To give Rush Limbaugh his due, campaign ads for Benjamin L. Cardin and other supporters of embryonic stem cell research starring Michael J. Fox swaying and shaking from the effects of Parkinson's disease are so disturbing as to inspire disbelief. The Back to the Future star is still all-American-boy appealing, and the impulse is to reject the notion of such deterioration.
Further, Mr. Limbaugh amended his initial charge that the actor was either faking his symptoms or manipulating his medication for dramatic effect. At a minimum, he observed, Mr. Fox was "allowing his illness to be exploited and in the process shilling for a Democratic politician."
But what really troubles Mr. Limbaugh and other critics of these ads is that they are powerfully effective. Most Americans support federal funds for embryonic stem cell research because nearly everyone has a friend or relative with an ailment such as Mr. Fox's that might be controlled or cured.
To use Mr. Limbaugh's term, consider which is more "shameless": for a severely debilitated celebrity to seize what may be a ripe opportunity to win more votes for his cause in Congress, or for a partisan bully beat at his own game to respond with cruel taunts?
Voters in Maryland and elsewhere should soundly repudiate the tactics of a sore loser.