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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Obama Jumps Shark on Mars

President Obama re-iterated his commitment to the space program today, announcing that he expects Earthlings to reach Mars within his lifetime. Speaking at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, Obama sought to dispel any skepticism of his support for NASA, and added that not just astronauts but ordinary Americans, "like tea partiers", could soon be shipped to Mars as part of his new space exploration program.

Gotcha. Really, though. I'm ambivalent about getting crabby about this latest salvo from Big Idea Obama (because in general I like the space program, and I like Big Ideas), but nonetheless it seems that we would all do well to observe some hard to define yet common sense interval between Big Ideas, wouldn't we? From historical revamping of health care, to reduce the nukes (an issue we've become accustomed to ignoring, true), to humans on mars, what's next? They're all darn worthy proposals for discussion, debate, analysis, action. But it'd feel more grounded, more deliberative and thought through and, well, presidential, if we had some time to close out discussion on one Big Idea--it's benefits, consequences, downsides--before launching into the next. But, alas, fat chance for quiet time with Big Ideas, it seems. The presidency these days is all 'bout hittin' the turbo thrusters (think: the Iraq War and former President Bush).

Well, anyway. If my political compass is in working order, at least we won't hear much more than a whimper about "cap and trade" or "global warming" from the White House. The dire warnings of impending disaster emanating from Gore and other catastrophe types have quite clearly fallen out of favor these days (ever notice how, once the hysteria goes away, you can't get people to defend the original thesis anymore? They defend milk toast versions of it, the kind of discussion that you wanted to have back when everyone was screeching, but they thought too moderate. Ask a Global Warming proponent to talk about Global Warming now, and you'll get discussions about pollution, and reasonable-sounding stuff about how we should get rid of carbon fuels anyway, et cetera. What happened to Catastrophe!? It all just kind of gets forgotten, as if there really wasn't a hysteria in the first place, and we all just move on in a state of collective amnesia about our cries of imminent doom just two or three years prior. Ugh.).

Anywho. Mars! Cool. Next?

2 comments:

Rebecca said...

Erik,
Obama striking a rather "Kennedy-esque" pose, announcing that U.S. is headed for Mars, made me sigh---exhaustively. I agree that, as you put it, "big ideas" are good, and can be transformative. It is all ideas (health care, education, loose nukes, space) at once can give a person ADHD. I have come to the belief that we have just become accustomed to rhetoric. We like distraction and inertia---not deliberate process. "Discussion, debate, analysis, action" as you put it, bores the public who likes sound-bites and catch phrases. It is disappointing in a way because Obama is a policy-hound who likes to wallow in details. But, the public seems to "be so OVER IT" (as my students would say) that deliberative analysis and discussion can't happen on a wide scale. Therefore, Obama has dropped it (at least publicly). Most policy makers fall into this habit, constantly on "campaign rally mode" that stopping to discuss process/viewpoints can actually make someone (or some incredibly important issue) irrelevant. This will, in turn, make the U.S. irrelevent too. Oh well, I'm bored now. ----Beck

Erik J. Larson said...

Becky,
Nice! Yes I completely I agree with you. I get "bored", too, because things happen so fast in politics that you have to be constantly jabbering about the latest issue to be relevant. But the issue will become history in a few days anyway, so what's the incentive to take it seriously? But of course I think there is a reason to take things seriously, because even if everyone is ADHD and jabbering, "having a good idea" versus "having a crappy idea" is still a distinction that we need to make. The alternative seems to be decline, as you suggest. Not yet! Not yet! Maybe not at all!