Sunday, August 30, 2009

Selective Outrage: Conservatives Invoked Reagan's Death to Promote Liberal Stem Cell Policies

Some conservatives are experiencing a meltdown because people close to Ted Kennedy have used the occasion of his death to promote one of his greatest passions -- universal healthcare. But many of the supposedly outraged conservatives have hypocritically invoked Kennedy's illness and death in order to argue against the very reforms that Kennedy favored during his life.

Conservatives' Selective Outrage Over Death and Politics
Conservatives are exhibiting "selective outrage" over the appropriateness of mixing death and politics. In 2004, the year that Ronald Reagan died from Alzheimer's disease, former First Lady Nancy Reagan, other members of the Reagan family, and many members of Congress -- including conservatives -- used his illness and subsequent death to encourage President Bush to adopt more liberal policies related to the use of stem cells. Some researchers believe that stem cell research could be useful in the search for a cure for Alzheimer's disease.

Nancy Reagan
Former President Reagan died on June 5, 2004. During the month prior to her husband's death, Nancy Reagan sensed that the end was near. So, she made a public plea for President Bush to loosen restrictions on the use of stem cells. The former First Lady said that:

Ronnie's long journey has finally taken him to a distant place where I can no longer reach him. . . .Because of this, I'm determined to do whatever I can to save other families from this pain. I just don't see how we can turn our backs on this.
Orrin Hatch
After Reagan died, 58 Senators, including 14 Republicans, sent Bush a letter urging him to ease restrictions on stem cell research. During a June 13 interview with the Times (UK), conservative Orrin Hatch, who signed the letter, specifically invoked Reagan's death in order to promote stem cell research:

Perhaps one of the smaller blessings of Ron's passing will be a greater opportunity for Nancy to work on this issue. If someone like Nancy Reagan cannot change the president's mind, I don't think anybody can.
Trent Lott
The same article quotes conservative Senator Trent Lott, who makes a similar appeal to Reagan's death. Lott said that:

I hope that affection for the Reagans and just plain human sympathy for the terrible ordeal that afflicted them both over the past 10 years will prompt some second thoughts in the administration. . . .I suspect there are many in the White House who hope that it just goes away. But I don’t think Nancy gives up anything that is close to her heart that easily.
Arlen Specter
Senator Arlen Specter
(who at the time was a Republican) happily stated that Nancy Reagan would have a "profound effect" on the issue. Specter also signed the letter to President Bush.

What Is Wrong With Doing What Kennedy Wanted?
I only found one article (published on June 17, 2004 in the Chicago Sun-Times) that makes any substantial criticism of the political use of Reagan's death. This article, written by conservative commentator Robert Novak, criticizes Democrats for embracing Reagan for political gain. Novak, however, does not criticize conservatives who did the same thing.

Novak was trying to portray Democrats as hypocrites for embracing Reagan in death, but not in life. But if this is an accurate criticism, conservatives today should not express outrage towards Democrats who are using the moment of Kennedy's passing to bring attention to healthcare reform. Instead, they should attack conservatives who have cited to Kennedy's illness and death in order to distort the content of pending healthcare reform proposals and to undermine a central goal of Kennedy's political advocacy.

Shortly before his death, Kennedy wrote a letter to Duval Patrick, the governor of Massachusetts, urging him to appoint an interim Senator until the state could hold a special election to choose a replacement. Kennedy's aides said that he was concerned that Democrats would lack an important vote on healthcare reform unless his replacement was seated. In other words, during his last days, Kennedy himself encouraged his supporters to take the necessary steps to complete his unfinished business.

Democrats who remember Kennedy by advocating healthcare reform are simply implementing the Senator's last wishes. Republicans, however, are feigning outrage in order to defeat Kennedy's work on healthcare reform. I think it is abundantly clear which side is behaving inappropriately.

PS: Kennedy's supporters actually know that he shared their political goals. It is not clear -- but probably doubtful -- that Reagan would have supported very liberal stem cell policies.


Darleen said...

Somehow I don't recall Nancy using a grandchild during a funeral mass to push for legislative change. I mean, that would make it the same now wouldn't it?

Anonymous said...

So, in essence, you're saying that conservatives are hypocrites because there was an instance when some of them joined the left in conducting themselves the way the left ALWAYS does?

Got it.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Goob: You got a strawman argument. I am saying that there is selective outrage. You should read the speech that Lincoln's minister gave at his funeral. Party of Lincoln? Yeah right.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Darleen: No -- she pulled the "grieving widow" card instead. Sorry, but conservatives where "warning" Democrats about this long before the kid offered his prayer. By the way, Conservatives are so adamant about allowing kids to pray in school -- but you doubt the sincerity of this kid's prayer. Interesting.

Darleen said...

It's kiddie shield time, Darren. And during the "Prayers of the Faithful" part of the Catholic Mass. I very much doubt Master Allen had a clue about his grandpa's legislative agenda was before he died.

Tell me, sir, if a priest or paster during their sermon told the congregants how to vote on a particular piece of legislation would you be surprised to find the ACLU or "People for the Separation of Church and State" filing suit to have that church stripped of its tax-exempt status?

The Kennedy's pimped little Max. Not surprising given their amoral, "its good to be the king" history. But defending it? Puhleeze.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Darleen: That post has some outlandish information in it. First, a funeral for a politician will naturally have political overtones. If the IRS investigated this, that would be the dumbest thing it has ever investigated. Furthermore, apparently, conservatives and liberals all show up at churches during political campaigns. I hope you don't think that is nonpolitical. Finally, the only reason you think that the kid was "pimped" (a deplorable word choice) is because you disagree with healthcare reform that Kennedy supported. I learned about the immportance of health insurance at a young age too. Why? Because my grandmother was dying and needed extended care. Apparently, defending weeping widows and opportunistic members of Congress is fine -- so long as they are Republican.

Finally, I have not seen any critics reconcile the fact that Kennedy himself politicized his impending death by requesting the governor select an interim replacement so that the Dems would not lose one vote on healthcare reform. Clearly, Kennedy saw his death in political terms. If you agreed with his politics, you would not have a problem with that.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

PS: I broke this into 2 posts because the other one was getting too long. Check out the eulogy at Lincoln's funeral. The Party of Lincoln has definitely changed (from being northern liberals to southern conservatives; from embracing politics at funerals and now whining and acting like Armageddon is upon us):

He is dead; but the God in whom he trusted lives, and He can guide and strengthen his successor, as He guided and strengthened him. He is dead; but the memory of his virtues, of his wise and patriotic counsels and labors, of his calm and steady faith in God lives, is precious, and will be a power for good in the country quite down to the end of time. He is dead; but the cause he so ardently loved, so ably, patiently, faithfully represented and defended--not for himself only, not for us only, but for all people in all their coming generations, till time shall be no more--that cause survives his fall, and will survive it. The light of its brightening prospects flashes cheeringly to-day athwart the gloom occasioned by his death, and the language of God's united providences is telling us that, though the friends of Liberty die, Liberty itself is immortal. There is no assassin strong enough and no weapon deadly enough to quench its inextinguishable life, or arrest its onward march to the conquest and empire of the world. This is our confidence, and this is our consolation, as we weep and mourn to-day. Though our beloved President is slain, our beloved country is saved. And so we sing of mercy as well as of judgment. Tears of gratitude mingle with those of sorrow. While there is darkness, there is also the dawning of a brighter, happier day upon our stricken and weary land. God be praised that our fallen Chief lived long enough to see the day dawn and the daystar of joy and peace arise upon the nation. He saw it, and he was glad. Alas! alas! He only saw the dawn. When the sun has risen, full-orbed and glorious, and a happy reunited people are rejoicing in its light--alas! alas! it will shine upon his grave. But that grave will be a precious and a consecrated spot. The friends of Liberty and of the Union will repair to it in years and ages to come, to pronounce the memory of its occupant blessed, and, gathering from his very ashes, and from the rehearsal of his deeds and virtues, fresh incentives to patriotism, they will there renew their vows of fidelity to their country and their God.

Recall that the country was not unanimous in its opposition to slavery (I'm just talking about the Union). Also, the country was certainly divided over the War. But his minister praised these issues (just like people honoring Kennedy did with healthcare reform!).

Serr8d said...

Your question: What Is Wrong With Doing What Kennedy Wanted? is best answered by asking, how can we pay for what Kennedy, Obama, and the rest of the far-Left now desire? We are a terribly shaken nation, our economy is on the brink of a true depression. The unemployment rate, 'officially' pegged at a little more than 9 percent, is 'actually' well over 16 percent. We are likely facing a multiple-dip depression. It's now a confirmed fact that the U.S. economy is in its worst economic contraction since the first Great Depression, which also was a double-dipper. We are just months away from the 'official' notification that, yes, we are actually in a world-changing depression, and it's far from peaked, much less being over. There was a nice spike for the "cash-for-clunkers" program, but this downturn will continue to accelerate, will likely be very long-term, and very deep. I'm sorry, but we just can't afford the Left's pet projects right now.

We.Do.Not.Have.the.Money. And having the Treasury print any more money is begging for the inflation hammer. The Chinese are now balking at buying our debt.

Again, where's the money for these out-of-control-kids-in-a-candy-store programs the Left is so desirous of?

It's not Republicans who will kill Obama(Kennedy)Care. It's fiscal reality what'll do the trick.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Serr8d: Thanks for posting.

Your response raises valid concerns. In several earlier blog essays, I have said that the economic impact is one of the most important items missing from the debates. See, e.g., Three Important Things That Are Missing From Healthcare Talks.

BUT: This is not the type of conversation that conservative critics are having regarding Kennedy's death. And this is certainly not the type of conversation that I criticize as "hypocritical" in my essay.

Rather than focusing on substance, the critics of death and politics are saying that it is unseemly for Kennedy's friends and family to use his death to advance his own political passions -- even though this "is what he wanted." That is an entirely different concern than having a substantive debate about the cost of the policy. One concern is absolutely legitimate; the other wreaks of hypocrisy.

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