Another talking point bites the dust

ANOTHER TALKING POINT BITES THE DUST…. In attacking the Recovery Act this week, Sharron Angle (R), the extremist Senate candidate in Nevada, said Democrats spent tax dollars on “coked-up stimulus monkeys.” Gee, those Dems must be some pretty wacky spendthrifts to use tax dollars for this, right?

Wrong. Angle got the idea from a report from Republican Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Tom Coburn (Okla.), hoping to find wasted stimulus funds. McCain and Coburn put together a pretty weak report — which the media just loved — which included the charge that the administration spent $71,623 at a university on “Monkeys Getting High for Science.”

The truth is less amusing.

[T]he report didn’t tell you why the monkeys’ reaction to cocaine is being studied: To develop our understanding of how the brain chemistry of addiction works, in order to better combat drug addiction.

Administration officials say this grant was part of the roughly $8 billion in stimulus grants that the National Institutes of Health has doled out for scientific research, with the goal of creating jobs while advancing scientific knowledge. This particular grant is based on recent studies showing that drug users may get addicted because of a chemical in the brain called glutamate.

This research on cocaine monkeys is meant to determine how the parts of the brain that use glutamate change during and after exposure to cocaine. The idea is that knowing this will help develop more effective treatments for cocaine addiction — in people, not in monkeys.

All such grants are reviewed by NIH scientists to establish the scientific validity of the studies receiving funding.

This seems like entirely worthwhile research, addressing an important public need. Why would conservative Republicans find this wasteful?

In truth, they probably don’t. This is just a pathetic little game from cynical Republicans hoping Americans just won’t know the difference. McCain, Coburn, and Angle assume that voters will just hear the words “cocaine” and “monkey,” and think the whole thing is hilarious. Just so long as no one asks obvious questions — Does the GOP want human test subjects instead of monkeys? Does the GOP consider drug addiction unworthy of publicly-financed research? — then the whole thing works as a campaign-season attack.

It’s the kind of talking point that works for those who find thinking burdensome.