Bush and the 'M'-Word

July 25, 2006

President George W. Bush and his officials seem to be wanting to have it both ways on the most important stem-cell research question. First, White House press secretary Tony Snow said Bush believes that stem-cell research is "murder." But then White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten disagreed with the use of the term. He said, "I haven't spoken to [Bush] about the use of particular terminology."

Now, Snow has apologized for using the 'M'-word. When asked if Bush considered stem-cell research to be murder, Snow answered, "He would not use that term." So what is the big deal? When Bush vetoed stem-cell funding he said he did so because it would "support the taking of innocent human life."

Wait, how is "the taking of innocent human life" different from "murder"? If you believe that stem-cell research is "the taking of innocent human life" then there should be no problem in calling it "murder."

Perhaps the reluctance to use the 'M'-word here represents Bush's policies in other areas. It is okay if innocent civilians in Iraq have their lives taken because it is not murder. It is okay if we torture prisoners and take their lives because it is not murder. It is okay to use the death penalty to take someone's life because it is not murder.

When asked about Bush's reluctance to use the 'M'-word on stem-cell research, Family Research Council's Tony Perkins stated, "I'm not troubled by that at all. ... The president's actions speak louder than words."

But that does not mean his words are unimportant. Here his words seem to be undermining his actions. Rather than making a stand for the sanctity of human life, Bush is continuing to divide between which lives are simply taken and which ones are murdered.

While he is acting in this case to stop what he sees as "the taking of innocent human life," he is still maintaining the divide between some lives that are murdered and others that are just taken. His rhetoric suggests that it is okay to take some lives as long as the people are not important enough to be considered murdered. Such rhetoric then actually lessons the sanctity of all human life.