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. Jerry

    Fear not. Obama has expressed his love for terrorists and his concern for their safety. What about yours???

    April 28, 2009 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  2. rodlang

    Not only was this incredibly stupid but also very expensive. Scared the heck out of New Yorkers and cost the taxpayers a pile of money. Someone should be out of a job.

    April 28, 2009 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  3. Kathy

    If you believe that the holy one didn't know I'd like to sell you some ocean front property in Kansas. And for the person that is complaining about poor Obama getting treated so bad and that Bush didn't. They must not of watched TV for the last 8 years. Obama will never keep this country safe because he's a coward. He was never in the military to even know what wars are like.

    April 28, 2009 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  4. Sniffit

    Funny how Bloomberg, a former Dem now mascerading as a GOPer, claims that even though someone in his office was informed ahead of time, he wasn't told and word didn't get out or around to the public so that nobody panicked…

    Reality check: if they had informed the public, people would have left their buildings so they could watch and this would have gone off as a neat little diversion from work. Instead, the failure to alert people, despite knowing it was coming, is what turned it into a scare.

    April 28, 2009 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  5. Robert in Hialeah, Florida

    Why panic people and waste money for a picture. They should have just used Photoshop.

    April 28, 2009 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  6. Brian

    I have little doubt that everyone involved including President Obama knew of this and for some unknown reason did not think this would be a bid deal. It demonstrates poor judgement and a total lack of insensitivity to those in the New York area. Someone needs to be fired for this.

    April 28, 2009 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  7. Thomas

    I think these people are over reacting.

    It was just an airplane.

    I could understand someone being concerned, perhaps even nervious. But going into a panic because an airplane?

    What a pathetic way to live your lives. Get a grip on yourselves. Just seeing an airplane flying low over a city (and it was not all THAT low) should not cause you to panic.

    Are we not adults?

    April 28, 2009 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  8. William Charlotte, NC

    I agree, it was ridiculously stupid, but not nearly as stupid as torture and Iraq!

    April 28, 2009 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  9. Robin in Tampa, FL

    Taking out the POTUS's Jet and having a Ferris Buler moment .... priceless

    April 28, 2009 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  10. obama/mama

    To all the morons blaming Obama for this, it will probably take you 4 years just like the Republicans in congress to get over the fact that there is a black family in the whitehouse. This is what it all boils down to. I am not racist but the fact that Obama is in the whitehouse is upsetting so many of you. Maybe therapy may help.

    April 28, 2009 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  11. Rebeccace

    Looks like Obama might be telling America that get ready! My friends are coming to town!

    April 28, 2009 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  12. Deborah

    Does anyone one of you OB supporter know how much it cost to fly just the Air Force One in 2004 it was $57,000.00 an hour. Now that was in2004. I do blam Ob he new about it also why should we have to cut back and Goverment keeps on spending. OB is going to St Louis
    Wednesday for a Town Hall I thought he already won. It's only been three months God Pray for all of us and more for the babies our President has no problem killing

    April 28, 2009 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  13. LIP

    Crass insensitivity and felony stupidity are rather conservative statements representing one of the most ridiculous acts ever. Watch the home videos of people running scared and read about those New Yorkers traumatized by the actual event, running down flights of stairs from high rises in absolute fear.
    The person or persons responsible for this bit of stupidity at the very least should be fired.

    April 28, 2009 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  14. Mark

    Oh really? And what would you call an unlawful invasion of a sovereign nation who posed absolutely no threat to anyone, created instability and a political vacuum filled by jihadists and terror elements, tortured captives in violation of international law, and allowed unfettered capitalism to run rampant to ultimately destroy our economy? All Bush cronies should shut the hell up before we decide to seek justice and throw the lot of you in jail.

    April 28, 2009 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  15. DD`

    So much for Obama and his saving tax payers. Flys around in Air Force 1 for no good reason, $$. Allows stupid flyovers to occur over NY, $$. His spending... Priceless. Our savings....0.

    April 28, 2009 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  16. li in PA

    I think someone forgot that something happened back in 2001. A very pre-9/11 mentality.

    April 28, 2009 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  17. Florida Joe

    Was this dumb yes..........But a Bush official saying this is a felony yet they invade Iraq, send our soldiers to jail for following their orders and that is OK..............These Bushies all need to SHUT UP

    April 28, 2009 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  18. gl, Pittsburgh

    But for some one from the former Bush Administration calling what happened a "Felony Stupid" move, shouldn't be so quick to talk. The Justice Department has a few words they want to talk to them about authorizing illegal torture practices. Then there's that stint with Hurricane Katrina, the War in Iraq, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Abu Graib, the list goes on.

    Republicans calling the someone Felony Stupid – and what would you call illegal torture practices. Repubicans are so so quick and cricizing and thing President Obama do and I wish President Obama wasn't so soft on the Repubicans and bring crimical charges aganist the Bush err.

    April 28, 2009 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  19. Lisa B

    Now that I think about it, this could have been such a great opportunity and a confidence and morale booster and source of pride for New Yorkers had it been properly communicated and treated as a special event. Too bad it was botched. I'm sorry for those who were terrified by it, but it is not Obama's fault.

    April 28, 2009 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  20. andyoo

    well, it's stupid for the officials to fly air force one over NY to get a photo.
    Have they heard of Photoshop?
    Fly it over some airport, take a picture and photoshop the picture over NY picture. Done.
    It's stupid official that is burning our money for stupid things.
    that's why we own chinese trillions.
    I can do this picture from existing picture from google pictures alone
    in an hour.
    Now that just show you how stupid is government officials and how low is their IT skills!!!
    does not matter republician or democrates... they rule over bunch of retards.

    April 28, 2009 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  21. J Long

    Broadcasting the fear of those people only fuels what the terrorists were trying to accomplish on 9/11. Do you think the terrorist groups show videos of their own people running for their lives? I doubt it. I agree the flight should have never happened, but I also believe this story should have never happened either. It's time for journalists to focus on the many STRENGTHS of the United States, not it's weaknesses.

    April 28, 2009 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  22. Jennifer, Atlanta, Georgia

    Anything that the Obama Camp does seems to be up for scrutiny. I dont live in NYC, so I will not speak to their sensitivites. However; what I want to know, is where were all you loud mouths, when Bush was running this country straight into the ground? I think while thousands have lost their lives in a created war by Bush, that his former cabinet would be REALLY QUIET about "felony stupidity".

    I know the families of those lost in Iraq, LOVE those Mission Accomplish photos of Former President Bush.

    April 28, 2009 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  23. Soccer Nana

    "And, frankly, as I would say as a former prosecutor, I would call this felony stupidity,"

    Felony stupid? A former Bush adminstration aide? I would not even say that word out loud if I had anything to do with the former president.

    There is no doubt this "photo op" idea should have been handled better than it was; but burnt pots should not go around calling steaming kettles black.

    April 28, 2009 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  24. Arnie

    I agree that it was stupid. But please, I don't care to know what the Bush people think or do not think at this point ! They have done far worse. Like .... waterboarding ???

    April 28, 2009 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
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