June 11, 2004

Ron Reagan to address Democratic convention

Knight Ridder Newspapers

LOS ANGELES - (KRT) - In a move sure to embarrass Republicans, Ron Reagan will address the Democratic National Convention this month.

Reagan, son of former President Ronald Reagan and an outspoken critic of the Bush administration, will be at the podium on the second night of the four-day event in Boston, July 27, in support of stem-cell research, he said Sunday in an interview here.

David Wade, a spokesman for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, confirmed Reagan's appearance, but sources said the date had not been determined. Scott Stanzel, press secretary for President Bush's campaign, declined to comment.

Reagan, a Seattle resident with his wife, clinical psychologist Doria, said he was contacted about two weeks ago by the Democratic National Committee. He said he "had a nice chat" on the phone with Kerry, "but he wasn't pushing me. I had already decided."

A registered independent who has long been an outspoken political liberal, Reagan said he would not campaign for Kerry or any other candidate. He said he would vote for Kerry, however, "as a way to defeat Bush."

Reagan, 46, said he also did not vote for Bush in 2000, despite the fact that Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, was vice president during Ronald Reagan's two terms in the White House.

President Bush "has made some terrible mistakes," most notably, attacking Iraq, Reagan said.

Reagan also opposes Bush's stand on stem-cell research. That is the only reason Reagan accepted the Democrats' invitation, he said.

The Democratic Party's platform calls for lifting restrictions on research using stem cells from human embryos. Bush signed an executive order in August 2001 that limited federal help to financing stem-cell research on embryonic stem-cell lines then in existence. He said such a limit would not require the destruction of any more embryos.

Day-old embryos are destroyed when stem cells are extracted, and the process is opposed by some conservatives who link it to abortion.

Reagan and his mother, Nancy Reagan, are passionate advocates for stem-cell research, which could lead to a cure for Alzheimer's disease, among other disorders. After a 10-year battle against Alzheimer's, Ronald Reagan died June 5 at age 93.

"If they had asked me to say a few words about throwing George Bush out of office, I wouldn't do it," said Ron Reagan, in Los Angeles to attend "Hardball" host Chris Matthews' session with TV critics. Reagan is a political commentator for the show on MSNBC.

"This gives me a platform to educate people about stem-cell research," Reagan said. "The conservative right has a rather simplistic way of characterizing it as baby killing. We're not talking about fingers and toes and brains. This is a mass of a couple hundred undifferentiated cells."

Reagan, who will cover the Democratic and Republican conventions for "Hardball," said he expected criticism from many Republicans for his five-to-eight-minute speech to the Democrats.

"The Republican Party now is not the Republican Party of my father, not that it would be of great concern to me, one way or the other," he said. "I'm not a Republican and I never have been.

"My father wouldn't expect me to be a Republican just to emulate him. He raised his kids to be independent thinkers. ... I'm not terribly popular, apparently, with a lot of Republicans. I imagine some of them are pretty angry about what I've said about the Bush administration."

Should he be asked, Reagan said he would not attend the planned tribute to his father at the Republican convention, which is Aug. 30-Sept. 2 in New York.

"I don't think, in good conscience, I could take the chance that somebody could read that as an endorsement of this administration," he said. "I'll support any viable candidate who can defeat Bush."

Instead, Reagan suggested that the Republicans invite his half-brother, Michael, an evangelical and stem-cell research opponent, to speak at their gathering.

"Then we could have dueling Reagan sons," he said.