To the Moon, George, to the Moon

On Jan. 14, 2004, President Bush announced his bold vision for America’s space program. He vowed to return to the moon and then “to take the next steps of space exploration: human missions to Mars and to worlds beyond.”

Only six days later, Bush gave his State of the Union address. He talked about his economic plan, which had created about 1,000 new jobs in the previous month alone. And about the dozens of “weapons of mass destruction-related program activities” found by David Kay, 12 of which were coloring books. And about the dangers of steroids and the importance of sexual abstinence. (The Bush team dodged a bullet on this one. Arnold Schwarzenegger had been slated to sit next to First Lady Laura Bush, but was removed two minutes before the speech when a media-savvy aide realized that would make for an embarrassing cutaway shot.) But nowhere in the president’s address was there any mention of Mars, let alone sending a person to it.

Now, telling the nation you’re sending a man to Mars is not like telling the kids you’re taking them to Applebee’s. The kids get all excited, looking forward to the curly fries. If you stay home, yes, they’re disappointed, but it’s not that big a deal. Mars is different. Unveiling a mission to Mars and then not mentioning it less than a week later in the State of the Union address suggests a certain casualness in our president’s approach to governing the world’s only remaining superpower. I don’t know much about space travel, but I bet it takes more than six days’ focus to get a man to Mars.

He clearly dropped Mars because the idea tested even more poorly than his faith-based Bureau of Weights and Measures. But why didn’t anyone make fun of him for it?

Can you imagine if Bill Clinton had done this? The right-wing media would have been all over him. “This is the most poll-driven, purely political administration in history!” they would have crowed. It would have started with Rush Limbaugh, then reverberated through the right-wing echo chamber and into the mainstream media until it finally landed on an op-ed page like this one.


But when Bush did it, no one made a peep. Bush got a pass on this, as he’s gotten a pass on so many other things, because there’s no liberal echo chamber in this country. But starting today at noon, there will be one.


Plus the rest of us at Air America Radio, the new liberal talk-radio network, which, according to our promotional materials, “combines cutting-edge commentary with laugh-out-loud funny political satire.”

The 45 most powerful radio stations owned by the top five station owners broadcast more than 300 hours of conservative talk radio each weekday. They broadcast only five hours of liberal talk. Right-wing talk-radio hosts lie, distort, and bloviate, and nobody calls them on it. Not even Alan Colmes, who provides the aforementioned five hours.

Today, we will not merely call them on it. We will use their words against them, holding them up to the scorn and ridicule they deserve. My show, co-hosted by Katherine Lanpher, will be called the “The O’Franken Factor,” a name chosen for a single reason: to annoy and bait Bill O’Reilly. “The O’Franken Factor” will run from noon to 3 p.m., opposite Rush Limbaugh. It will not only be factual, it will be drug-free.

Republicans are accusing us liberals of being angry. Yeah, we’re angry. It’s one thing for a president to lie about sex. It’s another thing for a president to lie about why we are sending our young men and women into harm’s way. And to dismantle our environmental protections. And to expose a CIA agent as an act of political retaliation. And to shift taxes from the children of the very rich to the children of the middle class. And ... oh, there’s so many other reasons to be mad. Listen to my show for a more complete accounting of them. Plus jokes.

Yes, we’re angry. And yes, we’re fighting back. But we’re not going to do it like they do. We will be a flaming sword of justice, cutting through the turgid cacophony of right-wing talk with a blade of burnished truth. And celebrity interviews. All on a crisp, clear AM signal.

The battle begins today at noon on KBLA, 1580 on your AM dial. Before we go to Mars, we must retake our own planet.


Al Franken is a political satirist.