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You can take the boy out of the frat, but you can’t take the frat out of the boy. At a meeting of world leaders, the American president strolled up behind German Chancellor Angela Merkel and administered an unsolicited massage, kneading her neck and shoulders. It’s probably something he does for Condi, while wearing a toga, but in photographs of the event, Chancellor Merkel looks surprised, bewildered and even a little frightened — which is to say she looks much the same as the American people look under the George W. Bush administration. Steel yourself, chancellor. Next time, he’s apt to try the infamous Popcorn Surprise.

Bush will have his little jokes. Remember his prancing around in a flight suit on the deck of an aircraft carrier just outside San Diego? What he will not have is moderation and civility in political discourse. In the process of vetoing a bill passed by both houses to expand federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research, Bush instructed his media spokesman to say that the president was vetoing the bill because “he thinks murder’s wrong.”

Murder is a strong word. Murder requires intent. If embryonic stem-cell research is murder, then a majority of members of Congress are accessories to murder — felons — including five of six Arkansas members and the congressional leaders of Bush’s own party. So are the physicians and scientists who testified for the legislation, and those, such as Nancy Reagan, who supported the bill because of losses in their own families. If he were a more serious man, Bush would have modified his remarks, acknowledging that there are some who call his war in Iraq murder. Or, for that matter, his veto of the stem-cell bill. They too are guilty of excess.

Compare Bush’s rash words with the dignified and carefully thought-out statement of Sen. Blanche Lincoln:

“I am disappointed by the president’s decision today to deny those suffering from debilitating diseases the potential treatment and cure that could come from embryonic stem cell research. Scientists have long recognized the hope that this ethical and government-monitored research can bring for their patients who suffer from diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease and spinal cord injuries. I believe that whenever we have the power to heal the sick, we have a moral responsibility to do so. This legislation gave us the opportunity to fulfill our obligation to our fellow man under strict moral and ethical protections while restricting federal funding to only those stem cells from embryos that would otherwise be discarded.”

The senator did not mention that her own father died of Alzheimer’s. The graceless Bush would never understand the omission.


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