Send in the clones
The race to replace Jim Bridenstine
(First appeared in The Tulsa Voice)
Before the election of Donald Trump, when you listed the top 100 truly awful things that would happen if he became president — once you got past the end of the world as we know it and, worse, Omarosa Manigault on the government payroll — this would have been coming in around Number 87:1
First District Congressman Jim Bridenstine recently had a second interview with Trump administration officials about a position in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the three-term Republican said late last week.
Just our luck.
Bridenstine is neither an engineer nor a scientist, so of course he’s the front-runner for this position. Trump is a president, after all, who said he wanted to surround himself “only with the best and most serious people,” like Betsy DeVoss at Education, Scott Pruitt at EPA, his own personal concierge as head of New York federal housing programs,2 and a non-scientist at USDA.3
For 18 months, between 2009 and 2010, if you recall, Bridenstine did run the Tulsa Air and Space Museum — and it and NASA both have the word “space” in their names, so there’s that. Who better to put in charge of the $18.5 billion agency than a guy who lost somewhere between $140,000 (Bridenstine’s figure) and $310,000 at a museum in Oklahoma?4 His time at TASM qualifies him to be head of NASA about as much as my enjoyment of cheese makes me eligible to be head of the National Dairy Council. More significantly, Bridenstine rejects the science of climate change, even though NASA’s own findings show that global warming is undeniable and potentially calamitous.5
The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is extremely likely (greater than 95 percent probability) to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over decades to millennia.
For his part, Bridenstine tried to put words together:6
Mr. Speaker, global temperatures stopped rising 10 years ago. Global temperature changes, when they exist, correlate with sun output and ocean cycles.
Yes, fellow scientists, sun output.
Bridenstine is so certain climate change is a hoax, he demanded President Obama throw himself on the mercy of Oklahomans for even talking about it.7
“… And we also know that this President spends 30 times as much money on global warming research as he does on weather forecasting and warning. For this gross misallocation, the people of Oklahoma are ready to accept the President’s apology and I intend to submit legislation to fix this.”
Anyway, it’s now July and Bridenstine still hasn’t been tapped — how badly does this guy interview anyway? — and the job remains unfilled and the agency is presently being run by an acting administrator.
Take note, the president hasn’t filled 85 percent of key executive branches.8
None of this, however, has stopped Republicans in Oklahoma’s First District from falling over each other in their attempts to replace Bridenstine, who has said he won’t seek re-election in 2018.
As of July 1, the following Republicans have filed:
Nathan Dahm, Oklahoma state senator, Broken Arrow9
Dahm bills himself as a Constitutionalist — of course — who also believes anyone who performs an abortion10 in the state should be charge with a felony, which, if we’re to follow his logic, would also include you ladies having them. He also believes any registered gun owner should be able to carry a weapon inside the State Capitol,11 saying, “I’ve had people tell me that they wish I was dead, or I would be killed, or I would catch a bullet.” This is why we don’t allow them to carry guns into the building in the first place!
Danny Stockstill, Brookside Baptist Church pastor12
Stockstill is worried about the moral decay of our nation, particularly the demise of the First Amendment, which he strongly supports, unless it starts supporting Godless infidels. “The First Amendment was designed,” he says, “to prevent a theocracy — not to prevent or impede any religion from being practiced. But the First Amendment is being used as a tool to establish, promote, and protect atheism.” He doesn’t mention which religion is being impeded, who’s doing the impeding, and what form it’s taking, much less who these marauding band of atheists are who are building houses of non-worship across the nation and demanding protection. But this isn’t about facts — it’s the issue he wants, so he and others trot out this notion that religion, their religion, is under attack. Some cashier at Target fails to tell people like Stockstill “Merry Christmas” or some atheist kid makes a stink about his public school mandating a moment of silence, and it’s time to strap on a wireless headset, get in front of the congregation, and preach about the end of the Republic.
Tim Harris, former Tulsa County District Attorney13
Upon announcing his intention to run for Bridenstine’s seat, Harris said, “If this is the Lord’s call, and he has told me to run, God never tells you to do something without equipping you to do it.”14 Can we please, for the love of you-know-who, knock it off with this already? Even good people of faith have to recoil at the trivialization and familiarity — as if God (if there is one) has a stake in the OK-1 Republican Primary. Thing is, Harris may actually be the sane one in the group, which is scary. He also claims to be — wait for it — a constitutionalist, which is good, because every primary needs a least two who wrap themselves in a document that doesn’t mention God once. If I had to pick, I’d say he gets Bridenstine’s endorsement, which should be enough to get the nomination and the seat, except …
Kevin Hern, businessman15
Hern, who owns 10 local McDonald’s restaurants, has more money than the other candidates and God put together, and if the Kochs and money have taught us anything about politics lately, it’s that seats can be bought. Hern promises to “shake up” Washington and favors repealing Obamacare and replacing it with “a health care reform that lowers costs and improves services for patients,” which might be a tad more believable if he provided such coverage to those who sling burgers for him. And, of course, that wall:16
Border security is essential to keeping Americans safe. I will not be bullied by the progressive liberals in Washington. It’s time to secure our borders. It’s time to BUILD THE WALL.
Andy Coleman, veteran17
Recently, Coleman — whose website is oddly written in the third person — indicated he would never vote for a tax increase if elected and believes Obamacare should be “thoughtfully” replaced (as opposed, one imagines, to the heartless way the GOP is going about it now) and writes that Planned Parenthood “enjoys profits from the intentional destruction of unborn children,” a patent and cynically incendiary bastardization of what the organization does.
These aren’t candidates, they’re clones, all cut from the same cloth, more specifically, ALEC position paper. But here’s the question: Is there no other GOP thinking out there in Oklahoma’s first district? Is there no one who remembers that health insurance in 2008, before Obama took office, was an unsustainable disaster, no one who entertains the possibility that unfettered gun access is a bad idea, no one who believes that rape, incest, and the life of the mother should be a mitigating circumstance when it comes to abortion, no one who will admit that a focus on tax cuts and social issues have produced a dysfunctional state legislature and record deficits, no one who believes that their religious proclivities should be kept out of the classroom and the public square, and no one who believes in — dare I say, loves — the institution to which they so desperately want to be elected, no one who sees the beauty and possibility and necessity and transcendence of good governance?