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. a southern progressive

    planes fly low all the time over downtown jacksonville, even military planes with weapons....i look up, but i dont freak out, and i know the same history as everyone else... i dont know, i guess i just dont get it. people can feel however they want to, but i think the GOP wants to make this a bigger deal than it really is... now that trend is going to send me into a panic.. that whenever things go bad , we can be sure that republicans will be there to magnify any situation... ugh.. i can feel my heart racing now........

    April 28, 2009 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  2. Russ

    Why did we need to have this photo taken in the first place. Stupid on two counts..........The President does not need to surround himself with poor decision makers......This is not an overreaction. We are adults, but even adults should be considerate of others......

    April 28, 2009 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  3. Karen S Crow

    Ummm ... folks .. the LAST time a 747 or the like was flying low over the city ... the plane had to ditch in the Hudson .... and the time before that, a small private plane crashed into an apartment building ... and lest we forget ... It was a couple of 737 or 747's that brought the Twin Towers down on 9-11-01.

    People ... the folks of NYC have been repeatedly terrified by aircraft in their air space and if a BONEHEADED move by the junior Rangers in the White House scares the daylights out of them ... I'm going to cut New Yorkers just a little slack.

    And the junior Rangers in the White House??? Uh .. not so much!

    April 28, 2009 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  4. AmericanMade

    FIRE THE S.O.B......How DARE he/she put US through this panic
    mode.......again! If he/she isn't smart enough to "think things through", WE DON'T NEED THEM MAKING ANY DECISIONS. PERIOD!

    April 28, 2009 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  5. Mike

    Man, this is almost as dumb as landing on a warship with a "Mission Accomplished" banner.

    April 28, 2009 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  6. Patrick - Indianapolis

    Ahh the bittersweet taste of republican hate. It's lovely on toasted rye! Yeah it was pretty silly, but hey, lets just jump on the "blame Obama because he knew all about it, Hell it was his idea!" boat. You people should have to take a test before you post on public forums.

    April 28, 2009 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  7. Chester Drawers

    In the immortal words of Dick Cheney, "So?".

    April 28, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  8. Eli

    It was a dumb mistake yes, and at best a bad-press mishap. But I think everyone is overreacting here. No one got hurt. It's surely not a just cause for the overdramatic responses by some people. Are people just looking for ways to criticize the Obama administration?

    April 28, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  9. Gary

    I don't think that we should blame Barrak Obama for this stupid flight, but we should investigate who made the decision and why and think about firing that individual.

    April 28, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  10. Matt

    Sadly in this country, stupidity is not a crime and it is often encouraged or celebrated

    April 28, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  11. Anonymous

    Ever heard of PhotoShop?

    April 28, 2009 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  12. Steve in Louisville

    No, "felony stupidity" would be something like starting up a war without justification, based on lies to the American people. Now that's stupidity people really DO need to serve some time for.

    Or maybe "felony stupidity" would be something like torturing prisoners at Gitmo to say that Al Quida and Iraq were connected - to match the lies told to the American people.

    Anybody connected with the Bush administration should lay low these days because you really ARE guilty of "felony stupidity" - or worse!

    April 28, 2009 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  13. K. Poston

    Well if anyone knows about felony stupidity, it would certainly be a former Bush official.

    April 28, 2009 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  14. Dallas, TX

    This was stupid and a HUGE waste of money!

    The White House authorized this; and they tell us they care about saving money; give me break!

    And don't tell me that the great one didn't know about this; pls give me more credit than that.

    April 28, 2009 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  15. Al

    If Bush was in office when this happened, you liberals would be pitching a fit!

    April 28, 2009 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  16. Will they stop at nothing?

    My definition of felony stupidity is anybody who is afraid of Air Force One.

    April 28, 2009 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  17. Cody

    The State of NY and the City of NYC are notified in advance, yet its the WH fault for ...not... notifying the people?.... How does that make any sense? It was stupid, but the blame lies in NYC not the WH.

    Either way, the GOP will pounce on anything. Doesn't matter what the new president does, they are against it.

    April 28, 2009 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  18. andrea

    The President of the United States does not deal with the organization of photo sessions. This was the idea of some PR person not too bright and totally devoid of empathy. You find people like that in every organization.

    It is also somewhat unethical of some republicans to try to exploit this type of incident.

    April 28, 2009 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  19. kingtech

    If any administration was expert at "felony stupidity", it would be the Bushies.

    April 28, 2009 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  20. Donna

    Leave it to a former Bush advisor to describe to us what a "felony" is.

    I wouldnt be saying that word too loudly if I were him, or any other former Bush appointee/friend/hanger-on/whatever....

    April 28, 2009 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  21. JD

    I must say that the flying of a jumbo jet over Manhattan shows not only gross insensitivity to the survivors of September 11th, it also betrays a serious tone of indifference on what happened in Manhattan when jets last flew overhead.

    Of course, this shouldn't surprise anyone. The Obama administration has made it plain that they don't believe terrorism really exists. They think terrorists are just misunderstood random criminals who should be given an audience, not hunted down like the rabid animals they truly are.

    April 28, 2009 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  22. KLS

    Notwithstanding the poor judgement of the White House official - A NYC deputy police commissioner knew about it in advance, but the department did not alert the mayor's office? Makes you really wonder about the city's ability to communicate with itself in a real emergency!!

    April 28, 2009 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  23. GenTwelve

    Give me a break! Mr. Caldera should have known of the potential for opposition to this. Yes, notify the authorities, and FOLLOW UP on that notification! The people that were notified also have some culability in this manner. The ultimate responsibility, however, falls upon the shoulders of Mr. Louis Caldera, he is no longer employed by the US government.

    Of course President Obama didn't know about this. Rahm did, and he is the liitle jerk that is seriously guiding Barrack Obama to a single term.

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

    A government plane loaded with foreign fuel, purchased with money borrowed from China, and then used to terrorize New Yorkers = fiscal responsibility.

    April 28, 2009 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  25. Cleaning up after W

    Agreed. Caldera should be fired for this incident. And if anyone knows "felony stupid" it's a former Bush aide.

    April 28, 2009 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
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