Bill Nye was the forty-fourth President of the United States of America. The Democratic nominee in 2004, he defeated Republican candidate Jack Kemp in a close and controversial election, receiving 270 electoral votes and 64,000,000 popular votes. His policies included expansion of the Air Force and Navy, an increase in NASA funding, a broad military research and development program, and greater federal funding of education. On May 5, 2006, he resigned amid sweeping allegations of a campaign finance scandal, having been impeached by the House on account of corruption, perjury, and obstruction of justice, with conviction by the Senate pending. Some critics of his administration accuse that he received illicit campaign funds, outside the purview of the FEC, from military contractors including Boeing and Lockheed Martin, and that he launched new military programs and contracts as "political favors" to secure additional funding in the 2008 election; spokesmen for his administration continue to deny these charges.
Career Prior to Presidency
Born to Edwin Nye, a veteran of the Second World War, Bill graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering from Cornell University in 1977. He worked as an employee at Boeing in the late 1970s, developing new hydraulic components for the 747; recognized for his work, he became an engineering consultant for the aeronautics industry, working closely with engineers in Boeing and Airbus. In 1984, he became an employee for the Department of Defense, designing critical infrastructure in the F-15E Strike Eagle; well-respected for his work on the project, he was promoted to membership in the Scientific Advisory Board for the Air Force in 1988, becoming Chief Scientist of the Air Force in 1991, supervising the deployment of new weapons systems (especially the Tomahawk Missile) in the Kuwait War. He then ascended the ladder of the DOD, becoming Undersecretary of Defense for Technology and Logistics in 1993, Deputy Secretary of Defense in 1995, and Secretary of Defense in 1996, under President Bill Clinton. During his years with the DOD, Nye emphasized the importance of high-quality engineering over quantity, maintaining strong research and development programs (even after the end of the Cold War), and integrating new weapons systems and innovative logistics effectively into military policy.
Under the Bob Dole administration, Nye built up political capital with the Democratic Party, frequently interacting with congressmen to secure the DOD budget and agenda. Dole and Nye diverged on policy, being members of different political parties; in 2002, Nye resigned as Secretary of Defense, announcing his intentions to run against the Republicans in the 2004 presidential election. After the Dick Durbin Affair, which saw Democratic Speaker of the House Dick Durbin embroiled in a controversy involving insider trading, Nye became the prime candidate in the Democratic primaries, nominated in 2004. After a close and controversial election, he defeated Republican Jack Kemp and secured the presidency.
2004 Election Campaign
Nye's resignation speech as the Secretary of Defense in May of 2002 created waves, as he outlined the failures of the isolationist Dole administration in funding military innovation and ensuring national security. During his time as Secretary, Nye had built connections with many pro-military Democrats in Congressional leadership, and was considered a powerful member of both the pro-military and pro-science wings of the Democratic party. Nonetheless, he was not considered a serious contender in the 2004 election, as Speaker of the House Dick Durbin (an isolationist who disagreed with Nye on defense policy) was considered the main opponent of Dole. However, the Dick Durbin Affair, which saw Durbin's campaign destroyed due to an insider trading scandal in early 2004, paved the way for Nye to seek the Democratic nomination.
Bill Nye had created a presidential exploratory committee in June of 2002, by which time he was supported by several pro-military Democratic congressmen. After obtaining the nomination the following year, he obtained over 600 million dollars in election funds from military contractors including Boeing and Lockheed Martin, almost half of which may have been laundered outside the purview and authority of the Federal Election Commission. Winning 271 electoral votes, and 49.2% of the popular vote, Nye won an extremely close and controversial election, defeating Republican nominee Jack Kemp.
Major Policy Decisions
American Innovation for Prosperity Act President Nye's broad campaign platform in 2004 was ensuring that American innovation, scientific research, and techical creativity remained the highest of any nation on Earth; he planned to sponsor the "American spirit of invention" primarily through military research and development programs. The American Innovation for Prosperity Act was passed in July of 2005 following bipartisan efforts within the pro-military wings of the Democratic and Republican parties, winning 245 votes in the House and 51 in the Senate. The Act called for a "trickle-down" effect whereby new military technologies and infrastructure would eventually allow for benefits for civilian science, technology, and engineering. Additionally, the Act invoked partnerships between the public and private sector, allowing private corporations and contractors to expand their involvement in military R&D, especially within the infamous Infitech Program. A 100 billion USD annual R&D package resulted from the Act.
Infitech Program Perhaps the most infamous facet of Nye's presidency, the Infitech Program was a public-private partnership for weapons development and defense research in the Department of Defense, amounting to nearly 30 billion USD in annual funding. In addition to military R&D, the project was supposed to lead to innovation in the civilian sector through basic research and scientific infrastructure; it was one of the key points of the American Innovation for Prosperity Act. Nye, who left the position for Secretary of Defense vacant after pressuring the resignation of Dole appointee Anthony Zinni, essentially ran the Department of Defense himself and directly oversaw the implementation of Infitech, a key point in the investigation following the Infigate Scandal. In 2006, it emerged that Infitech management provided favorable treatment and closed, no-bid contracts to Boeing and Lockheed Martin at the expense of the taxpaying public; it was alleged that these same contractors funded Nye's campaign illegally in 2004.
Brighter Future for American Children Act The other central part of Nye's platform, the Brighter Future for American Children Act saw grealy increased federal funding for education, amounting to an additional 50 billion USD per year. Passed by the Senate in March of 2004, the plan met with wide bipartisan support. Nye specifically wanted "a computer in every classrom", and used the additional funding largely for introducing electronics, educational software, and internet infrastructure (including high-bandwidth wi-fi access) to American public schools. Additionally, the Act discouraged the teaching of creationism and "intelligent design" in schools, and expanded the curriculum requirements for STEM fields. A highly controverisal component required public high schools receiving government funds to employ military recruiters; this alienated some anti-war and isolationist members of the Democratic and Republican parties.
In addition, Nye decreased the size of the American Army and ground forces, compensating for a broad expansion of the Navy and Air Force; he wished to create "a truly advanced national defense befitting the twenty-first century". The President also oversaw an expansion of NASA and space funding, some of which was encapsulated within the Infitech Program.
Since leaving office, Nye was pardoned of all charges by Maria Cantwell. Due to his unpopularity and public status, he continues to receive Secret Service protection. Nonetheless, he continues to seek the limelight, and remains strongly in the public eye. He has strongly supported Cantwell's campaign in 2008 and Jennifer Griffith's election in 2012, and personally funded the Democratic Party as well. He has become an Internet celebrity and comedian since his resignation, and his YouTube channel possesses nearly 30 million subscribers. Despite his broad attempts to remain politically active, the vast majority of prominent officials in Congress have distanced themselves from him. Dennis Hastert controversially called him a "joke" and "laughable politician", and commented that "this Internet comedian fancies himself still a powerful opponent to my administration. He should take that up with his friends at Boeing", referencing the Infigate scandal.
Today, Nye lives on a ranch in southern Vermont, where he continues to post videos to his YouTube channel.