Obama and McCain on space exploration

By Phil Plait | August 4, 2008 3:06 pm

In a funny but convenient coincidence, both presidential candidates have made statements about space exploration lately; Obama while in Titusville, Florida (very close to Cape Canaveral), and McCain on NASA’s 50th anniversary last week.

The full text of Obama’s speech is on his site (parts are on YouTube as well), and McCain’s on his. Obama’s is part of a speech, so it’s longer than McCain’s which was a simple press release statement.

Comparing the two is interesting. They both mention the retirement of the Shuttle in 2010, but McCain seems to imply that we have nothing funded after that, but he’ll take care of it:

Under current plans, the United States will retire the space shuttle in 2010 after its final mission to the International Space Station, and thus lose the capability to send on our own, an American, to space. While my opponent seems content to retreat from American exploration of space for a decade, I am not. As President, I will act to ensure our astronauts will continue to explore space, and not just by hitching a ride with someone else. I intend to make sure that the NASA Constellation program has the resources it needs so that we can begin a new era of human space exploration. A country that sent a man to the moon should expect no less.

That, to me, is somewhat misleading. NASA won’t be able to launch a manned mission until Constellation is up and running, and while it’s currently having its problems, the plan is to have it going by 2015. So the gap isn’t permanent (it’s bad, very bad, not forever). Certainly, the incoming President will have to make sure funding is secured. But even McCain can’t close that gap, so his statement is rather meaningless.

Here is what Obama has to say on the same topic:

As a result, [NASA has] had to cut back on research, and trim their programs, which means that after the Space Shuttle shuts down in 2010, we’re going to have to rely on Russian spacecraft to keep us in orbit.

We cannot cede our leadership in space. That’s why I will help close the gap and ensure that our space program doesn’t suffer when the Shuttle goes out of service by working with Senator Bill Nelson to add at least one additional Space Shuttle flight beyond 2010; by supporting continued funding for NASA; by speeding the development of the Shuttle’s successor; and by making sure that all those who work in the space industry in Florida do not lose their jobs when the Shuttle is retired – because we cannot afford to lose their expertise.

This is a better answer, though still not perfect. As I said, the gap cannot be "closed", and implying it can be is wrong. It can only be narrowed. However, the idea of another Shuttle mission is an interesting one. I assume he means launching the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to the ISS. While I’m still not thrilled with another Shuttle flight — NASA would probably disagree with me about that — it would be nice to see this fantastic scientific instrument sent into space where it belongs (and NASA and I do agree there).

So in that statement I give Obama the edge, but only just.

However, I have to note that some time ago, Obama said he wanted to take money from NASA and put it into education. When I heard that I laughed ruefully: NASA already sets aside money for education (though less now than a few years ago when I was working with NASA’s science education). Plus, NASA’s budget is very small compared to, say, that of the Department of Education; NASA gets about 1/3 the money the DoE gets. So taking from NASA to give to DoE seems silly.

However, he seems to have changed his mind on that. He has been quoted as saying:

I know it’s still being reported that we were talking about delaying some aspects of the Constellation program to pay for our early education program,” [Obama] said. “I told my staff we’re going to find an entirely different offset because we’ve got to make sure that the money that’s going into NASA for basic research and development continues to go there. That has been a top priority for us. This is an administration that’s been anti-science. Whether it’s on stem cell research, whether it’s on climate change, they have rejected science. I want to reverse that trend, I want us to be a science-based society and I want us to invest in science.”

This is very heartening. Some on the right might call this a flip-flop, but it sounds more like someone who got more information and changed his mind because of it. That is precisely the kind of person I want in the White House (which would be a change from the past 8 years). I just hope Obama is doing it for the correct reason. It sounds like it from that quote.

Incidentally, this also shows that McCain is wrong to say: "While my opponent seems content to retreat from American exploration of space for a decade, I am not."

And may I also say how much I <3 this from Obama:

More broadly, we need a real vision for space exploration. To help formulate this vision, I’ll reestablish the National Aeronautics and Space Council so that we can develop a plan to explore the solar system – a plan that involves both human and robotic missions, and enlists both international partners and the private sector.

Yes, that is precisely correct. We need both manned and unmanned missions to further our goals in space, and to make sure we stay at the forefront of space exploration and innovation. Good on Obama for making this clear, and for also reinstating the Space Council, an advisory committee designed to provide a plan for exploration. The Space Review has an excellent overview of the Council’s history. Note that if Obama calls for the Council to be restarted, he is more likely to listen to them.

Finally, a note: McCain is talking pretty loudly about tax cuts for big corporations and such, which in general means either raising taxes on others or cutting government positions. NASA has enjoyed a relatively good stretch of funding the past few years, but that may not always be the case. Having said that, either candidate, upon taking the White House, may cut or increase funding for NASA. We know for a fact that promises made in the campaign — especially ones done in the shortening months before the election — have little likelihood to be transubstantiated into reality after the inauguration (look up the phrase, "Read my lips: no new taxes" as a prime example).

So take whatever either man says with a few moles of salt. However, given McCain’s tack to the right and pandering to the religious zealots on so many issues, I don’t expect him to be a candidate who is on the side of science. That enough is sufficient for me not to vote for him — unless he makes some very solid statements very soon (and given his flip-flops on this and his stance on about fifty other things, it’s pretty unlikely I’d vote for him anyway). Obama, on the other hand, has clearly stated his opposition to what has happened to science over the past eight years, and that gives me hope.

Tip o’ the styrofoam delegate hat/spacesuit visor to Kirk Enstrom and Russell Wolf for the heads-up on these statements.

Comments (66)

  1. Jonas E

    Can someone please explain why that 5-year gap is so bad? If I am not mistaken, the rockets launched by the Russians or ESA are as good as or better than the Space Shuttle anyway, and this is not the Cold War anyone. Is NASA asks nicely (read: pay for it), I cannot see why they should not be able to hitch the required rides until 2015.

  2. Davidlpf

    Okay Obama looks like the winner at the moment on the science front.

  3. I’ll cling to your hope as well Phil! ;)

  4. Jonas, right now only the Russians have a man-rated craft. ESA may soon, and the Japanese as well, but not right away. One avenue to (and from!) space is not so hot.

  5. Protesilaus

    Wow I am happy to have heard that about Obama. Has he fixed his stance on the vaccination nonsense too? That might be too much to ask for. It was during his run-off with Hillary, they both went on the side of the Mecury Malitia.

  6. Todd W.

    One avenue to space isn’t so hot, but the return certainly is! I mean, all that air getting pressed together! Break out the A/C!

  7. Ralph Johnson

    “And may I also say how much I <3 this from Obama" Is <3 an internet symbol for love? How does one find out about these things?

    Ralph

  8. Cheyenne

    It would be nice to get more science work done at the ISS. If it takes another flight to get that piece of equipment up there I’m all for it.

  9. Joe Meils

    I was rather hoping that, although the shuttles would be retired in 2010, they would remain “on standby” incase of some type of emergency aboard the ISS, or if we have a major failure of a high priority satillite…

    But then, there are the military shuttles….

  10. justcorbly

    Some points:

    1. Jonas, to add to Phil’s comment, the Russian vehicles do not have the capacity of the Shuttle. Nor, for that matter, do anyone else’s vehicles.

    2. In a more logical world, the Shuttle would continue to fly until new hardware become operational. The gap between the last Shuttle and the first Ares flight is down to lack of vision and foresight in the White House over at least the last two administrations. (Not NASA. Their mission is shaped by the White House and Congress.)

    3. I’m a thoroughly gung-ho people-in-space guy. Frankly, I think putting people in space is the only viable reason for space travel, period. (Better to have scientists poking around the Martian polar cap than some little machine.) But, I am increasingly dismayed by the cost and go-awful slowness to space travel powered by chemical fuels. I don’t see the private sector bringing costs down more than marginally, and chemical rockets can’t go faster unless we start building fuel and oxidizer tanks the size of small moons. So, I’d like to see much more money going toward a more efficient way to get to LEO, where all real spaceflight begins. My inclination is a big, rather dumb heavy lift booster with stages that can be added and removed as payload demands. I’d also like to see serious money go to research and development propulsion systems that can get us to the Moon in hours and to Mars in a few weeks.

    Ten minutes of propulsion followed by an eternity of coasting is not the way to explore the Solar System.

  11. @ Ralph Johnson: “<3" is an internet symbol that represents a sideways heart symbol, indicating that you like or love something. In the future, if you run across (apparent) internet slang that you don't understand, I suggest checking out http://www.UrbanDictionary.com. Here's a starter link:

    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=%3C3

    And Phil, thanks for summarizing the candidates' comments/positions on space exploration!

  12. Grand Lunar

    This sort of makes it easier to see who I want to vote for.

    After Hiliary dropped out, I already set my sights on Obama. Not so much for what he stood for, but because I feel we need the other party in office. Bush gave his party a bad name, especially with the anti-science.

    Now it seems I have another reason to be hopeful for when election time comes.

    I hope that Obama sticks to his word.
    Of course, I imagine a lot of his work will be to undo the mess the country has gotten in so far under Bush.

  13. Grand Lunar

    “The gap between the last Shuttle and the first Ares flight is down to lack of vision and foresight in the White House over at least the last two administrations.”

    Don’t forget the engineering difficulties that must be solved with Ares 1, plus the more important factor of a low budget to play with.

  14. No new taxes

    … we’ll just raise the existing ones!

    (I can’t believe how many people believed him.)

    What I don’t understand is why it takes 10 years to get a new launch system developed and built. It took us less time to go from a suborbital launch to landing on the Moon.

  15. Once again, Canada, the nation responsible for great beer, Canadian bacon, igloos and toques, comes to the rescue:

    http://messagesfromearth.wordpress.com/2008/07/27/canada-set-to-rescue-floundering-us-space-program-with-secret-space-shuttle/

  16. Chris

    Ken B: Funding is the reason. In the Apollo era, NASA had far greater funding than today.

    Oh, and this is great news – I’ve been hoping that Obama would change his stance on space.

  17. justcorbly

    @Grand Lunar:

    The Ares engineering difficulties might be solved already if they hadn’t waited so long to decide what to do after the Shuttle.

    NASA’s budget has been remarkably stable for a number of years. Bush’s desire to keep it stable (not get slammed ny conservative weenies for increasing it) is the specific reason for the Shuttle phaseout, i.e., Shuttle money would pay for it’s replacement.

  18. SLC

    Prof. Steven Weinberg disagrees with Dr. Plait about the efficacy of manned space flight which he opposes as being to ocostly for the scientific benefit accrued. But I guess that Prof. Weinberg doesn’t know what he is talking about.

    http://video.google.com/videosearch?hl=en&q=dawkins+weinberg+-myers+-krauss+-myers+-krauss+-myers+-krauss&btnG=Google+Search&lr=&dur=&so=0&num=100#

  19. IBY

    Wait, I don’t get it. Why are they retiring the shuttles? Is it because of the fundings?

  20. JohnW

    However, given McCain’s tack to the right and pandering to the religious zealots on so many issues, I don’t expect him to be a candidate who is on the side of science.

    Again, this continued bs from you on how McCain is pandering to religious zealots because he got endorsed by one nutjob. Obama attends for 20 years, and gives $50,000 to, the church of an America-hating conspiracy mongering racist preacher? “Black people have different brains than white people.” No problemo! He’s a democrat!

    and given his flip-flops on this and his stance on about fifty other things, it’s pretty unlikely I’d vote for him anyway.

    You’re not going to vote for McCain???!!! No kidding. But what flip-flops are you talking about? Ones where someone who got more information changed his mind because of it?

    Finally, a note: McCain is talking pretty loudly about tax cuts for big corporations and such, which in general means either raising taxes on others or cutting government positions.

    Yes, please, God, cut taxes and cut government! Somebody, anybody!

  21. John

    +12 points for apt metaphorical use of “transubstantiate”.

  22. IBY, my understanding is that the Shuttles are aging. I believe, and someone correct me if I am wrong, they were originally designed for 25 missions each, so they have reached that already. Despite the retrofitting, and updating critical systems, they are almost 30 years old, and like anything that ages, vital systems will eventually break down. Also, funding was part of the decision as well, I think. There is no wat NASA could continue funding the Shuttle and develop the new Ares/Constellation Program, designed to take us back to the moon and beyond. The Shuttle cannot go beyond low Earth orbit. (I believe 400-600 Miles maximum.)

    Personally, I think the Nixon administration blew it in funding the Shuttle in the first place. Instead of delivering on it’s promise of offering cheaper, more reliable access to space, it proved to be far more costly than anyone imagined.

  23. Peter B

    IBY asked: “Why are they retiring the shuttles?”

    In addition to the issue of aging, I think it’s appropriate to look at the design.

    The Shuttles were touted as space trucks, reusable spacecraft which would make it easier and cheaper to put satellites into orbit. But there are problems with this.

    Firstly, the Shuttles send a lot of weight into space for the size of the satellites they transport up there; the same satellite could be sent into space much more cheaply on a throw-away rocket. I find it hard to think of a comparison here on Earth, but the closest I can think of is buying a reusable wooden box to mail letters to friends (and having them send the box back to you afterwards), rather than a paper envelope.

    Secondly, the Shuttle’s design incorporates several design problems. The crew compartment is permanently attached to the body of the Shuttle, meaning that there’s no escape if something happens to the launch vehicle (Challenger accident). Also, the Shuttle is beside the External Tank, rather than on top of it, meaning that foam shedding is an issue (Columbia accident).

    The Ares-Orion system avoids the first design problem by making the crew compartment its own spacecraft (like Apollo), meaning it can be blasted away from disaster below by the Launch Escape System. And by putting the crew compartment on top of the rocket, nothing can fall onto the Orion spacecraft (unless there’s a major design flaw in the Launch Escape System). (Having said that, I understand the Orion spacecraft will now be one-use, rather than reusable, as was originally intended.)

    Thirdly, although the Shuttle was originally sold to the public (at least, as I remember it) as a reusable spacecraft, the amount of work required between landing and launch is such that the cost is comparable to building new spacecraft anyway.

    The cost of getting into space is high. This is a result of a combination of our current level of technology, the Earth’s atmosphere and the Earth’s gravity well. As I see it, unless there’s a major breakthrough in propulsion technology (which I don’t see happening in the next 50 years) I think throw-away rockets are probably going to be the cheapest way of getting into space for the foreseeable future.

  24. Wouldn’t direct 2.0 shave 2 years off the gap?

    Also, John Glenn rode an atlas into space, so why can’t today’s astronauts?

  25. Peter B

    Michael L said: “Personally, I think the Nixon administration blew it in funding the Shuttle in the first place. Instead of delivering on it’s promise of offering cheaper, more reliable access to space, it proved to be far more costly than anyone imagined.”

    I think it’s a bit unfair to blame the Nixon administration for the Shuttle decision. After all, NASA came up with the design and presented that to the Administration as part of a larger package. As NASA’s funding dropped, they lost Mars and the Moon, and were left with a space station and the means to get there. Then their funding was cut further, and they were left with the choice of a space station *or* the means of getting there.

    So blame Nixon for the funding cuts (and beyond him the American public), but not for the Shuttle’s design.

  26. IBY

    Thanks to the poeple for the answer. XD

  27. jfatz

    To be fair, I think you’re being a bit nitpicky with Obama’s “close” phrasing. Colloquial English being what it is, “help close the gap” usually means something much more like “help IN CLOSING the gap” than “help TO CLOSE the gap.” “Closing the gap” IS effectively “narrowing” in this case, and judging by the rest of his statement, that seems to be what he’s implying. (At least, he’s not overtly implying that there will be no gap, there’s no reason to put other words in his mouth.)

  28. Peter B

    Lab Lemming asked: “Wouldn’t direct 2.0 shave 2 years off the gap?”

    It’s probably a bit too late for Direct 2.0 now, regardless of how good it might be. I think NASA’s too far down the Ares-Orion path.

    “Also, John Glenn rode an atlas into space, so why can’t today’s astronauts?”

    Because an Atlas can hoist one man into Earth orbit, who could stay there for little more than a day.

    Apollo-Saturn IB could put three men into Earth orbit for up to a fortnight. Apollo-Saturn V could send three men to the Moon. Ares-Orion should be able to get larger crews into Earth orbit, or to the Moon.

  29. mike

    A big government, tax and spend liberal would be good for NASA, I guess.

  30. I was going to vote for Obama, until he voted for that FISA Amendments Act of 2008. McCain abstained, and Hillary voted against it. Go figure.

  31. Peter B:

    Thanks, I should have stated NASA instead of the Nixon admin. I was kind of lumping them together.

  32. Mark

    Do we really want to “speed development of the shuttle’s successor”? NASA doesn’t do too well under that kind of political pressure. We don’t want another Apollo 1 or Challenger.

  33. For those who haven’t seen it, I highly recommend the Penn&Teller episode on NASA in this season’s B*llSh*t. It is a very fair and firm appraisal of NASA (from two guys who admit to being space nuts). Briefly, the argue that it is time to move on. NASA just hasn’t got the job done in terms of manned space flight since Apollo. What NASA does well is individual science probes to the planets. The rest needs to be taken from them so that private enterprise can do the job.

    Space-X, and similar companies, are the way to go — if only they could get a reliable launch vehicle!

    As for the presidential candidates, neither has any credibility with me, and both are challenged when it comes to economics, so I am sitting this election out. Since I think the “5-year gap” is very crucial, and there is every reason to believe historically it will be longer if NASA has anything to do with it, every idea that makes economic sense needs to be considered. Frankly, I wish I could blame everything on Bush, but the problems with NASA go far beyond any one administration. The whole enterprise, if you will, is fundamentally flawed and most of NASA needs to be retired and/or redone, preferably the former.

  34. Robbie

    News flash: Obama is a politician.

  35. Grisha

    To Phil.. just a wink, ;-) but the Chinese also have a man-rated craft. I doubt they will let us use it, however. Shen Zhou has only been up twice, but can carry three crew and, properly fitted, could dock with the ISS. Not that it’s likely… Still the Chinese are making progress very deliberately.

    Grisha

  36. Grisha, the Chinese don’t have reliable service to space, so I didn’t count them. It’ll be a while before they do, and I suspect they wouldn’t be too thrilled to loft an American in space.

    … although it would be a publicity and political coup.

  37. John W, you are way way off the mark here. John McCain went to huge huge lengths to get the endorsement by Hagee. He actively and eagerly courted a far-right religious zealot. Whereas Obama did not seek out the endorsement of his pastor, and immediately distanced himself from him when it went public. McCain only denounced his sought-after endorser once he went really over the edge.

  38. Grisha

    Hi Phil, agreed, the craft is still in the testing stages. But, honestly I think the reliability thing will be cleared with a few more missions. One more flight and they will have essentially duplicated the entire Mercury and Gemini programs. They seem to be going very slow, but each flight is a big jump in capability.

    Financially, I think they have the capacity to build as many craft as they need. Once they are through the testing phases, they could prove very safe since they are based on the proven Soyuz design.

    They just have nowhere to go.

    At this point a manned program does very little for them except to prove they can do it. If I were the Chinese I would be making a deal with the good old USA while the Russians fly tourists.

    But they won’t.

    The Russians will be happy to be our ride, for a price, for the forseeable future.

    PS: Congratulations on the James Randi position, the move to Discovery and everything. I’ve been lurking around here for years and things seem to be really taking off for you since you moved away from my neck of the woods (San Rafael, CA).

  39. The Chinese are apparently going to launch another crew of three this year, and include a space walk. They are actively pursuing a manned space station, and a manned lunar mission at some point. I really don’t think they will be interested in helping the Americans get to the ISS, nor do I think the Americans would be interested in their help.

    While NASA may have outlived its usefulness, how does one go about fixing the problem? Sure, we could scrap NASA and replace it with something else, but how long do you think it would be before the same problems come up in a new agency. After all, where do you think all those former NASA managers and engineers would end up? The problem is not with the engineers and the “hands on” people, it’s with the bureaucrats that sit in their offices and push paper all day.

    I’m glad to see Elon Musk has not given up, and vowed to push on with Space X, but we are talking about a private company. A company that needs to show some return for its investors. NASA was and is a government organization, and therefore can “afford” the failures. Space X cannot continue to have repeated failures without investors getting cold feet and pulling out. My concern is, one or two more failures, and they may be forced out of the business.

  40. flynjack

    Phil, In as much as I appreciate your skeptalogical veiw points. On politics your a novice. Both of these candidates are disapointing for democrats and republicans too. The reality in government is it is the appointees who determine the direction things go as they advise the president in what is undoubtalbly the most difficlut job around. Look at who these candidates will bring with them to the White House and Executive Branch and keep their associates in mind when placing your vote.

  41. stewy.cvl

    Hey Phil! This question is off topic, but I have been hearing things about 2011-2012 about solar flares being the worst that they’ve been since the 50′s… I’ve heard that they could knock out all our satellites. I know how much you hate space rumors, so I apologize, but I’m interested to hear what you have to say about it.

  42. The two-party system is broken, and with the existing inertia, even those with gobs of money and business acumen were unable to make a viable run as a third party candidate. Sorry, I just flashed back to the SNL skit w/Phil Hartman as Perot’s running mate, Stockdale – “Who am I? What am I doing here? GRIDLOCK!” AHEM… Not that it can ever happen, given said inertia, but I truly believe that breaking up each major party into three completely separate entities each might at least improve our choices and have them fighting for the middle rather than the fringe. I’m just sayin’. – g^2

  43. Grisha said:
    “They just have nowhere to go.

    At this point a manned program does very little for them except to prove they can do it. If I were the Chinese I would be making a deal with the good old USA while the Russians fly tourists.”

    Actually they tried to make a deal with the US, and their original capsule design had a docking mechanism compatible with the ISS. The Chinese wanted to partner with Russia, the US, Canada, the ESA, Japan and other nations involved with the ISS, but the US vehemently opposed such a move. Now the Chinese have moved on to the Russians and ESA as far as trying to build partnerships. They stated in ’06 that they would like to have a manned station orbiting by 2010. It would be similar to the early Soviet Salyut stations. Their long term goals were stated as targeting the Moon, and then onto Mars with a manned mission sometime between 2040-2060. So, they are planning on going somewhere, at least over the long haul, but, politically, anything can happen over 30+ years. I’m not sure now, if they are even on track for their short term goals. I had thought that they would try to launch an extended mission while the Summer Games were on, but that does not seem likely, at least I haven’t seen anything.

  44. Ian

    I try not to get my hopes up. In ideal world our space program would not be built on Spam in a Can 2015. I don’t care if the can is made of carbon fiber and kevlar. It’s still Spam in a Can.

    But hey, pro science is a bit easier to do when you’re not too worried about kissing the proverbial ass of the woowoo Jesus is in my toast crowd.

  45. Isn’t one of the reasons you’re scrapping the Shuttles that they weren’t that good even when they were new?
    I can’t remember where I picked it up, but I seem to remember somthing about the Shuttles being designed with too many functions in mind – that so many agencies made demands on them that they ended up terribly flawed.

  46. Anyway from my understanding over this side of the pond, McCain will be the one winning the election. Last time the “Flyover” states handed GW the second term as they are staunchly republican. Also according to one report I heard, when Hillary dropped out of the democratic race a number of Hillary supporters said they would rather go over to McCain than Obama, even though Hillary asked her supporters to switch to Obama.

    The other issue, and I feel uncomfortable mentioning it, is that of race. A while ago on BBC Radio 4′s World Tonight programme, the presenter did ask an interviewee in the US if America was ready for a black president. The person answering the question denied that race was an issue, hitting all the right notes in this enlightened age of equality and diversity, but the mere fact the question was asked, to me indicated that for some it will be an issue. I did wonder if that was the reason behind the reported defections to McCain when Obama won the democratic nomination.

    These are just some of the reasons that I suspect that McCain will be the next President of the US, and it will be his policies that will be enacted. It looks like it will be another lean time at NASA, which does not bode well

  47. PhysicsTutor

    see video for his exact words.
    http://noquarterusa.net/blog/2008/08/03/thats-not-what-i-said-obama-flips-on-nasa/

    Obama was speaking in front of a crowd in Florida when he stated his change in policy.
    First he wants to cut moon, mars and constellation funding to pay for his early education program and now he says
    “i told my staff we are going to find an entirely different offset” (see video above)
    now how vague is that? what offset??

    Obama will say or do anything to get elected–A charge leveled against his opponent-isn’t he supposed to be the candidate of change.

    His policy is subject to change at a moment’s notice depending on the polls, the time of day and what his audience is.

    To me it is about trust- I do not TRUST give all his backtracking.
    If a man can be so very much against one thing (FISA, Welfare reform, etc etc etc) and then change his mind SO EASILY then he can do the SAME thing to NASA

    Phil- You totally forgot to mention obama wanting to EXPAND bushs’ faith based initiatives. obama panders just as much if not more than mccain. do not kid yourself.

  48. JohnW

    John W, you are way way off the mark here. John McCain went to huge huge lengths to get the endorsement by Hagee. He actively and eagerly courted a far-right religious zealot. Whereas Obama did not seek out the endorsement of his pastor, and immediately distanced himself from him when it went public. McCain only denounced his sought-after endorser once he went really over the edge.

    What huge huge lengths did McCain go to? Did he attend Hagee’s church for 20 years? Get married, get his kids baptized by him? Give him $50,000?

    “Immediately distanced himself from him when it went public”?! After sitting in the guy’s church for 20 years? I guess he happened to never hear one of the more, ahem, controversial sermons? How convenient.

    And how did Obama not seek out the endorsement of his pastor? Aside from giving money to his church and attending it, Wright was part of his campaign! First, Obama “can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother…” Until, that is, Wright got even more controversial, then Obama “immediately” threw him under the proverbial bus. After 20 years…

    This isn’t even mentioning Wright’s association with Farrakhan, or Obama’s too close for comfort association with Ayers and Dohrm, Marxist radicals who acted to overthrow the government and got people killed doing so.

    I can see you liking Obama over McCain because his politics are closer to your own, but this particular line of reasoning is all kinds of faulty.

  49. John W.

    Even though McCain did not attend Hagee’s church, how can he claim, as he did, to be unfamiliar with this raving lunatic and his vile rantings? How is John Hagee any much less of an “America Hater”, when he claims that America’s tolerance of gays led to Katrina? Why is it that McCain stated that another fundamentalist nut job, Rod Parsley, Pastor of World Harvest Church in Ohio, is a spiritual mentor of his? Parsley is just as crazy as Hagee, and is also a leader in Hagee’s ultra right wing Christians United For Israel. The fact is, these guys all use the Bible to justify their vile hatred of various people.

  50. John W:

    Here’s one of many links referring to Parsley’s relationship with McCain:

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article3548250.ece

  51. JohnW

    Fair points, Michael L. And shame on McCain for cozying up to them.

    But the point is Phil’s inconsistency – he has on several occasions criticized McCain for seeking these endorsements, and uses them here as a reason to prefer Obama. But Obama has religious associations that are just as odious, just as anti-science, and which are much, much closer than a mere endorsement.

  52. I think Obama supporting the space program in Florida is in the same of class of statements with the following:

    1) We should pull out of NAFTA
    2) I support immunity for TELCOs who assist in the war on terror
    3) I support off shore drilling ‘in some cases’
    4) I support ‘research’ into nuclear power
    5) I’m for lower taxes
    6) I’ll balance the budget.
    7) I’m for a strong defense budget.

    All of these and more of his recent rightish drift are just things he says to gain votes. His own people are saying as much. No rational person could look at his long term record and think that he’s suddenly had a change of heart on funding NASA.

    When elected Obama’s priorities will be on expanding the welfare state to as large a size as possible. You can’t look at his statements prior to this summer and his (admittedly skimpy) voting record and think anything else.

    NASA funding will be a higher priority if McCain is elected.

  53. Naked Bunny with a Whip

    Obama’s priorities will be on expanding the welfare state to as large a size as possible.

    Right-wingers always say stuff like this as if it were a bad thing, then wonder why the world laughs at phrases like “compassionate conservative”. Well, they would if they paid attention to the world outside their little bubbles, where things like trickle-down economics work and the US has the best medical care in the world, unconditionally.

    NASA funding will be a higher priority if McCain is elected.

    If NASA gets into the business of bombing Space Muslims, sure.

  54. Naked Bunny With A Whip says:

    “NASA funding will be a higher priority if McCain is elected.

    If NASA gets into the business of bombing Space Muslims, sure.”

    I laughed really hard at that one! Maybe the Phoenix Lander DID find Osama Bin Laden…

  55. Davidlpf

    The space Muslims have to have oil first.

  56. mac

    Jim Howard…
    Don’t forget about Obama’s energy plan…keep your tires inflated to the proper pressure, it will save us on energy costs.
    Drilling for oil is not a short term solution or a long term solution- Obama

  57. International co-operation in space exploration is the answer to all of the humanity’s other problems. Obama’s reaching out to co-operate with others is vastly opposed to McCain’s vision of repeating the same old cycle of fighting we have had since our human origens. I have made many trips to the environs of the “tribal areas” lately in such a ‘reach out’ effort.

  58. Thanks so much for the comment above. I am convinced we will never get very far, very fast, without international – worldwide – co-operation. This is outlined on my website http://www.rufushigginbotham.org. The following is a quote from Obama above :

    “a plan that involves both human and robotic missions, and enlists both international partners and the private sector.”

    Have you heard McCain say anything similar ?

  59. Nic

    Has anyone looked at what Obama and McCain’s websites say about their takes on space exploration?

    McCain’s is at http://www.johnmccain.com/Informing/Issues/7366faf9-d504-4abc-a889-9c08d601d8ee.htm

    I couldn’t find anything on Obama’s site. Doesn’t mean it’s not there…just that I couldn’t find it.

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