April 28th, 2009
11:33 AM ET
6 years ago

Former Bush aide: Plane photo-op was 'felony stupidity'

(CNN) – A former homeland security adviser to President George W. Bush is slamming the decision by an Obama White House official to use lower Manhattan as the location for a low-flying presidential plane photo-op.

Francis Townsend, a CNN security contributor, called the fly-over "crass insensitivity" Tuesday on CNN's American Morning. "And, frankly, as I would say as a former prosecutor, I would call this felony stupidity," the lawyer and former Bush homeland security adviser added.

Townsend also suggested that Louis Caldera, the Director of the White House Military Office, may not be fit to continue serving in the Obama administration.

"What makes this almost more disturbing is the fact that that's the office responsible for the movement of the president and his staff in a time of emergency," Townsend told Kiran Chetry. "So, of course, the most important thing is that the person leading it has good judgment. . . . at its best this is bad judgment. This is probably not the right job for Mr. Caldera to be in if he didn't understand the likely reaction of New Yorkers."

"This was not necessary," Townsend added. "If you needed pictures of Air Force One over a national icon, fly it over the Grand Canyon. But flying it over lower Manhattan, which to many of us is a sacred ground now where we lost thousands of Americans, I just think it wrong."

Caldera issued a statement Monday evening regarding the fly-over. "[I]t's clear that the mission created confusion and disruption," he said. "I apologize and take responsibility for any distress that flight caused."

President Obama was reportedly furious after learning that a plane in his fleet was flown over the same vicinity as the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

At a press conference Monday afternoon, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg also criticized the flight and said had he known of the White House's plan, he would have asked that the flight not take place.

UPDATED 11:33 a.m.: President Obama said Tuesday the fly-over incident "was a mistake." "It will not happen again," the president also said.

Full story

soundoff (329 Responses)
  1. Steve, Columbia SC

    And for all of you left-wing extremists, what we have here is equal opportunity stupidity.

    April 28, 2009 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  2. Nero

    It's a bird; it's a plane, it's a Presidential plane. What's the big deal? People were made so scared while Dick Cheney and Bush were in office that they react to a fly by like the end of time came without being informed.

    Anyone looking up would have known it's one of the planes used by the President. How in God's name would a terrorist get hold of that plane is beyond me. Too much fear and making a mountain out of a mole hill.

    April 28, 2009 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  3. zzzippper

    Photoshop guys, Photoshop!

    April 28, 2009 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  4. Pattii

    I live right outside of DC – work close to the Pentagon and we have had photo ops with large planes and fighters, just like in NY. Now, it was annonced on TV and the newspaper that it would happen, but I am sure not everybody saw it, and I don't think anybody got frantic. We looked up and admired the planes.

    April 28, 2009 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  5. patticake

    MISSION ACCOMPLISHED..........now that was something stupid!
    people need to get over themselves and stop whining about everything and anything that the democratic party does.
    the republicans are making fools of themselves and i am sure the world around us is laughing at the stupidity of their ignorant actions on everything the president does or says.
    the republican party will never become a leadership party as long as this nonsense continues.
    republicans lost the election ,it is time they realized this and shut up!!

    April 28, 2009 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  6. John

    They freak over this, but have no reaction to real threats from the Bushies like torture, financial incompetence, doing away with Constitutional rights for all Americans, especially minorities, on and on and on. Get a life. How long will New Yorkers play out the victim role for 9/11? It's over. Relax and pay attention to today's REAL threats! Don't give "enemies" the satisfaction of reacting!

    April 28, 2009 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  7. Ron - Fort Worth

    I think the fly by and photo op was a great idea, but poorly planned. Air Force One and the Statue of Liberty would make a very patriotic photo. Add in some air force jets, and it's the spirit of America. However, New Yorkers should have been advised. This should have been promoted in a positive way, and people would have enjoyed watching it....felt that tinge of patriotism.

    April 28, 2009 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  8. William

    Agreed that someone used bad judgment, but the former security person is using equally bad judgment in her wording. Get a life, lady!

    April 28, 2009 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  9. Mike

    Relax and chill people. They accomplished what they intended, made you scared. The media which is influenced by the government continues to hammer down upon us all the negative's and not the positive. Look at the terror going on in other countries, we don't have those problems here thanks to the Bush Admin. Did anything happen? Then drop it and move on to more important issues like homelessness in the United States or something.

    April 28, 2009 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  10. Photo ops is the Democratic central platform

    Looking good – speaking good – photo ops - television shows – [ress conferences - negative ads - radio addresses – overseas junkets – this is the hallmark signature of the Oblamo Administration – Tax, borrow, and spend the nation into oblivion.

    Long live Comrade Obama and the Socialist States of America

    April 28, 2009 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  11. Kathy

    I am a Dem but this was stupid. I two hours from NYC and lost friends on 9/11. The guy from NM has no clue therefore no credibility. New Yorkers are the most resilient but yesterday's display was irresponsible, insensitive, moronic, idiotic and so on. The more I see of this administration and what it does or doesnt do scares me that I made the wrong pull on election day. I cant help but think all we did was elect a rock star and his roadies. I hope stuff like this and empty cabinet positions arent just the beginning of something worst for me and my kids.

    April 28, 2009 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  12. Tracy

    You know, when the feds notified the NY authorities about the plans for this photo op, did they mention "hey, that might not be a good idea, it could scare a lot of folks who where there on 9/11"? And to you foks who think that the President knows of EVERY activity that goes on at the White House, you're delusional. Y'all were saying that the President doesn't know every detail when Reagan's staff was selling arms to an enemy of the state to circumvent Congress, so how is it different now?

    April 28, 2009 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  13. Manny

    Ms. Townsend, mmm, Worked in Bush White House. Sure you should call for all responsible job, or maybe we aught to "Torture" them first. That's more your speed.

    Given what went on the past eight years, isn't this a case of "The pot calling the Kettle black"? (No racial intent) Bush made mistakes, everyone makes mistakes. A few people scared, which "SUCKS" to say the least, let's get over it.

    By the way weren't a White House lawyer, mmm, Torture???

    April 28, 2009 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  14. Dan, TX

    This was very stupid. I wish the guy would resign. But, he is certainly learning a lesson he won't soon forget.

    April 28, 2009 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  15. Fan of Common Sense

    Why would anyone expect anything BUT stupidity from this administration?

    April 28, 2009 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  16. nel

    This was a mistake plain and simple. Even though he did alert a few officials, it was insensive and the people of New York deserved an apology. Having said that, how many of us would be out of a job if we were fired for making a mistake? She needs to calm down and stop trying to make everything a political issue. And just as a side note, one can only assume that "fella from Chicago"and "Kathy" pray their daily prayers to Obama since they insist on calling him the holy one and messiah. I on the other pray my prayers to Jesus. President Obama is my president, not my God......we Americans pray for him; not to him. Your ignorance is appalling.

    April 28, 2009 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  17. Tracy

    You know, when the feds notified the NY authorities about the plans for this photo op, did they mention "hey, that might not be a good idea, it could scare a lot of folks who where there on 9/11″? And to you folks who think that the President knows of EVERY activity that goes on at the White House, you're delusional. Y'all were saying that the President doesn't know every detail when Reagan's staff was selling arms to an enemy of the state to circumvent Congress, so how is it different now?

    April 28, 2009 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  18. Michael

    Funny, had it been F-16s there would have not been an uproar. Instead they're upset because Air Force One, one of the most recognizable aircraft in the world flew too low? Puhlease...

    April 28, 2009 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  19. geecee

    Oh, one more comment to the Republicans. Any deaths reported due to this flyover incident? Anyone report a heart attack, even? If not, then we have to go back to the Iraqi War which you want to justify by saying Saddam Hussein killed thousands of his people who disagreed with him, so we had to take the guy out. Warlords in Africa have been killing millions of their people, since forever, so why aren't we over there starting wars. These guys use machetes. We could have easily overtaken African tyrrants, but, Bush didn't care about those people. He only cared about Iraqis?? Does "oil" make sense to anyone out there?

    April 28, 2009 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  20. Julia Smith

    What's with the name calling??? Are they so lacking in social graces that they can't make an opposing statement that dosen't sound like 3rd graders on a playground???

    I for one am sick and tired of holding New Yorkers' hand. It's time to put on your Big Girl and Big Boy panties and show some grit. Do they all sleet with nite lights and Teddy Bears? As a country we are truly trying to do everthing to see that 9/11 dosen't happen again.

    So stop whinning and join the rest of the nation all of you , Republicians, NY citizens, NY Senators, NY Mayor, and NY Representatives!!!!

    April 28, 2009 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  21. andrew s. rostolder

    being a bush aid was felony stupidity...........

    April 28, 2009 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  22. Albert Kong

    With the present economic and environmental situation to waste tons of jet fuel for a photo opportunity is not acceptable. Not to mention the strange choice of location. Obama would understand this clearly.

    I think someone is trying to embarrass the new President, perhaps covertly. They should get bto the bottom of this quickly.

    April 28, 2009 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  23. J.C.

    It takes a genius to come up with a plan of flying a jet at that low altitude over NYC for a photo-op. What is CG for these days? No wonder President Obama is furious.

    April 28, 2009 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  24. Bryan in Texas

    It's easy to figure out. Of course they thought of alerting the public about this photo op. They chose not to because it would jeopardize the aircraft by announcing where it would be at a specific time.

    April 28, 2009 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  25. Barry

    "Sacred ground" is a stupid answer in itself. The real reason for not allowing such a flight is that this would alarm a great many people in Manhattan. At the very least prior warnings should have been up in the city and Mayor Bloomberg should have been told.

    April 28, 2009 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
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