Campaign '04

Kerry and (Jeb) Bush

The Associated Press reports that Florida Governor Jeb Bush made some comments about John Kerry and space policy during a speech he gave in Miami Beach claiming that Kerry has been on both sides of a number of issues:

Bush said Kerry also has been against space exploration and voted against an overseas citrus marketing, but predicted that Kerry would come out in support of NASA and orange growers during a three-day swing through Florida beginning Sunday.

The record, however, doesn’t really support Gov. Bush’s claims on space policy. Like most politicians, Kerry supports space, but in a very bland fashion: he is not an outspoken advocate of space, but at the same time he not a vocal opponent of NASA and space policy in general. (See a section of an article for The Space Review I wrote back in January for more details; to his credit his campaign was one of the few to respond at that time, although with few specifics.)

Some have pointed to this posting about cuts in the defense and NASA budgets that Kerry proposed back in 1994, including termination of Space Station Freedom and cuts in the Titan 4 launch vehicle program. It would be dangerous to conclude from that single event ten years ago, though, that Kerry is opposed to space exploration. (Some would doubtless argue that being anti-space station was actually a good sign…) Instead, his position on the space station has shifted over time. He voted in favor of an amendment to the VA-HUD appropriations bill in 1995 (introduced by long-time space station opponent Sen. Dale Bumpers of Arkansas) to terminate the ISS, and voted against a bid to table a similar amendment in 1996. However, in 1997 he voted to table a similar amendment, and in 1998 he voted against an appropriations bill amendment to terminate the ISS.

It’s also worth noting that Sen. Kerry is also a cosponsor of S.1821, a bill introduced last fall by Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-SC) to create a “National Space Commission” to study the future of American space exploration. That bill has since been overtaken by events, notably the President’s creation of a commission to study the implementation of the new national space policy.

This suggests that, rather than flip-flopping for political expediency, Kerry’s position has evolved over time from modest opposition to some aspects of space exploration (primarily the space station) to one of modest support. What would be more interesting to know is what happened in the 1996-1997 period that caused him to make that shift.

6 comments to Kerry and (Jeb) Bush

  • Mark R. Whittington

    I somehow doubt that a guy (John Kerry) who leads chants of “Send Bush to Mars!” at campaign rallies and has openly ridiculed the President’s space initiative could be considered supportive of space exploration, absent of course any alternative policy on his part.

  • Jim Rohrich


    Did any of Kerry’s constituents in Massachusetts get big NASA money during the 96 – 97 timeframe?

  • Mark R. Whittington

    Jim, that’s a good point. Senators Proxmire and Mondale quietly dropped their opposition to the space shuttle program when their states got NASA contracts in the mid 70s. No reason to suspect that Kerry was not for sale in a similer manner.

  • Bill White

    Given Sherwood Boehlert’s position it may not matter much, after all.

    My link was removed, so here it is:

  • Bill Turner

    Email from the Kerry campaign:


    Dear Friend,

    Thank you for writing to John Kerry with your thoughts about NASA and
    space programs.

    John Kerry is a member of the Science, Technology & Space Subcommittee
    which oversees all NASA budget and other issues in the Senate. He has
    supported greater NASA funding, criticized the Reagan Administration’s
    NASA cuts and was instrumental in funding & development of the Advanced
    X-ray Astrophysics Facility (Chandra space telescope). He has also stated
    that NASA science funding is essential for American students and
    scientists to remain competitive. Former NASA Admin. Dan Goldin has also
    praised JK for his work in support of NASA.

    Kerry said in a speech at Stanford University on 12/08/03: We need to
    foster the next generation of discovery and ingenuity with increased
    funding for important programs and agencies such as the National Science
    Foundation and NASA. Here is a link to the entire text of that speech:


    From this email, Kerry seems to be more of a space science guy than a NASA guy.

  • Matt Lacey

    Kerry’s turn?

    Chandra is run out of Harvard.