Remember NASA? It once represented to the world the apogee of American scientific and technological achievement. Here is President Obama’s vision of NASA’s mission, as explained by Administrator Charles Bolden:
One was he wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math; he wanted me to expand our international relationships; and third and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science and math and engineering.
Apart from the psychobabble — farcically turning a space-faring enterprise into a self-esteem enhancer — what’s the sentiment behind this charge? Sure, America has put a man on the moon, led the information revolution, and won far more Nobel Prizes than any other nation — but, on the other hand, a thousand years ago al-Khwarizmi gave us algebra.
Bolden seems quite intent on driving home this message of achievement equivalence — lauding, for example, Russia’s contributions to the space station. Russia? In the 1990s, the Russian space program fell apart, leaving the United States to pick up the slack and the tab for the missing Russian contributions to get the space station built.
For good measure, Bolden added that the U.S. cannot get to Mars without international assistance. Beside the fact that this is not true, contrast this with the elan and self-confidence of President Kennedy’s pledge that America would land on the moon within a decade.
There was no finer expression of belief in American exceptionalism than Kennedy’s. Obama has a different take. As he said last year in Strasbourg, “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” Which of course means: If we’re all exceptional, no one is.
Take human rights: After Obama’s meeting with the president of Kazakhstan, Mike McFaul of the National Security Council reported that Obama actually explained to the leader of that thuggish kleptocracy that we too are working on perfecting our own democracy.