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THE HUGE BENEFITS OF THE SPACE PROGRAM | 2003-02-08

As a result of this victory on the House Floor the space program survived and the space telescope went into space and we orbited and sent back messages from Jupiter.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is where Silicon Valley came from. The technology breakthroughs and personnel developed in the space program gave America what other countries now complain is an unmatchable advantage in the high tech future.

A lot was riding on what seemed to be a hopeless fight.

Hopeless fights were the specialty of my boss, John Ashbrook. In the House of Representatives with its 435 members nothing moves without unanimous consent. I think he just put the bug in the Speaker's ear that, once again, he and his tiny group of last-ditch conservatives would keep a member on the Floor and deny unanimous consent to everything if the space program cut were not put off.

I don't know exactly what happened. I was busy. The guy who hears the shrapnel sing is not the guy who has a clear view of overall strategy. I do know that when I tried to explain all the complications John just asked me "Bob, is it good for America?" and I said "Yes".

That's what senior staff is for. We both knew Ashbrook meant would it be good for America in HIS eyes, not in my pro-space romantic's eyes. I said "Yes" so he got the time from somewhere.

>From 1977 to 1981, when liberal Democrats controlled everything, Ashbrook's little group stopped one leftist initiative after another. "Reasonable" and "respectable" Republicans wanted to surrender and they hated us for blocking their "compromises". But no one will ever know how much was saved by this

handful of guerrilla fighters, a little band I personally nicknamed "the Alamo squad".

I was once in a staff meeting in Congressman Bob Dornan's office. Dornan said, "I'll check with our leader." Someone said, "The Republican leadership wants to compromise."

Dornan responded, "I mean our real leader, John Ashbrook." It warmed my heart.

John Ashbrook's fight for principle in the space program paid off politically. John Ashbrook, a Midwestern conservative, was invited to be on a panel at the American Association for the Advancement of Science for this fight. In addition a lot more young people in his district became his fans.