The Corner

Re: Okay, Not Haters

Thanks for conceding that no hatred has been expressed.

On the 1999 “backs of the poor” thing: Sure, a lot of conservative scribes complained, and so did Republican congressmen. I too wrote about the debate at the time. But there’s no evidence that actual conservative voters were invested in the underlying issue. The congressmen were concerned that Bush was following a strategy of distancing himself from the GOP Congress, and the writers were concerned about that to some extent and about whether Bush would have a split-the-difference politics. Nobody argued that Republican primary voters would be upset by Bush’s remarks. However many primary voters care about ESCR–an open question–it’s greater than the number who cared about the budget issue Bush was talking about in 1999.

I thought when you talked about the easiness of moral calls earlier you were making a point about the merits. If your point is only that many people who think abortion is wrong have conflicting views about escr (partly because it’s a newer issue), then of course you are correct. Nobody has denied that point, and none of the political arguments that Kate or I have made today depend on the denial of that point.

(More tangentially: I don’t think you’re right, either, that the only purists in this debate are against IVF. I am against it, myself. But it is certainly possible to make a coherent argument for IVF but against the creation of multiple “excess” embryos. It is also possible to allow the creation of multiple embryos while opposing the killing of those embryos. Whatever else may be said about creating human life and then freezing it indefinitely, it’s not the same thing as killing it.)

It doesn’t matter that nobody else in the field is perfect. George Allen has a position that’s pretty close to Frist’s on stem cells, but conservatives already have other reasons to back him–e.g., we know that he’s a government-cutter. We know no such thing about Frist.

A Sister Souljah moment makes sense for a politician who is trying to soften his or his party’s identity. Frist doesn’t have much of an identity to soften, and it’s premature for him to try to do anything with the party image. All in all, I think this was a mistake.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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