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. Storm019

    Total over reaction

    April 28, 2009 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  2. Gerry

    This is just another attempt by the looser GOP to take a shot at Obama. The Republicians ought to get a clue: noone is listening to you; you are yesterday's news; get off the air waves and take a hunting trip with Dick Cheney.

    April 28, 2009 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  3. Kurt from Canada

    Profoundly stupid. How in the world could anyone have thought that this was a good idea?

    I've no idea if Obama new or not. I suspect not, but that really doesn't matter. When people say "White House" decision, they think Obama, rightly or wrongly. As such, he has he duty to either ask Louis Caldera for his resignation or, if Caldera doesn't tender his resignation, fire him.

    April 28, 2009 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  4. Stacie in Grand Rapids

    But George W. Bush sending U.S. troops to war in Iraq over "weapons of mass destruction" with NO CREDIBLE EVIDENCE was NOT feloniously stupid??? I recommend Ms. Townsend prioritize her concerns based on actual outcomes. Wait, that would require reason and logic. Nevermind . . .

    April 28, 2009 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  5. Sniffit

    If she doesn't look like a prototype GOPer mannequin, then I don't know what would.

    April 28, 2009 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  6. Reader

    What do you expect from an administration that shows no critical thinking skills? Intelligence?

    April 28, 2009 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  7. Melissa

    Yes, it was stupid but honestly people are overreacting. But there are more important things to worry about. Like the economy, and the validated reports of support for torture.

    April 28, 2009 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  8. AndyL

    Can't beleive people are bringing in torture into this. At least Bush tortured terrorist not New Yorkers

    April 28, 2009 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  9. Tommy

    Well, the previous administration has a pretty good view of what constitutes a felony, that is for sure!

    April 28, 2009 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  10. melorene

    It was just another diversionary tactic this administration is very capable of creating. Everybody was starting to close in on Pelosi (who is clearly suffering from Alzheimer's), so they had to do something, anything, to get the heat off of her. I think Obama watched the Trade Center fall on TV with his friends in a cave in Afghanistan. Pretty soon, we will have to start apologizing to the Muslims for 9/11.

    April 28, 2009 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  11. Jack Carlson

    The experience of Obama is showing to the high heavens from day one. A novice at a time like this will give us debt to our great great grandhcildren. Good teleprompter reader "yes", stupid when it comes to economy and other matters.
    Jack Carlson

    April 28, 2009 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  12. Chris in MI

    Incredibly irresponsible, yes...but 'felony stupid?" Uh, that would be the Bush administration. Quick making a big deal out of nothing. Sheesh!

    April 28, 2009 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  13. Dave

    Wow – The right wing nutjobs are out in force here. C'mon, it's not like Obama started a war based on lies and incompetence or wiped out our economy...

    April 28, 2009 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  14. Kathy

    The entire administration will do anything for a photo op!!! I think they all spend too much time trying to be seen and too little time dealing with real issues. I for one have seen enough of the whole crew. No more photo ops... PLEASE!!!

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

    Not to justify the error of unintentionally scaring New Yorkers, in order to get a photo-op, but how does that compare to intentionally scaring the nation, time and time again for politically motivated purposes? The past eight years we were told that if the Bush/Cheney administration was challenged or even questioned, our national security would be in jeopardy. Critics were accused of putting our nation at risk of another terrorist attack. We were told that violation of our civil liberties were a necessary price to pay in the "war on terror". We saw heightened security "codes" prior to elections. It is necessary to put yesterday's mistaken fly-over in perspective.

    April 28, 2009 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  16. jdp

    It was stupid... and it was ridiculous. But for anyone in the Bush administration to make these comments is even more ridiculous. Bush's entire administration is mired in felony and stupidity, from his dumb speeches to his lack of action during Katrina. How did New Orleans feel when they saw Air Force One flying overhead, with a President not doing anything to help them?

    April 28, 2009 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  17. Edmontonian

    The difference between the Bush and Obama administrations:

    In the Bush administration, when a jet flies over lower Manhattan thousands of people die.

    In the Obama administration, when a jet flies over lower Manhattan some extreme partisan Republicans get their underwear in a bunch.

    April 28, 2009 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  18. Video Guy

    I do not think very many people think this was a good idea. But why do we have to hear from this Bush Lady?

    April 28, 2009 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  19. Mie from Texas

    Why are Republicans incapable of (justified) criticism regarding the flyover without turning the poor judgment into an act of near treason by the Obama administration?

    Indeed, Limbaugh the bully is their anointed leader.

    April 28, 2009 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  20. The black spider

    It was a bad decision not to inform the public about this stunt but
    To the GOP here is your another distraction, go ahead and put out critics and call for Obama impeachment on anything.
    You guys crack me up every day.

    April 28, 2009 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  21. Michelle

    I agree that Obama should not be blamed, however.....there seems to be a lot of apologizing going on in his administration. Even HE feels the need to apologize. That's what his whole trip was about just recently. Apologize to the world for America. We're a bunch of losers. I would like to see him get rid of the dead weight and pull in some people who know what they are doing. I'd start with a social secretary to advise him on protocol and then continue on with some financial people who actually know what they are doing.

    April 28, 2009 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  22. Adam from Ohio

    You know ... I really, really, really don't care about this. A stupid decision in hindsight–yes. But not something that was worth even a fraction of the hot air spewed out about it.

    April 28, 2009 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  23. Jane Jones

    Hey guys "don't keep an eye on the extended hand of this Whitehouse, watch the hand behind the back". We are in for deep trouble w/these cohorts and their Chicago buds.
    Jane J

    April 28, 2009 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  24. Shannon

    FIrst of all, doesn't "former Bush official" = "felony stupidity"? Anyone involved in that administration needs to disappear from public speaking.

    Secondly...yeah, someone needs to get fired over this one. Whoever made that decision is an idiot.

    April 28, 2009 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  25. HD

    Feloney Stupidity? Francis Townsend needs to look back on her years with the Bush administration. She and her counterparts are guilty of far worse things than a low flying plane. Let's start with telling americans to have enough plastic wrap for the windows in the homes to keep chemical weapons out. The list of stupid mistakes from the Bush years is endless.

    April 28, 2009 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
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