The signature requirement of any Trump staff member is that they be unqualified—or better yet, ironically unqualified, like Scott Pruitt at the Environmental Protection Agency, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and Betsy DeVos at Education. These aren’t bad nominations: they’re giant middle fingers to America. In comparison, Trump’s selection of Rep. James Bridenstine to run NASA may seem more like the choice of Rick Perry for the Department of Uhhh I Forget the Third One: not maliciously perverse, just actively uninspiring and undeserved. After all, even on the road to hell, most of the bricks are just meh.
Of course, the part where NASA is involved in launching large, complex objects into space with both the technical future of the country and a substantial number of lives at stake might tend to make “unqualified” more “UNQUALIFIED,” and that’s definitely part of Bridenstine’s rough launch.
Rep. James Bridenstine’s controversial nomination to head NASA faces mounting troubles, and the uncertainty threatens to further delay potentially major changes in agency programs favored by the White House.
Bridenstine squeaked through his first committee vote. But as the countdown continues toward a second vote later this week, there’s another factor that’s threatening to stop the clock.
His name never came up for floor action in 2017 because not a single Senate Democrat signaled support and Republican leaders were worried about rounding up the necessary votes on their side of the aisle. Mr. Bridenstine turned into a controversial choice due to what critics assailed as his extreme social views.
Bridenstine’s insupportable views aren’t just ‘social,’ but they are extreme and they are critical to why he should not get this position.
Bridenstine is a former combat pilot who once worked at a space museum. That’s not even a fraction of what should be required for a NASA administrator, but at least he can probably point in the direction of space—you can’t say that of DeVos. But that’s the best part of his resume.
His genuinely extreme social views include:
He railed against the 2013 Supreme Court decision declaring same-sex marriage constitutional. “The court’s decision was a disappointment not only because it is contrary to millennia of human experience,” he said, “but also because it is clearly contrary to the choice of the people as expressed in a constitutionally valid process.”
He also attacked the Boy Scouts for allowing gay members, which he presented as moral relativism that failed to recognize gay as “wrong.” And he supported anti-transgender “bathroom bills.”
And for a hate-cherry on top, he made some of his rants about the evils of gay people on the radio show of Frank Gaffney. Gaffney’s show isn’t just conservative, it’s a Christian-identity, white nationalist playground that the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled as part of a hate group.
So Bridenstine isn’t just a normal anti-LGBT, anti-anyone-but-white-Christians Republican of what’s become the Trumpist mainstream. Even there he’s an extremist.
And there are other problems that make Bridenstine particularly unsuited to NASA.
He reeled off this string of climate denial myths on the House floor in 2013:
global temperatures stopped rising 10 years ago. Global temperature changes, when they exist, correlate with Sun output and ocean cycles. During the Medieval Warm Period from 800 to 1300 A.D.—long before cars, power plants, or the Industrial Revolution—temperatures were warmer than today.
Bridenstine’s long history of climate change denial makes him not just the wrong person, but dangerous as the head of the agency charged with most of the effort in climate change research. Paired with Trump’s expanded efforts to break NASA in other ways …
Mr. Trump’s team previously tried but failed to sharply roll back environmental and earth-imaging programs.
It’s clear that Bridenstine isn’t one of those plain bricks after all. He’s one of Trump’s gold bricks, like Pruitt and DeVos. A very special part of the road into perdition.