DENVER – Democrat John Kerry (search), backed by 48 Nobel Prize winners, on Monday criticized President Bush (search) for allowing ideology rather than facts determine science policies and repeated his pledge to overturn the ban on federal funding of research on new stem cell lines (search).
"We need a president who believes in science again in America," Kerry said. "We need to be prepared, and one of the first things that I will do as president by executive order immediately is reverse the gag rule (search) and also move America forward to do stem cell research and begin to find the cures we need."
Kerry was speaking at a fund-raiser in Aspen, where he made a brief stop before a scheduled speech in Denver.
The so-called "global gag-rule," reinstated by President Bush when he took office, makes non-governmental overseas organizations that promote or perform abortions (search) ineligible for U.S government money.
In a letter endorsing Kerry, 48 scientists who have won the Nobel Prize said the Bush administration is undermining the nation's future by impeding medical advances, turning away scientific talent with its immigration practices and ignoring scientific consensus on global warning and other critical issues.
"Unlike previous administrations, Republican and Democratic alike, the Bush administration has ignored unbiased scientific advice in the policy-making that is so important to our collective welfare," their letter stated.
Dr. Burton Richter (search), the 1976 Nobel laureate in physics, said it was unusual for such a large number of Nobel winners to endorse a particular political candidate.
"I hope you take that as a sign of how seriously all of us think the errors of our present course are," Richter told reporters in a conference call arranged by the Kerry campaign.
The Kerry campaign said the Massachusetts senator will invest in scientific research to foster discoveries to protect the economy as well as to help cure diseases. He also will rely on scientific leaders and expert advice when making decisions, the campaign said, and will allow stem cells to be researched in full under the appropriate ethical oversight.
Stem cell research gained renewed attention earlier this month after the death of former President Reagan, who suffered from Alzheimer's disease (search). His family, including former first lady Nancy Reagan, called for more research into the disease using stem cells. Fifty-eight senators — including Kerry — sent Bush a letter asking that he relax the restrictions he imposed by executive order in August 2001. The White House has rejected those requests.
The Bush administration places "politics over science to please their right-wing constituency," the Kerry campaign said.
Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt said the president's budget raises federal research and development to $132 billion in 2005, a 44 percent increase since taking office.
"Only John Kerry would declare the country to be in scientific decline on a day when the country's first privately funded space trip is successfully completed," Schmidt said, referring to the flight of a privately financed rocket over California.
The administration, according to a Kerry campaign statement, removed information about global warming from a 2003 Environmental Protection Agency (search) report; ordered changes to a report that described damage that would be caused by drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; and deleted information about condoms from government Web sites.
Harold Varmus, a former head of the NIH and a Kerry supporter, said Bush continued President Clinton's plan to double the agency's budget over five years. But, he said, White House documents show the administration is prepared to cut the NIH (search) budget by 2.1 percent in 2006. Other scientific budgets have increased, but under the rate of inflation, Varmus said.
The Denver trip is Kerry's first public campaign visit to Colorado, a traditionally Republican-leaning state that chose Bill Clinton in 1992. Kerry's advisers say Colorado could be won by a Democrat again this year because of the growing Hispanic population and jobs losses under Bush.
The Massachusetts senator also hopes to have special appeal because he was born at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital near Denver and can relate with his military background to the many veterans who live there.
While he was in Colorado, Kerry made a quick stop in Aspen for a $500,000 fund-raiser at the home of Michael Goldberg, president of Miami-based airline leasing company Aerolease International (search). Kerry invited Aspen resident and writer Hunter S. Thompson to ride in his motorcade and brought three copies of Thompson's book about the 1972 presidential race, "Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail."
"Just to put your minds all at ease, I have four words for you that I know will relieve you greatly," Kerry told the fund-raiser. "How does this sound — Vice President Hunter Thompson."