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Friday, 10 August, 2001, 14:03 GMT 15:03 UK
Press see 'political' stem cell decision
US President George W Bush
Mr Bush made the announcement from his Texas ranch
US newspapers devote as much space to the political significance of President George W Bush's decision on stem cell research as its ethical dimension.

For some it is a bold break with election promises aimed at placating "pro-life" voters.

For others it is a fudge aimed at pleasing both Republican opponents of research and a pro-research Congress.

One paper from Mr Bush's own state of Texas, the Dallas Morning News, remarks that any decision on the issue was "sure to cause ranting from extremist groups on all sides".

Good for research, good for Bush

"He should cover his ears," the Dallas paper continues.

"The majority of Americans believe that science and conscience both can be accommodated."

Mr Bush had much to "wrestle with" and he should be "commended for taking a conscientious, careful approach".


A thoughtful first step toward resolving the ethical conundrums posed by the rapid advance of science

USA Today
Nonetheless, the paper predicts: "Congress no doubt will seek to supplant him as the nation's bio-ethics decision-maker."

USA Today comes out strongly in favour of Mr Bush's decision, focusing on what the new research could mean for disease-sufferers such as Greg Wasson, a 49-year-old Boston lawyer afflicted by Parkinson's disease.

The president may not have gone as far as many scientists would like but he did go "far enough to fuel Wasson's hopes and those of millions of others", the paper said.

Political move

In political terms, the president also stands to gain, the paper argues.

The pro-research decision "helps Bush's efforts to be seen as a compassionate conservative, more attractive to the political centre that he needs to capture if he is to be re-elected".

The Washington Post says that Mr Bush's decision marks a dramatic break with his conservative supporters.


The question is whether the stem-cell model is a new rule for Bush, or an exception to the old

Washington Post
"For the first six months of his administration, President Bush tethered himself to the Republican Party's right wing with his tax, environmental, personnel and foreign policies - enrapturing conservatives while worrying moderates and minority voters," it writes.

"That pattern changed in dramatic fashion last night."

The reason for Mr Bush's apparent departure from conservative orthodoxy is that his strategists predicted that on the stem cell issue he would be "hurt less by dispiriting conservatives than by alienating moderates", the paper writes.

Otherwise, there is little prospect of "an outright rift with conservatives, to whom Bush owes his election".

Waffle

The New York Times pulls no punches with its headline: "President Bush Waffles".

"Last night George W Bush had one of those rare opportunities a president gets to take a bold step that might define his administration," it writes.

" Instead, he ducked."

The paper argues that the limits imposed by Mr Bush on research make it next to worthless.


He added restrictions so rigid that they may constitute a near ban

New York Times
"By limiting the federal role so severely, Mr Bush will hamper the government's ability to spur this important new area of medical research...

"He is trying to have it both ways, permitting the experiments but not the extraction process that is needed to acquire the cells."

The paper suggests that Mr Bush's real concern was his electorate and not the interests of the country.

"Disappointed Americans who had hoped for a more courageous conclusion may wind up wondering if his real concern was a perpetual fear of offending the Republican Party's right-wing base," writes the New York Times.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC's Washington Correspondent Nick Bryant
"The most painstaking decision of his presidency"
US President George W Bush
"Even the most noble ends do not justify any means"
Benjamin Rudolph, a biotechnologist with Aptagen
"The biotechnology community is really going to be mixed on this one"
See also:

10 Aug 01 | Sci/Tech
What are stem cells?
10 Aug 01 | Sci/Tech
Bush's stem cell decision: Full text
10 Aug 01 | Business
Companies cheer Bush stem cell move
23 Jul 01 | Europe
Pope warns Bush on stem cells
12 Jul 01 | Sci/Tech
Row over made-to-order stem cells
17 Feb 01 | San Francisco
Stem cell hope for Parkinson's
07 Sep 00 | Festival of science
Stem cell injection for stroke on the way
19 Jul 00 | Sci/Tech
Stem cells promise liver repair
02 May 01 | Sci/Tech
Stem cells grown from dead bodies
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