Sen. John F. Kerry pledged Monday to increase federal spending on scientific research and suggested President Bush had let conservative ideology block important advances in medicine.
The presumed Democratic presidential nominee cast U.S. policy on science as a crucial matter for the nation’s health and economy. He vowed to increase funding for the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Energy Department and other agencies engaged in scientific studies.
Stressing Bush administration restrictions on stem-cell research, Kerry said the country needed a president who made decisions “based on scientific facts, not fear.”
“This is your future. And I will let science guide us, not ideology,” Kerry told several thousand cheering supporters at an outdoor rally in Denver.
Kerry’s campaign released a statement saying “right wing” ideology had trumped science “again and again” in the Republican administration. It cited not only the policy on stem-cell research, but also decisions that it said had stymied efforts to combat global warming and AIDS.
Steve Schmidt, a spokesman for Bush’s reelection campaign, denied that ideology drove the administration’s decisions on such matters. On the stem-cell issue, he said there were “profound moral and ethical questions involved ... and President Bush has tried to strike a balance between those concerns and research.”
Kerry’s campaign announced Monday that 48 Nobel laureates had endorsed the Massachusetts Democrat for president. In an open letter, Nobel Prize winners in chemistry, physics and medicine said the administration had threatened the Earth’s future “by ignoring scientific consensus on critical issues such as global warming.”
“Unlike previous administrations, Republican and Democratic alike, the Bush administration has ignored unbiased scientific advice in the policy-making that is so important to our collective welfare,” they wrote. “John Kerry will change all this.”
In response, Schmidt said, “Only John Kerry would declare the country to be in scientific decline on a day when the country’s first privately funded space trip is successfully completed,” referring to Monday’s SpaceShipOne flight, a project funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen.
“America is the world leader in patents, research and development, and Nobel prizes, and the president’s budget raises federal research and development funding to $132 billion for 2005, a 44% increase since taking office,” Schmidt said. He cited spending on a variety of projects, from anti-terrorism technology to methods for coal burning that could limit pollution.
Schmidt also questioned the laureates’ credibility, saying at least 22 had opposed the war in Iraq and 19 had engaged in partisan activity for Democrats, such as donating money to the presidential campaigns of Bill Clinton, Al Gore or Howard Dean.
Kerry’s remarks on science came on a day long visit to Colorado, a state Bush won easily in 2000. But strategists of both parties now view it as competitive enough for the Bush and Kerry campaigns to run television ads in the state. Only two Republican candidates for president have lost Colorado in the last four decades: Barry Goldwater in 1964 and President George H.W. Bush in 1992.
Kerry stopped first in Aspen. Hunter S. Thompson, the famed practitioner of “gonzo journalism” whose books often have included references to his drug use, met Kerry at the airport. Thompson, who lives in Aspen, rode with Kerry in a black sports utility vehicle to the mountainside estate of airplane-leasing executive Michael Goldberg for a campaign fundraiser.
Kerry, speaking to about 150 donors packed in a living room with floor-to-ceiling windows, invoked Thompson’s name in a humorous reference to his impending decision on a running mate. “Just to put your minds all at ease, I have four words for you that I know will relieve you greatly,” he told the guests. “How does this sound: ‘Vice President Hunter Thompson?’ ”
On a serious note, Kerry pledged to overturn administration policies limiting funding for international family planning clinics that provide abortion counseling.
“Among the first things I will do as president, by executive order immediately, is reverse the [restrictions on funding], and also move America forward to do stem-cell research,” he said.
After his stop in Denver, where he held another fundraiser after the rally, he canceled his evening trip to New Mexico to return to Washington for a scheduled Senate vote today on veterans healthcare.
At the Denver rally, Kerry appeared with Chris Chappell, 41, a quadriplegic, to illustrate his campaign’s case for removing obstacles to stem-cell research. Chappell, whose spinal cord injury was caused by a mountain biking accident, told the crowd that research could lead to treatments for people like him.
Kerry promised to “push the boundaries of medical exploration so that researchers can find treatments that are there -- if only they are allowed to look.”
“And we should do this while providing strict ethical oversight,” he added.