Blackadder’s Lair

The home of many a cunning plan

McCain and Obama: The Same on ESCR?

In one sense the answer to the question is obviously yes. Both Obama and McCain favor federal funding for embryo-destroying research, and so far as I call tell there is no daylight between them on the subject of what types of research they would like to subsidize. And while McCain has occasionally made noises to the effect that he might possibly drop his support for ESCR, he hasn’t done so yet. Politics, however, is about not only the positions that one holds but about how those positions will be implemented. And on that score there is a very clear difference between Obama and McCain when it comes to federal funding for embryo-destroying research.

Federal funding for embryo-destroying research can come about in one of two ways. It could be enacted by congress, either with the President’s support or over his veto, or it could be enacted via executive order. Senator Obama has pledged that, if elected, he would immediately sign an executive order granting funding for embryo-destroying research. McCain has not made such a commitment, and the view among ESCR’s main supporters in the congress seems to be that he would wait for congress to pass a bill rather than acting on his own.

This difference is potentially decisive. If a bill funding embryo-destroying research has to make it through congress, there will be ample opportunities for funding opponents to offer alternatives, present evidence as to the ineffectiveness of ESCR and/or the viability of alternatives, and to use procedural devices such as the filibuster to prevent its passage. Such tactics provide the possibility, though not the certainty, that federal funding for ESCR would never even make it to McCain’s desk. Should Obama simply sign such funding into law via executive fiat, by contrast, there will be no debate, no chance to present alternatives or sway moderates. It will all be over and done with in a day.

To say that a McCain presidency would be preferable on the ESCR issue than an Obama presidency is not to deny the awfulness of McCain’s own views on the matter. A choice between a 80% chance that federal funding for embryo-destroying research and a 100% chance of federal funding for embryo-destroying research is not a good one by any means. Nonetheless, there is a difference.


September 29, 2008 - Posted by | Election, ESCR


  1. Even worse it is hard to tell how serious McCain is about opposing creation of embryos. His site says he is against creating embryos for research and so his support of ESCR would be in the realm of embryos from IVF. This was recently said again in a science survey he answered.

    Yet he has no problems running ads that are quire ambiguous.

    If his support was limited to the support of the murder of ESC R embryo’s it would set him apart from Obama who favors no restrictions. Federal funding of using IVF embryo’s doesn’t seem very likely to me considering that pretty much all the research is towards cloning for multiple reasons.

    Can’t say I trust McCain on this since if he can’t get the fact that murdering embryos for research is wrong he doesn’t have a very firm moral foundation. The “they are going to die anyway” argument is not exactly morally compelling.

    Comment by Jeff Miller | September 29, 2008 | Reply

  2. This is more in the realm of suspicion than known position, but I’m fairly confident that Obama would also sign off on producing more embryos through cloning — though I don’t think he’s admitted to that. It would, however, be entirely consistent with his other views and those of his party.

    McCain, I hold out a fair amount of hope, would be far less likely to sign off on cloning.

    And since there would not be a sufficient embryo supply for production level use of embryonic stem cells without cloning, Obama is thus a far more dangerous person the issue — to my mind.

    Comment by Darwin | September 30, 2008 | Reply

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