President Walter Mitty, U.S.N.

George Bush’s decision to use an entire carrier battle group as a campaign prop — and his staff’s decision to lie about it — seems to be attracting some flack: not merely from such obvious sources as Tapped, but from Glenn Reynolds and Andrew Sullivan as well.

One obvious point I haven’t seen anyone make: Bush wasn’t trained to fly Navy aircraft, so we need to hope that his claim to have been “flying” the plane was largely hyperbolic. Moreover, unless the co-pilot is strictly decorative, sending the plane up with Bush in the second seat took a small, but entirely needless, risk.

But the most astonishing feature of the whole affair is that no one that I’ve seen — and certainly not the allegedly liberal New York Times, either in its news story or its editorial — mentioned the fact that Bush’s previous spell of military flying ended with his going AWOL. Can you imagine all the “draft-dodger” remarks we would have heard if Clinton had pulled a similar stunt?

And they wouldn’t have come only from his political opponents or from columnists, either; news reporters would have written leads reading “President Bill Clinton, whose successful attempt to avoid service in Vietnam has dogged his political career today flew co-pilot…” Bush’s Teflon coating seems to be even thicker than Reagan’s.

Update Paul Krugman stepped up to the plate on this; why hasn’t John Kerry?

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