Because of its presence during Bush's now fading tenure, every decision he made became magnified and opinions were rampant. It was the new lay of the land. Academics, who skew pretty hard to the left, and scientists, who skew slightly left, now had a voice to express their displeasure to a lot of other people who felt the same way.
And it was all displeasure. Even on a site like this, made up of a terrific cross-section of personalities and ideologies, it is tough to find anyone speaking well of Bush. Some of that is just objectivity. There isn't a lot that has gone well - hard core Republicans will object to that and note the lack of terrorist attacks in Bush's tenure compared to Clinton's and it is fair to say it took a while but they seem to have figured out how to put Iraq on a path to a peaceful, modern democracy, despite the vaguely racist protests by his opponents that Muslims were not 'ready'. But domestically it's a tough sell to insist there is a lot of good that got done.
And in science, there was a lot of bad. Thanks to blogging, it looked a lot worse than it was. Global warming? Bush and Republicans are evil and, if you dispute any of that, you were lumped in as a Holocaust denier. Embryonic Stem Cell research? Bush and Republicans are crazy evangelicals who hate science and prevented all this great work from being done because federal money could only be used on lines that met specific criteria. If you ask the blogging community, it crippled science.
The NIH budget doubled under Bush, but that was dismissed as the work of Congress. Except, oops, it was a Republican Congress too. And NASA budgets went up 20% under Bush where they had dropped -5% under Clinton.
Regardless, Republicans hated science, it was said and agreed. One guy even wrote a whole book about how Republicans had declared war on science (I won't bother to put a link here, he's got all of scienceblogs.com and sciencedebate2008.com shilling for him, he doesn't need me) so it had to be true.
But Democrats would make that all go away.
I think I was the only person in science who cautioned people that Barack Obama's actual positions were not dramatically different from McCain or even Bush. No one wanted to hear it.
In reading the ScienceDebate2008.com questions for the candidates, I was struck that they did not bother to ask how the candidates felt about evolution being taught in schools. That would have been in my top 3, right along with funding and government interference in science data, but fish hatcheries made the list and evolution did not. Why leave out such a thing?
It doesn't matter now. Obama won, as we all suspected (though respect to David Houle, since he predicted during one of the debates as we shared a Burger King meal that Obama would get 53% of the popular vote, a number I disputed with my own incorrect 51%) and all would be right again in the world of science.
Unless it isn't.
Who do we blame if there are no Republicans?
The first alarm that Obama might not be all that different went off for some here with the rumor that Obama would pick Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. as head of the EPA (An anti-vaccine zealot running the EPA? Barack, I thought you loved us). That wasn't what first alarmed me. I was first alarmed that he picked Rahm Emanuel as his Chief of Staff. I understand politics, and I understand you have to reward the guy behind the money-making machine that allowed Obama to bypass public financing and spend more money than John Kerry and George Bush raised in 2004 - combined - but Rahm Emanuel is the kind of partisan, evil hack we were supposed to be getting rid of, hated as much by his own party as by the other one. Emanuel is the Dick Cheney of Democrats.
But at least I could rationalize that even if I didn't like it. With a big victory, the far left, Moveon.org contingent of Democrats might think it was open season and Emanuel had already reined in Howard Dean and the Moveon.org hysterics. He was a Clinton guy so he knew the painful lessons of 1993 that caused them to overreach and then lose Congress in 1994.
So Robert Kennedy is not to be liked because he is anti-science if he didn't want to inject our children with any vaccine Big Pharm might happen to throw our way. Surely that would be the exception.
And, well, John Podesta is his transition chief. Also a former Clinton White House chief. Maybe we should have elected Hillary Clinton if Obama was just going to pick all former Clinton staffers anyway. But that is not why Podesta is a concern. He's an anti-science conspiracy crank who thinks the government is hiding evidence of UFOs.
"It is time for the government to declassify records that are more than 25 years old and to provide scientists with data that will assist in determining the real nature of this phenomenon," said Podesta, and the group of scientists he believed would be most able to get to the truth was ... the Sci-Fi Channel.
Also a UFO believer is New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. Okay, so Richardson, Podesta and Robert Kennedy are a little goofy, but Kennedy would be running the EPA, nothing at all to do with the NIH, and Podesta was only vetting other posts, so no big deal. Richardson was a political science major and to Democrats that means he should probably be in charge of commerce.
But then we heard that Larry Summers is up for the Treasury job. Summers, you may recall, believed that though women are going to college in record numbers and increasingly majoring in sciences they aren't really cut out genetically to do math - a bold claim for the guy running Harvard at the time.
If Obama is the savior of science, why is one of his top advisors someone who thinks women can't do math? And thinks that Africa is under-polluted?
Women in science and engineering currently have $.95 income compared to $1 for what a man makes. Republicans can't get any credit for that increase in the last 8 years because they are, you know, Republicans, but it's much better than the $.77 women in other fields get. If Obama is the savior for science, he surely must be the savior of women and minorities yet where is the outrage that Summers is up for a key job dictating monetary policy?
I can't answer that. I wanted change and I hope I get it. Though I have feared there wouldn't be much and said so at a time when everyone else was insisting Obama could do no wrong.
Until we know for sure, I will go back to wondering why a Democrat is trying to eliminate NIH open access for federally funded studies. It's another thing on the list that science bloggers have pretended not to notice while they were trying to get their guy elected.
But with no Republicans left to blame, Obama might find that his honeymoon period in the science community ends even before his Inauguration.
- Are Obama's Science Picks A Slap To Life Sciences?
- Dr. John Holdren Reconciles The 1970s Ice Age With Today's Global Warming
- Anti-Science Republicans Versus Anti-Science Democrats: The Comparison
- Not All Of Science Is On The Obama Love Train
- Feeding Africa Could Increase Global Warming- Unless We Embrace Science