Why did Lt. Bush stop flying?

George W. Bush, having taken flight training that cost the military something like a million dollars to provide, skipped his flight physical in May of 1972 and never flew again. He has never answered the question why he did so, except with the transparent lie that he was in Alabama and his physician was back in Texas. (It’s a transparent lie, that is, to anyone who knows that flight physicals, even flight physicals for Congressmen’s sons, are performed by military flight surgeons, not by private physicians.)

Scott McClellan, in the course of an extended display of world-class flummery as he attempted to dance around the question of why the White House was welsching on the President’s promise to Tim Russert to release all of his military records, engaged in the following colloquy:

Q I do want to know the facts, which is why I keep asking the question. And I’ll ask it one more time. Where was he in December of ’72, February and March of ’73? Why didn’t he fulfill the medical requirements to remain on active flight duty status in 1972?

MR. McCLELLAN: The President recalls serving both when he was in Texas and when he was in Alabama. And that is what I can tell you. And we have provided you these documents that show clearly that the President of the United States fulfilled his duties. And that is the reason that he was honorably discharged from the National Guard. The President was proud of his service.

The President spent some of that time in Texas. He was a member of the Texas Air National Guard, and he was given permission, on a temporary basis, to perform equivalent duty while he was in Alabama. And he performed that duty. And the payroll records, that I think are very important for the public to have, clearly reflect that he served.

Note that McClellan doesn’t even pretend to attempt to answer the question: What caused Lt. Bush to stop flying?

The entire exchange is worth reading. The only question now is one of will: Either McCellan will get tired of stonewalling before the reporters get tired of asking the question, or the other way around.

To my knowledge, no news organization has yet submitted to the White House a FOIA request and a filled-in copy of the Privacy Act waiver for the President to sign or refuse to sign.

(Note: According to Walter Robinson of the Boston Globe, the records released by the White House show that Bush failed to fulfill the minimum duty requirement for a Guardsman: he served 25 days, compared to a minimum was 39.)

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com