- The Washington Times - Friday, July 20, 2001

HALTON ROYAL AIR FORCE BASE, England — President Bush yesterday defiantly refused to be rushed into a decision on whether to allow federal funding of stem-cell research, insisting he would not be swayed by political pressure because "this is way beyond politics."
During a brief joint press conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Mr. Bush also reaffirmed his support for a missile-defense shield and his opposition to the Kyoto Protocol on global warming.
But Mr. Bush reserved most of his passion for the moral dilemma over whether scientists should be allowed to kill human embryos and harvest their stem cells to perform research that might help battle diseases. The president appeared pained when a CBS reporter, citing Republicans who support the research, asked: "Do you now have enough political cover on the right to make a decision in the affirmative?"
"It doesn't matter who's on what side as far as I'm concerned," Mr. Bush replied. "This is a decision I'll make. And somehow to imply that this is a political decision somebody doesn't understand how I think or really doesn't understand the full consequence of the issue. This is way beyond politics."
Asked why "it's taking you so long to make a decision," Mr. Bush would not be pinned to a timetable.
"This is a very serious issue that has got a lot of ramifications to it," the president said. "And I'm going to take my time because I want to hear all sides.
"I want to fully understand the opportunities and to fully think through the dilemmas," he said. "And so I will make an announcement in due course, when I'm ready."
Mr. Bush added: "This is an issue that speaks to morality and science and the just position of both, and the Americans deserve a president who will listen to people and to make a serious, thoughtful judgment on this complex issue. And that's precisely how I'm going to handle it."
The president, who flies to Italy today for a Group of Eight economic summit, lashed out at demonstrators who have massed there to protest globalization.
"For those who want to shut down trade, I say this to them as clear as I can: You're hurting poor countries," Mr. Bush said. "For those who kind of use this opportunity to say that the world should become isolationists, they're condemning those who are poor to poverty and we don't accept it. We don't accept it."
The president also effusively praised Mr. Blair for keeping an open mind about Mr. Bush's plan to build a global defense shield against missiles from rogue nations. Some European leaders and U.S. Democrats have expressed trepidation about such an undertaking.
"The thing I appreciate about the prime minister is that he's willing to think anew as we head into the future," Mr. Bush said. "It's hard for any country to commit to vague notions, but there are some leaders who just out of hand reject any willingness to think differently about security.
"And Prime Minister Blair is not that way," he said. "He's been very forthcoming. He's had great questions."
The president added: "He's been more than willing to listen to the philosophy behind and moving beyond a treaty that has codified a relationship that no longer exists. The ABM Treaty codified a relationship between enemies. Russia is not our enemy."
Mr. Bush was referring to the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union, which forbade both countries from building nationwide defenses against incoming missiles. The treaty was based on the premise that neither nation would launch a first strike because they knew they would be defenseless against retaliatory strikes.
Mr. Bush, who was accused Wednesday by Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of isolationism, made a point of promising to continue consulting with U.S. allies, including Mr. Blair.
"As our plans develop, I'll stay in touch with Tony as to what's going on," the president said.
Mr. Bush also sought to emphasize his common ground with Mr. Blair on Kyoto, which Mr. Bush has called "fatally flawed" because it would harm U.S. consumers and industry. Mr. Blair has called for the ratification of the treaty.
"We share the goal of reduction of greenhouse gases," the president said. "We will be presenting a strategy that may have different means than Kyoto, of achieving the same goal. And we're in the process of developing the strategy."
He added: "But first things first, as far as I'm concerned. Our strategy must make sure working people in America aren't going out of work."
Before yesterday's press conference, Mr. Bush met with Queen Elizabeth.
Afterward, he retired for the evening at Chequers, the British prime minister's country estate.

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