Political space

my earlier instincts seem to be correct. The Bush Mars Plan is envisioned as... a plan for jobs![1]

The sources said Bush aides also view the initiative as a huge jobs program, and one that will stimulate business in the many parts of the country where space and military contractors are located.

"This is a boon for business and a boon for Texas," one official said, referring to the state where Bush was governor and the location of the Johnson Space Center, which is the home of mission control and the nerve center for human space flight.

The decision was controversial within the White House, with some aides arguing that it would make more sense to focus immediately on Mars, since humans have already landed on the moon and a Mars mission would build cleanly on the success of Spirit, the U.S. rover that landed safely on Mars last weekend. Bush himself settled the divisions, according to the sources, working from options that had been narrowed down by his senior adviser, Karl Rove.

One presidential adviser, who asked not to be identified, said, after discussing the initiative with administration officials, that the idea is "crazy" and mocked it as the "mission to Pluto."

It costs a lot of money and we don't have money," the official said. "This is destructive of any sort of budget restraint." The official added that the initiative makes any rhetoric by Bush about fiscal restraint "look like a feint."

Sort of the inverse of JFK's famous twin dictums of "ask not what your country can do for you" and his famous Rice University moon speech:

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

Bush's space announcement was positively pedestrian in comparison. Not to mention that it's Rove who's doing the narrowing of policy options - clearly the Mars talk is being driven by the political engine, not the policy one. There's more evidence of this (via Kos) when you compare the attitude of the Administration today with that from December 4, 2003 (ie, one month ago):

Despite widespread speculation that a major presidential announcement on space is at hand, White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters Thursday that President Bush has no plans to make any policy announcement about the U.S. space program �in the near future.�

Can the successful landing of the Spirit rover have anything to do with the Administration's renewed interest in Mars? And possibly the impending Democratic contests in Iowa and New Hampshire?

So, the plan is to create massive spending programs, lavish corporate welfare for the Home Star State and enrich the federal bureaucracy. And get to the Moon and Mars as an afterthought to the re-election campaign.

Conservative bloggers have doubts, too. Tacitus doesn't disappoint for fiscally conservative alarm at the plan. Drezner also is disturbed by the Rovian influence. Simberg is all about the private sector.

[1]Maybe Rove has been reading Steve's blog...

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