And he has failed veterans already… by voting against Embryonic Stem Cell Research (ESCR).
He has failed Marines like Cpl. Samuel Reyes Jr.:
Sam Reyes remembers nothing of the suicide bomb attack on a highway outside Fallujah that nearly killed him on the morning of Sept. 6, 2004. Perhaps it's just as well. When medics arrived at the site of the attack, which left 12 Marines dead, they found Reyes sprawled on the road in desperate condition: his arms, back and head were pierced by shrapnel; his left arm was ripped open to the muscle; his stomach and spleen had been sliced; his ribs were broken, his face was badly burned and his tongue had been cut in half.
In the helicopter on the way to a military hospital in Baghdad, the medical team had to defibrillate his heart to keep him alive. Over the next 18 months, during an agonizing recovery, the young Marine gunner underwent several operations and lost 45 pounds. Although his physical wounds have largely healed—save for scattered scars across his forehead and his sense of taste, which has yet to return—the bomb blast left Reyes, now 21, with a less visible, but devastating injury to his brain. Like many Iraq vets who survive the concussive force of an improvised explosive device, or IED, Reyes is now sometimes unable to recognize his friends or family, to recall what he just read or heard, to concentrate or to read faster than the average second-grader…
Like more than 1,700 military personnel wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years, Marine Cpl. Samuel Reyes Jr. is suffering from traumatic brain injury, known in military jargon as TBI, which leaves survivors unable to perform the most basic cognitive functions… (MSNBC.com, Iraq: A Marine’s Experience of Brain Injury, 03/17/2006)
Can ESCR help young Marines like Cpl. Sam Reyes?
… many scientists are hopeful that with enough research, we will be able to harness the abilities of embryonic stem cells to form all of the cell types in the body, so that even whole limbs might be regenerated just as they are in a salamander, and neurons could be replaced and reconnected with each other and the organs they control…
... Drs. Hans Keirstead and Oswald Steward, of the University of California at Irvine, have now shown that some of this secondary damage in the spinal cord can be prevented in animal models by treatment with specialized cells derived from human embryonic stem cells...
... Unfortunately, many of our best biologists, who could be working to make such therapies available, are hampered by Bush administration policies that do not allow federal funds to be used to generate new embryonic stem-cell lines or to work on any lines that have been generated since President Bush established the restrictions, based, as we now know, on his religious beliefs, in August 2001…
… Unfortunately, unless the administration comes to its senses, those treatments may never be available to the maimed veterans in VA hospitals. (US Veteran Brain Injury News: Will stem-cell research help U.S. wounded? by Peter J. Bryant)
Make no mistake about it: voting against ESCR is a vote against combat veterans.
So why did Gus Bilirakis vote against Sam Reyes and thousands of other seriously wounded Iraq combat veterans with brain injuries (not to mention thousands of others suffering from Alzheimer's, MS and other neurological diseases)?
Maybe he is one side of Bush (il)logic… which has been succinctly summarized on the Daily Kos:
Remember, these blastocysts come from fertility clinics. Many thousands are discarded each year. Blaming ESCR for destroying them makes less sense than blaming a kid who uses scrap wood for clear-cutting a forest.
Let's recap the utter absurdity of remaining conservative opposition to Embryonic Stem Cell Research. You're holding a cryogenic container with a blastocyst inside. It's a ball of cells (HT: PoliticAl2008) roughly the size of the period at the end of this sentence. You have a choice of putting it in an incinerator or placing it in a petri dish and using it for research. George Bush and his shrinking base somehow reason, using unknown, convoluted pseudo-logic, that destruction by fire is saving it while the petri dish represents destroying it.
Is that it Gus? You want to incinerate stem cells in order to save them? Explain that logic?
Fortunately 216 Democrats and 37 Republicans voted for ESCR (illegitimate Congressman Vern Buchanan and Adam Putnam were the only other two anti-veteran votes from the Tampa area).
Hopefully this Congress will over-ride the anticipated veto by President Bush… so that veterans like Sam Reyes have some hope for the future.
Meanwhile anti-vet morons like Bilirakis, Buchanan and Putnam need to be held accountable.