Even in a presidential administration as notorious as this one for putting symbolism ahead of reality, last week's veto of stem cell research is a notable defeat for science, reason and suffering medical patients.

Human embryos aren't babies. Uncountable millions of embryos naturally fail each year somewhere along the rocky developmental road between microscopic cell cluster and viable birth. In the U.S. alone, reproductive technology results in many more embryos than ever will be needed for in vitro fertilization.

During his veto speech, the president's public-relations machine surrounded him with beautiful children whose existence is thanks to embryos left unused by the women for whom they were originally created. These children are priceless, but represent a tiny percentage of extra embryos.

Instead of babies, surplus embryos have much more in common organ donors. Without a chance for life themselves, they represent the best hope for life someone else.

From Nancy Reagan to U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith, an ever increasing number of people in the president's own party recognize that the stem cells contained in now-discarded embryos hold the promise of alleviating untold suffering by those afflicted by spinal injuries, Alzheimer's disease, blindness and a long list of humankind's worst maladies.

Thankfully, some stem cell research can continue despite craven politicizing of the issue by the president and those who voted to uphold his veto. Whomever becomes president in January 2009 will almost certainly promptly set our nation on the correct path on this subject. In the meantime, it's shameful that the race for a cure for so many Americans is being delayed by politicians, when America needs leaders.