[T]he Obama policy is itself blatantly political. It is red meat to his Bush-hating base, yet pays no more than lip service to recent scientific breakthroughs that make possible the production of cells that are biologically equivalent to embryonic stem cells without the need to create or kill human embryos.That politicians engage in politics -- even as they claim to decry politics -- should not come as a shock to most people. So, I agree that Obama's reversal of Bush's policy and the language he used to describe the decision were both political.
But one could say the same thing of Bush's position. While Obama undoubtedly responded to members of his liberal base, Bush catered to members of his conservative base who oppose abortion. For better or worse, the stem-cell controversy implicates the same political conflict as the abortion debate. All sides on these issues can disclaim politics and rest their views on science or ethics. But when presidents make policy or respond to vocal and organized constituents, these matters inevitably become part of political discourse and conflict.
George and Cohen, however, portray Bush's policy as a politically neutral effort to balance science and ethics:
Mr. Obama's executive order overturned an attempt by President George W. Bush in 2001 to do justice to both the promise of stem-cell science and the demands of ethics. The Bush policy was to allow the government to fund research on existing embryonic stem-cell lines, where the embryos in question had already been destroyed. But it would not fund, or in any way incentivize, the ongoing destruction of human embryos.Bush's policy can be understood as balancing science and ethics -- but it also responded to the demands and ideology of his constituents. This description applies to Obama's approach as well.