Romney's Airplane Jitters

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THE STUMP APRIL 9, 2012

Romney's Airplane Jitters

I've been offline most of the day on a cross-country flight (fittingly enough), so apologies if the point has already been made. But this detail from this weekend's Times profile of Romney's body-man, Garrett Jackson, struck me as not-at-all flattering to the presumed nominee. I'm frankly shocked that Jackson confirmed it:  

Mr. Jackson, a University of Mississippi graduate and a licensed pilot, was applying to the Air Force’s officer training school when he took the job with Mr. Romney.

Mr. Jackson once acted as co-pilot for a flight Mr. Romney was taking in a four-seat plane from Connecticut to Boston, and has been known on turbulent flights to reassure Mr. Romney, whom he described as “not the most confident flier, let’s put it that way.”

Suffice it to say, someone who gets jumpy at signs of turbulence isn't exactly the guy you want with his finger on the button. The literal and figurative implications are a bit damning, I think. Just look at the mythology (whether wholly manufactured or reality-based) that's surrounded previous presidential nominees and airplanes. When Obama's campaign plane suffered some mid-air mechanical problems in 2008, the candidate naturally portrayed himself as unfazed by the development (which turned out to be much more serious than anyone realized at the time). We of course heard nonstop tales (most of them apparently true) of John McCain's airborne exploits. In 2003, the White House went to great lengths to show George W. Bush as the fighter pilot he once imagined himself to be. ("...when Mr. Bush popped out of the plane--which he had briefly flown with a Navy pilot by his side--with the jaunty walk of an airman..." went this Times account.) Bush's 2004 opponent, John Kerry, also played up his piloting adventures. His friends and family members invariably talked up his calm amid the bumpiest clouds. 

I don't begrudge Romney his squeamishness--I'm no fan of sudden losses of altitude myself. But, then, I'm not trying to situate myself in a long line of presidential sky cowboys. Nor, for that matter, am I trying to persuade people I can keep it together during a crisis. What was Jackson thinking? 

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posted in: the stump, politics, boston, air force, university of mississippi, connecticut, mississippi, garrett jackson, george w. bush, john mccain, romney, w. bush

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