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'Culture of Life,' My Foot

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The president attended the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast this morning in DC, and addressed his ongoing (and alleged) desire to establish a "culture of life" in America. As is too often the case, Bush's rhetoric and our reality were very different things.

"Renewing the promise of America begins with upholding the dignity of human life," Bush said. "In our day, there is a temptation to manipulate life in ways that do not respect the humanity of the person. When that happens, the most vulnerable among us can be valued for their utility to others -- instead of their own inherent worth. We must continue to work for a culture of life -- where the strong protect the weak, and where we recognize in every human life the image of our Creator."

Obviously, in light of this week's Senate vote on expanding federally-funded stem-cell research, this was an easy applause line in front of a sympathetic audience. But it's also a reminder of how entirely vacuous the president's policy and ideology really is. Indeed, there's every reason to believe that Bush doesn't even believe his own remarks.

Now, I suppose the easy knock on Bush's "culture of life" is to note the hypocrisy. If the president was so concerned about the dignity of human life, he wouldn't pursue a failed war policy in Iraq. If he wanted to promote a culture that honors the worth of humanity, he wouldn't take pride in his record of executing people. If he were committed to "protecting the weak," he wouldn't place tax cuts for millionaires at the top of his domestic agenda. If he really wanted to promote a culture of life, he'd support potentially life-saving medical research, instead of hampering it to cater to the demands of his party's base.

Ultimately, though, that's too easy. Let's instead consider the president's comments at face value. Bush said he rejects the "temptation to manipulate life," an obvious reference to stem-cell research. He condemned the notion of viewing "the most vulnerable among us" in the context of "their utility to others," another obvious stem-cell reference.

But this doesn't make any sense. If Bush were convinced that the research is a morally repugnant "manipulation" of life, he could advocate banning the research altogether, but he doesn't. If he believes embroys are people, he'd want to abolish fertility clinics, but he instead praises them.

It appears the president simply hasn't thought this through. Until he does, his "culture of life" rhetoric is shallow and meaningless.