In the Year of Our Ford

Gerald Ford is given his 800 words to defend (most) cloning research. Do you detect the former president slyly attacking Francis Fukuyama here?

Affirmative action. Reproductive rights. Gay rights. Now you can add cloning to the list. For many, the word conjures up sinister images of mad scientists laying claim to God-like powers. From there it is a short step toward a soulless state, wherein assembly-line man is robbed of his individuality by science run amok.

Ford ends with a typical ex-president call for compromise, but makes clear his stand.

During my presidency, similar questions were raised about research into recombinant DNA. After careful deliberation, safeguards were devised to ensure that this promising new line of inquiry would be closely monitored. It was a measured response to a sensitive issue, and it has resulted in advances that were unimaginable in the 1970s.

A quarter-century later, would anyone turn back the clock? Would anyone discard vaccines traceable to recombinant DNA research? Would they dismiss the promising new strategies to prevent or combat AIDS, diabetes and cancer?

However, back then Fukuyama was still in short pants, so the debate was somewhat less shrill.