Monday, December 19, 2005
What Does David Broder Know?
The latest swipe at sending humans to Mars came this weekend in David Broder's column, in which he advocated the President adopting Senator Lamar Alexander's plan to increase funding for basic research and more science teaching jobs.
This [Alexander's plan] is a large order, but much more practical than Bush's earlier promise of a manned mission to Mars. Alexander quotes his mentor, the late Bryce Harlow, an Eisenhower aide, who taught him that "everything that comes to the White House is important, but only a few things are presidential." This, says Alexander, is presidential. And it's there for Bush's taking.
As described by Broder (here), Alexander's plan to increase funding for basic science research and to hire more science teachers sounds worthy. We would not necessarily call it "presidential." Stripped of flowery rhetoric Alexander's plan is mostly a program to increase funding for teachers, which is more gubernatorial than presidential, but whatever.
The point is that the President's VSE is a worthy plan as well. Moreover, the VSE is a science program, a jobs program, an educational program that will teach more about space, and like Apollo, it has the potential to inspired uncounted numbers of people for years to come to pursue careers in science.
What Broder's column demonstrates is "the tyranny of either-or thinking." Just because it might be a good thing to spend more money on basic science and science teachers, doesn't mean it's a bad thing to spend money on sending humans into space. It's only a bad thing if one thinks in "either-or" terms. The issue should not be whether we fund one or the other, but how we can fund both.