Clarifying Scott McClellan

White House Press briefings can be so confusing, perhaps because, as Schroeder has noted, they're "political theater." As a public service, we offer the following clarification of a few of Scott McClellan's remarks during the May 26 briefing.

Q The Senate is now going to schedule a vote on the stem cell legislation that passed yesterday. What does President Bush think should be done with all of the frozen embryos in clinics that are not going to be used?
MR. McCLELLAN: ...The President was pleased to welcome families here to the White House, families that had adopted children as embryos. It showed a life-affirming alternative that is available for people. And when it comes to frozen embryos, I think we have to keep in mind that it's a small percentage overall that is actually used for research because of the federal ban, or potentially discarded, which they wouldn't be, if they could be used for research. And the President yesterday wanted to highlight what these families have done. The President believes we ought to encourage people to choose a life -- a life-affirming alternative to the discarding of these embryos. And that alternative is adoption, because the President believes we should value life at every stage, except when that life is in another country where we're shooting people, then it's just "collateral damage"--but that's grown people. Life here is valuable if it's rich, Evangelical, or that of a politically expedient human vegetable. And that's -- we should value life in America, and that means at all stages, except when you're a hard-working, exhausted adult who can't make ends meet and has a spouse in the hospital--then you're on your own. And that's what the President was talking about.

Now, in terms of the stem cell policy, the President was also making a very important principle -- or stating a very important principle and what his policy is. The President's policy is that we should not be using public dollars for the destruction of life, unless it's children that happen to get in the way of cluster bombs we claimed we weren't using when we actually were; or if you're a kid who steps on an old American landmine; or if you happen to be in the wrong house at the wrong time, when our dismal intelligence tells us Saddam's next door and we drop an 800-lb. bomb on you, killing your extended, anti-Saddam family; or if you have lots of oil or land for a pipeline and you're in the Caspian region, etc. etc. And that's where -- he believes very strongly in that ethical line, when Evangelicals or some other voting or monied concern is involved; otherwise, he doesn't care, and that we should not cross that ethical line--again, only if Evangelicals or some other powerful group will get upset.

Q ... do you really mean to suggest that those people who support stem cell research and public funding for it, for the promise that that holds in the scientific community, is that not life affirming, as well?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm not suggesting anything of that nature. ...[The] President's belief that we ought to promote a culture of life in America and that we ought to value life at all its stages. Unless you're deep in debt for necessary medical care; or live in Uzbekistan or Sudan or Iraq or Afghanistan; or are suffering from industrial pollution that's led to you having cancer repeatedly, because Bush handed control of the agency regulating that industry to a representative of that industry. The President believes very strongly that we must pursue the tremendous possibilities of science, as long as they don't stand in the way of his policies, as they so often do, from climatology to economics, and he believes we can do so in a way that respects the dignity of life, while robbing so many of their dignity, and that maintains our highest ethical standards of powerful people who care only about themselves and their friends in inflential places.

Keep in mind that the President instituted a policy where it has now led to federal funding for some 600 stem cell lines that have been sent to researchers. There are more than 3,000 that are available and waiting to be used for research, as well. We want to explore the promise, but we're still in the very early stages of that.

Q You're making a judgment --

MR. McCLELLAN: No, but let me --

Q -- there was a big debate about the existing lines --

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, but let me make -- I'm coming to an important point, because the President talked about this yesterday. He talked about how the decisions we make today have far-reaching consequences. Like in Iraq and the severely underfunded, undersupported Afghanistan as well as in Darfur. That's why when the President came into office he appointed a bioethics advisory panel to look at these issues, to make recommendations and to advise him on these decisions that we face tell him what he wanted to hear. We must pursue life-curing treatments, but we also must avoid meeting moral and ethical obligations, unless Evangelicals are involved. And that's what the President was not talking about yesterday. And the one principle that is very important in his policy is that we shouldn't be are using public dollars to fund the destruction of post-birth life.

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