- - Thursday, November 9, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Some marriages are said to be made in heaven, and now certain Democratic senators want to make sure that some marriages be recognized in space. Heaven can wait. These senators object to President Trump’s nominee to be the administrator of NASA because he, like most Americans, thinks the ladies make the most appropriate brides.

It’s not clear what Rep. Jim Bridenstine’s views on same-sex marriage have to do with administering NASA, but he has drawn the anger of Democrats on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, which passes on space matters, because he does not tug a forelock and salute the liberal theology of climate change.

Mr. Bridenstine assured his Democratic interlocutors that he believes global warming is in fact taking place, and that humans contribute to it, but he doesn’t concur that human activity is the leading cause of a change in the weather. When NASA discovers little green men from Pluto or Uranus that will be time enough to inquire about the intimate details of their wedding nights.

Nevertheless, Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida accused him at his confirmation hearing of not only lacking the technical and managerial experience required to lead NASA, but of being a divisive partisan who contributes to “why Washington in broken.” Partisanship must be stamped out whenever partisans gather in Washington.

Washington, alas, was broken long before Mr. Bridenstine arrived, so it’s not clear why Mr. Nelson singled him out for opprobrium when there are scores of other members of Congress far guiltier of partisanship, some of it angry and current. Rep. Maxine Waters springs to mind. She has a knowledge of deep space, since there’s a lot of it between her ears, but that doesn’t qualify her to head NASA.

The NASA administrator, Mr. Nelson said, should be “technically and scientifically competent and a skilled executive” and must have the ability to unite various stakeholders on a shared vision for future space exploration. “Frankly, Congressman Bridenstine,” he said, “I cannot see how you meet these criteria.”

The nominee has the imprimatur of one former astronaut, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, and the support of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. They point to Mr. Bridenstine’s military service flying combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and his subsequently service as executive director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium, as giving him an acquaintance with the subject.

Mr. Bridenstine has been a leader on space issues during his brief tenure in the House of Representatives, having sponsored the American Space Renaissance Act, which aims to “permanently secure the United States of America as the pre-eminent spacefaring nation.”

None of that impresses Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, who insists that Mr. Bridenstine’s opposition to same-sex marriage and to the federal Violence Against Women Act, renders him irredeemably unfit. “It is clear Representative Bridenstine would move us backwards, not forwards.” If wedding bells ring in space, do they make a sound if a politically correct administrator is not there to hear them?

The Violence Against Women Act critics rightly call federal overreach into matters more properly the purview of state and local laws under federalism. Conservatives object to extension of the superfluous protections to same-sex couples and to provisions that enable illegal immigrants to claim temporary visas.

Some Democrats see NASA’s mission as thrusting deep into earthly sociology as well as deep into space. When Charles Bolden, the NASA administrator appointed by President Obama to preside over the cancellation of NASA’s Constellation program, which was aimed at taking American astronauts back to the moon, he told Al Jazeera that Mr. Obama told him that part of his job was outreach to Muslim nations “to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science and math and engineering.”

Feel-good science is not new at NASA, but it is not the science that took man to the moon and back. Mr. Bridenstine prefers hard science, and that’s what NASA needs now.

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