CONSERVATIVES AND STEM CELLS….Wingers are in a fantastic snit over Michael J. Fox’s new ad supporting Claire McCaskill in the Missouri Senate race because of her stand on stem cell research. It’s a remarkable reaction considering how little the ad actually says (video here). Here’s the complete text:

As you might know, I care deeply about stem cell research. In Missouri, you can elect Claire McCaskill, who shares my hope for cures. Unfortunately, Senator Jim Talent opposes expanding stem cell research. Senator Talent even wanted to criminalize the science that gives us a chance for hope.

They say all politics is local, but that’s not always the case. What you do in Missouri matters to millions of Americans. Americans like me.

Fair enough, right? Missouri has an initiative on the ballot this year that would guarantee researchers the freedom to conduct embryonic stem cell research, and McCaskill supports it while Talent doesn’t. What’s more, until recently Talent supported federal legislation to ban somatic cell nuclear transfer of human embryos, a promising form of stem cell research. It’s a tough ad, but it addresses a legitimate issue that’s important to Missourians.

So what happened? Rush Limbaugh, in his usual smugly obnoxious way, suggested that Fox was exaggerating his Parkinson’s Disease in the ad, and Kathryn Jean Lopez leapt to his defense: “To make the point Rush made was not mean or heartless….It was an honesty check ? a worthwhile and fair one.” Ramesh Ponnuru says Fox’s charge is “flatly untrue” because ? get this ? Talent is not actually opposed to every single type of stem cell research in the world and Fox didn’t acknowledge this in his 73-word ad. (Talent is opposed to Missouri’s initiative, though, which is pretty clearly the context of the ad, and until recently he did support S.658, which would have banned some of the most promising advances in embryonic stem cell research.) Meanwhile, John Podhoretz is a voice of reason.

Actually, I’m sort of happy to see this. Too often it’s been liberals who respond to tough ads with whining, but now conservatives are doing it instead ? and it’s a sign of weakness. If conservatives want to defend Talent’s position, they should go right ahead and do so. But accusing Michael J. Fox of faking his symptoms and then complaining that a 30-second spot isn’t a Brookings white paper? That shows a kind of helpless desperation that it’s nice to see on the other side for once.

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