Misreading the Reagans - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Misreading the Reagans

“Nancy Reagan Fights Bush Over Stem Cells,” reads the New York Times headline. And the Times, usually not in the mood to take her seriously, is suddenly ready to help: “‘A lot of time is being wasted,’ she told a friend last week who was given permission to pass her words on to the New York Times. ‘A lot of people who could be helped are not being helped.'”

Ronald Reagan argued that human life begins at the moment of conception and that destroying an innocent human life for reasons of utility is unjust, dishonorable, and godless. But the Times isn’t terribly interested in what he might think of embryonic stem cell research. The Times relays Michael Deaver’s crass response to the observation that Reagan would have disapproved of his wife’s new cause: “Ronald Reagan didn’t have to take care of Ronald Reagan for the last 10 years.”

Reagan wasn’t the type to discard moral principle if it conflicted with convenience. But the Deavers around him never cared too much for his pro-life principles, and so they see no problem with using his condition to advance a cause he would have opposed. Such is their selfless stewardship of his legacy.

The Times reports that Nancy Reagan is the daughter of a “neurosurgeon,” as though that strengthens her case. The Times doesn’t bother to mention that her father, Dr. Loyal Davis, was a pro-lifer who confirmed Ronald Reagan in his views.

But so what? The Times can’t be distracted from the point it wants to make, namely, that George Bush should now consider supporting embryo destruction for medical research because Nancy Reagan is in favor of it. Apropos of nothing, the Times reports that “Mrs. Reagan’s dispute with Mr. Bush is complicated by the long, rather strained history between their families.”

Forced to respond to an artificial controversy, the White House generously said of Nancy Reagan’s media campaign for the research, “A great many good-hearted people have strong feelings about this. The president is confident that the decision he made last year strikes the right balance between moral and ethical responsibility and furthering scientific research.”

Bush, to defend his policy, could just quote Ronald Reagan’s own words. “We cannot diminish the value of one category of human life — the unborn — without diminishing the value of all human life,” Reagan said. “We will never recognize the true value of our own lives until we affirm the value in the life of others, a value of which Malcolm Muggeridge says, ‘however low it flickers or fiercely burns, it is still a Divine flame which no man dare presume to put out, be his motives ever so humane and enlightened.'”

Reagan was well aware of the utilitarian arguments for destroying unborn human life. He never found them persuasive. Good motives, he thought, could never make an evil act good. He would find abhorrent the elite’s view of human embryos as guinea pigs for research.

“Obviously, some influential people want to deny that every human life has intrinsic, sacred worth. They insist that a member of the human race must have certain qualities before they accord him or her status as a ‘human being,'” he said. “They want to pick and choose which individuals have value. Some have said that only those individuals with ‘consciousness of self’ are human beings. One such writer has followed this deadly logic and concluded that ‘shocking as it may seem, a newly born infant is not a human being.'”

The Times reports that last year “Mrs. Reagan wrote to Mr. Bush, saying she hoped that sparing other families what hers had suffered could be part of her husband’s legacy.” Extending some lives by ending other lives is not Reagan’s legacy.

In this media-ginned-up dispute between Bush and Nancy Reagan, Ronald Reagan would side with Bush.

George Neumayr
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George Neumayr, a senior editor at The American Spectator, is author most recently of The Biden Deception: Moderate, Opportunist, or the Democrats' Crypto-Socialist?
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