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. Dan in NY

    It has been reported that the President did NOT know about this, and I believe heads will roll. I am a New Yorker and was only a few miles away on 9/11. I understand the fear. But I also believe the President when he says he never knew and never approved this. He has taken responsibility for every issue, there is no reason to avoid this.

    April 28, 2009 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  2. Paul

    yawn. yet another overblown non-issue from republicans. I can't wait until tomorrow when they get outraged over the president's choice of tie or what the White House serves for dinner (they've already been outraged by that once, though, when the WH served a nice steak one night). And, they wonder why they're slipping into obscurity.

    April 28, 2009 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  3. Steve

    This administration is one goof after another. Stupid and wasteful. Think about all the wasteful things we never hear about. This was just one of many blatant idiotic things our government does for absolutely no good purpose.

    April 28, 2009 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  4. Tony in Maine

    It was really poor judgement.

    But, had they used photo manipulation with Photoshop or any other application, the Republicans would be shrieking about dishonesty.

    The hate Obama crowd, aka the righteous few, will spin a birthday party for one of the Obama children into something sinister. If you doubt that think of how the "fist bump" between Michele and Barack was turned into a signal for sleeper cells. That's why only the conservative base pays any attention to the conservative base.

    April 28, 2009 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  5. whyputaname MA

    I can understand the anxiety about a plane flying low over Manhatten, however for Ms. Townsend to call for the firing of a Official is quite appalling!!!

    Considering that back 2003 or 04 a military plane that was out on manovers decided to shoot into a civilian elementary school, thank goodness it was on a weekend when there were no one there. But I never heard a peep on that from the Rightwing Puppy Kickers!

    Pot calling the Kettle Black again!

    April 28, 2009 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  6. joe

    Stupid yes, but not anywhere near as stupid as GW Bush snoozing in the White House when real terrorists slammed into the WTC, or when a real hurricane devastated an American city, or when Wall St went hog wild with no supervision.

    let's put things in perspective here shall we?

    April 28, 2009 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  7. Donna

    I tend to think a felony is invading Iraq for no reason other than to "get revenge" for Daddy...for royally messing up on Katrina, especially in the cases of the good folks in the 9th Ward....ask them, they'll tell you...or how about letting Dick Cheney run the country from a secret bunker? Karl Rove. Now there is a felony.

    Need I go on?

    April 28, 2009 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  8. bob

    Why does Obama want to terrify us?

    April 28, 2009 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  9. Paul Thompson

    I don't believe Obama could manage a McDonald's.
    Total lack of any experience, but we're to follow him
    blindly out of the wilderness!

    April 28, 2009 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  10. rob

    Aside from the crass insensitivity of flying over Lower Manhattan. Consider also the cost of flying AF-1. Reportedly $68K per hour. Can't this money be better spent elsewhere? It may not seem like a lot of money to the Federal Government. But, that's an annual salary for a lot of Americans. Americans that help to fund this type of irresponsible stupidity.

    Caldera should show good judgment and resign before the President shows his good judgment and FIRES HIM!

    April 28, 2009 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  11. FreeNLovIt

    Did anyone get bombed or were showered with bullets? If not, I dont care if Obama flies over, under or around a bridge. Did he fall from the sky and landed in your backyarnd? If not, WHO CARES!! There are more dangerous things.

    April 28, 2009 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  12. shucks

    How dramatic a "felony stupidity". Wonder if the GOP idea factory thought up that catch phrase. Let's just concentrate on the feloneous acts by the Bush administration that could land them in prison for war crimes and torture.

    April 28, 2009 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  13. Libertarian

    Let me get this straight. Low flying aircraft over NY is a "felony".
    Lying about weapons of mass destruction that gets 10's of thousands killed....not.

    April 28, 2009 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  14. T. Callahan

    The Bush White House hardly has the right to call anyone stupid! History will be the judge of both administrations and so far, the Bush Administration is not looking to hot.

    April 28, 2009 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  15. Steve, Columbia SC

    Exactly, someone with this level of responsibility that leaves his brain at home should find a new job.

    April 28, 2009 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  16. FreeNLovIt

    Dear Obama,

    YOU and Air Force ONE can fly over my HOUSE anytime. I would love to take a picture of Air Force One. Itd' be an HONOR.

    April 28, 2009 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  17. Jon

    even when a totally stupid thing like flying the presidents plane over nyc happens, the obama lover always seem to go back to anything and everything the is bush. i think all of you people are ignorant fools and when i read your rants i wonder if you people are that ignorant in real life or just on blogs. was doing a low fly by a bad idea, YES. was it bushes fault, NO. are there already existing pictures of this, YES. are obama and bush lover ignorant *sses, YES. all of you people need to get a job and get offline.

    April 28, 2009 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  18. KMAN

    This so much worse and stupid than invading a sovereign nation without the slightest bit of provocation! Oh wait ... no it's not!

    April 28, 2009 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  19. Biff Biffington

    It was just dumb.

    Dude should be let go.

    could have PHOTO-SHOPPED this and saved a TON of money ... and anxiety.

    April 28, 2009 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  20. Biased

    Why can't there be a reaction from democrats that doesn't always have to go back and blame Bush for something? Didn't your mother teach you two wrongs don't make a right? Either consider this flyover a stupid idea or not but let's quit with the yes it might have been wrong BUT Bush.. or it might have been wrong BUT Cheney.... I thought Obama wanted you moving forward into the future. Have you tuned him out already too? You certainly don't practice what he preaches.

    April 28, 2009 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  21. Henry Miller, Cary, NC

    Absurd over-reaction...

    April 28, 2009 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  22. KayMA

    Obama needs to get his circus in order...

    April 28, 2009 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  23. James

    Of all the awful things Bush did, this is what this nitwit is mad about? I agree it was a dumb idea, but seriously, it's over with. Move on.

    April 28, 2009 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  24. Scott

    I don't think President Obama knew about this fly over, but it does show how poor his staff is with the vetting process before they hire another staff member. There have been too many poor hires in the past 100 days.

    April 28, 2009 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  25. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    A former Bush employee saying someone isn't fit to serve is so right, that someone being herself along with the rest of the Bush administration.

    April 28, 2009 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
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