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. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    A former Bush employee saying someone isn't fit to serve is so right, that someone being herself along with the rest of the Bush administration.

    April 28, 2009 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  2. Dan

    Guilty as charged! What a bunch of boneheads!

    April 28, 2009 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  3. cheryl

    it was a mistake. He asked for forgiveness. Lets not be too quick to be critical. Nobody is without fault.

    April 28, 2009 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  4. Jim

    Whom ever ordered this flight plan should be quickly delt with by the military, so that we can focus back on the more important issue of bringing the Bush/ Cheney group to trial.

    April 28, 2009 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  5. Michael

    Yes, like we should listen to anything a "former Bush aide" has to say. You guys did an excellent job the last eight year. Shut up and go away!

    April 28, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  6. jess

    who cares? If Obama sneezes the Republicans call him names and make a show of it. Hello we are in the middle of a health emergency can we please talk about that! Or maybe something Republicans don't want to talk about like those pesky torture memos. hmmmmm.....

    April 28, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  7. Jerry

    Question: How fast can you dumb New York City liberals run? Good practice for the next 911 as you now have Obama...more concerned about rights of terrorists than your sfaety

    April 28, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  8. chris

    ever heard of photo shop?

    April 28, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  9. gypski

    I'd call the World Trade Center a crime scene that hasn't been fully investigated more then sacred ground. Sacred connotates something religious occuring there. Which didn't. But flying a commercial jet like that in the area without notice luckily didn't cause wide spread panic. Who ever called that play is an idiot.

    April 28, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  10. Anonymous

    You people are obviously not new yorkers. If you had 9/11 happen in your city and saw the misery it brought, you would feel the same way those people did. They thought they were under attack again. Whoever was involved in this should lose their jobs. Don't make this a partisan event. It was a terribly wrong thing to do.

    April 28, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  11. More stupidity from Oblamo Group

    This is just more stupidity from the Oblamo Administration – incompetence is their signature – blame the other guy is their mantra – Tax, borrow, and spend is their rallying cry.

    Obama's people are spending taxpayer money like drunken sailors.
    Felony stupid -- how about just stupid and incompetent.

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

    Bush and Cheney are the felons – let's not forget that.

    April 28, 2009 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  13. John Anthony

    Every time Fran Townsend opens her mouth, she's guilty of felony stupidity.

    April 28, 2009 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  14. Dan Holiday

    The topic is about the photo-op mishap for Air-Force One...how then is it that so many of you keep bringing up Bush and his administration? To all of the Dimocrats out there, Bush is no longer President...let it go. I know you all hate him more than anyone else in history, but this is not a healthy habit you have. Stop bashing Bush and start being critical of the current administration. I know that will be difficult since Obambi can do no wrong (Heck, they could have flown that plane into a building and you guys would have stuck up for him). Please, for the love of God...stop with Bush. You guys sound so ridiculous.

    April 28, 2009 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  15. Simmy

    Bush and Cheney committed a felony act by fraudulently sending our brave troops to war....That's worst than stupidity....It's criminal...The fallout happened in NY because appropriate officials neglecting to prepare the public. Shut the hell up about the President....If stupidity were a crime we'd all be in jail......Enough of the labeling and finger pointing...And Hannity is becoming more idiotic each day...

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

    The FAA once again using very poor judgment (like not demanding reinforced cockpit doors on commercial passengers jets years and years before 9/11/01 because it cost too much money to the airlines? How much did the destruction of the World Trade Centers cost this country? Answer that one, FAA!

    Obama needs to fire this guy Caldera. I seriously suspect his judgment in not making this fly-over public in NYC, not even notifying the Mayor? Government bureacracy at its worst. Stupid, stupid, stupid. I am sure our President would never have approved of this stunt had he been informed about it beforehand. The man has much more common sense than this blunder exhibited.

    April 28, 2009 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  17. You should care

    This is not a political thing, it is merely a stupid, and reckless descision. It needs to be reported, discussed, corrected and if in the end it tells us something about the current administration, we need to know...

    April 28, 2009 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  18. Sara

    If this is felony stupidity, what do you call homeland security's handling of Katrina?

    April 28, 2009 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  19. Rick

    And of course, once again....the all-powerful Obama claims he knew nothing about this. But this is what you get when you elect an amateur community organizer into office.

    April 28, 2009 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  20. Peter

    Whoever cooked this up or allowed it is not competent to command military assets. Sack them. As high as it goes. This is not a game. Many folks were injured yesterday evacuating waterfront buildings in NYC and Jersey City.

    And to those who ask why it wasn't publicized by NYC – please have a few facts before expressing an opinion – Obama's man ordered secrecy.

    April 28, 2009 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  21. ra44mr2

    Oh i love the defenders of Obama's administration. Im sure if this were done on Bush's watch they would be screaming for his head on a platter. Oh wait they already do.

    April 28, 2009 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  22. Andy in Texas

    Thank GOD a former Bush official was here to tell us how the White House screwed up. If any administration was expert at "felony stupidity", it would be Bush's. Look, Bushies, you're done. Go away. We don't need you to tell us this was stupid. We know it was stupid. Tremendously stupid. But someone from YOUR administration coming out to tell us that it was stupid only serves to remind us that your boss was the KING OF STUPID.

    April 28, 2009 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  23. Obama aka Barry

    What's the problem Republicans? I don't see any problem. Get over it. The headline should read Again the GOP brings up something stupid to stir up negativity in the current administration.

    April 28, 2009 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  24. Tom in Sarasota

    Speaking of "felony stupidity", how about that war Bush and Chaney started to protect us from weapons of mass distruction that didn't exist? This is by their own admission, which they think sounds less culpable than the truth, which is that they lied. If stupidity really were a felony, the entire Bush White House would be serving hard time.

    April 28, 2009 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  25. Jeff G

    just how much money and wasted jet fuel did this photo op cost, sending an empty Air Force One plane up for a picture

    April 28, 2009 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
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