The McCain campaign launches a new radio ad today, “Stem Cell Response”, after Barack Obama and his campaign repeatedly mischaracterized John McCain’s record on the issue in ads and stump speeches. This corrects the record, all right, but does little to explain the real issues behind the stem-cell controversy, and about the myth of “banned” research:

Barack Obama and his Congressional allies’ stem cell attacks are simply not true. Leading news organizations call their attacks “misleading.” “Out of bounds.” “Manhandling the truth.” “Wrong.”

The truth? John McCain and his Congressional allies fought FOR stem cell research. They stood up and said stem cell research was too important for you and your family.

Stem cell research will help unlock the mystery of cancer, diabetes and heart disease. It will allow scientists to explore treatment for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Stem cell research will help free families from the fear and devastation of illness.

Change is coming. McCain-Palin and Congressional allies. The leadership and experience to change Washington and improve your health.

Unfortunately, this ad doesn’t explain the more basic dishonesty in Democratic attacks on this issue. Obama and the Democrats keep talking about research bans, but no bans on research ever existed.  The Bush administration only blocked federal funding for human embryonic stem-cell (hEsc) research, but never outlawed it at all.  In fact, California spent billions of state money on hEsc research.

In truth, no one opposes stem cell research in general, not even those bitter, Bible-clinging Republicans.  Most don’t oppose federal funding for it, either, although a few conservatives do on general federalist principles.  The only significant opposition arises when human embryos are destroyed for experimentation, and even then is only politically expressed in terms of federal funding for that research.  No one proposed banning it altogether.

And, in fact, hEsc has turned out to be a useless dead end.  Researchers have discovered ways to turn adult stem cells into plenipotential stem cells, making the destruction of embryos unnecessary.  Even before that, no treatments were developed from hEsc because of their unstable properties, while adult stem cell research has created many new treatments.  The reason hEsc researchers campaign so hard for federal funding is that private funds go into more promising research — a market decision that has its own wisdom.

I understand why Team McCain chose to go in this direction for the ad.  It’s easier to make the case that Obama lied, and it’s also true.  However, Republicans continue to get misrepresented in this debate, and it would have been nice in a 60-second spot to at least address that point.