Bolden to Meet with Obama Monday about NASA Job
By Joel Achenbach
It looks like Bill Nelson may finally get his man.
For months, the Florida senator has been an ardent advocate of retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, a four-time shuttle astronaut, to be the next NASA administrator. Bolden, who would be the first African American to lead the civilian space agency, is now an aerospace consultant and is popular in the space community.
Nelson has been a Bolden fan since Bolden piloted the shuttle with Nelson aboard in 1986. But to Nelson's great frustration, the job has remained vacant. Twice, the White House floated the names of other candidates for the NASA post -- first Scott Gration, then Steve Isakowitz -- only to back down when congressional leaders balked.
Now, however, Bolden is expected to meet with President Obama at the White House on Monday. The meeting, first reported by NBC, suggests that Bolden has passed the major vetting tests and now merely has to make Obama comfortable with the selection.
The president has ordered up a sweeping review of NASA's human spaceflight strategy, and he may want to make sure that Bolden, a strong advocate of human spaceflight and the new Constellation program, will be open-minded about any possible changes in NASA's plans.
"Everybody loves and thinks highly of Charlie. And he is the extraordinary role model of someone who came from segregated South Carolina, who could not even get an appointment to the Naval Academy from his congressional delegation [and then was] promptly elected president of the freshmen class at Annapolis," Nelson said in an interview earlier this spring.
The Monday meeting does not ensure that he will be offered the job but makes his selection likely, said one Democrat close to the White House: "This one looks, gosh, I give it 95 percent."
During the transition after the November election, when Bolden's name was at the top of many speculative lists for the NASA job, the general told The Post that he hadn't yet met Obama, nor been interviewed for the job
"There are two people I would love to meet right now. One is General Colin Powell, who I have never met, who I admire, and another is President-elect Obama -- who I admire and I have never met," he said. He added, "If you can arrange that, I would be greatly appreciative."
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs confirmed the Monday meeting between Obama and a NASA administrator prospect during today's daily briefing, but wouldn't name Bolden.
QUESTION: And on Monday, Robert, will there be a NASAadministrator announcement?
GIBBS: I think you know that the president will meet with somebody that he hopes will -- wants to meet with somebody about filling the important role of future NASA administrator.
GIBBS: He will meet with them on -- on Monday, and we'll have -- we'll see how that goes.
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