How not to write an op-ed whatever your credentials

On March 30th former Missouri Senator John Danforth wrote an op—ed piece   for the New York Times. I don't think it would be too much of a stretch to assume that the Times considered him eminently qualified to represent conservatives since he was (a) Republican; (b) from Missouri; (c) an ordained Episcopalian minister; and (d) concerned that Christian fundamentalists are now exercising the levers of power within the Republican party. Who could be better qualified to warn us of how careful we must be to maintain that Jeffersonian 'wall' between church and state and who will not be summarily dismissed as a radical leftist by the conservative cabal? He has all the right credentials and oak leaf clusters on his merit badges to incontrovertibly attest to his conservatism. And so he begins:
"By a series of recent initiatives, Republicans have transformed our party into the political arm of conservative Christians. The elements of this transformation have included advocacy of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, opposition to stem cell research involving both frozen embryos and human cells in petri dishes, and the extraordinary effort to keep Terri Schiavo hooked up to a feeding tube."
Fine. One should always clearly and succinctly state one's premise at the beginning of an argument. There is, however, one fuzzy bit. I'm not quite sure who has done what to whom. 'Republicans' have transformed 'our party'? If  he had said 'We Republicans' I would have understood. But these mysterious 'Republicans' have victimized his party. Somehow there's a disconnect between the Christian Republicans and Mr. Danforth's party — even though he's an Episcopal minister. Must I then assume that Episcopalians are no longer Christians? Or is that a conclusion too far?
All pickiness aside, let's consider his arguments and see what he has to say about gay marriage:
"During the 18 years I served in the Senate, Republicans often disagreed with each other. But there was much that held us together. . . But in recent times, we Republicans have allowed this shared agenda to become secondary to the agenda of Christian conservatives. As a senator, I worried every day about the size of the federal deficit. I did not spend a single minute worrying about the effect of gays on the institution of marriage. Today it seems to be the other way around."
Ah, the voice of authority. I didn't worry about it. So why should you? Worry about the deficit. That's much more important. But wait, when was Danforth in the Senate? Why he served from 1976 until 1995. You know, come to think of it, I never thought about gay marriage during that period of time either! Why? Unless I was really out of it — and that's a distinct possibility — gay marriage wasn't a front—burner issue during that period. And so we have the Alfred E. Newman School of Debate argument. If you don't worry about it, it's not a problem. That's certainly a sound foundation upon which to base one's moral philosophy.
Not a peep, however, as to what effect gay marriage may have on our society. Any historical consideration of the effects of gay marriage on other societies, if any such examples exist, is not considered. There are a number of arguments that may be made against gay marriage that have nothing whatsoever to do with Christianity. But Christian Republicans are singled out as the culprits standing in the way of this brave new world social—sexual license. They are even obstructing considerations regarding the reduction of the deficit. Oh my!
Stem cell research?
"In my state, Missouri, Republicans in the General Assembly have advanced legislation to criminalize even stem cell research in which the cells are artificially produced in petri dishes and will never be transplanted into the human uterus. They argue that such cells are human life that must be protected, by threat of criminal prosecution, from promising research on diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and juvenile diabetes.
"It is not evident to many of us that cells in a petri dish are equivalent to identifiable people suffering from terrible diseases. I am and have always been pro—life. But the only explanation for legislators comparing cells in a petri dish to babies in the womb is the extension of religious doctrine into statutory law."  (Emphasis added.)
Really. What if I were to tell you that there is a society, non—Christian, modern, industrialized and secular that might feel the same way? Would that quash the 'only explanation' argument? You know, one must really be careful with the 'only explanation' approach. One does leave oneself quite exposed to being outed as ignorant for being unawares or uninformed. But I digress.
I was in Korea from September of 1969 through October of 1970 as an Air Force liaison officer and forward air controller (FAC) with the 28th ROK (Republic of Korea) Division. I was once invited to the first birthday party for the daughter of a Korean Major from the 28th. This was celebrated 100 days after her delivery. What? Koreans will always tell you they are one age as a Korean and another in American years. They count their age from conception! And unlike the North Koreans, the Southerners have very restrictive abortion laws.  Their being from the South must be the explanation.
What does this tell those who would look to foreign law for guidance with our Constitutional principles? Puts abortion and stem cell research arguments in a bit of a different light. And this still says nothing about the scientific viability of embryonic stem cell research about which more than a few scientist have their doubts.
In my probably not—quite—so—humble opinion the NYT and Senator Danforth didn't even come close to passing muster on this article. Talk about argumentation by assertion and association! No wonder opinions are considered no more valuable than what will remain an unspecified part of one's anatomy. But shouldn't we expect more from the 'Paper of Record'? And fearless leader Danforth?
Guess not.