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. Greg Smith, Clifton Heights PA

    Give the Democrats a break, they are the party of ignorance. This is what you have to expect from this administration for the next four years.

    America voted for this, you are getting what you deserve.

    April 28, 2009 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  2. Fordy in Jamaica

    Awww....Poor Americans. Scared of everything now. What a way to live.

    April 28, 2009 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  3. Erik in Real Pennsylvania

    The complains about the poor judgement used by the Department of Deefense over NYC, while legitimate, pale in comparison to the many, many other things we as Americans should be outraged about. A hemorrhage of borrowed billions for the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the thousands of Americans dead there, the wretched state of employment in America, illegal immigration, our honor in the eyes of the world, and the economic downturn are all so much more important than this low-flying plane incident.

    When compared to these issues, the flyover yesterday (which the President's office wasn't responsible for) just seems needlessly contrary. It presents as opportunistic, partisan quibbling.

    April 28, 2009 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  4. Film Professor

    It was totally stupid, no question about it.

    But the difference in Obama and Bush is that the Obama White House immediately came out and apologized for the screw up. Bush belongs to that crowd of entitled upper crusters who think that they should never apologize for anything directly because it would make them look weak .... so they just say something amorphous like "if anyone was offended, we are sorry", or "it is possible that we might do things differently the next time."

    April 28, 2009 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  5. DD`

    Thomas, it might have just been an airplane as you say but you get to help pay for the stupid flyover that could have been done on a computer screen. Enjoy your government.

    April 28, 2009 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  6. zeke

    I have an idea! Lets care about something stupid like this while we ignore the actual problems in the world!

    April 28, 2009 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  7. JimG

    And if anybody's an expert on both stupidity and felonies, it's Bush's old cronies.

    April 28, 2009 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  8. yellowdoggie

    Sorry. No leftover from the Bush days gets to call the present administration "supid." Those are the rules.

    April 28, 2009 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  9. jrb

    It's ridiculous for our government to waste money on something like this. It's probably for some TV ad promoting liberalism. Take it out of B.O.'s salary.

    April 28, 2009 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  10. ryan

    This was a stupid thing to do.Caldera probably should leave the post. Its one thing to make a honest, but harmless mistake, it is quit another have a presidential plane fly right over Manhattan causing terror in the process.

    And just because she was apart of the Bush Administration that doesn't mean she herself is stupid. Stretches in logic don't help in the defense of the person who permitted this.

    April 28, 2009 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  11. Sam I Am

    So, this wasn't the best moment for the Obama staff, but the local authorities were notified, weren't they? Then they were told by the FAA to NOT tell anyone. What kind of terminal stupidity is that? In what possible twisted logic would it seem like it was not a good idea to let the locals know about a big plane flying over their city?

    A few phone calls, and the whole problem would have been averted. Someone should lose their job at the FAA.

    April 28, 2009 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  12. Steve - southern Illinois

    Typical conservative – ignore all the war crimes perpetrated by George Bush and then get hysterical when an underling in the Obama Administration does something stupid but with much less long-term damage.

    April 28, 2009 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  13. Had It

    Over 4000 of our military killed in an illegal war and all our money used to rebuild THAT country when our own country was going down the tubes – that's how you spell FELONY STUPID.

    April 28, 2009 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  14. Dimitri

    How amazingly stupid and irresponsible of all parties involved! Not to mention the Tax payers $$ to fly all of these aircraft for a photo Shoot- Man we should be pissed off! I guess the government hasn't heard of PHOTOSHOP to update file pictures of the plane? How about saving the over 100K in gas and expenses, all of the panic it caused and the impact on the environment to burn all that gas by taking a static picture of the freaking plane and then having someone photoshop it over the NY skyline! Freaking idiots!
    Uhhh... class action lawsuit?

    April 28, 2009 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  15. michelle

    Get a grip. This was not the president's fault and he will adress this lapse in judgement accordingly. It is amazing what repubs want to complain about after 8 years of what surely has been 'felony stupidity'.

    April 28, 2009 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  16. Jim

    Well, if anyone were an expert on felonies and stupidity, it would have to be one of the employees of the former administration.

    April 28, 2009 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  17. Illinoisman

    Just shows the Obama admin doesnt understand 9/11. Heck that is just as bonehead as "Mission Accomplished".

    April 28, 2009 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  18. stavros

    I agree this incident showed Caldera's bad judgment, but please let's not fetishize lower Manhattan as some sort of holy ground. It's still a bustling urban commercial center.

    April 28, 2009 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  19. Vic

    This is a perfect example of why Republicans are getting little or no respect these days. There the Repubs sit at the ready to pounce on every misstep the Democrats make, no matter how trite. While this is an example of where a lighter "sentence" would suffice, oh no - someone of the out-of-power party just smolders until they perceive a chance to bloody their opponents. So what is their gain? Nothing, except the bitterness just continues to grow until it reaches the point of no return. And one more bitter comment and that will be IT!

    April 28, 2009 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  20. I laugh at Limbaugh daily

    Republicans live to be afraid.They are natural born fear mongers.

    April 28, 2009 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  21. Bev

    If anybody needs to point fingers...they need to point to the direction in which the request came from. It was not Caldera's idea...he approved a request. So was this a request by the White House PR group? To this president image is everything. Was this a photo-op for the president to be seen "guarding the sky" over New York? Sounds like that Obama arrogance to me. Style or substance. It's just unbelievable that no one knew how much panic this would cause people.

    April 28, 2009 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  22. Really

    Remove those responsible. Not a big deal. Not nearly as big a deal as a ruthless dictator killing and starving his poeple. Luckily Bush had the perserverance to remove Saddam from power. Thank you for your service President Bush.

    April 28, 2009 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  23. Rob Kole

    Reading all these comments sadden me no end. First Obama I am sure knew nothing about this since it falls under normal white house operations and the president does no approve everything that goes on.

    Second I saw the second plane hit the WTC. I watched both buildings fall, move on yes... forget never. Two aircraft paralized one the greatest cities on this earth on that faithful day. There is no way I will ever ignore an aircraft flying so low near NYC ever again. So to all those who say it was nothing you know not what you speak.

    Third Caldera had better be fired. Give me a picture of the plane and using any number of photo programs I could put it anywhere in the world! In the current ecomonic crisis and drive to reduce depenency on oil he approves the use of thousands of pounds of fuel to get a picture to update a web page?!!!! Old fashioned Wastington waste at its worst.

    April 28, 2009 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  24. Ed, Santa Fe, NM

    oh get over it... WHO CARES?

    April 28, 2009 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  25. a southern progressive

    planes fly low all the time over downtown jacksonville, even military planes with weapons....i look up, but i dont freak out, and i know the same history as everyone else... i dont know, i guess i just dont get it. people can feel however they want to, but i think the GOP wants to make this a bigger deal than it really is... now that trend is going to send me into a panic.. that whenever things go bad , we can be sure that republicans will be there to magnify any situation... ugh.. i can feel my heart racing now........

    April 28, 2009 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
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