At a hearing Wednesday, Chairman Ralph Hall and his Republican colleagues put their powerful U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology to its highest, most noble use: Namely, bringing the election-year hurt to the Obama administration for whatever perceived shortcomings reside in the committee's broad wheelhouse.
Reading from a prepared statement, Hall cited Obama's "unprecedented emphasis on clean energy;" his lack of a "compelling, long-term mission for human spaceflight" and the "avalanche" of regulations his EPA unleashed on coal-fired power plants.
But it was the administration's commitment to collaborating with China in the arena of science and technology that Hall found most disturbing. It began when Representative Dana Rohrabacher treated White House science adviser John Holdren as a presidential proxy, chiding the administration for acting as though it were "compelled to reach out to the world's worst human rights abuser, that is already in the process of stealing so much from us and we have examples over and over again that scientific cooperation turned into a transfer of wealth and technology to our adversary."
He accused the administration of violating the language in a 2011 appropriations bill that outlawed scientific collaboration with China. Holdren played a starring role in clashes last fall over meetings between the adviser and Chinese officials, culminating in a GAO report concluding the White House violated the spending provision. At the time, Holdren simply produced a letter from the DOJ, backing the meetings as foreign policy-related. On Wednesday, Holdren noted that the prohibition was lifted in a subsequent bill.
But if hearing was any indication, feelings are still a touch raw. Hall, unsatisfied with the adviser's response, all but sneered: "I don't think you're gonna get the answer you expected to get, Mr. Rohrabacher. I, too, have seen the president bow and scrape to the enemy on many occasions."
And without further comment, Hall moved on to the next committee member, his rhetorical flourish having ably done the work of a 10-minute, Representative Joe Barton tirade: A) Obama is the decorous appeaser-in-chief, B) His willingness to speak with countries with whom we've had frosty relations is borderline traitorous, and C) China, a rising world power, is in fact our enemy.
Unless Hall was speaking figuratively, bowing is sort of the customary greeting across much of Asia. Perhaps a noncommittal head-nod would have been more appropriate? Or maybe they should just hold hands? You can watch the whole venomous, two-hour spectacle here.