When a Republican like Sen. Marco Rubio agrees with a Democrat like Sen. Bill Nelson, it’s never a good sign. Regardless of being the two senators from Florida, both Rubio and Nelson are tediously trying to wage a war on the Trump administration’s pick to serve as the next administrator of NASA.
Amid a diplomatic standoff with North Korea and the issue of DACA dominating the airwaves, criticizing Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Oklahoma, for being chosen as Trump’s pick to head NASA is childish.
In a statement to Politico, Nelson said that “the head of NASA ought to be a space professional, not a politician.” Rubio echoed, saying, “I just think it could be devastating for the space program. Obviously, being from Florida, I’m very sensitive to anything that slows up NASA and its mission.”
The shared concern among Nelson and Rubio — with other Democrats and special interests in the fray — is that Bridenstine has no experience or education in science or engineering-related fields. Plus, even though Rubio denied such things, there could be a personal grudge infused in his opposition.
In his Politico interview, Rubio alluded to Bridenstine having “political baggage.” Without intentionally doing so, Rubio probably unwittingly revealed that one of the other reasons he is opposing a fellow Republican for nomination is the potential personal resentment that spurred from the 2016 presidential primaries.
Bridenstine opposed Rubio and even participated in attack advertisements against him. Bridenstine also endorsed Ted Cruz, and later Donald Trump, for the presidency. It is rumored that Rubio and his staffers have privately spoken ill of Bridenstine’s politics and his allies in the free market-oriented factions of the House. That’s no surprise, given Rubio has taken a hard-left turn from those very factions to adopt an “electable conservative” persona that imitates Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell.
Senate Republicans should look past Rubio and Nelson’s myopic arguments and maybe think critically of what a conservative lawmaker could offer to the agency’s mission of space exploration.
What is the problem with a business-oriented individual being brought in to lead a highly technical agency like NASA? The only solid argument that opponents can muster is that he’s not a scientist.
James Webb — the second administrator (and most historically relevant one at that) — had a bachelor of art in education and a law degree. Don’t you think that speaks volumes, especially when Webb was the overseeing administrator of the history-making lunar missions during the Kennedy years?
Bridenstine served as a Naval Reserve pilot and the head of an aerospace organization in Tulsa for nearly two years. Aside from his perceived and “immediate” credentials in the aerospace field, Bridenstine’s experience shouldn’t be dismissed.
The man has a triple bachelor’s degree in economics, business and psychology with an MBA to add. Plus, he has served in a slew of private-sector industries that include aerospace and military contracting. And, as a member of Congress, Bridenstine has been an outspoken advocate for the commercial spaceflight industry and managed to get parts of his failed American Space Renaissance Act attached to other important bills on the spaceflight and technological activities of NASA. Through his activism, he has made allies within the commercial space industry and has left positive impressions on industry and governmental leaders.
Contrary to the warning from the Nelson-Rubio space establishment, Bridenstine represents the quintessential public servant for the new era of space exploration: an advocate for private enterprise to lead the way into space.
Bridenstine’s connections to the commercial spaceflight industry shouldn’t come as a threat. More or less, it is an improvement upon the status quo and should serve as the turning point toward a private-public partnership that relies on the “private” aspect more than the “public” aspect.
This type of thinking is shared by innovators within the industry, other lawmakers, and important figures.
To note, the current acting administrator of NASA, Robert Lightfoot, blew his “poker face” when he released a statement welcoming Bridenstine’s nomination.
“I am pleased to have Rep. Bridenstine nominated to lead our team. Of course, the nomination must go through the Senate confirmation process, but I look forward to ensuring a smooth transition and sharing the great work the NASA team is doing,” Lightfoot said.
The Commercial Spaceflight Federation (featuring members like SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, and the Sierra Nevada Corp.), not surprisingly showed their support for the nomination.
Bridenstine’s nomination is a potential benefit. Statists like Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson are too blind to see that.