In the political dictionary next to “hardball” might appropriately be the latest ad running in Missouri in support of Democratic candidate for Senate Claire McCaskill and Amendment 2, a pro-cloning initiative up for a vote on Election Day. Missouri voters should call a foul on Amendment 2 supporters.
In the commercial, which ran during game two of the World Series in St. Louis Sunday night, a clearly suffering Michael J. Fox — the beloved actor, who has Parkinson’s disease, is shaking as he speaks — pulls on voters’ heartstrings and serves up an unfair and disingenuous message.
“In Missouri, you can elect Claire McCaskill, who shares my hope for cures,” Fox tells viewers. Mentioning Republican Senator Jim Talent by name for his opposition to the initative, Fox says, “Senator Talent even wanted to criminalize the science that gives us a chance for hope.” Fox tells viewers, “What you do in Missouri matters to millions of Americans — Americans like me.”
The reality of Amendment 2 is far from the simple vote for “hope” Fox suggests it is. As opponents of the measure are emphasizing in their 2tricky ad campaign — without the money or star power the pro-Amendment folks have lined up — the initiative is a complicated, unnecessary move. As an anti-Amendment 2 website picks apart the issue:
To clone or not to clone? That’s the question.
But it’s not the question Missourians will be asked in November when they vote on Amendment 2. The question they will see in the voting booth is different from the actual language of the Constitutional Amendment.
When you see Amendment 2 at your polling place, you will be asked to decide whether to “ban human cloning or attempted cloning.” Sounds good so far, right? Who’s in favor of human cloning anyway?
But the 2,100-word Constitutional Amendment — which you won’t see on election day — actually creates legal protection for human cloning. Hard to believe? It’s true. Amendment 2 only outlaws reproductive cloning, which no one in Missouri (or anywhere else on earth) is doing.
Meanwhile, it protects anyone who wants to clone human beings for science experiments. Amendment 2 glosses over the issue of lab-created human life with complicated phrases like “Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer.” But cloning is cloning, and Amendment 2 would put this ethically questionable practice beyond the reach of state law.
Amendment 2 is “2 tricky.” And the human-cloning “bait and switch” is just the beginning.
In a commercial drowning in false hope and overhype, Michael J. Fox, Claire McCaskill, and their funders don’t mention that stem-cell research — including embryo-destroying research — is already legal and happening not just in Missouri but across the U.S. What they also don’t tell you is that in creating a constitutional right to human cloning, the Missouri amendment is more radical than anything even the United Nations is currently willing to do. The commercial also doesn’t mention that there are some real potential drawbacks to jumping into embryonic-stem-cell research for Parkinson’s patients. Embryonic-stem-cell research is not the panacea its advocates would have you believe.
The campaign in Missouri this fall isn’t the first time we’ve seen such over-the-top rhetoric. When it comes to embryonic-stem-cell research and cloning, politicians have often become snake-oil salesmen. About this time in the 2004 presidential-election cycle, Democratic vice-presidential nominee John Edwards outrageously announced, “If we do the work that we can do in this country, the work that we will do when John Kerry is president, people like Christopher Reeve are going to walk, get up out of that wheelchair and walk again.”
Republican Jim Talent is in many ways a great candidate to be running against Amendment 2. His own public record speaks to the confusion that surrounds the ballot initiative and the issue in general, having briefly earned the frustration of fellow cloning opponents earlier this year when he withdrew support from a Senate bill that would ban cloning, believing its broad language would shut off some non-embryo-destroying alternative research. That move earlier this year, while wrongheaded, speaks to both how complicated the whole issue is and how, contrary to the Fox implication, Talent (like myriad other cloning opponents) is in fact pro-hope.
Amendment 2 is not a matter of voting for or against sick people. Claire McCaskill should be ashamed for approving a message that suggests such a thing. But apparently she’s comfortable running as just another snake-oil salesman.
Editor’s note: For more on Amendment 2, see our editorial today and Yuval Levin’s overview.
– Kathryn Jean Lopez is the editor of National Review Online.