Brian Micklethwait tries to figure it out. I think he’s overthinking it, myself. I agree with this commenter:
Obama doesn’t believe in space exploration and doesn’t care about it. He is uninterested. Therefore he doesn’t attempt to manage it or fix it the only way he knows – by state management. He is willing to leave it alone, to ignore it, to stay away from it. He cares about social policy (“spreading the wealth”) – space has nothing to do with this. It’s not his cup of tea.
It doesn’t really matter. The policy is what it is. Now we have to fight to get it implemented, and unfortunately, that means (ironically) a fight with people who should be supporting it if they were true to their own principles.