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. geen

    reading the outrage expressed in previous comments, even 'insane' is too mild of a word to describe this moronic act...EVERYONE responsible for this should be fired, poste haste...'authorities' were notified? WHAT ABOUT THE CITIZENS ON THE STREET? as a mere 'photo shoot' why not broadcast it several days before it happened...and...AND...another thing..if this was merely a photo shoot to update photos of the presidents Airplane...like the residents of NYC DON'T KNOW WHAT A 747 IS!!! DUH. its a big country and there were certainly other areas of the country where this photo shoot could have taken place..perhaps in Wyoming...or Midland Texas? wouldn't it be interesting to see Cheney or the moron head for cover!!!,

    April 28, 2009 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  2. Glen

    At the very least the approver should have to perform cummunity service. They are obviously out-of-touch with the common people.

    April 28, 2009 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  3. Charles

    People running in fear from an airplane. What's next, cowering in caves when there's a thunderstorm?

    New Yorkers (and Americans in general) are turning into a nation of cowards.

    Remember when Boston went into a panic over a bunch of artistically placed Lite-Brites?

    April 28, 2009 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  4. Thank you

    i haven't watched tv in 4 days and i was in the dark on this until someone asked me about it yesterday.....something doesn't feel right here and someone needs to be fired. President Obama needs to fire some people for this stupidity...

    April 28, 2009 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  5. Pups McCann

    Flying a 747 at such a low level and being chased by a military jet over lower Manhattan! What in the world were they thinking! That was an inexcusable event at so many levels. It does seem that our Gov’t is being run by a bunch of teenagers!

    April 28, 2009 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  6. Jeff from Atlanta

    I love the way people justify stupidity in the obama administration by saying, "but Bush did this or that!" rather than admit their guy is all campaigning and no substance.

    How many times have we heard this excuse already. It's getting old. Seems like at least 100 times which would make100 mistakes in his first 100 days.

    No surprise there. when all you can do is photo ops and travel and read a teleprompter, (wasn't that hilarious how he stumbled when the teleprompter had problems yesterday! LOL!!!).

    April 28, 2009 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  7. Bob Samsung

    All you Democrats... Just, Stop, and imagine what you would be typing if the Bush Administration had made this mistake...

    I was going to type a few examples but this speaks for itself.

    April 28, 2009 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  8. JT

    Has anyone considered the fact that our government wasted many thousands of taxpayer dollars just to have a new picture of the stupid plane??? Regardless of your politics, this is a ridiculous waste of money! How much does it cost to fuel up the 747 and the F-16? How much are we paying the military folks who were flying those planes? This all adds up to a lot of wasted money for something that could have easily been created with Photoshop by someone who knows what they are doing!

    April 28, 2009 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  9. Paul from Phoenix

    I don't care who you voted for. I voted for Obama, but this shows gross neglegence on the part of the administration.

    Either they allowed this to happen, which means they lack any connection with the people of New York and what a low flying plane means to them; or the didn't know it was happening, which show that a serious disconnect between Cabinet officials.

    Either way, this situation is completely unacceptable.

    April 28, 2009 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  10. JOHN

    ok all I am seeing is people still bashing the bush adm. ok he made alot of silly mistakes, what the story is about even before Townsend made coments is about the fly over. The people of New York were scared having flash backs. If you weren't there sure its not big deal but if you were there when the towers went down you MAY have been scared of the fly over. Obama may not have ordered the fly over sure, but it happened and he is in charge and he will and needs to take the blame just like bush did. bush may have gotten bad info or had a bad administration but like all of you you blame him so guess what Obama is in charge and people will blame him So get use to it!

    April 28, 2009 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  11. Bob Samsung

    To: anyone who brings up the 'mission accomplished'

    The captain of the Navy ship had that banner put up. Bush was unaware.

    CNN ran that story weeks ago.

    Learn something.

    April 28, 2009 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  12. Linell, Winter Park, FL

    It was stupid and whoever thought it was a good idea should probably be omitted, but "felony stupidity?" This is like the pot calling the kettle black coming from an administration whose stupid blunders are legend. I'm thinking Terry Schiavo, Katrina, Sarah Palin, Abu Ghraib, Dick Cheney and his legacy of war and torture to name just a few...the reasons I am no longer a Republican.

    April 28, 2009 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  13. Tom Paine

    Typical Obama. It's his office....and he leaves some staffer hanging out to dry for this stupidity. Take responsibility for your actions for once.

    If this happened under President Bush, a prosecutor would already have been appointed by Dems in Congress and Jack Cafferty would have called for Bush's impeachment – again.

    April 28, 2009 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  14. Dukeameye

    I don't know why anyone is amazed at this latest boneheaded stunt, read the 911 report, the only agency that seemed to have any credibility was the workers at the FAA(I exclude the management of the FAA), all other agencies with burecrates at the helm failed us. I am sure that any emergency will show us once again that only what we as individuals do ourselves will have any affect as to how we will come out of the situation. Nero fiddled while Rome burned....

    April 28, 2009 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  15. Moderate Democrat

    Felony Stupidity says Homeland Security Advisor to Bush? So, uh, what would you call letting THREE planes crash into buildings then? I would call it THREE THOUSAND TIMES WORSE! (Actually infinity, because ZERO people died when this plane flew low. Last time this guy was tested. This is the guy that allowed THREE LOW FLYING PLANES hit buildings, and a fourth would have it weren't for the brave CIVILIANS doing HIS job for him).


    April 28, 2009 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  16. IndyVoter

    The Defense Department is run by a Republican. I wouldn't doubt if it were purposeful to make Obama look bad at the 100 day. However, the WH sanctioned it, so this is what they get. They should have told the media so everyone would know that it was not an attack. I am a staunch suppporter of Obama but I think Caldera should be fired.

    April 28, 2009 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  17. Lucas Leverett - Nashville TN

    Felony stupidity is ignoring reports entitled "Planes Likely To Be Used As Weapons" and then sitting with My Pet Goat in your lap on 9/11 instead of jumping up and handling it like a man.

    ... but who's counting?

    April 28, 2009 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  18. New York Resident

    I suppose you all would like to be notified of Air Force One's every move?
    Did anyone think that this was kept under wraps because of the highly sensitive nature of the President's plane?
    Honestly, I live in New York, and It would have taken me 5 seconds to realize that this was Air Force One, and that there was no threat. It would have been very exciting to see, I might add.
    Even if you didn't realize that it was the President's plane, the fact that it was being closely tailed by an F-16 should be quite enough to make you feel at ease. Do these idiots honestly believe an F-16 is going to sit there and tail a terrorist hijacked plane while it slams into something? Of course not.
    It is embarrassing to hear reports of people crying and running. Typical New Yorkers, though, only concerned about themselves and their feelings at any given moment.

    April 28, 2009 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  19. Jay

    Funny stuff, Paranoid and delusional, Whats the tif w/New York?We aren't waiting for 747s anymore, We are waiting for dirty bombs and bios.Lets all freak out at the drop of a hat cause you know that will help any situation come to a clear,concise, and favorable outcome.
    To error is human and to do it constantly is Washington DC. America is getting short changed by all these groups of so called leaders who obviously have jokingly superior decision making skills. I move for a vote of no confidence not because I'm against the current administration,It is alot better than the previous,I'm against the status quo of the whole thing in general, If they had any kind of honor,imagination,or initiative among their ranks we would all be living the American dream instead of running because one of our own planes just happens to fly by. Whaaaa

    April 28, 2009 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  20. LT

    The plane didn't need to be flown over the grand canyon either. It is a complete waste of money. Just photoshop air force one into a great photo of new York or any other scenery. I can do it for $9.95 or less.

    I hope people are getting their resumes in order, because there should be some job openings coming up in New York and DC.

    April 28, 2009 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  21. Jayson

    First off, the overwhelming majority of people saying "get a grip", "people are overreacting" or "it was just a plane" etc ARE NOT NEW YORKERS! On 9/11 they saw the planes crashing into the World Trade Center only on their TV screens, so it might as well have been a movie to them. It was no movie to us.

    As New Yorkers we are sophisticated and savvy. You can't live in a fast paced and complex city like this and freak out over little things. A plane flying 1000 feet overhead is no little thing. 1000 feet is an altitude LOWER than many of our skyscrapers.

    Although the Obama administration must take the heat for this, let's stop acting like morons. Anyone with even half a brain would know that neither George Bush nor Barack Obama had anything to do with this, so please cut all the partisan crap. This was something decided on by members of the Department of Defense. Every single decision does not get escalated to the president for him to weigh in on...that's why you have an entire department of people to make decisions.

    That anyone would think this was a good idea is astounding in and of itself; that a committee would actually approve it beggars belief.
    Francis Townsend hit the nail on the head when she described it "felony stupidity".

    April 28, 2009 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  22. Jeff in Houston

    I'm afraid I must agree. This was cruelty at an unimaginable level. Someone needs to be hosewhipped. PUBLICLY.

    April 28, 2009 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  23. Deborah, Bronx

    As a New Yorker, Caldera should be Fired, the Folks that knew in New York and failed to tell Bloomberg should be Fired as well, this was Gross Negligence on the part of sensitivity!! Townsend should Shut Up also!! It has been 8yrs, I haven't gone to an AirPort, muchless to set foot on a plane.

    April 28, 2009 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  24. Leah

    Townsend, get over yourself already.
    Mistakes happened, don't you ever made any mistakes.
    And since you were a former advisor for Bushes, you knew how's that take us!

    My advise to you..either keep your opinion to yourself or leaves town!
    you & yours Bush administrations is now a bad part of history, and it should stay that way!

    April 28, 2009 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  25. george

    What really gets me is the many Republicans singing the "poor pitiful us" tune day in and day out on this and other boards.. So ill treated by a cruel fate and a "brainless" electorate that elected someone other than their guy. So unfairly treated by the biased "liberal media." Blah, blah blah and bladee blah blah blah! This GOP brand of victimhood is nauseating in the extreme.

    April 28, 2009 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
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