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.

  • Mr Snarky Answer
  • James

    Will he be talking about his new religion of rainbow genders.

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    Yes, deeply scientific Bill Nye can’t grasp a bimodal distribution.

  • A NASA administrator that understand effective PR? Maybe he’ll be the BEST administrator they’ve ever had! (Hyperbole yes, but there’s a kernel of truth there too.)

  • Douglas Messier

    If it’s sincere, great. If Nye is a prop to make Bridenstine appear open minded when he’s not, it’s fraudulent. We’ll see.

  • Doug, I certainly understand your strong feelings on the subject and don’t want to take away from that at all. But, either way, it certainly LOOKS good from the outside, which is the definition of PR. If he can use showmanship like this to get confirmed, he might be able to do it to get more funding and better treatment for the agency. Considering the mixed results of the “professional” administrators, maybe some pizzazz might do NASA some good.

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    Only problem is that Nye himself is mostly a fraud so I’m not sure what the point is.

  • Douglas Messier

    So says mr anonymous.

  • Douglas Messier

    I have found that the administrators of NASA — and every other space agency on the planet — are usually eclipsed by the pizzazz of the missions their agencies undertake. If those missions are going well, then the administrator looks good. But, his main job is to administer the agency and keep it on track. It’s a $19 billion agency with centers spread across the country, astronauts in orbit and spacecraft out beyond Pluto. Big job. Bridenstine doesn’t have that kind of experience.

    One of the concerns that Nelson and Rubio have raised about Bridenstine is he’s a politician. Is this a political stunt? It’s not an insignificant question because NASA is potentially facing some tough decisions in the year ahead on commercial crew balancing schedule and risk. You don’t want an administrator putting pressure on people in that program to fly because it will look good at the expense of safety. On the other hand, maybe Bridenstine’s experience with flying jets and understand the risks involved will help prevent that.

  • All valid points. Time will tell.

  • Elliot R.

    The planetary society does not possess the political capital to make an ounce of difference in Trump climate change policy so why would they make an issue out of it? To spend what little political capital they have on it and in so doing, loose the ability to push robotic missions from the planning stage past the finish line of launch?

  • MzUnGu

    Nye is in the show biz, a comedic relief for a kid’s show… . yeah,… “a prop”. Famous enuf to bring along, but harmless. LOL Was a memeber of Planetary Society once….quickly learned that they don’t do much. Hahahah

  • therealdmt

    Bill Nye will deny science three times before Trump crows

  • Michael Halpern

    Another concern is his at least past views on climate change, and civil rights issues, climate change views is more relevant to the science aspect, civil rights issues are important because of NASA’s role in how the US is perceived, so they are valid concerns, if they get in the way of him doing the job. The other concern, which is a touchy one that can apply to anyone chosen for the job, how much stake will he put in the way things have always been done and into the jobs program side of NASA vs better uses of funding in leveraging commercial capabilities (like NASA is supposed to from the start) and directing some of the money saved to the science portions. Even if he has a commercial preference, it will be a difficult task, as there is a lot of political capital in SLS and Orion, and there is a lot of political backlash around them too. In a very real way this could be one of the worst times to be a NASA administrator.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Actually the main job of the Administrator is to work with Congress to see that the agency has the funding it needs. This is the main job of any agency head, although it’s often forgotten. It’s the Deputy Administrator’s job to run it. Just as on a Navy ship, the Captain sets the course and deals with the Admiraliy and the Executive Officer runs the ship.

    NASA worked well when Administrator Webb ran it this way and let his deputies handle the details. When the engineers were put in, like Paine, Truley, Goldin, Griffin, Bolden, NASA declined from their micro-management of it and neglect of working with Congress to generate support.

    It’s not the job of the Administrator to design rockets or determine when they are safe to launch, it’s to get NASA the money so it’s engineers have the resources to do their job.

  • publiusr

    Then too, some greens like Kim Stanley Robinson seem to have it in for spaceflight these days. Nye should be happy. I’m sure there are eco-feminists who think spaceflight is a male and penetrative act. I’ll take Bridenstine over them–any day.

  • Michael Halpern

    With the primary exceptions of solid rocket motors and hypergolic fuels (which outside of China are rarely used in the first stage) rockets are not that damaging to the environment, as liquid propellant engines have to burn their fuel pretty completely and don’t burn for long, as to civil issues, at least since the shuttle program NASA has been pretty good about gender and racial equality, the main concern on that route is that NASA is in many ways supposed to represent how we want our future to look like societally, that is why their is a decent amount of civil focus in NASA.