Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Bully Pulpit

An odd editorial in Thursday's Florida Today demands that President Obama "use the bully pulpit of his office" to force Congress to increase NASA funding.

The leadership starts at the White House, where the president should use the bully pulpit of his office to raise the agency’s profile as a part of his correct agenda to invest in research, technology and education to advance the nation’s economy in the 21st century.


Just how he would do this is left unsaid in the editorial.

The "bully pulpit" is a myth. A cursory read of the U.S. Constitution shows that legislative power lies with Congress, not the President.

I expect better of the Florida Today editorial writers, whose job is to have a mastery of politics so they can intelligently comment on current events.

One could argue that Florida Today also has a "bully pulpit" in that their paper is distributed throughout Brevard County and read around the world thanks to the Internet. Yet despite the many articles the paper has published about the true history of how the Space Shuttle program was cancelled by President Bush in January 2004, they still publish letters to the editor from people claiming it was Obama.

The editorial correctly notes that commercial space will reduce the "gap" in which the United States will rely upon Russia to reach the International Space Station — another 2004 political decision still inaccurately blamed on Obama.

The other half of the equation involves Capitol Hill, where members are refighting last year’s battle that resulted in bipartisan passage of the NASA Authorization Act.

The legislation mandated a two-track approach to human spaceflight: Using private rockets as space taxis to ferry crews to the International Space Station, and developing a NASA-led heavy-lift rocket and spacecraft for deep-space missions.

To that end, the president’s fiscal year 2012 budget calls for spending $18.7 billion on NASA. That includes $850 million for commercial companies and $1.8 billion for heavy-lift, which has set off another round of warfare as members contest for job-creation dollars the projects would bring in their districts.

We believe it’s the right mix.

Commercial firms stand the best chance of closing the post-shuttle flight gap and could have manned spacecraft ready to fly from Cape Canaveral in 2015. Meanwhile, the heavy-lift program, facing concerns about delays and cost overruns, should be made to meet its scheduled 2016 completion date.

Congress should stop the bickering and get behind the plan it passed. With the last shuttle flight just two months away, time is wasting to the detriment of the cause.

As the editorial concludes, the author veers back into "bully pulpit" territory.

I wrote on Wednesday about Congress killing Obama's jobs program for the Space Coast. The editorial comments:

... The president promised the Space Coast $40 million in seed money for local economic development projects during his visit to KSC last year. But the money was killed during GOP-led budget cutting negotiations for fiscal year 2011 that nearly shut down the government.

The Commerce Department was ready to make the awards and Obama — along with Congress, especially members from Florida — owes it to the Space Coast to get the badly needed funds reinstated and passed.

Again ... It's left unsaid how Obama is supposed to make the Republican majority in the House of Representatives restore funding for the Space Coast jobs program. Brevard County, and the area around KSC in particular, heavily leans Republican. It's not uncommon to see "Impeach Obama" bumper stickers around here. Republicans Sandy Adams and Bill Posey, the two local representatives in the House, voted for budget bills this year that cut NASA funding, including this jobs program. If the Republicans have no interest in helping the jobless in Republican Brevard County, and under the Constitution the budget is controlled by Congress, just how is Obama supposed to make Congress do otherwise?

The Florida Today editorial writers are capable of better.


  1. Not bad, but I was a bit puzzled about "they still publish letters to the editor from people claiming it was Obama". Do you really mean that a newspaper should only publish certain letters to the editor? I think it would be better if they published such letters with a brief disclaimer after such letters noting any prominent misconceptions.

  2. For Tom the Younger ...

    Hopefully when you read the context, my point was that Florida Today's supposed "bully pulpit" is no more effective than the one they expect President Obama to use. The fact that they still get letters from readers claiming Obama cancelled Shuttle and created the gap is evidence that their bully pulpit has failed to educate their readers -- therefore, why should they expect Obama to have any more success?

    I was not suggesting they not publish such letters, of course. But I like your suggestion that they publish a disclaimer with the letter that the accusation is false.