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“Where is Daniel Goldin?” – Transcript of Keith Cowing’s Appearance on “The O’Reilly Factor”

By SpaceRef Editor
February 3, 2003
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“Where is Daniel Goldin?” – Transcript of Keith Cowing’s Appearance on “The O’Reilly Factor”

This is a partial transcript from The O’Reilly Factor, February 3, 2003. Reprinted with Permission of FOx News.

BILL O’REILLY, HOST: Many government officials do not want to hear bad news and will punish those who bear it. Is this the case at NASA?

One man should know. Former NASA chief Daniel Goldin, who presided over the safety council that was sacked. He wasn’t there when they were fired, but he put it together.

So where is Mr. Goldin? We called his house, and his wife said, “He is devastated and mourning along with the families of the seven astronauts. He doesn’t feel it is appropriate to do interviews. The NASA family is truly a family and he is focused right now on trying to help those involved.”

Well, with all due respect to Mr. Goldin, that just doesn’t cut it. You, sir, have an obligation to the families to explain what happened to the safety experts, if you know. And if you don’t, to tell us who does know…

Talking Points is not pointing any fingers at anybody, but answers must be forthcoming about the safety board. If everything is above board, then fine. But if documented bad news led to petty firings, Americans have the right to know about it.

So buck up, Daniel Goldin, and start taking questions. The families and everybody else in this country have the right to some answers.

Joining us from Washington is Keith Cowing, the editor of NASA Watch, a Web site devoted to news about NASA and space policy.

So, am I right, wrong? What say you, sir?

KEITH COWING, NASA WATCH EDITOR: You’re getting pretty close. I’d like to hear what Mr. Goldin has to say. I find it curious that he says that, you know, he’s a member of the NASA family, he’s being quiet. I used to work there. I finally broke up in an interview a little while ago with tears in my eyes, that I can claim the NASA family thing, too. And I’m out here talking. A lot of people are these days.

As far as the people being tossed off the panel, this started under Mr. Goldin, and the recommendations starting coming from the inspector general’s office, which is not necessarily a friend of any NASA administrator and some other panels. And they said, you know, some of these guys have been on this panel forever. And they needed new blood. All right. So that’s where it started.

So flash forward, they start that process and then Goldin leaves and a new guy comes in, who I think actually is far more interested in what’s really going on and I will get to that in a moment.

But the people who were brought in — and if you look at the recommendations that come out of reports before, during and after that, the panelists are saying the same thing.

O’REILLY: Yes, but here’s the problem. All right, look. This guy Goldin’s in charge. He puts together this panel. And the panel is together for a long time.

COWING: A long time.

O’REILLY: The panel issues a report, and Dr. Blomburg, Richard Blomberg , he’s a chairman, he says — tells Congress, all right, in April of last year: “I have never been as worried for space shuttle safety as I am right now.” OK? Everybody ignores it. Goldin, the new guy, everybody, Congress.

And then shortly after this, two months after this, they sack the panel.

Now, the admiral that I mentioned is so outraged over the firing in the middle of their cycle — this wasn’t the end of their cycle, they had much to do, that he quits. It’s a three-star admiral, all right?

Now, you’re telling me that Goldin is hiding under his bed right now, doesn’t have the obligation to be where you are and tell what’s going on?

COWING: Bill, you know, anybody who’s watched what I had to say about Mr. Goldin knows I have never been a fan of his.

O’REILLY: What’s his problem?

COWING: I don’t know. And a lot of people are glad, quite frankly, that he’s not talking. They’re glad he’s gone.

O’REILLY: Wait, wait, wait. But nobody knows why. What is this man like? Is he a bureaucrat? What is he like?

COWING: He’s quite unique, shall we say? Oftentimes I felt that he was managing the agency to keep his job, not to do the job he was put there to do.

O’REILLY: All right. So he’s a government bureaucrat. Correct?

COWING: Yes, of the extreme kind, yes.

O’REILLY: All right, so we’re seeing that now in the time when the nation needs answers, why these people on the safety commission were fired, in the middle of their cycle.

I talked to a guy on the radio, John Stewart. I think you know him, right?

COWING: Yes, yes.

O’REILLY: Dr. John Stewart today. He goes, “I think we were fired because we were annoying Goldin and his pals.”

COWING: I wouldn’t put it past Mr. Goldin to get rid of anybody, whether it’s advisory committee member or employee, because he found them annoying. This is probably the 300th time, if that’s why it happened, that it did happen.

But you know, he should probably have let these guys fill out their term and look for new people. That wasn’t the way you should do it.

O’REILLY: Here’s what’s upsets me. And we’re trying to get this admiral to come on and talk about it. When you’ve got a three-star admiral. I mean, he wasn’t fired. He was a member of the panel. But he quit.

He said, this is so bad, that you people at NASA are firing these five individuals, all whom I respect, highly experienced, in the middle of their investigation, middle of their cycle, I’m leaving. Because I can’t stomach this.

And then all of the officials at NASA right now, button down, shut up, we’re not going to explain this. That’s an outrage.

COWING: Yes, you know, I’d like to see them say more. But like I was going to say before, I would have let these guys serve out their term, because you know, I doubt they’re being paid more than travel expenses. It costs you money to do this, you know.

But, you know, some of them were on there for a long time. And I would have liked to have seen them bring new people in with those guys there and overlap it.

But the point is that I made before is, regardless if it’s that panel or current one, they’re still saying the same thing. They’re concerned about the safety within NASA. And NASA needs to pay more attention to it. To his credit, I’ll say with O’Keefe here, he has been paying more attention to this.

O’REILLY: This is Sean O’Keefe, the current administrator of NASA.

COWING: Yes, yes.

O’REILLY: Now, I don’t know why Goldin and O’Keefe, because these are the two guys that know — they know what happened here, why these guys don’t have a press conference and explain it. And I don’t know why President Bush doesn’t force them to do this.

COWING: Well, I don’t know what’s happening inside that decision tree right now. But I will tell you that, to O’Keefe’s benefit or credit here, he’s got a decade of Goldin’s way of running the agency to clean up. Now, to his defense, he’s been there a year, so he can no longer say…

O’REILLY: See, I don’t know as much as you do. And I know the folks don’t know as much as you do. You say “Goldin’s way of running things to clean up.” Can you be more specific and put it in perspective for us?

COWING: Well, I will give you one example. And I had a little fun with this on NASA Watch. I had something called Worm Watch.

NASA had an old logo and they replaced it with a new one and replaced it again. Well, Mr. Goldin got crazy about it — you know, replacing it — to the point that if he saw this logo on trucks or cars or stationery, he’d throw things. I can find you 100 people who said he would do this.

O’REILLY: Yes, but that’s petty. His overall management, you’ve already said his overall management style was…

COWING: But Bill, that’s the point. He would do this in the context of being the NASA administrator in senior meetings. So if he’s prone to that sort of behavior…

O’REILLY: All right. So you don’t consider Goldin an effective administrator. You feel he screwed up the agency.

COWING: Mr. O’Keefe has a lot of things to fix, yes.

O’REILLY: All right. Well, we want Goldin to come out and tell us what he knows, and O’Keefe, of why these fine people were sacked.

COWING: I’d go to Goldin first.

O’REILLY: Listen, we’ve got his number. He’s hiding under the bed. That’s all we can do, Mr. Cowing.

Thanks very much, we appreciate it.

COWING: Thank you.Thank you.

SpaceRef staff editor.