Friday, May 2
Bush's Top Gun Photo-Op
David Corn, The Nation, May 1, 2003

Winning a war or two goes a long way toward redefining a man.

As the cable news networks enthusiastically covered George W. Bush's trip to the USS Abraham Lincoln--cool military hardware, guys in uniforms, the Big Man, and a touch of can-anything-go-wrong drama--there were plenty of references to Bush's days in the Texas Air National Guard, when he flew F-102 fighter jets. (Well, sort of--but we'll get to that.) [...]

... But could Bill Clinton--even in a similar situation--have gotten away with joy-riding a S-3B Viking aircraft onto a carrier for a mega-photo-op without commentators reminding viewers of his sly draft-dodging ways?

Bush looked quite heroic--so Tom Cruise-ish--hopping out of that plane dressed in a flight suit and striding across the flight deck. What imagery. This entire trip was only about imagery. He flew out to the Lincoln to announce that the major combat operations are done. What a news flash. Who didn't know that? And he could not have made such an announcement from Washington? Bush did not even plan to say that the war was officially over, because then Geneva Accords provisions pertaining to occupation would kick in and impose obligations upon the United States, such as releasing POWs. So what really was the point? Could it have been to score free television time during an hour that tends to draw one of the biggest viewing audiences of the week?

Bush's communications people just so happened to have scheduled his Lincoln speech for the time slot usually inhabited by CSI on CBS and Will & Grace on NBC. Last week, these two shows attracted 43 million viewers. Bush's primetime one-on-one with Tom Brokaw earlier this week only drew an audience of 9 million and lost out to an America's Funniest Home Videos rerun featuring dog tricks. (A nod of thanks to Lisa de Moraes, The Washington Post's television columnist for pointing this out.)
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