Commander in chief? McCain didn’t even make admiral.

… and his campaign is lying about it.

It has seemed to me for a long time as if the definitive opinion about John McCain’s fitness for a major leadership role had been delivered by his superiors in the Navy: the son and grandson of four-star admirals, who elected to stay in the Navy for three years after his return from captivity, never made admiral. No doubt the selection board would have stretched every possible point for an ex-POW with McCain’s pedigree. “Commander-in-chief test,” my eye! The Navy didn’t even want to trust him with a carrier battle group.

Having said that to a few people, I was chagrined to see an article in the New York Times saying that I was wrong: McCain had in fact been offered an admiral’s star, but turned it down to go into politics.

Therefore, I am un-chagrined to note that what the Times said almost certainly wasn’t true. The source of the original story was John Lehman, who as Reagan’s Navy Secretary was known as “the fool of ships” and who is now on the McCain national security team. The story cites two admirals as confirming the account, but withholds their names. Jeffrey Klein of HuffPo finds people who are willing to have their names used who say it ain’t so, and notes that it is inconsistent with McCain’s own contemporaneous account. He also points out that if the decision had been made to promote McCain, that decision would have had to leave a paper trail in his service record, the release of which is entirely under McCain’s control.

I hope David Kirkpatrick of the Times will either defend his reporting or retract the story.

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: