Fox & Friends attacked Holdren over comments that "don't sound that bad"
Research ››› ››› DIANNA PARKER
Fox & Friends host Gretchen Carlson falsely claimed White House science adviser John Holdren "predict[ed] America's downfall" by saying the United States "can't expect to be number one forever." In fact, Holdren was reportedly responding to a question about "how the United States could move forward now that it is no longer 'the big shiny beacon' where all scientists travel to do their research," and he stated, in part, that the U.S. "can't expect to be number one in everything indefinitely," so the U.S. should improve university exchange programs to address the issue.
Carlson falsely claimed Holdren "predict[ed] ... America's downfall"
Carlson: "Holdren is predicting ... America's downfall." On the April 13 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Carlson introduced an interview with Robert Knight, senior fellow at the conservative American Civil Rights Union, by saying: "White House science adviser, or 'czar,' John Holdren is predicting that America's downfall -- he's telling a group of students that the U.S. can't expect to be number one forever." Carlson aired a short clip of Holdren's remarks and asked, "So is this the right or wrong message for our kids?" From Fox & Friends:
CARLSON: White House science adviser, or "czar," John Holdren is predicting that America's downfall -- he's telling a group of students that the U.S. can't expect to be number one forever.
HOLDREN [audio clip]: It's not an unmixed or dead loss that other countries are getting better in science and technology. Other countries getting better increases their capabilities to improve the standard of living of their countries, to improve their economies and, as a result, ultimately to make the world a better and safer place. We can't expect to be number one in everything indefinitely.
CARLSON: So is this the right or wrong message for our kids? Joining us now, Robert Knight, a senior fellow from the American Civil Rights Union and author of Radical Rulers: The White House Elites Who Are Pushing America Toward Socialism. I guess we get where you're coming from, right, Mr. Knight?
KNIGHT: Well, this is Joe the Plumber revisited, only instead of it spreading the wealth around, we're talking about spreading America's science and technology around as if it just sort of happened here and the whole world should have as much of it as we do, for no other reason than it's fair.
You know, America got this -- to this incredible position of wealth and technology because of our unique culture, the fact that we have a rule of law that's stable, a commitment to entrepreneurialism, traditional values that honor wealth creation. And for Holdren to tell these students, well, you know, your nation's time has passed, essentially, and it's good -- it's actually good that the world is catching up to us is not the best message for students, I wouldn't think.
CARLSON: Yeah, no kidding. Especially since the recent studies all show that American students are declining in math and science, right?
After attacking Holdren, Knight said Holdren's comments "don't sound that bad." Later in the segment, Knight said Holdren's comments "don't sound that bad," unless they are put "in context of" things Holdren said in the past. Knight then cited remarks Holdren made, which were completely unrelated to his recent comments about improving university exchange programs. From Fox & Friends:
KNIGHT: And some of the other nations in Europe are increasing, and certainly India and China are gaining rapidly. I'm not sure it's a good thing that China is catching up to us in technology, since they're building the world's largest military. But, you know, if you look at John Holden's remarks just the other day, they don't sound that bad, you know?
We do want other nations to do well. We're not selfish. But if you put them in the context of things he said over the last few years -- you don't have to go back to the '70s when he had some really wacky stuff. He called America the stingiest nation, the meanest nation, saying we don't give enough of ourselves. He called the climate change skeptics a fringe group. He said that in The New York Times -- and this is before "Climategate" erupted.
KNIGHT: He's always been for world government, for transferring power from America to an international system. And I think he's telling these kids that would be a good thing.
Holdren was not "predicting America's downfall" -- he was discussing how the U.S. can cope with lagging in science and technology
Holdren was reportedly responding to a question about the fact that the U.S. is no longer a "beacon" for researchers. According to CNS.com, "In a question-and-answer session with students after the talk, one student asked Holdren how the United States could move forward now that it is no longer 'the big shiny beacon' where all scientists travel to do their research." CNS.com reported that Holdren replied that there are "benefits" to other countries' advancement in science and technology, such as improved economies, and that "[w]e can't expect to be number one in everything indefinitely." Holdren reportedly cited improving university exchange programs as an example of "the most appropriate responses to this degree of levelization." From the CNS.com article (accessed through the Thoughts of a Christian Conservative blog):
In a question-and-answer session with students after the talk, one student asked Holdren how the United States could move forward now that it is no longer "the big shiny beacon" where all scientists travel to do their research.
Holdren called it a mixed picture, and said it was not purely bad for the United States that other countries were making gains instead of us.
"That is, there are many benefits to the increasing capabilities of science and technology in other countries around the world," he said. "It's not an unmixed or dead loss that other countries are getting better in science and technology."
"Other countries getting better increases their capabilities to improve the standard of living of their countries, to improve their economies and, as a result, ultimately to make the world a better and safer place."
Holdren, who was previously director of the Science, Technology and Public Policy program at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, said that as a result of those good advances, "We can't expect to be number one in everything indefinitely."
"Probably the most appropriate responses to this degree of levelization (sic) of the playing field is to cooperate, to exchange more," he said. "We have all kinds of programs already in which U.S. graduate students and post-docs go to China and Chinese graduate students come here -- direct exchanges, university to university."
Holdren said such programs also exist with Japan, India, Brazil, and "a variety of European countries."
"We intend to grow those programs because we think they are mutually beneficial and we intend to grow the cooperations (sic) in which we engage with other countries.," he said.
However, the top science adviser admitted that accepting this kind of level playing field also had its downside for the United States.
"On the other hand, there are some problematic aspects," he said, "if, for example, it is so hard for scientists and technologists from certain countries to get into this country that that kind of cooperation is impeded."
"It's a problem if everybody who we graduate from our universities who is originally from another country goes back -- invite some of them to stay," he said. "And we make it, in some respects, too hard to say. Some people have suggested we should staple a green card to every Ph.D. in science and engineering that we give to a non-U.S. citizen. So again, like so many of the very good questions you folks are asking, this one has no really tidy answer, but we're trying to work it on a number of fronts."
Bush administration also promoted international "cooperation" through university exchange programs
Spellings: "The more we share, the better the quality of education we'll be able to deliver." In an April 2008 speech, the Bush administration's Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings, gave a speech about the importance of international "cooperation" in higher education. Spellings discussed the administration's efforts to "encourage student exchanges, to highlight the depth and breadth of higher education opportunities in the U.S., and to welcome increased collaboration and partnerships." Spellings also noted how international cooperation in education was "central to world peace, prosperity, and civic development." From Spellings' speech (prepared remarks):
In my experience, we haven't talked nearly enough about higher ed strategy, nationally, regionally, or globally, this is certainly true here in the U.S. Which doesn't make sense when we know how critical postsecondary education is to increasing quality of life around the world.
There are some cutting edge thinkers out there, many of whom are in this room, but in large part they've been islands of innovation, doing great work but not connected to potential partners around the world. We need to find better ways to share and communicate.
This is starting to happen in fits and starts as institutions recognize the imperative of reaching abroad to establish partnerships, joint programs, and student and faculty exchanges. The benefits of such cooperation not only enrich the partnering schools but diffuse throughout society as well.
The quality of education we deliver is a key determinant of the future we can expect... it's central to world peace, prosperity, and civic development. The more we share, the better the quality of education we'll be able to deliver. I encourage everyone here to use this valuable time together to build relationships and think strategically about how we can work together to improve. Your efforts can help build a better and more hopeful world.