It's been a while since I said anything about space policy. This is primarily because the whole ball of wax can be summarized as, well, a big fat mess. As many of you are likely aware, I was an avid viewer of the Augustine committee when it was on, all 37+ hours of it, and still think they did a fantastic job with what they had to work with.
However, in retrospect, I think Norm Augustine hit the nail on the head when he started talking about "blue plate" options vs the alternatives that stuck within the existing NASA budget. I bet if they had to do it all over again they would have changed the balance to include more of the affordable options and less of the blue plate options.
Perhaps they could have worked out the completion dates and total prices of the various components of Constellation program under the "restricted" budget (aka, the "real" budget) including the options of splashing the ISS in 2015 and without. As Augustine himself said "ongoing programs should only be changed for compelling reasons".
From there they could have easily made the case that doing the booster and the capsule before starting work on the lander was a prudent course of action, and suggest the missions that could be done in that time.
The policy makers would have clearly gotten the message that the Flexible Path isn't an alternative to surface operations, but a prelude.
Commercial crew would not have been seen as a threat to the "government option" but as an enabler to moving budget away from routine servicing of LEO and into the exploration architecture.
And technology development could have taken its rightful place as the great hope that the exploration architecture could someday be accelerated from its plodding schedule.
But, as they say, hindsight is 20/20.