Laura Bush says it's easy to manipulate -- then shows how it's done

The first lady dissembles on stem cell research.

Published October 31, 2006 11:31AM (EST)

C-SPAN gave Laura Bush a chance over the weekend to disassociate herself from Rush Limbaugh's claim that Michael J. Fox faked symptoms of Parkinson's disease in an ad for Democratic Senate candidate Claire McCaskill.

Think Progress has the first lady's response:

"Well, I dont have any idea about any of those," she said. "I mean, I've watched on television just like you have. But the fact is, President Bush is the only president that authorized funding for stem cell research. And, you know, it's an issue that it's easy to try to manipulate peoples feelings about and I understand that. My dad died of Alzheimer's. You know, there's nothing I would like more than to think there was a cure for Alzheimer's -- and especially before I get to be the age he is, but knowing also how he suffered. But you know, it's always easy to manipulate people's feelings, especially when you are talking about the diseases that are so difficult."

Or, say, when you think people aren't paying attention.

Contrary to the first lady's claim, George W. Bush was not, in fact, the first president to "authorize" funding for stem cell research. According to a policy brief prepared by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Institutes of Health -- "with the backing of President Clinton" -- issued guidelines and solicited applications for stem cell research grants in 2000. As Kyla Dunn has written, "If the Bush administration had done nothing, the NIH would have proceeded to review the applications and to finance those that were successful."

But the Bush administration didn't "do nothing." It suspended the Clinton administration's guidelines after the 2000 election, and then Bush replaced them with much more restrictive rules of his own. When Congress tried to ease the president's limits earlier this year, Bush responded with the first veto of his presidency.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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2006 Elections Rush Limbaugh Stem Cells War Room