SEAN HANNITY, HOST: It may seem odd that the nation's NASA administrators touring the Middle East, but when you hear the outrageous mission the president has tasked him with, well, it starts to make sense. Look at this.
(VIDEO CLIP FROM AL-JAZEERA ENGLISH, JUNE 30)
CHARLES BOLDEN, NASA ADMINISTRATOR: Perhaps foremost, he [Obama] wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science and engineering.
HANNITY: Now, Bolden told Al-Jazeera that the president has instructed him to pursue several initiatives, but exploring outer space was not among them. Let's just say the Democratic Party's attitude toward space exploration has changed quite a bit since the days of JFK.
(VIDEO CLIP FROM MAY 25, 1961)
JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now it is time to take longer strides, time for a great new American enterprise, time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in space achievement, which in many ways may hold the key to our future on Earth. I therefore, ask the Congress, above and beyond the increases I've earlier requested for space activities, to provide the funds which are needed to meet the following national goals. First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind or more important for the long range exploration of space.
HANNITY: Joining me now with reaction are the director of the Muslim American Society's Human and Civil Rights Division, Ibrahim Ramey, and the director of the Middle East Forum, Daniel Pipes, is back with us.
All right, Ibrahim, let me start with you. Forget about whatever your agenda may be, you know, whatever your group's organizational goals may be. That's not the issue here. If we're talking about NASA, shouldn't our goal be to go to the moon, go to Mars?
IBRAHIM RAMEY, DIRECTOR, MUSLIM AMERICAN SOCIETY'S HUMAN AND CIVIL RIGHTS DIVISION: Well, absolutely. And what the administrator of NASA said did not try to redefine that essential objective of NASA. What he was doing was placing his remarks in the context of the speech that President Obama made in Cairo a year earlier, which is to create a different set of relationships with 1.57 billion people in the Muslim world.
HANNITY: You're giving me — that's not what I'm asking. This is not what he said. He said that his "foremost" task — this is the administrator of NASA — the "foremost" task, he said, from the president, was to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more prominently with Muslim nations to help them feel good about their contributions to science. What does that have to do at all with NASA?
RAMEY: Well, what it has to do is creating a different set of relationships with a part of the world that traditionally has not been considered a part of the space-exploration game. And what I'm saying to you is that everyone understands that NASA is essentially a space exploration program.
HANNITY: Yes, exactly. Space exploration. Go to Mars. Go to Venus, the planet of love. Go wherever you want to. Go to the moon — you know, do — somebody is laughing. Daniel, help me out here. It seems to me that the president has taken what was once one of the great American programs and turned it upside his head to advance a political agenda.
DANIEL PIPES, MIDDLE EAST FORUM: And an exceedingly patronizing agenda. The notion that you develop an affirmative action project for Muslims and bring them on, and that, somehow, this will modernize their societies and make them look at the United States more favorably. How patronizing can one get?
You know, in fact, NASA has one extraordinary scientist, famous scientist of Egyptian origin, Farouk El-Baz, who made his name back in the '60s and '70s. And there was no affirmative action for him; he made it on his own. What are we doing? Why are we wrecking this glory of American governmental achievement?
HANNITY: I don't know. Ibrahim, look, I have a hard time with the president's "outreach" to the Muslim community in this way. When he spoke to the Muslim world, he didn't talk about America's contributions to Kuwait. He didn't talk about America's contributions to Kosovo. He didn't talk about America's contributions to Indonesia or Iraq. I don't hear America being praised enough by the Muslim world. Does the Muslim world give America the credit it's due?
RAMEY: I think the Muslim world has a relationship with America that is complex. I think it's changing, and I think it can be improved. But let me also say that, in terms of the NASA comment, it wasn't about changing the mission of NASA or creating some kind of affirmative action program for Muslims, and that's absurd. Anyone who comes into this kind of exploration and this kind of research is going to be scrutinized, is going to be vetted, as they should be.
But the question becomes do you want to have a different relationship in terms of technology and science with 1.57 billion people, including seven or eight million here in the United States who are among the most talented in the engineering community, the medical research community, and the scientific community? I don't that precludes the kind of pluralism that all of us want to see in science. But it does say that Muslims matter and that reaching out to Muslims is important in the larger context.
HANNITY: Daniel, we'll give you the last word.
PIPES: I think I just established that Muslims already are part of NASA. But it is affirmative action [proposed here], although Mr. Ramey calls it absurd. Let me cite a speech that Mr. Bolden gave in Cairo: the president "asked NASA to change … by reaching out to non-traditional partners and strengthening our cooperation in the Middle East, North Africa, Southeast Asia, and in particular in Muslim-majority nations." That sounds like affirmative action to me.
RAMEY: Absolutely not. It has nothing to do with affirmative action.
HANNITY: We're going to have to leave it there.
RAMEY: Just good global politics.