Mar 30 2015 President Obama loves America -- just not the way Richard Shelby does

Sen. Richard Shelby isn't about to go creeping way out there on a shaky, rhetorical limb, like former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani did in his attack on President Obama.

"He said he didn't think the president loved America," Shelby said. "Well, I think he loves America."

Then, with only a slight pause, Shelby said, "But I don't think he loves America probably the way I do or maybe the way you do."

That collective "you" was Monday's audience at Shelby's annual Washington Update breakfast at Huntsville's Von Braun Center.

It was ostensibly a non-partisan event, yet obviously populated by more conservatives. And Shelby, the 80-year-old who looks cast by Hollywood for the role of senior senator from Alabama as much as elected for the job, seemed oblivious at times that it wasn't a Republican pep rally.

The "update" from Washington, in case you missed last November's election returns, is that the GOP has 54 seats in the Senate "and that's a heck of a lot better than 45, isn't it?" Shelby said. "We also picked up some House seats, which padded that majority. We need more there.

"What we need more, I believe, than anything comes up in 2016. (That) is another Republican president of the United State of America."

Cue applause. Enthusiastic, but not thunderous.

"You'll have more certainty in national security issues," Shelby continued. "You'll have more certainty in the marketplace. You'll have more security in banking regulations. You'll have a lot more certainty, I believe, in the future of America and where we're going."

After his 6 ½ minute speech, Shelby fielded some questions, including one specific to the race.

"I don't know what's going to happen," he said. "I believe if the Republicans could nominate somebody that would reach out and build a big tent and at the same time keep the conservative wing, we've got a good chance to win the presidency. Will it happen? Gosh, I don't know."

On the subject of uncertainty, he wasn't sure what to call the Democratic frontrunner.

"Senator Clinton, former Secretary of State Clinton, Hillary Clinton, whatever, I believe she's got some real problems," Shelby said. "The Clintons are good politicians. Bill is superb. But if we nominate a strong candidate, not a fringe candidate, I believe in '16 we've got a good chance."

This would not be a Washington politician visit to Huntsville without the assurances that NASA and military budgets are somewhat more important than air and water. And if you don't love NASA and the military, well, you just don't love America.

Shelby gave the old "keep it going" encouragement, and the promise to help fight that good fight.

"You're on the cutting edge. I like what you're doing here," he said. "I have worked with you and I will continue to work for the presence here. We sell the presence here not because I'm from Alabama and because I care about what goes on here. It has to be part of the national security chain."

Shelby is chairman of the appropriations subcommittee for NASA's budget and "when NASA is funded, Huntsville know it."

After his speech, Shelby was asked what direction he'd like to see NASA take.

"That's up to NASA. They have to stay on the cutting edge of technology," he said. "They have been and they've led the world. That's NASA. So many things have come out of the space program that have benefitted mankind and all of us.

"But there's some fighting inside NASA (about) what do you want to do and how do you want to do it. Ultimately, it's going to be what do we fund and how do we do it."

Only a cynic would suggest there was not much certainty in that response.