Clinton criticizes restraints on research
ASPEN – New York Sen. Hillary Clinton may not be formally running for president, but a speech in Aspen on Sunday left little doubt that she is a contender for the post.In a wide-ranging talk at the Aspen Ideas Festival that lasted more than an hour, Clinton echoed her husband, former President Bill Clinton, in advocating that the United States stay in Iraq until the Iraqi people show that they can run their own country and maintain the peace. This commitment, she said, is part of this country’s “long struggle against terrorism.””We need to keep our eye on the big picture,” she said, adding that the U.S. and its allies must continue to battle against terrorism and its advocates, “who attempt to trap us in the narrow spaces of fear and hate.” “The threat of terrorism is as close as our daily commute,” she said.
She also said America needs to get much more serious about weaning itself from a total dependence on oil and looking into alternative energy technologies. In the meantime, she said, “We are living in an exciting, even unprecedented era for discovery.”Clinton told the audience, “Some nation is going to catch the wave just right and ride it into security and preeminence.” The question, she continued, is whether that nation will be the United States or another. The pace of change is accelerating, she said, and there is no telling what the “steam engine and the computer chip of this century will be.” One example of the next wave, she said, is “nanotechnology,” the science of miniaturizing computers to the point where they are scarcely larger than a single cell.A example of breakthroughs in “artificial intelligence,” she said, is ongoing research to develop silicon retinas – implants that could allow blind people to “see,” or give the gift of sight to a robot.
And while scientific understanding and inquiry are on the rise elsewhere, she said, “There are tremendously powerful forces working to undermine science in the U.S. today,” a reference to the work of the religious right to inject greater levels of faith-based thinking into the nation’s policy-making bodies.She called for a much more focused commitment to developing alternative energy sources as a way to vastly reduce or end U.S. reliance on foreign oil. She said she has worked to insert provisions into the ongoing Senate energy bill process, calling for increased reliance on such alternative energy sources as wind and solar power. But she said the House of Representatives and the White House both have threatened to veto the energy bill because of the alternative energy provisions.She also called for a much greater emphasis on education and federal support of scientific research. American students are falling behind their counterparts around the world in the sciences, she said. And foreign students are being discouraged from coming to the U.S. to study as a result of the heightened security stemming from the 9-11 bombings in New York, Washington, D.C. As a result, she said, the U.S. is increasingly lagging behind other nations in a wide variety of scientific areas of research.
Clinton did not mention the presidential election of 2008 once, but she did make several critical, even derogatory remarks directed at sitting President George W. Bush.She accused Bush of undermining the national economy with deficit spending and huge tax cuts for the wealthy; endangering U.S. soldiers by not giving them the proper equipment to fight the war in Iraq; and harming the nation’s historic role as a leader in scientific research and technological innovation. “I sometimes feel that Alfred E. Neuman is in charge in Washington,” she joked, getting a warm laugh as she described President Bush’s attitude toward the tough issues of the day as, “What, me worry?”Vail, Colorado