President Obama has shown himself to be a master of what I have called carefully crafted self-contradictions -- statements intended to convey one impression to casual listeners but that on close examination turn out to mean quite the opposite.
Obama's Monday announcement that he was reversing President Bush's policy of denying federal funding to stem-cell research that requires killing human embryos included what may be the most cynical of all Obama's carefully crafted self-contradictions.
This one was designed to build political cover for promoting research that clones human beings for the specific purpose of killing them.
The headline and lead paragraph on an Associated Press story conveyed exactly the impression Obama desired to create. The headline said: "Obama calls cloning 'dangerous, profoundly wrong.'" The lead paragraph said: "President Barack Obama says human cloning is 'dangerous, profoundly wrong' and has no place in society."
But this headline and lead are false. Obama said no such thing.
What Obama did say -- according to the official transcript of his remarks on the White House Website -- is this: "And we will ensure that our government never opens the door to the use of cloning for human reproduction. It is dangerous, profoundly wrong and has no place in our society, or any society."
Note that he did not close the door to human cloning, period. He simply closed the door to "the use" of human cloning for one purpose. He left the door open to "the use" of human cloning for other purposes.
The one "use" of human cloning Obama claims he is closing the door to is "human reproduction."
But this is self-evidently absurd: If you allow human cloning for any purpose, you are allowing it for human reproduction. That is what human cloning does -- even in a more literal sense than sexual reproduction. When a man and woman create an embryo the old-fashioned way, that embryo shares genes from both mother and father. The child is not a reproduction of either. It is an individual. But if a scientist clones a human embryo, he is making a genetically exact "reproduction" of the person cloned. Even Merriam-Webster defines "clone" as "to make a copy of."
When you "make a copy of" a human being, you are inescapably engaging in human reproduction.
So, why would a Harvard-educated lawyer like Obama say something that is so intellectually indefensible on its face? Because the policy he is advancing is itself indefensible.