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President chastised for limiting US aid for stem-cell research

HAMPTON, N.H. -- John F. Kerry yesterday chastised President Bush for limiting federal funding for stem-cell research, saying it is indicative of a broader ideological rigidity about science.

"The hard truth is that when it comes to stem-cell research, this president is making the wrong choice to sacrifice science for extreme right-wing ideology, and that's unacceptable," Kerry said during an emotion-filled appearance at Winnacunnet High School, where he was joined by actor Michael J. Fox and others who have diseases they believe may be cured if there is expanded stem-cell research. "The fact is that the majority of the American people support stem-cell research, and it's high time we had a president of the United States who does too."

He added: "It tells a story about how he makes decisions. It tells a story about how he sees the world. It tells a story about the choices that we face in this election and why this election is so important."

The Democratic presidential nominee also condemned Bush and his campaign for accusing him -- both on the stump and in a new television advertisement -- of favoring a "global test" before the United States protects itself from terrorists. During his debate last week against Bush, Kerry said he reserved the right to take preemptive military action, but he believed that future actions should pass "the global test where your countrymen, your people, understand fully why you're doing what you're doing and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons."

Kerry labeled the advertisements "almost sad" and "certainly pathetic" and told the crowd: "What I said in the sentence preceding that was that I will never cede America's security to any institution or to any other country. No one gets a veto over our security, no one. If they were honest enough to give America the full quote -- which America heard -- they would know that I'm never going to allow America's security to be outsourced."

During his New Hampshire stop and comments later in Philadelphia, Kerry accused the president of "banning" stem-cell research, a word expressly avoided by Fox and former New Hampshire governor Jeanne Shaheen in their introductions of the Massachusetts senator. Both said Bush "restricted" it with his August 2001 declaration limiting federal funding to research on about 70 existing embryonic stem-cell lines. Critics say fewer than 20 of those are viable, and even those are polluted with mouse cells.

The distinction was at the core of the Bush campaign's response. It said Bush did not ban research, but limited it to control studies that even Kerry acknowledged push ethical boundaries.

"Shame on you, Mr. Kerry," said a statement from Senate majority leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican and nonpracticing heart surgeon. "Scientific research is too important to play politics with, and John Kerry should stop cynically trying to manipulate voters' emotions."

Kerry refused to address the rebuttal, despite his earlier accusation that the president had misrepresented his words on terrorism.

Fox, star of the "Back to the Future" movie trilogy and once the Republican-leaning Alex P. Keaton on television's "Family Ties," had noticeably slurred speech as he said that the effect of Bush's restrictions "was kind of like he gave us a car but no gas and congratulated himself for giving us the car. And we sat there. And we sit there still."

He said that while watching Thursday's debate, he saw Bush scowl when Kerry raised the subject of stem-cell research. "I thought, well, you know, he's impatient and frustrated. And those of us in the Parkinson's community and the Alzheimer's community, and throughout this community, we know what it's like to be frustrated and impatient. We're that way about stem-cell research."

Participant Steve Walter of Londonderry said that despite being a Republican and voting for Bush in 2000, he plans to vote for Kerry because he supports expanded stem-cell research.

He held up with both hands a tether of syringes to show the number of shots his 7-year-old son, Alex, who has juvenile diabetes, must receive each month.

"For President Bush to turn his back and limit stem-cell research is morally irresponsible and shows a total disregard for human life," Walter said.

At one point the New Hampshire meeting was interrupted by Ruth Pollock, 80, of Portsmouth, who has pulmonary hypertension. She said stem-cell research is too late for her, and for her sister, who has Alzheimer's, but she hoped that research could be expanded.

Kerry replied: "When you hear somebody stand up and say to you, `I support you, but it's too late for me,' that's pretty tough, and it really tells you something about what this means to people who do want to make it right."

The visit brought Kerry back to a state that played a role in his political rejuvenation, with his victory last winter in the New Hampshire primary.

"I wouldn't be standing here today with this privilege of trying to offer America a better choice if so many of you hadn't worked your hearts out and gone out there on cold days and believed, even when polls told you otherwise," Kerry said. "I'm asking you to believe in these next 29 days, so we can believe again for these next four years -- and beyond."

Glen Johnson can be reached at johnson@globe.com.

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