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 TIME CNN/AllPolitics CNN/AllPolitics with Congressional Quarterly

Could a clone ever run for president?

Dolly is out, but how about "All the way with a cloned L.B.J."?

By Michael D. Lemonick

TIME magazine

November 1, 1999
Web posted at: 12:11 p.m. EST (1711 GMT)

Sure, why not? Scientists used to think it would be difficult to clone an animal as complex as a mammal, but Dolly the sheep neatly demolished that theory. If you can clone a sheep, a human isn't much tougher. Whether it is ethical to do so is another matter, and in fact human cloning has been outlawed in a number of countries and states. But illegal or not, someone's going to do it--and having been conceived by a convicted felon is no bar to public office.

The U.S. Constitution, moreover, doesn't have a clone clause. As long as you are a citizen and 35 or older, you're eligible. The age requirement means it can't happen for a while--2036 at the earliest (presuming that someone hasn't already secretly created the first human clone). But 2036 is not that far away. While some may insist that a clone should not be eligible for citizenship, the argument won't fly. If you are human and born in the U.S., you're a citizen. A clone will be born in the conventional way, with a mother, a belly button and a full complement of human DNA.

The obstacle to President Clone will come if cloning carries serious side effects. Dolly the sheep, it turns out, has prematurely aged cells, probably attributable to the fact that she is the biological extension of an animal that was already an adult. Human clones could have the same problem--plus cloning-related mental or behavioral defects that might not be apparent in a sheep.

If these difficulties can be overcome, political campaigns could get pretty interesting. Biologists today are talking of using cloning to bring the woolly mammoth and other extinct animals back to life. Maybe Democrats and Republicans would want to try something similar. After all, candidates are always trying to link themselves to great leaders of the past. Why not cut out the middlemen? Given the pace of scientific progress, plus sufficiently audacious party leaders, the presidential debates of 2044 could feature some pretty impressive lineups. Imagine Abraham Lincoln taking on F.D.R. Or J.F.K. going up against Thomas Jefferson. Or Millard Fillmore vs. Warren Harding.

On second thought ...

--By Michael D. Lemonick


Cover Date: November 8, 1999

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