CNN’s senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin criticized Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin on Tuesday’s Election Center program for having a "very extreme" position on the issue of embryonic stem cell research: "By excluding that entire scientific method, it seems like you're an extremist, and frankly, her position is very extreme in the American spectrum. And I think that is the real problem here." Toobin later used the same phrase to label Palin’s stance on global warming near the end of the program.
Toobin’s comment came as host Campbell Brown began the program with the controversy over remarks made by Palin’s Democratic opponent, Delaware Senator Joe Biden, who made an indirect reference to the Alaska governor’s developmentally-disabled son during a campaign stop in Columbia, Missouri earlier that day: "I hear all this talk about how the Republicans are going to work in dealing with parents who have both...the joy and the difficulty of raising a child who has a developmental disability, who were born with a birth defect. Well, guess what folks? If you care about it, why don't you support stem-cell research?"
Brown moderated a panel discussion with Toobin, CNN contributor Roland Martin, and Republican strategist after correspondent Candy Crowley gave a report on the controversy. The host turned to the senior legal analyst for his take on the issue after asking Martin and Buchanan. Toobin first answered that "this is a very perilous issue for the Republicans, because -- I mean, forget this phony outrage over what Biden said. I think that's just a total sideshow." "Phony outrage" is an interesting term, since it is the exact phrase Barack Obama would use on Wednesday to describe the Republican response to the Democratic candidate’s "lipstick on a pig" remark, which he made on Tuesday.
Toobin then continued, focusing on the impact of stem cell research issue in the electoral campaign: "What's interesting is -- stem cell research is very popular with swing voters -- people in the middle, families who have multiple sclerosis, who have Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, all these decisions where stem cell research is promising." He then made his "extremist" remark about Palin. Martin responded by voicing his agreement with Toobin.
During the final gubernatorial debate before the 2006 election in Alaska, KTOO-TV reporter Christopher Clark brought up the issue of stem cell research to one of Palin’s opponents, independent Andrew Halcro (the question was asked about 25 minutes into the debate, which can be viewed here): "[A]s you may know, next week in Missouri, folks there will be voting on whether to allow stem cell research -- embryonic stem cell research in that state.... Opponents say that this is -- involves the destruction of an embryo, therefore it should not be allowed. Should Alaska allow stem cell research here?" After Halcro answered that he would support embryonic stem research, Clark asked Palin the same question:
CHRISTOPHER CLARK: Miss Palin, you have up to a minute. Should Alaska allow stem cell research?
SARAH PALIN: Well, another hypothetical, because you certainly haven't seen that on the docket there in our university systems -- stem cell research. But here again, with a pro-life position -- and it's interesting that so many questions, I guess, do revolve around that -- that centeredness that I have of respecting life and the potential of every human life. That no stem cell research that would ultimately end in destruction of life -- I couldn't support.
So Palin is against the kind of stem cell research that hasn’t produced any real benefits yet, as opposed to adult stem research, which has produced breakthroughs time and time again.
The transcript of the relevant portion from the panel discussion, which came 9 minutes into the 8 pm hour of Tuesday’s Election Center program:
CAMPBELL BROWN: Jeff?
JEFFREY TOOBIN: I think this is a very perilous issue for the Republicans, because -- I mean, forget this phony outrage over what Biden said. I think that's just a total sideshow. What's interesting is -- stem cell research is very popular with swing voters -- people in the middle, families who have multiple sclerosis, who have Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, all these decisions where stem cell research is promising. By excluding that entire scientific method, it seems like you're an extremist, and frankly, her position is very extreme in the American spectrum. And I think that is the real problem here. That's why they're trying -- the Republicans are trying to make her look like a victim, rather than talk about the merits of her position.