April 28th, 2009
11:33 AM ET
5 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. laurie, Michigan

    I agree it was the height of stupidity, but at least put the blame where it belongs. Good grief, this Obama, Republican bashing is way out of hand. How about the mayor of New York's underlings that didn't bother to tell Bloomberg about it? They were informed so they should share some of the blame here. Maybe some heads should roll both in the DOD and mayor's office.

    April 28, 2009 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  2. Lori in St Pete

    While this wasn't the best move, it seems that there was a communication breakdown. The appropriate authorities were notified. How they chose to diseminate the information was on them. If they chose to not notify the general public, they must have had a reason (security concerns perhaps?). But that anyone from the bush misadministration would call it "felony stupid" is just pathetic on their part.

    April 28, 2009 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  3. K

    Sadly, I think this shows the attitude of most of the people who were not in NYC or DC on 9/11/2001... it's just a date that caused alot of inconvenience and nothing more.

    April 28, 2009 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  4. Yuanwu

    NYPD officials and bureaucrats never told Mayor Bloomberg. Maybe the Federal Government was testing the NYPD, to see if it's loyalties were with the Federal Government or NY.

    April 28, 2009 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  5. Ken

    Remember, all you neo-idiots out there, it is YOU who support the attitude that if a president does it, it is by definition not criminal.....so it should be but a small step for you to accept that if a president does it, it is by definition not stupid.

    There is no question that this incident was: bad/stupid/unnecessary/you-choose-the-word......but it is downright hypocritical for a Bush administration official, of all people, to claim that he can now recognize criminal stupidity in the current administration, after IGNORING or even TAKING PART in the abject and continual stupidity coming out of the Bush admistration.

    The amount of delusion and hypocrisy it takes to be a card carrying GOPer these day is just stunning.

    April 28, 2009 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  6. thanks, but no thanks

    It is kind of funny having this type of outrage. No one here is giving president credits for admitting as an adult that it was a mistake. Now, when ex-president Bush was asked if he did any mistake during his presidency, he could not come up with one. And, we all know what the final results of such behavior were. l agree with what the person did was stupid, yet for people to be up in arm for this, l think is hypocrisy. Where were you people when we went to an unjust war, which cost us billions and thousands of life. l bet none of you raised your voice in dissent. Shame on us. CNN stop moderating my remarks forever.

    April 28, 2009 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  7. Bob

    THIS administration does not make mistakes! I'm sure there was a good reason for this fly-over. Obama and God work in mysterious ways. You guys can't comprehend the benefit of what he does. It wasn't stupid, it was brilliant!!!

    April 28, 2009 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  8. RSR

    Obama said "it was a mistake, it won't happen again". Obama and this administration has been a mistake. Obama has used more 'teflon' in his first 100 days then 'Slick Willie' Clinton did in 8 years.

    April 28, 2009 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  9. Glennis

    It was incredibly stupid. Makes one shake one's head in wonder. Did they miss the news that planes flew into NYC buildings? Beyond that, please tell me why we need now, or why we needed in the past, photo ops of these planes/??

    April 28, 2009 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  10. Nelson

    Its interesting to watch former Bush administration officials take pot shots at the Obama Administration considering that they were at the wheel on 9-11-2001 and played a large role in many of the problems that the Obama adminstration is now tasked with.

    Yes, the decision to conduct a photo op in lowe Manhattan was a poor one. The decision to alert local agencies but not disclose to the public even worse. Should the official authorizing the photo op be fired? I don't know. I can go either way on that one. SHould the call for resignation come from member's on Bush's peanut gallery? Absolutely not.

    April 28, 2009 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  11. RJ in NYC

    Ah Obama lovers unite.... If the previous adminstration did this you would be calling for impeachment. Just more Duplicitous Democrat Doubletalk.

    Hey if this adminstation is so "worried" about the "environment" why did they fly a nearly empty 747 around for a "picture"?

    What is the Great Algore's position on this? He should be screaming about Carbon offsetting for this "photo op"

    April 28, 2009 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  12. jon

    Initially, I didn't think it was all that bad. Then I thought what I'd have said had Bush been in office. The truth is that this was stupid, unnecessary, and insensitive. The president needs to fire whomever approved this.

    April 28, 2009 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  13. Tina

    Since CNN is known to be in the center on all issues political, its quite interesting to see that the people who comment here are vastly in support of the new administration. I dont go to MSNBC or Fox News because they are both biased. But I got to say, if CNN represents the middle, this new administration has more support than we think. The President Obama haters are so heavily out numbered on here its not even funny. Take a look at the comments and see. For every one anti comment, there are at least 10 in favor comments. No wonder President Obama's approval rating is so high. Good job Mr President and happy 100 days !!!!

    April 28, 2009 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    I say stone him and let those without sin which appearintly is the entire Bush administration through the first stone!

    April 28, 2009 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  15. bj, Texas

    Displaying on White House teleprompter this morning.
    Message #1: "Fly by of Air Force One over NY was greeted by cheering crowds and I, the chosen one, take full credit for this display of American pride.

    Message #2: "(Skip Message #1) Fly by of Air Force One over NY was greeted by mass fear and anger and I, the chosen one, had no idea of this incident and I am furious.

    April 28, 2009 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  16. csalwayzl8

    Chelle "Oh right – cuz nothing Obama's team does it right…never ever ever…."
    He does a great job at spending money!
    Arnie "Water board” been safe for the last 8 years Arnie?
    The poor comments made on the people of NYC- how can you be so insensitive- has 9/11 become of joke?
    The lives that were lost that day- doesn't that mean anything- the fallen men and woman that died trying to save the victims of that tragic day- those of you around the world that stood in front of the TV screens all day long trying to find some answer to a senseless act.
    How would you react to have the most traumatic experience of your life replayed only to find out afterwards it was a hoax.
    Have we Americans become so insensitive to our neighbors and to ourselves?
    We are Americans living in the greatest country in the world (why else would people die to come here)
    We stand tuff and we stand together. WE are allowing parties to divide us as a nation-
    UNITED WE STAND- DIVIDED WE FALL.
    Unity is the key to stand firm in togetherness

    April 28, 2009 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  17. Tim

    It's not a felony, but it was really stupid. For those of you who think it was ok and up to the NY authoritities to dispel the chaos, you are truely clueless.

    Whoever thought this would be acceptable is a moron. Especially those who feel it is ok after the fact.

    April 28, 2009 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  18. Scott, Tucson

    The incompetence of this administration is staggering! And we're only at the 100 day mark too.

    April 28, 2009 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  19. Jon Smith

    It wasn't the brightest move to do what they did, but if there is anything we can say it is that the Bush regime should be an expert on it is criminal stupidity, so for once I guess they are right.

    April 28, 2009 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  20. Ken in NC

    I do not think that what this White House Official did was criminal but it was incredibly stupid. I don't know if I would fire him but I do think that he should be made aware that he is walking on that “18 million cracked Hillary Clinton ceiling“.

    I think the idea may not have been a bad idea if people had been made aware of the flight in advance so as not to cause a problem. If it appeared that there was going to be a problem then the site of the photo shoot should have been changed.

    I think that if the Official in charged is to be admonished in anyway, it should be up to the President and I would accept his decision on the matter. Consider that this person does work for him and the decision to punish is his and not ours as the American Public.

    April 28, 2009 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  21. Ian

    Anyone else notice that whenever the Obama administration does something monumentally stupid, CNN either locks the comments on the original story or pushes it to the bottom of the ticker? Then, they lead the ticker with comments from a member of the Bush administration regarding the incident so liberals can rant and rave about the last 8 years hoping that everyone will forget that this administration royally screwed up.

    What's wrong CNN, Dick Cheney wasn't available for comment?

    April 28, 2009 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  22. zgomer

    That is BO nation for you, they don't care what they do to the nation at all!

    April 28, 2009 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  23. Tulsa L

    Why use NY for your photo backdrop,,,,,,,,,,since the officials of NY are to stupid to pass on the information to inform the citizens of NY, don't do your photo opts there anymore, come on out to Oklahoma we will appriciate it and not complain....

    April 28, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  24. stevetall

    Get over it, New York. If you lived in the Middle East, you'd have something to be afraid of... Every day and night. Not nearly as terrifying as what Wall Street did to the rest of the world. Tough up!

    April 28, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  25. Larry from RI

    The city officials of NY were notified in advance that this was going to take place. Sounds like NY needs work on communicating with the public.
    But instead we get the never ending whining of the right wingnuts.

    Why don't the GOP hacks just put this behind them, not focus on the past, turn the page, it is time to move on?

    Oh, almost forgot, that talk is reserved for senior members of their party are under scrutiny for the torture other human beings – – hypocrites!

    April 28, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
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