McCain courts Catholic vote in Florida, no shift on embryonic stem cell research

ppjohnmccain141207(1) Sen. John McCain

John McCain has set his sights on Florida as the state’s primary draws closer. In a conversation with Catholics in Florida and CNA this afternoon, McCain maintained his support for embryonic stem cell research while emphasizing his hope that it will become an academic issue given the latest scientific advances.

When he was asked how he reconciled his otherwise solid pro-life voting record with his support for experimentation on “surplus” embryos, Sen. McCain called his decision to back the research “a very agonizing and tough decision”. He continued, saying, “All I can say to you is that I went back and forth, back and forth on it and I came in on one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had, in favor of that research. And one reason being very frankly is those embryos will be either discarded or kept in permanent frozen status.” The senator, while standing firm on his decision added, “I understand how divisive this is among the pro-life community.”

Referring to the recent break through in stem cell research which allows scientists to use skin cells to create stem cells, McCain said that, “I believe that skin stem cell research has every potential very soon of making that discussion academic…. Sam Brownback and others are very encouraged at this latest advance….”

On the issue of appointments to the Supreme Court, McCain mentioned that Sam Brownback would play an advisory role in helping decide who he should nominate for the Supreme Court. As models of who he would select, John McCain pointed to Justices Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia. Pro-life advocates see the choice of Supreme Court Justices as key to overturning the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision, which legalized abortion.

In another nod to pro-lifers, the senator from Arizona thanked pro-lifers for their dedication to the “rights of the born and unborn,” noting that January 22 was the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade.

National security was also an issue raised by Floridian Catholics who spoke with John McCain.

Lawrence Alvarado, a former member of the U.S. military, asked Sen. McCain how he would use the ‘national security triad’—the diplomatic corps, U.S. foreign aid and development and the military—to enhance national security.

McCain responded by pointing to U.S. aid for Africa and the Cold War. “We won the Cold war in intelligence and in ideology. We won the Cold War in winning the ideological struggle with the then Soviet Union.” McCain then said that he would apply the same three-fold strategy to combating Islamic extremism.  “We’re going to win this struggle against radical Islamic extremism, the greatest evil we’ve ever faced, through diplomacy, intelligence and ideology.”

On immigration, McCain re-emphasized the need to secure the border first and then focus on dealing with illegal immigrants in a humane and compassionate fashion. The senator noted that “there are people who have committed crimes in this country that have to be rounded up and deported immediately.” He concluded by saying that being “the kind of nation that we are, that we can work this out, secure our borders and ensure our nation’s security, and at the same time address this issue in a humane and compassionate fashion.” 

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