Michael Kinsley personally dislikes George W. Bush,
    and gives a good reason

Are you tired of the irrational Bush-hatred so often expressed on this weblog? Well, here’s some relief: Michael Kinsley’s essay in rational Bush-hatred. Kinsley, you will recall, had to retire very young as the editor of Slate due to early-onset Parkinsonism.

He reviews the bidding on Bush’s stem-cell decision, shows that it was logically incoherent the day it was issued (since Bush does not oppose the creation of fertilized ova, most of which are eventually discarded, in fertility clinics, it makes no sense for him to oppose the use of those otherwise-to-be-discarded embryos in stem-cell research on the grounds of “respect for life”) and that two of its key factual bases (the existence of 60 usable stem-cell “lines” and the possibility of finding pluripotent adult stem cells) have since been shown to be false.

If you claim to have made an anguished moral decision, and the factual basis for that decision turns out to be faulty, you ought to reconsider or your claim to moral anguish looks phony. But Bush’s moral anguish was suspect from the beginning, because the policy it produced makes no sense.


It’s not a complicated point. If stem cell research is morally questionable, the procedures used in fertility clinics are worse. You cannot logically outlaw the one and praise the other. And surely logical coherence is a measure of moral sincerity.

If he’s got both his facts and his logic wrong — and he has — Bush’s alleged moral anguish on this subject is unimpressive. In fact, it is insulting to the people (including me) whose lives could be saved or redeemed by the medical breakthroughs Bush’s stem cell policy is preventing.

This is not a policy disagreement. Or rather, it is not only a policy disagreement. If the president is not a complete moron — and he probably is not — he is a hardened cynic, staging moral anguish he does not feel, pandering to people he cannot possibly agree with and sacrificing the future of many American citizens for short-term political advantage.

Is that a good enough reason to dislike him personally?

Brad DeLong adds:

It’s interesting that the more closely people watch George W. Bush, the more they sound like Paul Krugman.


And the silence in response to Kinsley from those who take such joy in shredding Krugman suggests that this is not ground they wish to contest. Unlike macroeconomic policy, this stuff is pretty easy to understand, and even those who are willing to defend the indefensible to keep those maximum tax rates falling may be reluctant to defend the obviously and transparenty indefensible.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com