- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 13, 2005

Living in Washington can do strange things to good people. The latest example of this phenomenon is Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s declaration supporting increased government funding for embryonic stem cell research. While not a new position for him, it is a break from his previously-held views which, as recently as a month ago, he endorsed along with the White House.

Washington runs on power and prestige, undergirded by emotion and appeals to a clannish and false reasonableness. In his announcement Mr. Frist acknowledged that the embryo is nascent human life. But then he surrendered his logic to the view that the end justifies the means by stating that, since fertility clinics routinely discard leftover embryos, those embryos might as well be put to scientific use. This view is tandem to the excuse, made by pregnant women who opt for abortion rather than adoption, that they couldn’t bear to give up their child so they had no choice but to kill it in the womb.

One should expect scientists to revere science. The best ones know that science isn’t God, but only man’s elusive interpretation of how creation began and is maintained, and that two wrongs don’t make a right.

Mr. Frist, although apparently not acting out of personal or political self-interest, has been seduced by secular humanism and its veneration of all things scientific. Even if unwittingly, he has shown himself to be unfit for thepresidency, where deference to ethics is required and reverence for the Almighty increases over time because of the pressures of the office.

The worst aspect of Mr. Frist’s approach is that it reduces all human life to a matter of utility. He acknowledged the existence of God in his announcement. Only that Being is able and entitled to determine the value of human life. Man’s record of attempting to do this is devastating and nightmarish. In the 20th century, tyrannies of the right and left had at their core a utilitarian view of life. The enemies we face now assess people’s value solely according to their religious convictions and practices.

As a physician, Mr. Frist denies such narrow views about human life because to do otherwise would make a mockery of his profession. As a politician and a man, however, he has fallen short. A Princeton alumnus, Mr. Frist, to our knowledge, has never repudiated Peter Singer, an unapologetic advocate of killing the severely disabled newborn, nor chastised the university for granting him a chair in bioethics. Steve Forbes, by contrast, long ago stopped donating to the university expressly because they hired Mr. Singer.

Mr. Frist has the right to hold any political position he wishes. But he was disloyal and used bad judgment when he betrayed his patron. President Bush’s support was crucial to Mr. Frist’s elevation to Senate majority leader. Therefore, he owed Mr. Bush a more elaborate consultation than he apparently gave and shouldn’t have gone out of his way to curry favor with the New York Times, a publication hostile to Mr. Bush and all serious Republicans. Mr. Bush is probably too much of a gentleman to hold Mr. Frist accountable for his betrayal. Nonetheless, Mr. Frist has to live with the reality of it.

The consequences of Mr. Frist’s action are profound, for the country as well as for himself. The scourge of the Supreme Court’s support for abortion, the killing of thevoiceless innocent, already sullies the good name of the United States, just as the Dred Scott decision did.

America’s medical community now risks adopting in the open the kind of abusive techniques that Adolf Hitler used in secret before World War II when he eliminated the disabled, whom he considered useless. That policy was, in fact, the dress rehearsal for the immoral medical experimentation carried out in the concentration camps during the war.

Mr. Bush has restated his policy to deny putting the government’s imprimatur on research that is so ethicallybankrupt and scientifically questionable, and Congress is unlikely to override his veto. Private research on embryonic stem cells will continue unrestricted, and the government will still conduct research on some embryonic stem cells and on cord blood and adult stem cells, lines of research which shows more promise than that with embryonic stem cells.

In matters of ethics and the exercise of power, one must be diligent in restraining emotion with logic. Tyranny and evil almost always try to hide their dark and deadly nature with the cloak of emotion. They cannot be contained or reasoned with, only crushed and expunged.

William Goldcamp is a diplomatic historian and a former intelligence analyst. Nancy Goldcamp, his wife, is a former analyst and editor.

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