GOP Senses Gravity of NASA Vacancy
“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to run NASA.” And the man who said so ought to know: astronaut Buzz Aldrin. Like a lot of experts, he couldn’t understand the holdup over President Trump’s pick to run America’s space agency, former congressman and Navy pilot Jim Bridenstine. For an agency used to running at warp speed, the 15-month delay isn’t just unusual — it’s unnecessary. And unfortunately, Democrats weren’t the only ones to blame.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) had been the most outspoken holdout on the Oklahoman, insisting that NASA shouldn’t be run by a “politician.” But it was Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) who provided the last-minute drama on Trump’s nominee, voting “no” on cloture Wednesday and shocking everyone in the room. With the roll call split right down the middle, 49-49, Bridenstine’s fate would have been in the hands of Vice President Mike Pence, the usual tie-breaker. There was just one problem: Pence was on a trip in Florida and couldn’t be in DC to end the logjam.
As the minutes dragged on, Bridenstine’s nomination seemed temporarily doomed. Then, after a long conversation with Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), Sen. Flake walked back to the floor and switched his vote. Turns out, his opposition on cloture had nothing to do with Bridenstine. He was using it as leverage to get more time on the president’s other nominee — CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Rubio, for his part, seemed to have a complete change of heart. “The unexpected April 30 retirement of the acting administrator would leave NASA … with a gaping leadership void unless we confirm a new administrator. Because of this, I decided to support the nomination of Rep. Bridenstine. I expect him to lead NASA in a non-political way and to treat Florida fairly.”
On the other side of the aisle, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) didn’t let up. For months, she’s been on a one-woman campaign to crush Bridenstine’s nomination — not because he isn’t qualified to lead NASA but because she objects to his conservative views. In a three-page letter to the ranking members of Commerce, Science, and Transportation, she goes on a lengthy (and often inaccurate) diatribe about Bridenstine’s supposed record of discrimination, even mentioning his relationship with FRC as proof that he’s unsuitable for the job.
Rep. Bridenstine’s denial of climate science and consistent opposition to equal rights for women, immigrants, and gay, lesbian, bisexual transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) individuals should disqualify him from the job… In a May 2013 speech, Rep. Bridenstine … stated, “Some of us in America still believe in the concept of sexual morality, that sex is intended for one man and one woman within the institution of marriage…”
Bridenstine has also been a guest on 16 separate occasions and twice co-hosted “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins,” a daily radio show [produced] by the Family Research Council (FRC), which has been designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “hate group”…
For siding with the president on his travel ban, he’s “anti-Muslim.” For protecting life, he’s “anti-woman.” For believing as almost half the country does on marriage, he’s “anti-LGBT.” And for embracing real science over liberal hype, he’s “anti-environment.” Of course, none of those views make Bridenstine unqualified — they simple make him a conservative. And that is what Patty Murray actually objects to.
Fortunately, common sense prevailed, and the Senate finally sent NASA the chief it had been waiting for by a 50-49 vote yesterday afternoon. The real authorities on the matter, men like Buzz Aldrin, couldn’t be happier. After all, it’s not like Jim doesn’t have industry experience. He spent plenty of time as the head of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum. In a strong defense of Bridenstine, Aldrin and former White House space liaison Greg Autry spell out why the GOP did the right thing in confirming him.
It has been suggested that a “politician” shouldn’t run NASA… We’d remind those insisting that only a scientist or astronaut could run a space agency that James Webb was a lawyer by training and spent his entire career in the bowels of governmental bureaucracies. Apollo succeeded, because Webb understood people and practiced effective management. …
Jim Bridenstine is far from being a character out of House of Cards. He served with distinction as a naval aviator in Afghanistan and Iraq. He continued to serve his country in the Naval Reserve and then the Air National Guard… [He] has a triple major from Rice University that should serve him well in leading NASA: psychology, economics and business. He also holds an MBA from Cornell, an educational tool that former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin applied well when defining the successful Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program.
Together, they applauded Bridenstine, “a man of integrity who shares our passion for a vibrant NASA.” Democrats didn’t agree. But if they won’t take the word of the second man on the moon, whose will they take?
Originally published here.
Pompeo: A World Class Leader
Mike Pompeo may not be the secretary of state, but he’s already made more history than most people with the title. Earlier this week, the White House made the world’s jaws drop when the president announced that the CIA director had spent Easter in a secret meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. If Democrats didn’t think the Kansan was capable of diplomacy, they must have second thoughts now.
As even The Washington Post admits, it was a groundbreaking moment for the United States. “No CIA director is publicly known to have ever met with North Korea’s leader and had the chance to engage him in conversation.” Republicans like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) have been effusive in their praise of Pompeo, who’s completely transformed the culture of the CIA in little over a year. “This is a good example of how critical it is on the merits to confirm Mike Pompeo,” Cotton said of the meeting. “He’s already invested deeply in the upcoming summit between the president and Kim Jong Un. It would send a very bad sign and it would, I believe, set back the preparations and perhaps even the results of that upcoming summit for the Senate Democrats to oppose as a bloc Mike Pompeo’s nomination to be secretary of state.”
And while even Democrats offered reluctant praise (Democrat Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut called the preparatory work “good”), plenty of liberals are determined to find someone less qualified for the job than Pompeo. Angry they were left out of the planning, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) insisted that someone who’s nominated to be secretary of state should have “share[d] some insights about such a visit.” That’s ridiculous, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) fired back. “For years, we have kept back channels to North Korea through intelligence… It’s perfectly natural, then, that he would be the person to have the first meeting and sit-down.”
FRC’s own Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin was thrilled to hear that Pompeo helped set the table for Trump’s North Korea meeting. “#ConfirmMikePompeo!” he tweeted. “He is already demonstrating diplomacy and leadership that will continue to help the #President revitalize America’s position as leader of the free world.” Ken Blackwell agreed. “Now is not the time to play games. Mike Pompeo is doing vital work on behalf of the president to de-nuke North Korea. Senate Dems should confirm him immediately.”
Meanwhile, some of that “vital work” continues, even without a leader at the State Department. Wednesday, FRC’s Travis Weber and Mary Beth Waddell took part in a DC summit hosted by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). USCIRF Chairman Dr. Daniel Mark presided over the opening session, in which former commissioners Robert George, Leonard Leo, and Katrina Lantos Sweet, along with former Religious Freedom Ambassador David Saperstein, called some much-needed attention to religious freedom violations around the world. Among other trends, Leonard Leo talked about a pattern of vandalism and desecration of Christian symbols and holy sites in Europe, a rarely reported — but alarming — development.
The second panel featured Commissioner Cliff May, who led a discussion of practical steps that can be taken to advance religious freedom. Panelist Richard Goldberg of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies talked about the use of sanctions to advance religious freedom, including against Iran. As Tom Gallagher, CEO of Religion News Service, said on his panel, religious freedom advocates need to work to make the press more aware of the good work they are doing. Then Farahnaz Ispahani, a Wilson Center Global fellow, talked about how to engage women in the defense of religious freedom. Religion is seen by some as anti-woman, she said, and we need to break down this false assumption in order to galvanize women on religious freedom worldwide.
The USCIRF Summit brought helpful attention to the issue of religious freedom, an issue we are always pushing yet one that never seems to make it into the worldwide consciousness. Thankfully, President Trump called attention to it recently when criticizing Turkey’s treatment of Pastor Andrew Brunson, whose religious freedom is being violated as he is being held as a pawn by the Turkish government. Wednesday, USCIRF Vice Chairwoman Kristina Arriaga also strongly call out Turkey on this issue.
While the speakers and panelists discussed plenty of strategies to make positive change, confirming Mike Pompeo would be the most important. A longtime champion of the persecuted around the world, Mike and Ambassador at Large for Religious Freedom Sam Brownback would be exactly the team that millions of men and women of faith have been waiting for.
Originally published here.
This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.