Sunday, January 11, 2004


So the heavily-reported non-news this week that there will be news next week about the US returning to space is kinda interesting. Are we serious about this? Is this because of the success of our Mars probe? Is this because we're falling behind Europe, Japan, and China? Is it because of the Columbia? Is this a national pride thing, or a science thing, or an aerospace bailout thing, or what?

Me, I was struck once again by the similarities of this administration and one forty years ago, when we last declared we were going into space. Let's take a look at the similarities between GWB and JFK.

I'll pause here are both my right-o and left-o center friends do a spit take. How can I compare the two? One's the best thing that has happened to the White House in years, and the other is a corrupt, secretive, boneheaded buncha yahoos (note that I'm not saying which is which). Yet the further we go into this administration, the more the comparisons crop up. Fer example:

Political Dynasty: Joe Kennedy versus George senior. Actually, the Bush dynasty goes back to Prescott Bush of Connecticut, the grandfather, but both are from political families. And both families have skeletons in the closet that have been regularly dragged out (Joe dealt with bootleggers, supposedly, Prescott with Nazis, supposedly). Such accusations are ruminated upon by opponents, ignored as irrelevant by supporters, but the fact remains that neither patriarch let stuff, people, or facts get in their way.

Contested Election: Everyone knows about 2000, but 1960 was a real squeaker as well, with a few votes in Illinois making the difference. Make that a few votes in Cook County. Make that a few votes in the Cook County controlled by Chicago's Boss, Mayor Daley (There's another political "family business"). And yeah, the fact it was so close was used (repeatedly) against the victor.

Faith: Big hubbub at the time - would the White House take orders from the Vatican? Big hubbub at the present - does the White House take orders from the Christian Right?

Infamatory Catch-phrases: "Ich Bin Ein Berliner" verus "Bring It On". And while we're on the subject - compare flying into Baghdad with visiting a West Berlin surrounded by Soviet Bloc forces. Both men have a flair for delivery.

Bad Intel: Yesterday: Missile Gap. Today: WMDs. Yesterday: The Cuban people will welcome us with open arms after we come ashore at Bay of Pigs. Today: The Iraqi people will welcome us with open arms after we take Baghdad.

Hubris: The administration of 1960 labled itself "the best and the brightest", and then landed us in the quagmire of Vietnam. The administration of 2000 remains in danger of the same thing in South Asia. But both teams were so sure of themselves.

Family: Presidential brother? Check. Politically powerful brother? Check. Potentially embarressing brother? Check. Jack, Bobbie, and Teddy versus George, Jeb, and Neil (whose messy divorce is dislodging all sorts of flotsam - Two million bucks from a mainland Chinese company to serve as an consultant? Good lord).

A Compliant Media: For all the boo-hissing at the Fox Newses of the world, in earlier days there was Henry Luce and the Time-Life Empire, trading access for spin and setting the tone for the rest of the US Media (I got the Neil Bush stuff off the BBC).

The Final Frontier: And now a dedicated space effort. Much as NASA overturned previous military thinking towards space, so will a new initiative change the ground rules for how we look at space exploration (for the past two decades it has been baby-steps, small missions, and doing the best with what we have).

Anyway, the more I look at it, the more the present administration seems to hark back to the previous one (I've also got some Clinton/Reagan hookups, but nothing as clear as these). There are some differences (war record, union problems, and JFK and his Veep DIDN'T get along), but for the most part, there's a strong set of similarities between the two administrations.

Does this mean anything? Is there a plot afoot here, or do our political and social mechanisms produce similar results over time?

As a former co-worker of mine puts it - "I'm not saying anything. I'm just saying."

More later,