Let me start this off with a disclaimer right away: I am not endorsing Hillary Clinton for President. Not yet, certainly, if at all. But she did a very remarkable thing, and it needs to be advertised more, especially among science blogs.
Senator Clinton did something I haven't seen a candidate do since Al Gore: she made a speech specifically about science.
While I don't put much stock in political speeches at all, let alone during campaigns, this one rings true. Absorb the smackdown:
Fifty years ago, Sputnik marked the dawn of the Space Age and the beginning of a new era filled with new challenges. Fifty years later, there is no single, galvanizing event to steel our resolve and to lift our eyes to the heavens. The challenges we face are more complex and interconnected. From the rise of globalization to the threat of global warming. These challenges require big ideas and bold thinking.
But instead of fostering a climate of discovery and innovation, the Bush administration has declared war on science. The record is breathtaking: banning the most promising kinds of stem cell research, allowing political appointees to censor studies on climate change, muzzling global warming experts like Dr. James Hansen, overruling doctors and the FDA on emergency contraception, suppressing and manipulating data on mercury pollution, even delaying one report which found that 8 percent of women between 16 and 49 years of age have mercury levels in their blood that could harm future children, denying the risks of toxins like asbestos in the air after the 9/11 attacks, overruling scientists who sought to protect animals under the Endangered Species Act, eliminating scientific committees at the Department of Health and Human Services that did not parrot the politically accepted ideology -- or packing those committees with industry insiders, altering scientific tests on the lead content of children's lunch boxes -- and appointing a lead industry consultant to a key panel formed by the Centers for Disease Control, barring a USDA researcher from publishing or even discussing his work on antibiotic resistant bacteria, censoring government websites on breast cancer research, contraception, climate change, and so much else.
Wow. And that's not even a complete list. Not even close.
To hammer these points home, her campaign has also put up a page called "Ending the War on Science: Hillary Clintonâ€™s Agenda to Reclaim Scientific Innovation". I must say, it's a tour de force of what must be done to save science, this country, and this planet.
I have not made up my mind on which candidate I like best... or is that hate least? I have things I like about nearly everyone, and things I dislike as well. I really, really wish we could have a legitimate third party in this country, and I don't mean yet another clueless loudmouth unreality-based one, either. But without getting too partisan here (HAHAHAHAHA), as a scientist, I like where the Dems are coming from a whole lot better than the neocons (and I use that term on purpose-- the only real Republican running is Ron Paul, given what the GOP is supposed to be).
Imagine Brownback, Tancredo, or Romney saying what Clinton said:
First, when I am President, I will lift the current ban on ethical stem cell research.
Secondly, I will end the politicization of scientific research that has marked the Bush Administration and restore a climate of scientific integrity and innovation. We will no longer place ideology ahead of evidence... I'll stop political appointees from manipulating scientific conclusions in government publications and prevent the suppression of public statements by government scientists.
I will also have an advisor for science in the White House who reports directly to the President. And I will work to restore the Office of Technology Assessment in Congress. Back in the 1990s, this office was charged with just one task: tell us the truth about science. For decades, they cut through the myths and the spin on everything from Star Wars to AIDS prevention to solar technology. It's time we put them back in business [BA adds: because Newt Gingrich and the Republican-controlled Congress dismantled the OTA in 1995 because it had the nasty habit of using reality to make decisions, instead of policy]. Third, when I'm President, we will again invest in research.
These are good words, and noble thoughts. She is precisely right in saying these need to be done.
And if she is elected, you can bet I'll hold her to them. If she starts screwing around like Bush has, I'll be at the White House lawn with a sign up. I'll be blogging, making phone calls, writing letters. You'll hear from me.
But I think she might stick to these words; she very well might. Near the end of the speech, she says this:
As President, part of my mission will be to reclaim our role as the innovation leader. I will pursue an ambitious agenda in space exploration and earth sciences. I'll fully fund NASA's earth sciences program, launch a new, comprehensive space-based study of climate change, and reverse the deep funding cuts that NASA's and FAA's aeronautics research and development budgets have endured in the last few years.
You know, this is personal for me because when I was in junior high school, I was just captivated by the space program. It caught my imagination. There was such a great burst of interest. I did my 8th grade science project on space medicine. Some of you know that I even wrote to NASA asking how I could apply to be an astronaut and got back an answer saying that they weren't taking women. (Laughter) I have lived long enough to see that change! (Applause)
Imagine our current President saying something like this. Can't do it, can you?
Again, I'm not endorsing Senator Clinton here -- I like her stance on several issues, and think she's way off base in others (she voted for the Lieberman/Kyl resolution?? WHAT??). But like her or not, you must admit she is very intelligent. And reading her words, I am reminded of how nice it would be to have someone smart in the White House again.