Enough with the Moon, Already

In his speech last night, President Obama said:

The one answer I will not settle for is the idea that this challenge is somehow too big and too difficult to meet.  You know, the same thing was said about our ability to produce enough planes and tanks in World War II.  The same thing was said about our ability to harness the science and technology to land a man safely on the surface of the moon.

Ok, I understand that the point is to show that we have done remarkable things in the past and can do so again.  However, the analogy is tired,clichéd, and arguably out of date. .

Given that we haven’t been back to the moon since the 1970s and we are about to retire the space shuttle fleet, the moon landing references ring a bit hollow.

Indeed, I would like to retire references to the moon landing along with Manhattan Project analogies (e.g., a Manhattan Project to do X, Y or Z) from the political lexicon.

FILED UNDER: Oil Spill, Science & Technology, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Sure, as soon as we can get politicians to stop trying to ride on the coattails of others’ success.

    Good luck with that.

  2. James Joyner says:

    You’d think that a country that could put a man on the moon could come up with better cliches.

  3. And James wins the thread.

  4. sam says:

    “I am sure that if we devoted similar resources and time to the question of how to cap a leaking deep water oil well that we could develop the requisite technologies. ”

    Uh, wasn’t he talking about energy independence, “this challenge”, not capping a runaway well? Here’s the text:

    When I was a candidate for this office, I laid out a set of principles that would move our country towards energy independence. Last year, the House of Representatives acted on these principles by passing a strong and comprehensive energy and climate bill – a bill that finally makes clean energy the profitable kind of energy for America’s businesses.

    Now, there are costs associated with this transition. And some believe we can’t afford those costs right now. I say we can’t afford not to change how we produce and use energy – because the long-term costs to our economy, our national security, and our environment are far greater.

    So I am happy to look at other ideas and approaches from either party – as long they seriously tackle our addiction to fossil fuels. Some have suggested raising efficiency standards in our buildings like we did in our cars and trucks. Some believe we should set standards to ensure that more of our electricity comes from wind and solar power. Others wonder why the energy industry only spends a fraction of what the high-tech industry does on research and development – and want to rapidly boost our investments in such research and development.

    All of these approaches have merit, and deserve a fair hearing in the months ahead. But the one approach I will not accept is inaction. The one answer I will not settle for is the idea that this challenge is too big and too difficult to meet. You see, the same thing was said about our ability to produce enough planes and tanks in World War II. The same thing was said about our ability to harness the science and technology to land a man safely on the surface of the moon. And yet, time and again, we have refused to settle for the paltry limits of conventional wisdom. Instead, what has defined us as a nation since our founding is our capacity to shape our destiny – our determination to fight for the America we want for our children. Even if we’re unsure exactly what that looks like. Even if we don’t yet know precisely how to get there. We know we’ll get there.

  5. […] I am picking on the linguistic choices of the president, let me note that I think that “addiction” is the wrong word to […]

  6. @Sam:

    You are correct as to the application of the moon reference to the spill cleanup (or, indeed, the fact that he wasn’t applying it to that). I got a bit carried away and have removed the reference. My basic point, however, remains intact–enough with the moon!

  7. […] First, Enough with the Moon, Already. […]

  8. boz says:

    Allow me to add “Marshall Plan” to the list of outdated analogies beginning with M.

  9. @Boz: an excellent suggestion.

  10. Max Lybbert says:

    As somebody else once said “We already had a Manhattan Project that made fossil fuels obsolete. It was called the Manhattan Project.” ( http://tjic.com/?p=10301&cpage=1#comment-171478 ).

  11. John Peabody says:

    Novelist Arthur Hailey called it: In his 1970 novel “Wheels”, an executive bemoans the fact that ‘now anyone can say, ‘we went to the moon, why can’t we make a zero-emmissions car?’