April 28th, 2009
11:33 AM ET
14 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. Kyle

    I am a Republican, but I don't blame President Obama on this one. I am glad that he was mad about this. I can see why New Yorkers would fear a low flying plane. The person who did this is STUPID.

    April 28, 2009 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  2. olivia

    This is very disturbing.

    April 28, 2009 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  3. Sam

    How much money did this updated photo cost? How much time and fuel was expended on something that can be done with photoshop on any PC? That is the criminal stupidity.

    April 28, 2009 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  4. Robin

    I call for special prosecutors to investigate this major blunder. It costs American Taxpayers $50,000 an hour for this jet to be operated. Then there was the lost productivity, since buildings were evacuated. Next time, photo shop in the Statue of Liberty!

    New Yorkers have not forgotten the day they watched 2998 Americans murdered in front of their very eyes. It seems the liberals have.

    How careless and irresponsible.

    April 28, 2009 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  5. John O'Toole

    I think this was more than sheer stupidity. This was some as yet unknown political stunt that didn't work out the way it was supposed to. This will reach the highest echelons. I would even bet that Obama was aware of it beforehand and gave his consent.

    April 28, 2009 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  6. Tristan

    Nobody know 'criminally stupid' like a Bush administrator.

    April 28, 2009 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  7. Marge

    Of course the city of New York should have notified the public. After all the state and the city were notified and they are the ones who didn't let the public know it was going to happen. Of course it was stupid.

    April 28, 2009 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  8. fearful for my country

    Obama is just mad because neither him nor his "seal" was visable in the pictures. Can't have a photo op without Obama's mug in it now can we?

    April 28, 2009 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  9. Mari( maybe one of my comments will be posted)

    I agree this was STUPID, the person whose idea this was should be fired.

    Who cares what a former-Bushie thinks??

    By the way, it was a Defense Department SANCTIONED photo op!

    April 28, 2009 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  10. Ignorance

    Planes fly over New York under Obama and everybody lives. Planes fly over New York under Bush 3 thousand plus die.

    Thanks Obama for keeping us safe!

    April 28, 2009 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  11. Dave

    LOL! Pot, meet Kettle.

    Considering that Townshend worked for the most incomptent and corrupt administration in history, she should probably just keep her trap shut.

    April 28, 2009 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  12. John in Ohio

    Yeah it was retardedly dumb, but seriously, the Republicans are making a ridiculously big deal out of this.

    April 28, 2009 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  13. Big Ed

    I admit, the "photo op" was a very bad on several fronts, but for Townshend to call this "felony stupidity" is a blunder in it's own right. Let's see...response to Katrina (remember "W"'s photo op...from Air Force One?), the fighter jet landing on the aircraft (Mission Accomplished!), the traveling tractor trailers full of ice that never made it to the Katrina vicitims? Here's one... how about the temporary homes that no one could live in because of the chemcal fumes.

    I think Townsend should shut his mouth. His department committed a number of "felony stupidity" acts on their watch. Some of which there will be congressional hearing for, eh, Mr. Townsend?

    April 28, 2009 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  14. ran

    Just another distraction by the GOP. 911 happen almost 8 yrs. ago. time to move on or the terrorist have already won. the GOP wants to continue using 911 to fear people into choosing their party. The party of fear/hate/obstructionism. We the people need to stand up and say no to the GOP and to the terrorist: we will not be afraid and allow a plane flying over NYC to make us fearful anymore. It is time to move on or get help if you are still fearful whenever a plane flays over NYC.

    April 28, 2009 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  15. Alfred E. Neumann

    Yes, the boys at 1600 Pennsylvania just aren't very bright, popular but just not bright.

    And they are going to do what to improve the economy?

    The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight, Part Deux.

    April 28, 2009 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  16. obama/mama

    If Obama's administration spits on the pavement it will be a big deal. It was insensitive and stupid. They apologized now get over it.

    April 28, 2009 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  17. Brad

    Well it could be worse, someone could have started a war under false pretenses.

    April 28, 2009 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  18. Allan

    Caldera should resign or be fired.

    And this Bush toady should step away from the TV cameras and await the subpoena for her own felonious stupidity and criminality.

    April 28, 2009 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  19. john new mexico

    Wow, what a stupid stunt. You would think they would have put the word out about the fly over. I guess Obama and his sheep still don't believe 9/11 really happened.

    April 28, 2009 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  20. Mike

    How ignorant. What else are we in for?

    April 28, 2009 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  21. Richard in California

    If Bush's people are calling this a felonious decision and event, which I somewhat agree with, how about charging deserved felonies to all of Bush's cronies for all of the illegal (and immoral) decisions and events they made and did? Scaring an entire city that was scarred by the 9/11 events? Yes, jail-worthy. Starting a war of choice, and torturing people (regardless of guilt or innocence) is certainly a lot more jail-worthy.

    April 28, 2009 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  22. Jake

    former bush aide calls out "felony stupidity?"
    hysterical! i hope he was referring to the past eight years

    April 28, 2009 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  23. Sniffit

    Not suprising that Obama is p–sed then, eh? Of course, let's not let an opportunity go by to try to twist everything into something he can be blamed anbd criticized for, right GOPers? Honestly, if you guys had a clue, you'd not continue to take every opportunity yo think you see to turn something into a massive ordeal...you look like morons trumping this up into something it's not.

    April 28, 2009 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  24. JustMyObservation

    Some folks don't know how to think outside the box. There are a million attractive locations to photo shot Air Force One with F-16s in formation. Besides, what's wrong with the current photo of Air Force One flying over Mt. Rushmore? Did the Presidential aircraft fleet get new airplanes? Geesh...what a waste of fuel and money. Not to mention upsetting the american public for someone's stupdity.

    April 28, 2009 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  25. Jimmy Boy

    Obama is mad for the cameras. Let's all blame the Bush administration.

    April 28, 2009 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
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