With the polls reflecting the presidential race tightening in key battleground states, Team Obama has had to play more defense in the last week.

The public relations disaster began with vice president Joe Biden's incredibly stupid "chains" speech before a room full of African Americans late last week in Virginia. After the Obama campaign gave Biden the weekend off, Obama campaigners were looking for things to calm down on Sunday but then Newsweek hit the newsstands. The cover shows Obama, jacket slung over the shoulder, accompanied by the headline "Hit the Road" and the subheadline "Why we need a new president."

In the critical piece, author Niall Ferguson points out Obama's failure to produce on the promises he made in his 2009 inaugural address. Americans had high hopes four years ago but Obama has failed in his pledge "not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth," Ferguson said. He notes, however, that unfulfilled hopes can be seen everywhere an economic "recovery" struggling at half speed, high unemployment, and debt on an explosive growth path.

But in our eyes, the most damaging remarks about this president came later in the week from Apollo astronaut Gene Cernan, one of the most revered and respected persons in our lifetime and in American society today. The son of a Slovak father and a Czech mother, Cernan was selected among the third group of NASA astronauts by NASA to participate in the Gemini and Apollo programs and as the commander of Apollo 17, was the last man to walk on the moon.

Cernan told Neil Cavuto of Fox News that he was disheartened and disappointed in the decisions made by the Obama administration concerning the space program. Cernan and fellow Apollo astronauts Neil Armstrong, the first moonwalker, and Jim Lovell, have been passionate about preserving this nation's legacy in space. Cernan believes that the defunding of NASA by this administration puts America on a "slide toward mediocrity" and relegates it to a backseat role among world superpowers when it comes to space travel and exploration.

"I don't think (Obama) understands what America (is) and what the traditions have been, and what being the leader of the free world has meant to the people of this country," Cernan said. "We have unique and special things that other countries don't have because of what we have been for the last 230-some-odd years."

Fifty years ago, Americans felt inspired by the words of President John Kennedy who pledged that our nation would land a man on the moon by the end of the decade of the 1960s. Many of the America's greatest minds accepted that challenge and put the ball over the goal line by landing a man on the moon during the summer of 1969.

Now, this president is ignoring that vision and the men who drove this country to one of its proudest moments the conquest of space. Obama's abandonment of "hope" in American ingenuity regarding space travel can be summed up in a memorable quote Sen. Lloyd Bentsen gave during his 1988 vice presidential debate with Dan Quayle. Instead of the word Senator, just substitute the name Barack Obama and it becomes relevant today.

"I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy."

By Jim Zbick

jzbick@tnonline.com