As always, the president spoke with great skill. But his invocation of the space program didn’t carry the emotional wallop that he may have been seeking. Most Americans — including the 49-year-old president himself — have no living memory of Sputnik. And their historical images of NASA include not only the glory days of John Glenn and Neil Armstrong, but also the disasters that befell the space-shuttle program. In just a couple of days, by coincidence, we shall observe the 25th anniversary of the Challenger explosion. That event is a reminder that big, expensive endeavors can produce bad results as well as good ones.
– John J. Pitney Jr. is Roy P. Crocker Professor of American Politics at Claremont McKenna College.