Franken, Mars, and the State of the Union

Al Franken is the latest to comment on the omission of the new space exploration plan from the President’s State of the Union address, in a commentary in Wednesday’s Los Angeles Times. “Unveiling a mission to Mars and then not mentioning it less than a week later in the State of the Union address suggests a certain casualness in our president’s approach to governing the world’s only remaining superpower,” he claims. He also thinks the media hasn’t taken Bush to task for the silence since then, arguing that if a Democratic President had done the same thing, he would have been constantly ridiculed by the “right-wing media”. It’s an interesting suggestion, but the President has been criticized to some degree for his silence regarding the plan since he announced it in mid-January. The lack of a greater furor in the media likely has more to do with the relative importance of space versus the economy, terrorism, Iraq, and the like. Those other topics will provide far more fodder for Franken’s radio show on the new Air America network—which Franken plugs in the second half of the commentary&#8212than space ever will.

8 comments to Franken, Mars, and the State of the Union

  • Dwayne A. Day

    Franken also mentioned this in a profile of him in the New York TImes Magazine on 21 March. He talked to that reporter in either late February or early March. Clearly it is an issue he has been thinking about a lot.

  • Well, to the degree that he’s capable of thinking about anything… ;-)

  • Mark R. Whittington

    One wonders if it matters what Al Franken thinks. His show is, after all, in about four markets and will probibly not be around for very long.

  • Dwayne A. Day

    The NY Times profile is at least moderately interesting. I have always thought that he is very funny. I’m interested in hearing his radio program (which will not be carried by any of my local stations for at least 8 months). If he can inject his radio show with his signature humor, he might be quite effective.

    The profile describes him as pretty much an old-style party man. He’s more committed to the Democratic party than to a specific candidate or even an ideology. But the article also was surprising because it indicated that he can be both nasty and hotheaded and these things can get him in trouble. At one primary rally (for Dean, I think) he actually physically tackled a heckler and broke his glasses. And he made a pretty nasty public ambush of Bill O’Reilly at a book promotion event–which explains why O’Reilly hates him so much. Franken has a temper and a certain lack of self-control and I would not be surprised to see him get arrested for assault–or beaten up for using “fighting words” in a public forum.

    Those things aside, even if you disagree with him I think that his comments on the space policy at least need to be noted, because they are consistent with other comments by other Democrats. They reflect a certain viewpoint that cannot be dismissed out of hand simply because you think it is wrong. As we watch how space becomes part of the election debate these kinds of viewpoints have to be taken into account.

  • Jeff Foust

    Here’s a link to the New York Times Magazine article about Franken previously mentioned:


    The discussion of Mars is made in passing in the first few paragraphs. Excerpt:

    The president of the United States has been doing some things lately that would get any political satirist excited, like announcing with great fanfare that the nation would undertake a mission to Mars and then failing even to mention the historic new venture six days later in his State of the Union address, after it got a flat reaction… ”They said Clinton was poll-driven?” he’s saying, and he’s hitting the gas pedal more firmly as he talks. ”Well, this was totally poll-driven! But it should have been more exploited in terms of ridicule. This was, you know, really ripe. It’s like, What happened to Mars?”

  • I also think Franken is a riot, but I take him with a grain of salt. I think he brings up Mars because it’s easy. Arguments for or against human missions to the Moon or Mars are relatively easy to craft when compared to the icky mess of international politics and economic woes (the latter is usually bogus made-up stuff anyway).

    Mars also has that strange mix of fantasy, legend, and myth that make it a prime policy target for paleoconservatives and tree-huggers alike, while at the same time inspiring absurd enthusiasm among pimply-faced geeks who wish to live there at any cost.

  • Bill White

    The whole David Letterman thing (yawn-boy) seems much more funny that Al Franken’s Mars comment, IMHO. Today’s WaPo has a story but it requires registration.

    As we face seven brutal months of Democrat v Republican I feel exhausted already. But it does remind me of the old Mad magazine cartoon series, Spy -vs- Spy.

    CNN? Nah!
    FOX? Nah!
    How about John Stewart?

    Josh Marshall? Nah!
    Free Republic? Nah!
    How about Bill Maher?

  • Jeffrey

    I think it’s important to point out that Franken takes Bush to task for making the announcement and then not mentioning it in the State of the Union. He doesn’t really criticize the idea of space exploration in general (aside from mentioning that it didn’t poll well, which was sadly the truth).

    Truth be told, the reason many people on the left side of the political spectrum are opposing the plan is simply that it is Bush’s plan. Had Clinton or Gore made a similar announcement, they would have been trumpeting it to the high heavens. But then, of course, the people on the right would have ripped it to pieces. Politics never changes.