Gingrich in Florida: How does the idea of a colony on the moon grab you?

Just last night I was thinking, “If only Obama would add permanent lunar colonies to his endless wish list of federal projects.”

He promised this speech would be “visionary,” didn’t he? You want the Alvin Toffler candidate, you’ve got the Alvin Toffler candidate:

To cheers and applause in an area that has suffered major job losses since the cancellation of the space shuttle, Gingrich said, “By the end of my second term, we will have the first permanent base on the moon and it will be American.

“We will have commercial near-Earth activities that include science, tourism, and manufacturing, and are designed to create a robust industry precisely on the model of the development of the airlines of the 1930s, because it is in our interest to acquire so much experience in space that we clearly have a capacity that the Chinese and the Russians will never come anywhere close to matching.”…

Responding to rival Mitt Romney’s criticism of his proposal for a lunar settlement, Gingrich said, “When we have 13,000 Americans living on the moon, they can petition to become a state. And here’s the difference between romantics and so-called practical people. I wanted every young American to say to themselves, ‘I could be one of those 13,000. I could be a pioneer. I need to study science and math and engineering. I need to learn how to be a technician. I can be a part of building a bigger, better future.’”

This is, and isn’t, a pander aimed at the locals. It is in the sense that waving big money at NASA is always a crowd-pleaser among Florida’s space industry, but Gingrich comes by it honestly. He’s been pushing this idea for decades in his books. One memorable passage:

I believe space tourism will be a common fact of life during the adulthood of children born this year, that honeymoons in space will be the vogue by 2020. Imagine weightlessness and its effects and you will understand some of the attractions.

Yes, he means just what you think he means. My issue with Gingrich isn’t that the goal is unworthy — Ace does a nice job explaining the national-greatness appeal of big space programs to conservatives — but that message discipline on spending is desperately needed if the GOP is going to convince voters that our fiscal crisis is as dire as it is. How do you tell seniors that we need to start cutting Medicare if you’re busy telling space contractors to get cracking on moon igloos or whatever? And as for national greatness, says Ace, “I can see it going the other direction, more likely — that screw-ups, overruns, general incompetence, and graft and corrupt contracts would wind up diminishing the American spirit you’re trying to build up.” I’m in Gabe Malor’s camp on this one. If/when the day comes that we’ve shaken our status as the brokest nation in human history, then we’ll talk about the space igloos. Maybe. Click the image to watch.