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Inside Politics

Kerry touts stem cell research; Bush remembers Reagan


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George W. Bush
Ronald Wilson Reagan
Nancy Reagan

CRAWFORD, Texas (CNN) -- President Bush embraced Ronald Reagan as "a gentle, decent man" and "a courageous patriot" in his weekly radio address Saturday.

Meanwhile his presumptive opponent in November's presidential election challenged Bush's opposition to research that could help find a cure for many diseases, including Alzheimer's, the illness that debilitated Reagan for the last 10 years of his life.

"Chances are that you love someone with such a disease," Sen. John Kerry said in the Democrats weekly radio address after suspending his campaign for a week to honor Reagan. "You may be that someone ...

"We must lift the barriers that stand in the way of science and push the boundaries of medical exploration so that researchers can find the cures that are there, if only they are allowed to look."

Nancy Reagan, the former president's wife of 52 years, has personally appealed to Bush to drop his opposition to funding new lines of stem cells for research, a position Bush pledged to evangelical Christians who believe that harvesting such cells is immoral.

Stem cells are typically taken from days-old human embryos and grown in a laboratory into lines or colonies. Because the embryos are destroyed when the cells are extracted, some conservatives link the process to abortion.

Bush signed an executive order in 2001 limiting stem cell research to embryonic lines then in existence, but critics -- including many lawmakers -- complain that only 19 such lines are currently available to researchers.

"[Nancy Reagan] told the world that Alzheimer's had taken her own husband to a distant place, and then she stood up to help find a breakthrough that someday will spare other husbands, wives, children and parents from the same kind of heartache," Kerry said.

Kerry noted that progress has always brought with it ethical arguments -- there was once, he said, a vocal opposition to heart transplants on ethical and moral grounds.

"I know there are ethical issues, but people of goodwill and good sense can resolve them," he said. "For I also know the fear that most Americans feel at some point -- the fear of a diagnosis that may take our life or sentence us to a diminished life."

Bush: Reagan a 'gentle, decent man'

Bush, meanwhile, continued the tributes to the former president that began last week as soon as Reagan's death was announced.

"[Ronald Reagan] believed that people are basically good," the president said in his weekly radio address. "He had no tolerance for bigotry or injustice. Above all, he believed in the courage and triumph of free men and in the capacity of the American people to overcome any obstacle." "As he showed what a president should be, he also showed us what a man should be," he said.

"Ronald Reagan carried himself with a decency and attention to the small kindnesses that also define a good life. He was a courtly, gentle, and considerate man, never known to slight or embarrass others."

Reagan died June 5 at age 93 after a battle of at least a decade with debilitating Alzheimer's disease. He was buried Friday evening in an emotional sunset ceremony at his presidential library in Simi Valley after a week-long remembrance that culminated with an elaborate funeral service Friday at the National Cathedral in Washington.

"This week, America mourned the passing of President Ronald Reagan," Bush said Saturday. "We remembered a gentle, decent man, and one of the greatest leaders our nation has known. He was a courageous patriot whose leadership transformed the country and the world he leaves behind."

The president, his father, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney delivered eulogies at the Washington service. But in Simi Valley, a more personal service included words of remembrance from Reagan's children -- Patti Davis and Ron, with wife Nancy, and Michael, from his first marriage with actress Jane Wyman.

Nancy Reagan, a poignant symbol of strength throughout the week, broke down in tears as she touched her husband's casket for the last time. Comforted by the Reagan children, she clutched the folded flag that had covered the coffin during the week and wiped the tears from her eyes.

"Now that Nancy Reagan has taken her husband to his place of rest, we offer our gratitude," Bush said Saturday. "Our country is stronger and our world is freer for the brave leadership of this modest son of America.

"Ronald Reagan always told us that for America, our best was yet to come," he said. "We know that is true for him, too. His work is done. And now a shining city awaits him."

The Reagan Library will remain closed for the weekend and will reopen at 10 a.m. PT Monday for the public's first opportunity to visit the former president's final resting place.


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