Right Stuff, Wrong Staff: John Kerry Visits NASA and Blows a Photo Op

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On Monday Democratic Presidential Candidate John Kerry made a campaign stop at NASA Kennedy Space Center (KSC) on Monday. Kerry was accompanied by former Ohio Senator John Glenn and Florida Senators Bill Nelson and Bob Graham. Photos taken of this visit depict Kerry and others wearing so called "bunny suits" which are required of all visitors entering a space shuttle orbiter in the Shuttle Processing Facility.

Bumbling by Kerry's staff, and a press corps itching for something to make fun of, and a perfect photo opportunity turns into a media nightmare. The net loser? NASA.

The Kerry campaign event at the Kennedy Space Center's Visitor Center (outside the Space Center itself) was planned as a private event with all attendees hand picked by the Kerry campaign.

29 July 2004: NASA Ordered to Pull Kerry Photos Offline

Update: The U.S. Office of Special Counsel has told NASA to remove all images of Kerry's visit to KSC from all NASA web sites - immediately - due to Hatch Act concerns.

CLARIFICATION 1:00 PM EDT: NASA sources are now saying that NASA's General Counsel ordered the images removed - not the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.

YET ANOTHER CLARIFICATION 4:00 PM EDT: After reviewing all of the Kerry photos to ensure NASA's apolitical position, NASA has decided to put the photos of John Kerry in the OPF back online. The photos of the political rally at the visitors center will remain offline.

Just as you think this silly story is going away some bureaucrat finds a way to breathe new life back into it.

According to NASA sources Sen. Bill Nelson suggested on the spur of the moment that Kerry and his entourage ought to go onto the Space Center itself and look at the inside of space shuttle orbiter. NASA tends to take a Senator's requests seriously and they did their best to oblige.

Originally Kerry's visit was to be confined to the KSC visitor's center. This new request was not part of the original planned visit. In order to visit the inside of a shuttle orbiter in the Orbiter Processing Facility, you need to wear a bunny suit. Everyone does.

This last minute visit was not without its costs in terms of lost work time. According to a NASA KSC employee "Kerry, Glenn, Nelson, and company were not scheduled to visit OPF 3 on Monday. The scheduled (invitation only) town hall meeting at the Delaware North operated KSC Visitor's Center was expanded on an apparent whim. No NASA or USA scheduler was prepared for this impromptu visit to the Orbiter Processing Facility that was working three shifts, seven days per week to prepare Discovery to meet the RTF launch date. This schedule is under threat as is - hence, the 24/7 operations. End result: A four hour interruption in work on OV-103, and the cancellation of at least one test planning meeting that I know of. (People had flown in from Houston and Califirnia to support this EMI test planning session but were unceremoniously evicted from OPF 3 and lost a day's productivity.) Whatever work was ongoing on OV-103 was halted, often in mid-test, which probably led to the repetition of the entire test procedure. I was at KSC that day and can attest to this disruption."

NASA sources reveal that NASA KSC gave the Kerry campaign people about 30 CDs, which were to be distributed to local media by the Kerry people. The photos in question were on these CDs. Local reporters were seen with with these CDs later in the afternoon.

As such, assuming that the reporters got the CDs from the Kerry campaign, the Kerry people distributed the photographs themselves! There was no "leak".

Kerry's staff asked the NASA Public Affairs Office (PAO) for photos - and NASA provided them. Since the photos were made with government resources, they were eventually posted on the KSC website - after the Kerry campign had copies. Also, given that they were produced by the government these images can be obtained via FOIA request.

Alas, the Kerry people see conspiracies everywhere and immediately pointed a finger at NASA suggesting that the photos had been "leaked" - for what purpose they don't say - but clearly they imply some sinister intent on NASA's part.

According to Fox news story "Asked by FOX News' Brit Hume if a dirty trick was being played, [Mary Beth Cahill, campaign manager for John Kerry] didn't answer the question directly but said: "What do you think?" "This was a legitimate tour of a NASA facility and this photograph came out of absolutely nowhere. We were surprised then. We aren't surprised now."

A transcript of the on air exchange between Hume and Cahill on the Drudge Report Cahill is quoted as saying "... and the thing is this is a legitimate tour of a nasa facility, and this photograph appeared out of nowhere. we were surprised. we're not surprised now."

Editor's note: This is just silly.

Former NASA PAO chief Peggy Wilhide (Al Gore's former press secretary) is currently the spokesperson for the Democratic National Convention in Boston. Former AA for Policy and Plans Lori Garver is also in Boston and is reportedly working on space-related platform issues for the Kerry campaign. Kerry's campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill (who is accusing NASA of 'leaking' these photos) would do well to have Peggy or Lori explain how these things work - and stop making these goofy charges against NASA. Oh yes, NASA's current PAO Chief, Glen Mahone, went to high school with Bill Clinton and was appointed to his current job while Clinton was still president. Anyone looking for political anti-Kerry bias in releasing these photos is wasting their time.

I cannot fathom why the Kerry folks think this is a bad image. John Kerry climbs inside the same space shuttle that carried John Glenn back into space - with Glenn at his side. Although Kerry's record on space is mediocre at best, such a photo op with an American icon inside an icon of America's space prowess ought to be something that the Kerry campaign proudly promotes. Or does the Kerry campaign have a problem with images of John Kerry inside a space shuttle being circulated i.e. are they afraid that he will be forced to take a stronger position on space than they would like him to adopt?

Meanwhile, a Kerry space advisor is publicly dismissing President Bush's space policy. The following was posted on the Yahoo group kerryspace. Former NASA Associate Adminstrator for Policy and Plans Lori Garver (Yahoo ID astromom2004) is in Boston and told people at a reception the other night that she is working on space policy issues for John Kerry.

From: "Lori Garver" < lgarver@d... >
Date: Sun Jul 18, 2004 10:17 am
Subject: RE: [kerryspace] Come Celebrate Kerry's Great VP Choice, Edwards!

Please don't write-off the Kerry-Edwards camp on space. The Bush initiative is simply hot-air and has made it impossible in an election year for Kerry to say much on space. What he has said -- will support increased funding for NASA R&D, will support Prizes, a more genuinely international effort, etc... is already more than most Presidential Candidates. It took Bush 3.5 years and a tragic Shuttle accident to come up with a policy. Democrats will be able to pull-off a better record -- if not rhetoric! Totally agree on futility of ISS as pharmacy source and need to retire Shuttle -- Kerry can be convinced of this, but perhaps not in the campaign. The Moon-Mars Blitz was a good way for Congress to see citizens supporting space -- always a good thing.


Click on photos to enlarge.

KSC-04PD-1564

Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., visits the flight deck of Space Shuttle Discovery during a tour of the Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF). The "bunny suit" he is wearing is clean room attire required for anyone coming in close proximity to Discovery, currently being prepared for flight on the next Space Shuttle mission. The tour of the OPF follows a public meeting Kerry held at the Dr. Kurt H. Debus Conference Facility at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. He said he chose to speak at KSC because it symbolizes America's commitment to science, innovation and technology. He and Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., are on a speaking tour prior to their appearance at the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

KSC-04PD-1563

Sen. Bill Nelson (right), D-Fla., explains the layout of the glass cockpit to Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., on the flight deck of orbiter Discovery during a tour of the Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF). The "bunny suits" they are wearing are clean room attire required for anyone coming in close proximity to Discovery, currently being prepared for flight on the next Space Shuttle mission. The tour of the OPF follows a public meeting Kerry held at the Dr. Kurt H. Debus Conference Facility at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

KSC-04PD-1561

Sen. Bob Graham (back), D-Fla., former astronaut and Sen. John H. Glenn (front left), D-Ohio, Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., and Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., don clean room attire during a tour of the Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF). The "bunny suits" are required dress for anyone coming in close proximity to the orbiter Discovery, currently being prepared for flight on the next Space Shuttle mission. The tour of the OPF follows a public meeting Kerry held at the Dr. Kurt H. Debus Conference Facility at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

KSC-04PD-1558

Sen. Bill Nelson (second from left), D-Fla., former astronaut and Sen. John H. Glenn, D-Ohio, and Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., receive a briefing from NASA Vehicle Manager Stephanie Stilson during a tour of the Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF). They are standing under the orbiter Discovery, which is being prepared for flight on the next Space Shuttle mission. The tour follows a public meeting Kerry held at the Dr. Kurt H. Debus Conference Facility at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

KSC-04PD-1550

Sen. John F. Kerry (second from right), D-Mass., holds a public meeting at the Dr. Kurt H. Debus Conference Facility at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Accompanying him on stage are, from left, Sens. Bob Graham, D-Fla., and Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and former Sen. John H. Glenn, D-Ohio. Glenn was also an astronaut in NASA's Mercury and Space Shuttle programs. Kerry said he chose to speak at KSC because it symbolizes America's commitment to science, innovation and technology. He and Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., are on a speaking tour prior to their appearance at the Democratic National Convention in Boston.


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