06/09/2004: A fitting Reagan memorial
Republicans are falling over themselves proposing things to name after Reagan. The dime, $10 bill, $50 bill, half dollar coin, Mt. Rushmore, etc. Pretty soon, they'll attempt to rename the capital "Reagan D.C." And the Atlantic Ocean "Reagan Ocean". We'll invade Antartica for the sole benefit of renaming it "Reagantartica".In fact, if we loosened up the restrictions on stem cell research (and arguably, regardless of whether we do or not), I can see naming an Alzheimer's research foundation or institute after Reagan. It would be most appropriate.
Yet as choked up as Republicans seem to be about Reagan's passing, few of them want to honor him the way his own wife, Nancy, wants him honored -- by permitting and funding the type of research that would've made his last few years bearable.
I didn't mourn Reagan's passing not because of partisan spite (even though there's plenty of that in me), but because Alzheimer's is a horrific disease I wouldn't wish on my worst enemies. In a way, I was relieved his ordeal was over. Ronald Reagan, our ideological foe, had passed years ago. We had just been waiting for it to become official.
Nancy Reagan, having suffered through the past years, understands the role that stem cell research can play in eradicating Alzheimer's.As president, Ronald Reagan banned federal funding for any biomedical research that used fetal tissue. Yet in the last month of his life, Mrs. Reagan -- already working behind the scenes to promote stem-cell work -- went public with her support.
"I don't see how we can turn our backs on this," she told a Hollywood diabetes fund raiser May 8. "I am determined to do whatever I can."
Political conservatives and many anti-abortion groups generally oppose stem-cell research because it requires destruction of human embryos only days old. In 2001, President Bush signed an executive order that limits federally funded research to a handful of existing embryonic stem cell lines.
Mrs. Reagan's support for the controversial research -- which could dramatically impact treatment of diabetes, Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injuries and Alzheimer's disease -- puts her in the forefront of shifting political opinion on the issue. Last Friday, the day before Ronald Reagan died, a majority of the Senate -- 44 Democrats and 14 Republicans -- sent a letter to President Bush urging that stem-cell research restrictions be eased. A similar letter was sent last month by 206 House members, 12 short of a majority.
Nancy Reagan herself wrote Bush three years ago, saying that stem-cell research could be part of her husband's legacy.
"Maybe one of the small blessings that will come from (Reagan's) passing will be a greater opportunity for Nancy to work on this issue, which of course means so much to her," said one of the Republican senators signing the letter, Orrin Hatch of Utah. "I believe that it's going to be pretty tough for anybody not to have empathy for her feelings on this issue."
Len on 06.09.04 @ 11:56 AM CST