Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Obama's Sputnik Moment

How did "this is our generation's Sputnik moment" get past the proof-readers? We could argue all day about what Obama meant and Palin's reply and the Soviet Union, blah, blah, blahdey blah. The thing that had me scratching my head was how that line got past first draft in the first place.

I guess what Obama was trying to say is that we should rise to this occasion and come back and create a bunch of jobs, etc... It just came across horribly wrong. Sputnik moment? Really? The brain conjurs up images of Russians and space races and the U.S. generally freaking out. Not the best imagery.

People like Glenn Beck will use 9/12 as a way to inspire people. "Remember the way we were on 9/12. United, etc..." Fine. We need a 9/12 moment, so to speak. But you know what would have butchered that point entirely? Saying that we need a "9/11 moment." Bad, bad, very bad. But that's esentially what Obama did.

If he had wanted it to sound all inspirational, his speechwriters should have gone with "we need an Apollo moment." Duh. "Sputnik moment" makes it sound like he wants the Russians to start another space race. I'll pass. We got a lot of manufacturing jobs out of WWII, but it'd be really dumb for the President to say, "We need a World War moment."

But more than that, (and this was Palin's point) Obama was using the Sputnik thing to encourage government "investment" (like the brilliant stimulus package funding) to spur new job creation. Because that worked out so well the first time. We're pretty much right back where we were two years ago, only now we're a few hundred billion in debt. Terrific.

Yes, threats will sometimes spur us onto new heights of innovation. Sometimes the biggest technological strides are born out of wars. The internet was intially something used by the military (we have the Russians to thank, actually. See Sputnik). But that only works when there's an actual threat. And it's really rich for this President to try and use this kind of imagery when he seems bent on promoting the idea that America is not exceptional and NASA is there for Muslim outreach, or something.

Besides, had Obama been President when Russia launched Sputnik, does anybody really doubt that he would have just reclined and said, "Whatever"? I don't see him being the "we need to now go to the moon!" type. He'd probably launch into some diatribe about how the Russians deserve to go to space just as much as anyone else, and anyone who worries about it is a bitter-clingy bigot. "You just hate Russians!"

You know what our threat is today? A debt large enough to swallow us whole. And crazy government spending isn't going to make that one go away.

P.S. Can you imagine if Palin had said we need a Sputnik moment? Oy. The press would have eaten her alive...

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