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. Barry

    "Sacred ground" is a stupid answer in itself. The real reason for not allowing such a flight is that this would alarm a great many people in Manhattan. At the very least prior warnings should have been up in the city and Mayor Bloomberg should have been told.

    April 28, 2009 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  2. Mary in Atlanta

    I can only say "Mission Accomplished". I'm not really sure there is anybody left in the old Bush administration that can actually speak with any voice of credibility after what this country has been put through in the last 8 years. This woman, whoever she is, really needs to find another job, one she is better suited for.

    April 28, 2009 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  3. D. Martin

    First, I don't blame "Obama"! so get over it!!!!!!!!! What I am so sick & tired of is the one who "screws up royally" says..."I take full responsibility for this". Well fine.......I am glad you do, so what is the consequence for your actions. Nothing!!!! Louis Caldera, who took full responsibility SHOULD BE FIRED......Obama, please get rid of all the "stupids" surrounding you.

    April 28, 2009 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  4. Doug, New Jersey

    Obviously the Obama administration was testing New Yorkers with this little experiment. Yes, they sure have forgotten about 9/11 when it comes to voting but when they see a plane flying low, they once again remember.

    Imagine if Bush did this, I mean compare the reaction of the media and all the libs with Obama doing this and think about if Bush did it. If you ever vote Democrat after that or even remotely put a little bit of integrity into your mind when a lib is barking its commands at you, then you should seek professional help.

    April 28, 2009 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  5. tina

    Yes it was a bad decision but what does she have to say about an administration she was a integral part of that approved TORTURE..........Shut up, you had your chance to right a wrong and speak up and you did not.................

    April 28, 2009 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  6. Fredrick

    As usual, CNN deletes my comments. I guess they don't want the opinion of any Conservative, save for those that make the Right side look like a bunch of retards. Meanwhile the Left is completely free to say anything they want.

    Thanks for the biased journalism and the biased forum filters, CNN. I can't wait for the Obama Administration to turn on you and censor you into Oblivion.

    April 28, 2009 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  7. Erik S.

    What's the problem? From what I have been reading on many past posts there is nothing to worry about ever terrorism from the skies, it was all the Bush Administration fostering FEAR, why so scared now? Can't have it both ways....

    April 28, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  8. Bob Samsung

    Am i reading all of these posts correctly?

    "Yeah, that move was dumb and stupid"
    "But Bush and dumber and stupider!!!"

    Real mature... I feel like I'm at a middle school dance

    April 28, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  9. D Frohwein

    Maybe not the greatest judgement ever displayed but not felony stupidity. This is the president's plane-it would be bad to advertise a low fly by, such that every America hating jerk would try to blind the pilot with laser pointers or take potshots at the plane. Worse yet, how about those shoulder mounted grenades etc? Weren't we all concerned of one blowing TWA flight 800 out of the air??

    Also to those who say it should be photoshopped-when the picture would be released, the same folks would say "well if the white house photoshops a pic of Air-Force one in front of Lady Liberty, what else will they cover up?"

    There were plenty of good reasons NOT to notify the public of this event.

    April 28, 2009 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  10. Richard

    Perhaps if the previous administration had worked toward calmness and healing instead of constantly fanning the flames of fear and anger, this would be the non-event, non-issue it deserves to be.

    April 28, 2009 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  11. Mississippi Mike

    Funny. It looks like two can play at the accuser game.

    April 28, 2009 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  12. Dennis

    Why did they need to fly the plane over NYC? This phot could have been done on the computer.

    April 28, 2009 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  13. Todd

    This has to be one of the greatest waste of taxpayer dollars that I've ever heard. Not only did it create a media firestorm, but for what purpose? A photo-op? I'm sure any graphic artist could use Adobe Photshop to create any special effect the White House would desire for Air Force One. Grand Canyon, New York, Effel Tower, Big Ben, Sydney Opera House, consider it done.

    April 28, 2009 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  14. Lotta Muni

    And this was decided by the same government that wants to manage our health care and banks?

    April 28, 2009 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  15. RNC = DNC = politics as usual

    Obama fan cheat sheet:

    Was it something bad? The Great Obama could not have possibly known about it. And it might have been caused by racism.

    Was it anything good? Obama was personally responsible and can take all the credit. All praise to Obama.

    April 28, 2009 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  16. mike

    I am upset that we are burning all that fuel over NYC and increasing our carbon footprint.

    April 28, 2009 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  17. New York Matt

    Stop pointing the finger elsewhere to divert attention from what the Obama staff did wrong. What part of flying a plane, without warning, low over New York after what happened to the Towers sounds like a good idea? Doing that for a photo-op is beyond irresponsible and insensitive. It felt almost like a threat. Perhaps it is just Obama's almost complete lack of experience and poor staff picks.

    April 28, 2009 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  18. Fair is Fair

    Step 1. Determine what the problem was.

    Step 2. If possible, find a way to blame Bush.

    Step 3. If you can't blame Bush, blame Bush anyway.

    Step 4. Go to Step 1.

    April 28, 2009 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  19. WIlly Brown

    With the current Administration it’s all “about me” so the they could have photo shopped it but hey it’s “me” blow some more tax dollars.

    April 28, 2009 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  20. michael (dallas)

    to: "Photo ops is the Democratic central platform"

    "mission accomplished."

    yeah, good luck with that comment...

    April 28, 2009 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  21. Chipster

    I'm sure we've all made stupid decisions at one time or another but this just has to be one of the most idiotic ever! Stupid to do this...stupid to waste money this way...and even more stupid to fail to notify people who would have been in a position to say "NO! This is stupid!"

    Even more stupid than "Mission Accomplished!" I'm not surprise at the President's anger.

    April 28, 2009 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  22. Greg, San Francisco, CA

    This was just stupid no matter how you spin it. It was a stupid idea to do it in the first place, and stupid of NYC not to notify the citizens, and the comments from both the Obama haters and the Obama worshipers are stupid. The President had nothing to do with this. And 'Felony Stupidity' is a bit over the top. I think the botched handling of Katrina was Felony Stupidity, but agree that Caldera should be let go.

    April 28, 2009 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  23. Mike Dallas

    Total over reaction by supposed adults acting like 8 year olds.

    I live in Dallas, do you think we all duck when a car backfires?

    Get a grip NYers your supposed to be tough, remember?

    April 28, 2009 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  24. Sharon Kitchen

    townsend uses the word "felony"?????realy?

    Now a true "felony" would probably be better used in the same sentance as Stephen A. Cambone.... Did you read the declasified copies under the FOIA of Rumsfield to Stephen Cambone on the afternoon of 9-11-2001, or the notes that used to be "top-secret" concerning the cover -up of Iraq war plans on 9-11 ?????????
    After reading all this..................ms. townsend.......where you also involved?..............if so...................this is realy jail type info...............if the congressional committee looks into all this........the wrist cuffs may be jingling.

    April 28, 2009 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  25. Lilarose in Bandon, Oregon

    Well, of course the ObstructiPubs will be all over this flying over Manhattan story.

    I think it was a stupid move. But it might have some positive consequences, such as

    How well did New Yorkers respond to this "crisis?" Panic or did they have a PLAN? The best plan would be to insure that you have WALKING SHOES in your desk. Remember all those women walking for miles barefoot while carrying four-inch high heel shoes after 9/11 and the electrical blackout ?

    How would the military have handled this plane if it hadn't been a posed military plan? Would the F-16's have been there in time?

    April 28, 2009 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
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