Please look at this photo. (It’s also the one right above this.) I have been thinking about it since last night. It’s Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) wearing a Navy bomber jacket with a Florida patch on the left and a gator patch on the right.
New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman said of the photo: “Many Republicans texting me scratching their heads about this,” though she did not clarify if the head-scratching was about the jacket, or the choice to run the ad in Ohio, which suggests loftier ambitions than remaining governor of the Sunshine State (where he is currently running for reelection).
That image comes from a new campaign ad released Monday in which DeSantis very unsubtly references his service in the Navy, attempting to capitalize on the popularity of the military-propaganda-but-somehow-still-feel-good-romp that is Top Gun: Maverick. He appears on what’s supposed to be a naval base, wearing the bomber jacket before changing into a flight suit and sitting in a plane plastered with the name “Top Gov.”
The Top Gun films are famously about elite Navy fighter pilots. The thing about DeSantis’s service is that he was a LAWYER.
DeSantis shared few details about his military career while campaigning for governor in 2018, but the Florida Phoenix filed a public information request and learned that he “served as a prosecutor, defense attorney, international law attorney and a Judge Advocate General’s Corps Officer.” Yes, JAG, like the TV show. The records also show that DeSantis’s duties also included being a physical fitness coordinator, a recruiting officer, an assistant urinalysis coordinator (a program related to drug screening), and an awards officer.
However, there are an estimated 1.5 million veterans living in Florida and DeSantis would very much like them to think he was a big boy flying fighter jets.
The fact that DeSantis was a lawyer not a pilot hasn’t stopped the campaign from splashing the insipid theme from all over his website. (Here’s an archived link for posterity.) There’s even a photo of him sitting in the cockpit. He’s also selling “Top Gov” merchandise, including a bumper sticker that reads, unironically, “Highway to the Freedom Zone” and yes, the gator patch, which is emblazoned with the words “let us alone, keep Florida free.” Yes, bans on abortion, transgender health care, and mere mentions of sexual orientation really scream “freedom.”
We await to see if he’ll grow a mustache next.