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. Francis Townsend shouldn't call anyone stupid

    stupid for the plane photo op

    stupid for the whole 8 years

    April 28, 2009 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  2. Truth Hurts

    And the conservative are felony stupidity!! Every little thing Obama administration does is criticized, stripped apart and diagnosed. It was a photo op. It is not the first time and not the last time. So, stop crying conservatives and here's your bottle!! LOL. Too bad Bush did not get this type of treatment and maybe our country would not be in the toilet!!

    April 28, 2009 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  3. Obama 2.0

    I voted for the POTUS and am an Independent and I am LIVID about it becuase of the waste in tax dollars at a time when many are struggling. They can photoshop for pennies and everyone would understand why. The second part of my frustration is with the New York government not informing the Public. But if the admin had addressed the Root Cause WASTEFULL SPENDING, the the second would be non existant. TAKE HEED President Obama, take heed! You are going to have to stay on your admin 24/7

    April 28, 2009 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  4. Paul

    The fact that Caldera apparently did not even consider that this would distress New Yorkers is evidence of his unfitness for his role. He should be given a few days to resign, and if he does not he should be fired.

    April 28, 2009 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  5. Al-NY,NY

    Felony stupidity, thy name is GW Bush

    April 28, 2009 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  6. Gary

    Whoever authorized this should be fired. I no longer work in NY, but I did on 9/11. Anytime I hear a plane, I find myself double checking the plane. I can only imagine what the people in Lower Manhattan thought.

    April 28, 2009 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  7. Tim

    Thank you Commenters for pointing out the total lack of news to this story, the complete overreaction of New Yorkers, the laughable attempt by the "Right" to make an issue of this, and the discrepancy between the response of this administration and what would likely have been the response of he previous administration. That CNN would even talk to Francis Townsend about this...well, I guess her words WERE good for a laugh.

    April 28, 2009 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  8. Mike Mullin

    Any former Bush official who dares to criticize anything are felony stupid. Read Jack,s commentary. Your country is in its current serious decline because of Townsend and all other Bush officials. The entire period of the Bush era was criminal. Torturers are in no position to criticize anything. CNN has far too many ex Bush officials on its payroll has shifted to the right and is complicit in the bush administrations criminality by giving people like Townsend a platform.

    April 28, 2009 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  9. chelle

    Did I miss something? The State of New York and the City of New York were notified well in advance and they did not let the people of Manhattan know and somehow it is the Whitehouse's fault????? Why aren't the former Bushies coming down on the Governor's office and Mayor's office TOO??????? Oh right – cuz nothing Obama's team does it right...never ever ever....

    April 28, 2009 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  10. John Starnes Tampa Florida

    "Felony stupidity" is the best wrap-up I've read yet for the entire Bush/Cheney eight year long fiasco that America will take decades to recover from.

    April 28, 2009 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  11. Fitz in Texas

    So, if it does cost taxpayers $50,000 an hour to operate this jet do people really think Obama and his staff care? It's not money out of their pocket, it's money out of ours.

    And, how is this earth friendly Obama and Gore? Nothing like leaving your carbon footprint once again on something that's just a waste!

    April 28, 2009 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  12. Obama 2.0

    Also, people need to stop looking at the previous admins screw-ups in an attempt to justify new and unrelated screw-ups in the Obama admin. Own it. I have been on earth a long time and I can clearly tell you that NO one has taken my steps for me, I have taken every one my self. So own it.

    April 28, 2009 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  13. Dont blame Obama for where Bush took us

    Yes, it was stupid, but the FAA and even NYPD knew about it. Had they bothered to inform the public, then all would be fine.

    But to blame Obama...come on, grow up you republican idiots.

    April 28, 2009 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  14. ANGIE IN PA

    Why Blame President Obama you Lemmings He had Nothing to do with it and the Former Bush Aide just got done working for the Most Corrupt law Breaking Administration In History so SHUT IT!

    April 28, 2009 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  15. Greg in Minnesota

    As an Obama supporter I agree this was in poor taste and not thought through. That being said I also know that it was not approved directly by the POTUS and was a poor decision made by an appointee

    April 28, 2009 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  16. carlo

    Oh, yeah, and Bush was really a bastion of intellectual superiority.

    April 28, 2009 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  17. Beth in NYC

    I was standing on Vessey Street directly under Tower 1 on 9/11 while it was burning and then saw the second plane slam into the second tower. I thought I was going to die. I know the fear the people felt standing in lower Manhattan yesterday – No one is making a "ridiculously big deal" about this – it was a more than a stupid mistake and Caldera should step down.

    April 28, 2009 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  18. Guts

    Yes it was dumb but Bush and his people were stupid every day . And Townsend should shut up already. She is only good for one thing and we could guess what that is.

    April 28, 2009 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  19. sook

    i agree that Caldera should be fired. talk about a "bad call".

    OTOH...someone from the Bush admin calling out "felony stupidity"? pot, meet kettle.

    April 28, 2009 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  20. TulsaJoe

    If stupid decisions are felonies, the entire Bush administration is going away for life.

    April 28, 2009 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  21. Had It

    As a former Bush aide I'm sure she was exposed to PLENTY of felony stupid stuff up close and personal in the past admin.

    She's irrelevant. Who cares what she thinks.

    Communication break-down between people that received the notices and their bosses – NYC needs to let someone go for withholding that info from the Mayor and the citizens.

    April 28, 2009 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  22. SK2 DELAWARE

    Stupid... yes! But let's get over it. Planes fly low all the time, all over this country. This photo-op is no where near the "Stupidity" level of Bush's flight deck photo-op of "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED". At least this photo-op didn't tie up precious military resources or cost the tax payers a ton of money like Bush did. GET OVER IT!!!!

    April 28, 2009 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  23. Roger

    Who cares what a former Bush Administration employee thinks this was an administration that invaded IRAQ who had nothing to do with 9/11....look at the thousands that lost their lives because of GW so don't lecture anyone about anything.....

    April 28, 2009 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  24. Gerda Edwards

    With all due respect to those who lost friends and family (of whom I am a member), NYC needs to get over itself.

    The appropriate agencies were notified by the WH, and the Mayor has only himself to blame for not having in place the further notifications that would have been appropriate. This was a, internal NYC problem, not a WH problem.

    April 28, 2009 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  25. marcus (seattle)

    if anyone would know what felony stupidity was, it's someone who worked in the bush administration ! that was 8 years of felony stupidity. i wonder if he mentioned the words felony stupidity to bush and cheney when they wanted to start a trillion dollar war in a country that had not attacked us. i wonder if he mentioned felony stupidity when that same bush administration doctored the truth to make a case for invading iraq.. i wonder if he mentioned felony stupidity as the republican congress and bush continued to deregulate and lose complete oversight over the banking industry, leading us to the greatest financial disaster since the great depression. my guess is, Townsend was guilty of felony stupidity for NOT seeing the disaster the bush administration was while he was working in it...

    April 28, 2009 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
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