Campaign Promises Versus Reality: Obama and the Space Program

Campaign Promises Versus Reality: Obama and the Space Program

As two of the candidates for the Republican nomination for President spelled out their plans for the space program last night, the New Yorker published an article explaining what happened to the promises presidential candidate Barack Obama made in 2008.

The article by Ryan Lizza is based on hundreds of pages of internal White House memos released by the Obama Administration from the President’s first years in office.  Lizza uses the promises Obama made about space exploration as one example of how much changed after he won the Oval Office.

In August 2008, presidential candidate Obama gave a rousing speech in Florida about the future of the space program.   Criticizing the Bush Administration for giving NASA a vision but not the money to achieve it, Obama asserted “We cannot cede our leadership in space.” He vowed to “close the gap” between when the space shuttle program ended and a new system was available and ensure the people of Florida who worked in the space industry did not lose their jobs when the shuttle ended.  “We need a real vision,” Obama proclaimed, and announced he would reestablish a White House National Aeronautics and Space Council to formulate it.   “Under my watch, NASA will inspire the world once again,” he said then, and “grow the economy” in Florida.

After his election budget realities set in, Lizza writes.  Obama was told by advisers to cancel the Constellation program because it “was behind schedule, over budget, and ‘unachievable.'”  Obama agreed as he wrestled with the need to cut other favorite programs as well.  Later, he received a letter from a woman in Virginia who had voted for him even though she usually voted for Republican candidates, expressing her disappointment in him as President.  She asked how he could have cancelled the Ares program, on which her husband worked.  After requesting information from aides about “how Ares fit [sic] in with our long term NASA strategy,” he directed them to draft a letter to the woman “answering her primary concern — her husband’s career — for me to send.”  Lizza writes that the woman’s letter “captured the fraught choices that have plagued Obama’s past three years.”

The article’s primary focus is Obama’s growing realization that the post-partisan political world he believed in as a presidential candidate and his initial months in office bears little resemblance to Washington reality.   For its readers, the article is another lesson in the folly of believing what presidential candidates say during campaigns versus what they can deliver if they win.

During the Republican presidential primary debate last night, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich explained their ideas about the future of the space program.  Both want to rely more on the private sector — Gingrich more so than Romney.  Gingrich called for using prizes to stimulate private investment in space and a “leaner NASA,” while Romney suggested that NASA be funded not only by the government, but by “commercial enterprises.”  Gingrich said on Sunday he would make a major speech about the space program this week and is scheduled to hold a “Space Industry Roundtable” and a “Space Coast Town Hall Meeting” tomorrow in Cocoa, FL.

User Comments has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.