How can the same Presidential proclamation to go to Mars get completely different media reactions? Well if one comes from that pompous George W. Bush and the other comes from the poised Barack Obama we get our answer. The media has revealed their bias. It’s not the principles of the message but the politics of the man that matter.
On Thursday President Obama announced plans for the United States to go to Mars. While the news coverage is focusing on Obama’s rejection of Bush’s plan for some Moon missions prior to Mars, the real story is that the media has responded with glee to Obama’s manned Red Planet mission after slamming Bush for the same declaration 4 years ago.
I offer just a few examples of many.
Today Slate featured an article praising Obama’s leadership: “Obama, on the Moon: Been There, Done That.” Back in 2004 their story said Bush was an imperialist for wanting to go to Mars: “Bush’s Mars Plan Attacked. It’s Just Pie in the Sky to Foreign Press.”
Australia’s The Age reflected on Obama’s announcement by writing:
“President Barack Obama set a bold new course for the future of US space travel, planning to send American astronauts into Mars orbit within the next three decades.”
But after Bush proclaimed a mission to Mars they wrote,
“A human trip to Mars is about as useful as a surfing trip to the Dandenongs.”
That’s awesome Aussie journalism for you.
“Thursday’s speech suggests that he has learned an important lesson from the yearlong struggle to pass health care reform. He needs to get involved early and not leave it to subordinates to defend plans that will upend vested interests.” – NYT
However, that same page in 2004 had no advice for Bush but to give up on going to the red planet.
“A manned space program in itself, however, is devoid of scientific merit, fraught with risk to human lives and absurdly expensive. Astronauts planting the Stars and Stripes on the red planet would produce a moving tableau. But as Lord Chesterfield said in another context, the pleasure would be momentary, the position ridiculous, and the expense damnable.” – NYT
Much of the Bush criticism was that he was pushing Mars just to take people’s eyes off the war and help the election. His NASA announcement was at the beginning of an election year: January 15, 2004. Websites selling all kinds of election merchandise encouraged people to send Bush to Mars instead of the astronauts. Liberal blogs ripped into the President for using Mars for some type of personal gain (some even quipped that there must somehow be money in it for him and Haliburton).
So did those journalists jump on Obama for ulterior motives with his Mars news conference? Nope. The media all but ignored (with the exception of a great LA Times blog) that Obama announced his plans as an obvious distraction from April 15th being Tax Day (when much of America is angry at government).
I have no idea if we should go to Mars any time soon. But I know my support or opposition to heading there will not rest on who happens to be standing at the presidential podium. I wish the same could be said of our press.