Send In the Clones

A very complicated issue on the Missouri ballot next month is increasingly becoming the focus of politics in the Show-Me State. Earlier this year, leaders of Missourians Against Human Cloning came to my office to explain their opposition to Amendment Two. This measure, backed by the biotech industry, would “ban human cloning or attempted cloning.” Confused? So was I. The problem, which explains my visitors’ opposition, is that while the measure does use the words “ban cloning,” the devil is in the details—five pages, 2,500 words and 45 sections.

That’s a lot of details. And among them is Section 6.2, which says that “Clone or attempt to clone a human being” means to implant in a uterus or attempt to implant in a uterus.

“What the amendment bans is placement of the cloned embryo in a womb, not human cloning itself,” State Rep. Jim Lembke (R.-St. Louis), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, told me. “The cloning proponents have created their own definition not found in medical dictionaries.”

Because of this unique language in the lengthy amendment, Lembke declared, “the biotech industry would have free rein. They could establish the right of scientists to create cloned human embryos and to do research on them. Because that right would be in the state constitution, the industry and human cloning would be free from any legislative regulation.”

Lembke cited Kansas City philanthropist James Stowers, a billionaire mutual fund founder and cancer survivor, as the driving force behind Amendment Two. Former (1976-94) Missouri GOP Sen. John Danforth is campaigning hard for the measure and Republican Gov. Matt Blunt, normally a favorite of conservatives, has endorsed “Two.”

In January, a McLaughlin poll showed that Missouri voters favored the amendment by 63% to 30% statewide. Last week, the same poll showed that the margin had dwindled to 52% to 37%.

As people increasingly understand the amendment and realize that it could actually open the door to cloning, the opposition has mushroomed. Religious leaders ranging from Roman Catholic Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis to noted black Protestant clergyman B.P. Rice of St. Louis have come out strongly for a “No on Two” vote. Moreover, the Missouri Religious Roundtable and the Missouri Baptist Conference firmly oppose the amendment. According to Lembke, the “no” forces have raised more than $1 million and expect to raise $3 to $5 million before November—“about one-tenth of what the ‘yes’ forces have raised, but significant because of the way the grass-roots are energized,” he said.

The Issue’s Got Talent

In the last few weeks, the national media have become much more aware of the fight over Amendment Two and its potential effect on the too-close-to-call Senate race between Republican incumbent Jim Talent and Democrat Claire McCaskill, both of whom said little on the amendment throughout most of the campaign, although this has changed recently. Talent (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 94%) opposes the measure while McCaskill, who lost the governorship to Blunt two years ago, supports it.

Actor Michael J. Fox, who has come to Missouri to raise funds for McCaskill, made most of the evening newscasts recently when he cut a hard-hitting television commercial charging that Talent’s position could thwart stem-cell research that may help people such as him who are battling Parkinson’s Disease.

“That’s a case of the misrepresentation that’s going on here,” said Lembke, who is fighting a tough re-election battle in his St. Louis district as he continues to lead the charge against Amendment Two. “Being against Amendment Two in no way means one is against stem-cell research. It’s against giving carte blanche to the biotech industry through an over-reaching amendment.”

Lembke added that this is a “winning issue for Jim Talent because it motivates the conservative base.” He noted that there are already more than 95,000 yard signs urging a no-vote in the state’s 114 counties, plus the handful of non-county jurisdictions such as Kansas City and St. Louis. “Amendment Two has nothing to do with cures and everything to do with cash,” he told me.

(Missourians Against Human Cloning, P.O. Box 967, Chesterfield, Mo. 63006)

Michigan Trash Talk

In every election cycle, it seems, there is a statewide outcome somewhere that someone never predicted, in which the winning candidate caught on late and made a final and stunning dash over the finish line.

Michigan is a state where this seems to happen rather frequently. As State Republican Chairman Saul Anuzis recently recalled to me, “[Republican Sen.] Spence Abraham was as much as 17% up in polls two weeks before the election in 2000, but lost to [Democrat] Debbie Stabenow. In ’02, [Republican gubernatorial nominee] Dick Posthumus was 13% down in polls on the Thursday before the election and came within 3.5% of [Democratic victor] Jennifer Granholm. We’re a swing state, all right.”

That is why pundits and pols are increasingly taking seriously the latest Strategic Vision poll that shows Republican Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard, who had been thought a sure loser, now trailing Democratic Sen. Stabenow by only 48% to 42% statewide. In a year when Republicans have been hard-pressed to come up with any Democrat-held Senate seat other than New Jersey that they think they can pick up, the Water Wonderland is seen more and more as a GOP possibility.

Much of this has to do with garbage. That’s right—garbage. In the 1990s, the state made an agreement with Canada permitting Canadians to send their trash over the border and use Michigan’s considerable landfills. In recent years, however, the landfills have been overflowing, and the state now has more Canadian trash than it can handle.

What does this have to do with Stabenow? The Democratic senator has supported a measure favored by the Canadian minister of the environment that would have Canada scale back its trash, but only by 2010. So far, she’s been able to get only her Democratic colleague from Michigan, Sen. Carl Levin, to co-sponsor the measure. Opting for a long-term, slow approach to the trash crisis, the senator has never even endorsed a House bill offered by Michigan Republican Representatives Candice Miller and Mike Rogers that would have stopped Canadian trash coming over the border outright.

All of this “trash talk” is being hit hard by Bouchard. It comes at a time when polls show the Republican candidate for governor, Richard DeVos, Jr., in a virtual dead heat with Gov. Granholm.

The ever-confident Anuzis also pointed out that, while Republicans in other states worry about a depressed turnout among their bases, he finds enthusiasm among his state’s grass-roots Republicans. “And just wait until you see the ground game we have in place for November 7,” he said.

Return to Minneapolis

Sometimes even official press releases get it wrong—especially if the disputed information involves events of more than a century ago.

In my October 16 column, I reported that Minnesota will play host to a major party convention in 2008 for the first time, with Republicans deciding to go to Minneapolis-St. Paul. I said that Democrats gave them a tongue-in-cheek welcome to the land of “[former Democratic Vice Presidents] Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale and [the late Democratic Sen.] Paul Wellstone.”

Longtime subscriber Walter Klaus of Farmington, Minn., wasn’t satisfied. He contacted the state Historical Society, and they confirmed to him that the Republican convention of 1892 was held in Minneapolis. A double-check with Stefan Lorant’s The Glorious Burden, a history of every presidential nomination process and election, confirms this. That year, Republicans re-nominated President Benjamin Harrison, who was defeated in a rematch of his 1888 battle with former Democratic President Grover Cleveland.