Bush Gave Full Study to Stem-Cell Issue

Article excerpt

Byline: Bill Sammon

CRAWFORD, Texas - The White House yesterday went to extraordinary lengths to portray President Bush's deliberations on federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research as the most thoroughly soul-searching analysis of any issue in his first 200 days in office.

Senior administration officials and even the president himself spent much of yesterday selling the decision to Mr. Bush's various constituencies.

One aide appeared on the radio show of Rush Limbaugh, the most influential conservative talk-show host in America. Others put a full-court press on the White House reporters covering the president's monthlong vacation in Texas. Even Mr. Bush himself made his pitch on ABC's "20/20."

"Virtually everybody who works in the White House has been asked at one point or another on this issue by the president about our positions," White House counselor Karen Hughes told reporters here during an hourlong briefing. "And not only did he ask your opinion, but he also asked really probing questions about what leads you to that conclusion, what ethical considerations did you give that.

"He didn't stop at knowing what you thought about this issue," she added. "He wanted to know the moral underpinnings, the rationale, the reasons that you held that position."

Mrs. Hughes and other aides appeared buoyant over the way their boss had acquitted himself during his 11-minute televised address to the nation Thursday.

Mr. Bush said tax dollars should not be spent to kill human embryos for medical studies, although he endorsed research dollars for stem cells that already had been harvested from embryos.

Before the president's speech, many political analysts predicted that he would be widely denounced as a right-wing extremist if he opposed the continued destruction of embryos.

But since announcing his opposition, Mr. Bush has been portrayed as the Great Compromiser.

That's because he placed so much emphasis on something that previously was not a large part of the debate. …