Bridenstine Invites Bill Nye to State of the Union Address

Bill Nye in Washington. (Credit: Planetary Society)

WASHINGTON (Jim Bridenstine PR) — Congressman Jim Bridenstine announced today that Bill Nye “The Science Guy” and CEO of the Planetary Society will be his guest at President Trump’s State of the Union Address on January 30th.

Bill Nye has excited children and adults about science for decades on platforms ranging from his PBS show to The Big Bang Theory, his books, and public appearances. Congressman Bridenstine said, “Bill Nye has been inspiring countless young people to enter the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math since before we used STEM as an acronym. Our country needs these disciplines now more than ever. It is an honor to have ‘The Science Guy’ as my guest at the State of the Union Address.”

Bill Nye responded, “I’m very pleased to join Congressman Bridenstine at the President’s first State of the Union Address. As CEO of The Planetary Society, the world’s largest independent space interest and advocacy organization, I have enjoyed a productive working relationship with Congressman Bridenstine on space issues.

“The Congressman is the nominee to be the next Administrator of NASA, and as I often say, NASA is the best brand the United States has. This means that the NASA Administrator not only works to advance space exploration, but serves as an informal ambassador of U.S. capability and optimism to the world.

“At the State of the Union address, I hope to hear the President present plans for an ambitious, science-driven space exploration agenda. Space exploration brings out the best in us. It brings the nation together as we solve problems that have never been solved before and learn more about the cosmos and our place within it.”

Editor’s Note: I don’t know about this. It seems to be a bit of political stunt casting by Bridenstine. And I’m not sure it’s such a good idea for Nye and The Planetary Society.

Bridenstine is likely facing a close vote in the Senate over his nomination to run NASA. Yesterday, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) criticized him as lacking the scientific, technical and managerial skills to run an agency full of scientists and engineers that spends more than $19 billion annually.

Inviting the CEO of The Planetary Society to the speech is a PR move that is chock full of delicious ironies. Bridenstine’s position on global warming  — a serious threat to only habitable planet we have — was complete dismissal before Trump nominated him for his dream job. At that point, it became ‘yeah it’s happening, but who knows what it’s actually doing. Might not even be a threat. Don’t worry, keep using coal.’

The administration has used this rationale to slash global warming programs across the government and to muzzle scientists. Trump’s attitude toward science and the environment is one of complete and utter disdain. He rejects virtually everything that doesn’t fit his economic and political agenda.

I can understand why Nye accepted. The invitation provides an opportunity to schmooze with a man who might be the next NASA administrator, and to show support for and possibly influence Trump’s space policy.  It’s hard to turn that down.

That being said, this is — or at least should be — extremely awkward for Nye, who after all is THE SCIENCE GUY. He has spoken out loudly and frequently in favor of science and scientists. Nye has been a leading voice in disputing politicians like Trump and Bridenstine who dismiss the seriousness of global warming.

His very presence in the gallery will lend legitimacy to the most anti-science administration the United States has probably ever had. Will whatever Nye gains from that for himself and The Planetary Society be worth it?

And here’s another thing to consider: Trump demands loyalty, but he rarely returns it. A whole bingo card full of people have left the president’s employ over the past year, with many of them trashed by Trump and his lieutenants. People leave with their reputations in tatters having given far more than they have received in return.