updated 6/21/2004 10:56:37 AM ET 2004-06-21T14:56:37

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry on Monday criticized President Bush for relying on ideology rather than fact in the pursuit of science and repeated his pledge to overturn the ban on federal funding of research on new stem cell lines.

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“We need a president who will once again embrace our tradition of looking toward the future and new discoveries with hope based on scientific facts, not fear,” Kerry said in a campaign statement issued as he traveled to Denver. “It’s about investing in the future of our country. I won’t let ideology and fear stand in our way.”

The Bush campaign, meanwhile, is airing radio ads promoting economic gains in six battleground states, focusing on markets where Kerry, Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney are traveling this week.

The Kerry campaign said the Massachusetts senator will invest in scientific research to foster discoveries to protect the economy as well as to help cure diseases. He also will rely on scientific leaders and expert advice when making decisions, the campaign said, and will allow stem cells to be researched in full under the appropriate ethical oversight.

Stem cell research gained renewed attention earlier this month after the death of President Reagan, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. His family, including former first lady Nancy Reagan, called for more research into the disease using stem cells. Fifty-right senators — including Kerry — sent Bush a letter asking that he relax the restrictions he imposed by executive order in August 2001. The White House has rejected those requests.

'Politics over science'
The Bush administration places “politics over science to please their right-wing constituency,” the Kerry campaign said.

The administration, according to a campaign statement, removed information about global warming from a 2003 Environmental Protection Agency report; ordered changes to a report that described damage that would be caused by drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; and deleted information about condoms from government Web sites.

“The administration has proposed cuts for scientific research and grossly distorted and politicized science on issues from mercury pollution to stem cell research,” the campaign said. “This approach not only limits the research that our scientists are doing today, it undermines important discoveries of tomorrow and threatens America’s critical edge in innovation.”

In a letter endorsing Kerry, 48 scientists who have won the Nobel Prize said the Bush administration is undermining the nation’s future by impeding medical advances, turning away scientific talent with its immigration practices, and ignoring scientific consensus on global warning and other critical issues.

“Unlike previous administrations, Republican and Democratic alike, the Bush administration has ignored unbiased scientific advice in the policy-making that is so important to our collective welfare,” their letter stated.

Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt said the president has made an unprecedented commitment to the sciences and funding levels are at record highs. “President Bush has an enormous investment in the National Institutes of Health and other areas of scientific research,” Schmidt said.

Budget cuts
Harold Varmus, a former head of the NIH and a Kerry supporter, said Bush continued President Clinton’s plan to double the agency’s budget over five years. But, he said, White House documents show the administration is prepared to cut the NIH budget by 2.1 percent in 2006. Other scientific budgets have increased, but under the rate of inflation, Varmus said.

“I, like many scientists, feel like the country needs stronger leadership on scientific research,” said Varmus, a Nobel laureate who signed the letter endorsing Kerry.

The Denver trip is Kerry’s first public campaign visit to Colorado, a traditionally Republican-leaning state that chose Bill Clinton in 1992. Kerry’s advisers say Colorado could be won by a Democrat again this year because of the growing Hispanic population and jobs losses under Bush.

The Massachusetts senator also hopes to have special appeal because he was born at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital near Denver and can relate with his military background to the many veterans who live there.

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