Because stem cell research destroys human embryos, some Republican leaders on the Hill have come out in opposition of federal funding.
LINDA VESTER: An update now on the battle over federal funding for stem cell research. This is a tricky one for the president and he hasn't decided which way he's going to go. We want to talk about it with a top journalist, Mort Kondracke. How are you?
>> How are you?
LINDA VESTER: You're here to talk about this particularly because of the book you've written, "Saving Millie: Persuading the president." To try to get the president to support federal funding. Mort, I love -- I have to say, I mean, I'm one of millions of people who said I love the book and am unabashed about it, but you said something around page 171 that really jumped out which is that, you know, the funding from the government depends on how loud your voice is and who you have access to. With this battle over research, how do you think the stem cell researchers and supporters are doing in winning over the president?
>> Well, I think -- the drift of things seems to be on our side. On the side of the disease groups that are trying to persuade him to allow the federal funding of the research to go forward and certainly, the political momentum is on our side. John McCain who was against the research during the Republican primaries came out in favor of it. Hatch, Lott, Mack, former senator from Florida, have always been on that side. Thompson, the health and human services secretary's for it, and the fact that the president has paused for such a long time on this tells me that he didn't do what he said -- during the campaign that he was going to do … ban it …, that's a good sign because, in the end, I mean, these are frozen embryos, will never be human beings and will be thrown away and the opportunity to cure dozens and dozens of diseases. Parkinson's to burns. People with third degree burns over most of their body who would normally die if stem cells are converted to new skin, they can live.
LINDA VESTER: How do you know, though, that the people opposing it like Tom Delay, federal funding, I mean, are not going to ultimately win over the president, you know, with their argument that every little movement here gets us closer, you know, closer movement in the battle over abortion?
>> Well, the abortion battle -- seems to me that the pro-life and Catholic Church is in a difficult position because they are claiming that life begins at the moment of conception even in a petrie dish and therefore to kill a life and destroy the embryo is same as murder and if that's the case, why stop with federal funding of stem cell research? Why not out and out ban the research? Why are they not, you know, saying that all invitro clinics produce one embryo at a time to implant into a mother? You know, their position is not logically consistent. So, I think -- you know … it was interesting that it was only three leaders of Congress. Tom Delay, J. C. Watts and Dick Armey, and where was Dennis Hastert and Trent Lott and where was the rest of the Republican conference in the House of Representatives? It wasn't there. So, I think that's another good sign politically but fundamentally, I don't think this should be a political battle. I think it should be an issue decided on ethics, and humanitarianism and I think under those circumstances, we win. And I honor Bush's concern that there's a slippery slope here.
LINDA VESTER: Right.
>> Clearly, if you destroy a day's old embryo, logically, you can destroy a 9 month old or 8 month old … that's what the law is for. You establish guidelines so that there's only a certain period when you can use these embryos.
LINDA VESTER: Let me ask you about something that I read in the paper. Close friends of Ronald Reagan, who's suffering Alzheimer's disease, made it clear in their sort of way in the subtle way that it would be okay with them if the president supported federal funding of stem cell research. For those that revere Ronald Reagan and many in the Republican Party, was that supposed to be a sign?
>> Well, I don't know about that. But I would be amazed if Nancy Reagan weren't in favor of this research going forward. I have no communications with her. I don't -- she hasn't talked to me. I haven't seen her name mentioned but just knowing her, you know, she's the kind of person with a soul that I would think would be in favor of this research.
LINDA VESTER: All right. Producers saying I have to sneak in one more question on an unrelated issue. Congressman Gary Condit and what you're hearing on the hill about whether or not he's done enough giving three interviews with police and doing a lie detector test. What are they saying on the Hill?
>> He's clearly made a devastating mistake by not fessing up to the police right away with everything he knew, and, you know, withholding evidence is just a disaster and makes him look guilty of something. I don't know what he's guilty of. You know, his P.R. strategy is dubious. Not coming forward. Usually, get out with the whole truth and nothing but the truth as fast as you can but to deny information to the police is a truly disastrous thing …
LINDA VESTER: All right. Always good to see you. Thanks again.
>> Thanks, Linda.
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