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August 16, 2006
Maybe He Can Invent Cold Fusion, Too

Americans have earned their skepticism about the promises of politicians during campaigns, usually treating them with several grains of salt when made. That reflects not only the disinclination of politicians to fulfill them, but also the grandiose nature of the promises they make. Campaign promises have to make headlines and tend towards the fantastic.

However, Benjamin Cardin has offered a promise that makes others look positively banal:

With a month to go before primary voters head to the polls to choose Senate nominees, Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin kicked off yesterday a weeklong effort to highlight his congressional record and vision on health care by making the mother of all campaign promises - to cure cancer.

Cardin, a Democrat from Baltimore County, gathered with cancer survivors and doctors in Lutherville to detail his efforts to expand cancer screening and his plans to fight the disease.

"We are going to lick cancer by 2015," Cardin told a group of 15 people at the HopeWell Cancer Support Center on Falls Road.

Perhaps Cardin will walk on water sometime before the primary in an effort to prove his credentials.

The promise highlights an issue the Democrats expect to exploit in the general election, regardless of whether Cardin or Kweisi Mfume faces off against Republican Michael Steele. The Lieutenant Governor opposes federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, preferring that the government focus on adult and umbilical stem-cell research. His position matches closely with the Bush administration, and Bush's veto of the embryonic stem-cell research bill will give the Democrats a rhetorical stick with which to beat Steele, or so they hope.

For that purpose, Cardin staged the event with the cancer survivors, hoping to leverage them into an image of a life saver. It makes a powerful image, without a doubt, but it also represents a contradiction. Obviously, we can already cure cancer, and we have been able to do so for years. Most forms of cancer have a better than 50% survival rate, although survival rates among African-Americans lag somewhat. In 2004, the National Institute of Health reported that survival rates improved 1.1% in each year between 1993 to 2001, almost a 10% improvement in survival. The NIH also reported that incidences of cancer dropped as well in most categories.

Cardin wants to throw more federal funding at cancer research, but chasing embryonic stem-cell research hardly sounds like a wise investment. Private-sector research has mostly avoided it because of the difficulties in turning it into real therapies. Far more progress has been made on adult and umbilical varieties, which actually resulted in successful therapies. In the meantime, private sector research can still continue on embryonic stem cells -- California has committed six billion dollars to it as part of the public sector push -- but the lack of interest should be instructive.

That gives Cardin too much credit. He wants to buy votes out of fear by throwing federal funds at unproven techniques rather than focus support on successful strategies. The promises of politicians have rarely been so cynical.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 16, 2006 5:07 AM

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Remember during the 2004 presidential campaign when Opie Edwards demagogued embryonic stem cell research by promising to use it once he and Lurch Kerry were elected to make Christopher Reeve walk again? And then Kedwards lost and Reeve croaked, which... [Read More]

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