering carefully and found that suitable alternatives exist. To debase someone for their religious beliefs because you do not value the life of a embryo is shallow in its philosophical merit to say the least.

  8. #8 Tyler DiPietro
    May 4, 2007

    “I think it is very respectable of the politicians to consider the rights of all life, even an embryo.”

    You do realize that an early stage embryo (i.e., a three-day old blastocyst from a fertility clinic that, mind you, would have been discarded anyway) is comprised of about 150 completely undifferentiated cells, right? That’s about 1/100th. of the cells in brain of a fly, and not organized into a nervous system or anything. Why does something like that have more of “right” to life than a blade of grass?

    “To debase someone for their religious beliefs because you do not value the life of a embryo is shallow in its philosophical merit to say the least.”

    Correct. To debase someone for the absurdity of their beliefs is, however, perfectly philosophically justifiable. The idea that a colony of undifferentiated cells in a petri dish is more valuable than people suffering from debilitating illnesses is perverse and, ultimately, stupid.

  9. #9 Tyler DiPietro
    May 4, 2007

    Actually, the “1/100th.” figure above should be around 1/1000th. Sorry for the error.

  10. #10 PC
    May 4, 2007

    Your responce begs the question, “When do you think human life begins?”

  11. #11 JBL
    May 4, 2007

    No, it doesn’t. The validity of his response doesn’t depend at all on when human life begins.

  12. #12 Tyler DiPietro
    May 4, 2007

    Your responce begs the question, “When do you think human life begins?”

    No, it depends on whether a colony of cells, which is physically incapable of feeling, knowing or experiencing anything, takes precedence over human beings suffering from debilitating illnesses. It has nothing to do with when “life begins”, it has everything to do with ameliorating the afflictions of sick people.

  13. #13 PC
    May 4, 2007

    Apparently you don’t believe human life begins at conception. To belittle someone who holds human life in reverence whether it is in a petri dish or in a womb is to state you own irreverence for the miracle of human life that starts at conception. As the article states there are alternatives that don’t include what many hold sacred. And thank God for those options for I would be just as torn as you are in regards to alleiviating the pain of others. Yet, I’m glad the politicians stood their ground and pointed out the progress that has been made in this area. The callousness of some mens hearts in regards to this matter is truly sad.

  14. #14 Tyler DiPietro
    May 4, 2007

    “Apparently you don’t believe human life begins at conception.”

    No, I’m saying that life isn’t important in the equation, it’s about suffering. We have a set of people who are capable of suffering and experience it every day due to debilitating ailments that could potentially be cured a certain therapy, and another set of things that we could use to conduct research on to develop those therapies. The things in the latter category are are clumps of cells that are incapable of experiencing anything and don’t suffer at all due to what we do to them (and currently, they are discarded daily in fertility clinics already).

    “To belittle someone who holds human life in reverence whether it is in a petri dish or in a womb is to state you own irreverence for the miracle of human life that starts at conception.”

    What I hold an “irreverence” for is meaningless red herrings like the ones you’re invoking over and over again here. This isn’t about “life”. Grass blades are alive, insects are alive, many things we don’t consider significant are alive. It’s completely irrelevant.

    “As the article states there are alternatives that don’t include what many hold sacred.”

    No, the article stated what the candidates said (uncritically, as usual with the American media). And what the candidates said was the typical distortions that have been brilliantly shredded here on denialism blog.

    “The callousness of some mens hearts in regards to this matter is truly sad.”

    I’d prefer to call it unmitigated rationality, but if you want to sling around labels like that, I’ll call the positions of people like you “criminal stupidity”. Ignorance and superstition are not always innocuous.

  15. #15 Crudely Wrott
    May 4, 2007

    In a future dictionary of phraseology the definition of “just enough knowledge to be dangerous” could well be accompanied by a short video compilation of these questions and “responses”.

    This is the first election cycle in my life in which the majority of candidates are younger than I am and it’s causing me a major case of the old-fart-angst-red-ass. Perhaps there are hurried efforts behind the scenes to provide these potential Leaders of the Free World with a schtick that is at least persuasive, with some authority other than to confess that “oh, well, as to that; I have a belief. And we all have beliefs and these hold us together and I believe that beliefs are cohesive and that without beliefs no people can hold their own destiny because without belief . . .”

    There goes my belief that as time passed people would, on the whole, get smarter and that this would apply to our “leaders” too. Off it goes, to join Santa, and Peter Pan and the little guys with the blunt teeth under my bed.

    Fact is, I kinda miss ‘em all. At least their potential for good or evil was evident.

  16. #16 Bob O'H
    May 5, 2007

    Huckabee thinks it’s important to let your faith influence the decisions you make as an elected leader.

    I think you’re being unfair. At least according to my reading of what Huckabee said, he was being descriptive, not prescriptive. It seems like he was making a reasonable and obvious point: his faith is part of who he is, so it will affect how he behaves. It looks like he was taking a swipe and anyone who tries to down-play the effect of their faith on their beliefs.

    Bob

  17. #17 Callandor
    May 5, 2007

    “It seems like he was making a reasonable and obvious point: his faith is part of who he is, so it will affect how he behaves. It looks like he was taking a swipe and anyone who tries to down-play the effect of their faith on their beliefs.”

    I don’t see how that’s any different from what Jason posted.

    Huckabee said, his faith defines him. It will effect every decision he makes, and therefore his behavior. You both seem to be saying the exact same thing to me (which is that Huckabee is irrational ;)).

    And Rep. Paul’s defense is pathetic. Not in the Constitution. That’s the problem with strict constructionists: if it’s not said explicitly, in both letter and spirit, it doesn’t exist. The FDA apparently doesn’t exist to Rep. Paul. Nor does social security. Nor does much of any type of program instituted after 1936 or so.

    I can’t recall from what I watched of the debate, but I’d want to know what Paul’s feelings are on the line-item veto: that’s another thing that’s not in the Constitution at all, but a few Republicans were blovating over it at the debate (I’m fairly sure Giuliani was one).

  18. #18 Jesus
    May 5, 2007

    Interesting. Two of the most conservative candidates taking a soft line on global warming. Instead of decrying it as a hoax, as people like James Inhofe and Tom DeLay do, they change the subject to the importance of energy conservation. Looks like progress to me.

    Conservation need not necessarily have anything to do with global warming.

    McCain then came out unambiguously in favor of stem-cell research. Coupled with his support for evolution, that officially makes him the only non-crazy candidate on the stage. Faint praise indeed.

    You obviously missed the last two years and McCain’s totally insane response about following bin Laden to the gates of hell, which he ended with a demented smile.

    Also, the only sane candidate up there was Ron Paul.

  19. #19 daedalus2u
    May 9, 2007

    Actually, human life cannot occur at conception. A human life can only occur after the cells have irreversibly differentiated into a single organism.

    Prior to that irreversible differentiation, the cells could be divided, and twins, triplets, quadruplets, or a larger number of individual humans could be produced.

    If multiple undifferentiated cells from two or more fertilized eggs are combined, a single chimeric human being can result.

    Two fertilized eggs can develop into a single individual. So who died? Both fertilized eggs can have daughter cells in the single human being that results, so no one has “died”. If no one has “died”, then there could not have been two people present to begin with.

    So a fertilized egg cannot be a “human being”.

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