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The Ostrich Approach

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By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Wednesday, May 25, 2005; 2:15 PM

Confronted by serious political opposition at many turns, President Bush has come up with an across-the-board public response: Don't acknowledge any of it.

Briefly addressing Monday's bipartisan compromise in the Senate, Bush yesterday hailed the part of the agreement that granted him votes on three of his stalled judicial nominees -- and simply ignored the part that keeps four others in limbo.

Even as the Republican-controlled House was voting to defy his veto threat and expand federal research on stem cells, Bush yesterday held a photo-op with babies and toddlers born of leftover embryos -- and refused to address how unpopular his views are even within some in his own party.

And as polls show that his Social Security proposals are bombing with the public, Bush insisted again yesterday that politicians who don't join him in talking about Social Security are the ones who will be punished by the voters.

Can the strategy of denial work? Perhaps. Bush has done well in the past by defining his own reality and setting his own agenda, rather than letting others do so.

Or, as he put it in a revealing ad-lib yesterday while talking about Social Security: "See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda."

The Embryo Imbroglio

Mike Allen and Ceci Connolly write in The Washington Post: "Defying President Bush's threat to impose his first veto, a broad swath of House Republicans voted with an overwhelming number of Democrats yesterday to repeal his restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research and plunge the government deeper into the controversial science that supporters say could lead to cures for debilitating diseases."

The bill "would make federal money available for research on embryonic stem cells extracted from frozen embryos donated by couples who no longer need them for fertility treatments. It would lift a restriction imposed by Bush nearly four years ago that limits federally funded research to fewer than two dozen embryonic stem cell colonies, or lines."

Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes in the New York Times: "The vote, 238 to 194 with 50 Republicans in favor, fell far short of the two-thirds majority required to overturn a presidential veto, setting up a possible showdown between Congress and Mr. Bush, who has never exercised his veto power. An identical bill has broad bipartisan support in the Senate; moments after the House vote, the Senate sponsors wrote to the Republican leader, Bill Frist, urging him to put it on the agenda."

Meanwhile, Bush was holding a carefully staged event in the East Room with families of children born of embryos left over from other families' fertility treatments, kissing babies right and left.

As a result, guess what imagery dominated the front pages this morning of such papers as The Washington Post and the New York Times , among many others?

Here's the text of Bush's speech. "The children here today remind us that there is no such thing as a spare embryo. Every embryo is unique and genetically complete, like every other human being. And each of us started out our life this way. These lives are not raw material to be exploited, but gifts. And I commend each of the families here today for accepting the gift of these children and offering them the gift of your love."


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© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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