Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

George W. in the Flight Suit: Continuing a Precedent of the first George W.
National Review Online ^ | May 8, 2003 | Gleaves Whitney

Posted on 05/08/2003 7:54:48 AM PDT by xsysmgr

It's driving liberals nuts — the image of President George W. Bush in a flight suit on the deck of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln. There he was, slapping officers on the back, posing for pictures, joking with sailors and aviators. You can bet your bottom dollar these images will be used during the 2004 campaign — they'll make Bush harder to beat. But those who are complaining loudest, who are fixated on the political use of the images, are apparently deaf to their historical resonance.

Historically, Americans tend to elect presidents with military experience, the more heroic the better. Consider:

Of the 42 men who have been president, 27 served in the armed forces (64 percent).
Of the 27 presidents who were in the armed forces, at least 12 served with distinction (Washington, Monroe, Jackson, William Henry Harrison, Taylor, Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Theodore Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and George H. W. Bush).
Of the 12 who served with distinction, at least 8 became heroes in their day. (Most lists would include Washington, Jackson, William Henry Harrison, Taylor, Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and Kennedy.)
The officer corps of the Union Army proved to be a veritable farm club for presidents: five generals (Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, and Benjamin Harrison) and one major (McKinley) ascended to the White House.
This trend of Americans electing commanders-in-chief who have been veterans has strengthened over time. Since World War II, there have been 11 presidents. Ten of them are veterans. The exception: William Jefferson Clinton.

Against this background, liberals are now saying there should be a wall of separation between commanders-in-chief and their prior military experience. Recently the Senate's senior Democrat, Robert Byrd, blasted Bush for flying out to the Lincoln in a fighter jet. He denounced the action as "self-congratulatory" and "flamboyant showmanship." (Byrd is just jealous that Bush's showmanship comes off better than Byrd's in Gods and Generals.)

Over in the House, Rep. Henry Waxman, in flamboyant contradiction to his entire career, is suddenly concerned about government spending: How much did Bush's flight cost the Treasury?

More ominously, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman warns that "Mr. Bush was breaking an important tradition" when he donned a flight suit; that his "Top Gun act" was "scary"; that American presidents just don't wear uniforms or military accoutrements. (Never mind that the president had to wear a flight suit to go up in an S-3B Viking jet, and that after mixing and mingling with the sailors, he got out of his flight suit and put on civilian clothes for his public address.) [posted on FR at Man on Horseback.]

Let's test Krugman's assertion by turning to the greatest authorities in matters presidential, our Founding Fathers. Consider the Father of Our Country. Our nation's first commander-in-chief was certainly alive to the fact that everything he did could set a precedent. Washington was as image conscious as they come. Shortly after the first Inauguration, he wrote: "I walk on untrodden ground. There is scarcely any part of my conduct which may not hereafter be drawn into precedent."

There is no question that Washington was committed to civilian control of the armed forces. He knew that our experiment in self-government could fail if he had a serious lapse of judgment. The new republic could falter if he became militaristic. So how did our image-conscious first president handle his military past? Well, the first thing he did was sport a sword at his inauguration. During a subsequent crisis, he squeezed into his old uniform and met troops on a mission to quell the Whiskey Rebellion. Finally — most brazen of all — he strapped on his sword to address Congress. (Tom Daschle, take note!) None of these sartorial details is conjecture; each of the events is well documented and was illustrated by contemporaries.

By the way, Washington preferred to be addressed as "General," even when he served as president. And his official portrait, by Gilbert Stuart, depicts that same darned sword, his hand on it no less. (Egads!)

Another Founding Father merged the presidency and military in even more dramatic fashion. As Rick Brookhiser points out, during the War of 1812, when the situation looked bleak for Americans, President James Madison rode out to Bladensburg, Maryland, and personally oversaw the early stages of the battle against invading British soldiers. It was the first and only time in U.S. history that a sitting president exercised his constitutional authority in battle. This, mind you, by the Father of Our Constitution.

An interesting aside: not far from Madison at Bladensburg was his secretary of state, James Monroe. The future president donned his old revolutionary uniform to lead troops into battle. To get the full impact of that historical scene, imagine Secretary of State Colin Powell next to President Bush in combat.

There are other instances in which presidential politics mixed with the military, and never did they raise the dust liberals are kicking up today. For example, in June of 1952, when General Eisenhower began to seek the presidency in earnest, he wore his Army uniform and even paid a courtesy call to President Truman in his duds.

In historical perspective, when George W. put on a flight suit to fly out to the Lincoln, he was not creating a precedent; he was continuing one. Admittedly, he has far to go before he matches the specter of the first George. (What is the 21st-century equivalent of strapping on a sword — wielding an M-16?)

On the talk shows, Bush-bashers haven't helped their case any — in fact, they've looked monumentally small. Not one of them has criticized the Democratic politicians who flew out to the Lincoln in a helicopter following the president's visit. (How much did that cost?) Not one of them has said why the president shouldn't act like what the Constitution requires him to be: commander-in-chief. Not one of them has conceded that the attacks on Bush reveal a party in desperation. Last night on MSNBC, Chris Mathews rhetorically asked: "Why are the Democrats so stupid to attack the best presidential picture in years?"

Desperate as liberals are to make President Bush look like a dunce or a danger to the republic, their criticism won't stick. His tail-hook landing on the Lincoln elicited no hue-and-cry from the heartland. On the contrary, the American people were thrilled to see their president give a victory speech to the perfect audience — the people who achieved the victory. Bush genuinely connects with our fighting men and women, and they with him.

That's what galls his detractors. Democrats who distrust the Pentagon, liberals who loathe the military, Bush-bashers who still can't get over Election 2000 — all these types were on the sidelines during a great American moment; they were not at the victory party on the Lincoln. It slays them that this president has come into his own; that he has grown as a leader in the war on terrorism; that his instincts on Iraq were proven right; and that the majority of Americans are behind him. The image on the carrier conveys all that is strong and hopeful and confident in the man.

And it's driving liberals nuts.

Gleaves Whitney is editor of a book of wartime speeches by American presidents, to be published later this year by Rowman & Littlefield.


TOPICS: Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: carrierbush; georgewbush; gleaveswhitney; navyone; usslincoln

1 posted on 05/08/2003 7:54:48 AM PDT by xsysmgr
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: xsysmgr; Howlin
Nice.
2 posted on 05/08/2003 7:56:50 AM PDT by Freedom'sWorthIt
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: xsysmgr
WONDERFUL article!!
3 posted on 05/08/2003 8:01:16 AM PDT by EggsAckley ( Midnight at the Oasis)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: mountaineer; Endeavor; BigWaveBetty; lodwick
A great read
4 posted on 05/08/2003 8:02:13 AM PDT by Iowa Granny
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: xsysmgr
Didn't the Democrats also bitch about a GW photo taken on AF-1 on 9-11. What is their problem? And where is that picture?
5 posted on 05/08/2003 8:05:54 AM PDT by robertpaulsen
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: xsysmgr
I believe it is essential that any of our Commanders'in Chief have some military exerience. I wouldn't vote for anything less. How can one lead if they never followed? It took Clintoon 8 years to salute decently, he never learned to do it correctly. That should tell you how he felt about the military!
6 posted on 05/08/2003 8:05:54 AM PDT by Zavien Doombringer (If I keep my eyes on Jesus, I could walk on water - Audio Adrenaline)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: xsysmgr
"Against this background, liberals are now saying there should be a wall of separation between commanders-in-chief and their prior military experience."

All together now - somebody call a waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaambulance!!!

7 posted on 05/08/2003 8:05:54 AM PDT by Enterprise
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: xsysmgr
Just can't help but to tell the DEMs keep on digging!!! Ya gotta love it
8 posted on 05/08/2003 8:09:16 AM PDT by Toidylop
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: robertpaulsen
I hope the Republicans make 8X10 photos of Bush in the flight suit and posing with the sailors immediately available for party members. And I hope that they use the footage extensively in 2004.
9 posted on 05/08/2003 8:09:51 AM PDT by Enterprise
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: xsysmgr
And it's driving liberals nuts.

Ha Ha!

10 posted on 05/08/2003 8:11:12 AM PDT by Clint N. Suhks
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: xsysmgr
Great article. Bumpity bump!!
11 posted on 05/08/2003 8:14:42 AM PDT by Havoc (If you can't be frank all the time are you lying the rest of the time?)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: xsysmgr
Kennedy lost his boat, he stood a real chance of being severely reprimanded, but of course, dad stepped in.
12 posted on 05/08/2003 8:16:18 AM PDT by pbear8 ( sed libera nos a malo)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Clint N. Suhks
Well, if military service is what the dems need, they got John Heinz Kerry for their front runner!!! They could just save their billions of campaign dollars and put it all into the treasury and cut the deficit...
13 posted on 05/08/2003 8:19:37 AM PDT by princess leah
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: All
Support the President by voting in USAToday's quick poll:
"Should President Bush have made a tailhook landing on the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln?"

http://www.usatoday.com
[scroll down to "Washington" header -- look for the article entitled "Bush's jet landing draws criticism" Vote: Was it justified?]
14 posted on 05/08/2003 8:19:52 AM PDT by DrDeb
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: robertpaulsen
Their problem is that this President just looks SO GOOD!!! When you think of movie stars who've played presidents in recent years (Harrison Ford, Bill Pullman) - they looked good, but W looks BETTER than these movie stars. Not only that, he's the real deal!! He is a pilot, he loves our troops, and they love him!

The Dems are shrieking, screeching hyenas who have totally lost all sense of reality. Look at who they're sending out to criticize - Nostrildamus Waxman, "Sheets" Byrd, Whiny-Voiced Conyers, and Shrieking "Mad Max" Waters. Could they have ever conjured up any less attractive faces to slam our President?

15 posted on 05/08/2003 8:20:16 AM PDT by Inspectorette
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: xsysmgr
I'm waiting for some Democrat to ambiguously link President Bush to a past issue by introducing the term "TAILHOOK" in the outcry.
16 posted on 05/08/2003 8:24:41 AM PDT by Jagdgewehr (save our history)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: xsysmgr
Better a picture of President Bush in his flight suit than a picture of Senator Byrd in his white sheets and conehead hat.
17 posted on 05/08/2003 8:26:42 AM PDT by OldFriend (without the brave, there would be no land of the free)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: KC_Conspirator
This is a good read.
18 posted on 05/08/2003 8:27:19 AM PDT by week 71
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: xsysmgr
Bush qualified as an F-102 aircraft commander in the national guard. Whether or not you think he did the Guard to avoid serving in Vietnam, he's earned and worn a flight suit before.


19 posted on 05/08/2003 8:28:20 AM PDT by pabianice
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: xsysmgr
and more, feminists do not like the re-emergence of the white military male. and, black, latino, asian, males.

they thought they had dispatched macho men after the vietnam war debacle.

and, more, they don't like military women. women who serve in the military do not share feminist ideology.
20 posted on 05/08/2003 8:28:55 AM PDT by liberalnot (what dems fear the most is real democracy.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Enterprise
Demoncrats are complaining about the cost of the flight but how much did we tax payers pay for defending clinton?
21 posted on 05/08/2003 8:29:18 AM PDT by Glacier Honey
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: xsysmgr; Freedom'sWorthIt
I just do NOT understand this separation of the CIC and the POTUS. When did this become an issue?

And how can they forget ALl the other presidents who donned flight jackets.

You should have heard Maxine Waters on MSNBC just now, going on and on about Bush's "custom fitted flight suit."
22 posted on 05/08/2003 8:30:33 AM PDT by Howlin
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: pbear8
Kennedy lost his boat, he stood a real chance of being severely reprimanded, but of course, dad stepped in.

Ambassador Joseph Kennedy not only squelched the board of inquiry that the Navy had in store for JFK, he lobbied to get his son awarded the Navy Cross. The brass decided not to court-martial Lt. Kennedy, but they did knock the medal down to a Navy & Marine Corps Medal -- an award that was regularly given for lifesaving.

23 posted on 05/08/2003 8:32:28 AM PDT by Tallguy
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 12 | View Replies]

To: pbear8
Kennedy lost his boat, he stood a real chance of being severely reprimanded, but of course, dad stepped in.

And let's not forget why JFK got sent to the far reaches of the South Pacific in the first place: He was having sex with a woman who also happened to be a German spy!

24 posted on 05/08/2003 8:33:52 AM PDT by RooRoobird14
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 12 | View Replies]

To: Tallguy
I remember my history teacher in jr. high mention almost under his breath that 'Kennedy wasn't supposed to be there anyway'. I've always wondered whether he meant JFK because of his health or the that his vessel should not have been in that location.
25 posted on 05/08/2003 8:36:12 AM PDT by pbear8 ( sed libera nos a malo)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 23 | View Replies]

To: RooRoobird14
Yes, Hoover didn't like that. Inga Binga alert!
26 posted on 05/08/2003 8:37:05 AM PDT by pbear8 ( sed libera nos a malo)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 24 | View Replies]

To: Glacier Honey
Well, since the RATS are bringing up the cost of this trip, how much did we spend for travel and vacations for Hillary and Chelsea? I heard once it was about 250 million dollars. I thought the Republicans should have made an issue of it at the time, but they didn't.
27 posted on 05/08/2003 8:39:04 AM PDT by Enterprise
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 21 | View Replies]

To: xsysmgr
bump..great dissection of Krugman
28 posted on 05/08/2003 8:39:34 AM PDT by finnman69 (!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: pabianice
Thanks for the pic. You know I get sick and tired of people saying Bush "avoided" service. He could have died in the Texas Air National Guard just the same as if he served in Vietnam.
29 posted on 05/08/2003 8:40:15 AM PDT by Extremely Extreme Extremist
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 19 | View Replies]

To: DrDeb
76.46% Yes

23.54% No

30 posted on 05/08/2003 8:42:56 AM PDT by Enterprise
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 14 | View Replies]

To: Inspectorette
And if Bush looks comfortable in a flight suit, it's because he once wore one on real life. Clinton would have been just fine in a clown suit.
31 posted on 05/08/2003 8:44:44 AM PDT by Enterprise
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 15 | View Replies]

To: DrDeb
"Should President Bush have made a tailhook landing on the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln?"

Pardon me, I was in the Air Force not the Navy, but I have always heard a carrier landing referred to as an "arrested landing" not a "tailhook" landing until Dubya participated in one.

It appears to me that the media is trying to equate the negative connotation from the "Tailhook Scandal" and tie it to our Commander-In-Chief arriving on the USS Abraham Lincoln in style.

Is it just me?

32 posted on 05/08/2003 8:46:11 AM PDT by Yo-Yo
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 14 | View Replies]

To: Jagdgewehr
I read that CNN did a "Tailhook" comment soon after the landing. It is to be expected that the RATS will jump on it as soon as they are faxed their talking points from "Bozo" McAuliffe.
33 posted on 05/08/2003 8:46:38 AM PDT by Enterprise
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 16 | View Replies]

To: xsysmgr
Democrat, Robert Byrd, blasted Bush for flying out to the Lincoln in a fighter jet.

Just shows to go ya, The S-3 is not a fighter jet.

Does Byrd serve in the US senate or what. If he does, he has no idea what he is doing and/or voting for.

34 posted on 05/08/2003 8:51:22 AM PDT by chainsaw
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Extremely Extreme Extremist
Most people don't realize that Bush was at greater risk flying F-102s in the ANG, than Al Gore was as an Army "journalist" in Vietnam. As I recall, young Al never ventured outside the base perimeter; his "tour" was only six months (compared to the normal one year rotation), and he never came remotely close to combat.

Lest anyone doubt that military aviation is dangerous, consider this: Four of my friends--all Air Force pilots--have been forced to eject at least once in their career due to mechanical malfuctions and other mishaps. One of my friends died on a low-level training mission when a flock of birds rose from a swamp and collided with his F-4E. My friend did everything by the book, but he still died because some of the parachute lines from his ejection seat became wrapped around his neck during deployment of the 'chute.

the three other pilots had to eject from F-16s because of mechanical problems. One had an engine explode seconds after takeoff; he got one "swing" in his chute before hitting the ground. Another is now a half-inch shorter because of the 30-G acceleration and compression on his spine during ejection. The other broke his arm after ejecting, when he came down in a forest.

Military aviation is inherently dangerous--even in peacetime. Mr. Bush looks good in a flight suit and G-suit because he's "been there" and understands the risks involved.

Mr. Byrd is certainly one to talk. As I recall, his favorite uniform (at one time) consisted of a sheet and a hood.....

35 posted on 05/08/2003 9:04:00 AM PDT by Spook86
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 29 | View Replies]

To: xsysmgr
Don't cha just love it when the libs get mad? What a hoot!
36 posted on 05/08/2003 9:17:07 AM PDT by Sunshine Sister
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: xsysmgr
During a subsequent crisis, he (Washington) squeezed into his old uniform and met troops on a mission to quell the Whiskey Rebellion.

I doubt President Washington had to do any squeezing to fit into his uniform. Plus, he didn't just meet troops -- he mounted his horse and led them to the Rebellion. Of course, the Rebels gave up once they saw Washington in the flesh.

I'm starting to believe that reading a real biography of George Washington should be a requirement to obtaining the right to vote...

MD

37 posted on 05/08/2003 9:31:58 AM PDT by MikeD (Why yes, I AM a rocket scientist!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: xsysmgr
Of the 42 men who have been president, 27 served in the armed forces (64 percent).

People forget that Abraham Lincoln served as a Captain in the Blackhawk War.

38 posted on 05/08/2003 10:12:38 AM PDT by Mike Darancette (Soddom has left the bunker.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Howlin
It is better to not try to understand these Demoniacs. Their hatred is so vile. Every syllable drips with loathing.

Only the blind fail to see it. But thank you for countering it anyway.

39 posted on 05/08/2003 10:13:20 AM PDT by Freedom'sWorthIt
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 22 | View Replies]

To: Freedom'sWorthIt
You're right, of course. I might hurt my brain.
40 posted on 05/08/2003 10:22:19 AM PDT by Howlin
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 39 | View Replies]

To: Howlin
Yes. But they of course live to hurt us.
41 posted on 05/08/2003 12:30:41 PM PDT by Freedom'sWorthIt
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 40 | View Replies]

To: pabianice
This is not a knock on you, so please do not take offense. But you stated something that has been irking me and that is the implication that people join the reserves and the guard to get out of "real" military service. I highly hate the implication from the liberals in the press that those who join the reserves or guard are cowards. How many of the troops in Iraq are from the reserve? Thousands. I am not of the mind that you had to be in the military to be President. Nothing in the Constitution states such. If the vote was between John McCain and Dan Quayle let's say, I would vote for Quayle. Who has the more authentic military experience? People would say McCaniac but he is an idiot. I do and did find objection to someone who fled this country and protested against us from London and Moscow. We all know whom I am talking about. Getting back to active and reserve service, both are honorable.
42 posted on 05/08/2003 12:48:30 PM PDT by 7thson (I think it takes a big dog to weigh a 100 pounds.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 19 | View Replies]

To: 7thson
This is not a knock on you, so please do not take offense. But you stated something that has been irking me and that is the implication that people join the reserves and the guard to get out of "real" military service. I highly hate the implication from the liberals in the press that those who join the reserves or guard are cowards. How many of the troops in Iraq are from the reserve? Thousands. I am not of the mind that you had to be in the military to be President. Nothing in the Constitution states such. If the vote was between John McCain and Dan Quayle let's say, I would vote for Quayle. Who has the more authentic military experience? People would say McCaniac but he is an idiot. I do and did find objection to someone who fled this country and protested against us from London and Moscow. We all know whom I am talking about. Getting back to active and reserve service, both are honorable.

Disagree about McCain, but am certainly behind the Reserves. I served in the Reserves for 28 years.

pabianice

Commander, US Naval Reserve (Retired)


43 posted on 05/09/2003 6:25:13 AM PDT by pabianice
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 42 | View Replies]

To: xsysmgr
In the words of "Hollywood" to "Maverick" in U.S. Navy Top Gun School in the movie Top Gun,"Gutsiest move I ever saw man."
44 posted on 05/13/2003 11:52:45 AM PDT by Z-28
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson