Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Obama plumbs new depths

Byron York highlights an unbelievably revealing interview that the head of NASA, Charles Bolden, gave to al-Jazeera. I know, I know, why in the world is the head of NASA giving an interview to al-Jazeera - that's all part of Obama's grand plan. See, Obama has not only decided to nix plans to return to the moon - there are good arguments on whether or not that was a worthwhile plan - but he has a whole new vision of what the job of NASA should be. And that vision doesn't seem to have anything to do with, well, space exploration or anything to do with the AS of NASA - you know - aeronautics or space. This is what Bolden told al-Jazeera.
When I became the NASA Administrator — before I became the NASA Administrator — [Obama] charged me with three things: One was he wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math, he wanted me to expand our international relationships, and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering.
Just pause and read that a few times while your head explodes. The foremost goal of our president for NASA is to reach out to the Muslim world and patronize them so that they can have better self esteem about their contributions to science, math, and engineering.

This is just the sort of unmotivated feel-goodism that has permeated our schools for so many years. Soon Obama will insist that everyone gets a trophy for participating.

As Ed Morrissey writes, this betrays a massive ignorance of how people get truly inspired.
Actually, Muslim nations should be insulted by the idea that the US pays NASA to provide them with paternalistic and patronizing validation and self-esteem boosts. And they probably will be.

The problem Byron uncovers goes farther than just the Muslim outreach, though. NASA has always inspired children and even bolstered international relations, but not because that was its mission. It did those things by pursuing solid goals of exploration of space, which is why Congress funds the agency. Those esteem-boosters came as a secondary result of actual achievement, not as an end in itself. The Obama administration wants to turn this over onto its head by making NASA a bureaucracy dedicated to self-esteem which might at some point have a goal that has to do with exploration of space.
Of course, coming from a president who got a Nobel Peace Prize for absolutely nothing, putting self-esteem and inspiration before the actual accomplishments shouldn't be any surprise for us.

And what math, science, and engineering achievements from the Muslim world does Obama have in mind. I assume he's looking beyond the Persian mathematician, Al-Khwarizmi's, writings on algebra in the 9th century. Hmmm, what is the major feat from the Muslim world in more recent history? Could it be the work Pakistan and Iran have done on developing nuclear weapons? Is that the big accomplishment that Obama has in mind for making them feel good about themselves. Maybe he thinks that the Iranians will trade off their nuclear ambitions for some pat-on-the head puffery from his administration on their scientific contributions.

I sure hope that Congress will look into Obama's plans for NASA. They should call Bolden in and find out if those are truly the top three goals that this administration has for NASA. If so, that's a place in the budget we can cut right away. The Muslim world will just have to work on their self esteem all on their own.

UPDATE: Charles Krauthammer is thinking along these same lines, but, of course, expressing it much better. This is what he said on Special Report last night.
"This is a new height in fatuousness," Krauthammer said. "NASA was established to get America into space and to keep is there. This idea to feel good about their past and to make achievements is the worst combination of group therapy, psychobabble, imperial condescension and adolescent diplomacy."
All true.