Houston Chronicle endorses Obama, and an overdue question in rocket science

02/19/2008 08:18 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Houston Chronicle wrote a nice endorsement of Barack Obama. This is another Obama endorsement from a key newspaper in a battleground state.

Here are some excerpts from what they wrote (Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle):

Of the two finalists for the Democratic presidential nomination, the Chronicle believes Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois is best-qualified by life experience, skill and temperament to be the standard bearer for his party...

Those who have viewed the numerous campaign debates know there's not much to separate Obama from his opponent, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York. Either could ably represent the Democratic Party. Both candidates favor ending the war in Iraq by withdrawing combat troops and initiating regional negotiations to stabilize the country. Both would press for dramatic strides toward providing all Americans with health insurance.

Both support a cap and trade system to begin reducing America's carbon emissions that contribute to global warming. Each promises to initiate multibillion-dollar efforts to promote conversion of the economy to clean energy technologies. They favor securing our borders, initiating comprehensive immigration reform and creating a path to earned legal status for those already here who are working and contributing to their communities.

However, there is a decisive difference. Obama vows to reach out to independents and Republicans with a message of inclusion and cooperation. He offers a historic opportunity to elevate national political dialogue to a higher ground. Those who insist on vitriol and obstructionism would be marginalized.....

The 46-year-old Obama has expanded his base of support, winning new legions of supporters. The more people see and hear him, the more they like him. As the Hawaiian-born son of a Muslim Kenyan father and an Anglo Midwesterner, the devoutly Christian Obama transcends race and religion. His life has been one of involvement with disadvantaged Chicago residents, excellence at Harvard Law School and eight years as an Illinois state senator. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004, only the third African-American to serve there since Reconstruction.

Obama is both the epitome of the American Dream and well-positioned to reach out to an international community alienated by recent U.S. go-it-alone policies....

The Chronicle urges Texas Democrats to cast what could be decisive ballots for his presidential nomination.

You can read the whole thing via Mark Kleiman's wonderful Reality-Based Community posting.

I took special note of one paragraph:

On several issues vital to Houstonians, Obama's positions need elaboration. He recognizes the need to maintain U.S. pre-eminence in space but said he wanted to study the costs and benefits of human space exploration -- an exercise that should convince him of the space program's long history of indispensable contributions

Such study is long overdue. In a previous career, I was an electrical engineer working on aerospace matters. I confess to a near-catastrophic nerd credential: I hoarded my dad's copies of Aviation Week when I was a child.

NASA's unmanned space program is a jewel. The Hubble space telescope, the interplanetary missions, the many satellites doing earth science--these are fabulous. At a relatively low cost, these have provided huge benefits for basic science, and huge benefits to our nation and the world.

In contrast, the manned space program has lost its way for at least three decades now. The Apollo program was a national triumph. Not so what has come since. Astrophysicists report that the manned program has produced virtually no advances in basic science. The space shuttle and the international space station are beautiful technology, but they have been plagued with delays and extremely costly overruns. These projects are politically attractive to the companies and workers who work on them, but they have effectively killed many more worthy, vastly cheaper scientific efforts involving unmanned craft.

Charles Krauthammer--a columnist with whom I disagree on everything but whom I greatly respect--once phrased the argument as whether send our bodies or our minds into space to explore. I vote for the human mind. Our bodies are a lead suitcase up there, whether in the International Space Station or in a proposed mission to Mars.

Because space contractors are an important political constituency, and because the space program is warm and fuzzy, if far too costly and inefficient, politicians have little incentive to address what virtually every expert believes: NASA needs real reform.

This isn't the most important issue in the world. Wasting money on the space station is a small price to pay for health reform. However this plays out, I'm pleased that Barack Obama has at least noted the issue, and that the Houston Chronicle respected him and their own readers enough to endorse him despite his willingness to ask uncomfortable questions about one of their local industries.