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Air Force One Foul-up Lands Caldera on Thin Ice

Updated 6:06 p.m.
By Michael D. Shear and Ann Scott Tyson
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs pointedly refused to rule out a firing in the case of the backup Air Force One flight that terrified some in New York City on Monday.

Asked repeatedly this afternoon by reporters whether White House Military Office director Louis Caldera, the official who made the decision, would lose his job, Gibbs pointedly did not express confidence in him. "I think the president has rightly asked that a review of the situation and the decision-making" be done, Gibbs said.

Gibbs repeated his contention that President Obama was "furious" about the decision, and he said the deputy chief of staff will conduct the review. Based on that, the administration will take steps from there, he said.

Caldera, a former Secretary of the Army under president Bill Clinton, apologized quickly Monday afternoon, following reports that Obama was "furious" that the flight had been approved.

"Last week, I approved a mission over New York. I take responsibility for that decision," Caldera said in a statement. "While federal authorities took the proper steps to notify state and local authorities in New York and New Jersey, it's clear that the mission created confusion and disruption. I apologize and take responsibility for any distress that flight caused."

But that may not be enough to calm the storm caused by the flight, which was scheduled to allow Air Force officials to update the official promotional photo for the presidential plane.

Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said at a briefing today that Defense Secretary Robert Gates was "surprised and not very pleased" about what Morrell called the "flying photo op" of Air Force One over Manhattan.

U.S. Air Force personnel and some Pentagon personnel knew had advance notification of the flight, Morrell said, but he also shifted blame toward Caldera, saying the idea originated in the White House Military Office. He called the mission "mishandled" and "misguided."

"It was such an obvious mistake that I think it is virtually impossible that it will happen again," Morrell said. "Everybody in the wake of this now realizes how insensitive it was and what a mistake it was not to inform the American people, the residents of New York, particularly lower Manhattan, in advance."

Obama picked Caldera to head the military office in the White House in early December. In the official announcement, Obama said that "I know he'll bring to the White House the same dedication and integrity that have earned him the highest praise in every post, from Secretary of the Army to university president."

By Web Politics Editor  |  April 28, 2009; 2:46 PM ET
Categories:  B_Blog , Security  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Napolitano: Border With Mexico to Stay Open for Now
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Before you leftist wingnuts start bashing my previous post, please understand it was written with a wry smile befitting my sarcasm.

Posted by: HowardBeale | May 1, 2009 7:06 AM | Report abuse

What is not being covered at all, in this story or any other, is that this VC-25 flown over NYC is the same used as Air Force One in Mister Obama's trip to Mexico. It was found to have become covered with Mexican/Napoletano Flu bacteria, and since Mister Obama is not happy with NYC and the financial district, it was ordered to circle about lower Manhattan to drop as much of the bacteria onto the city as possible.

There is no surprise that NYC now has the highest concentration of the Mexican/Napoletano Flu in the continental United States.

Posted by: HowardBeale | May 1, 2009 6:57 AM | Report abuse

Of course this idiot won't be fired, look at Napolitano...Obama is behind them 100% even if they are a couple of morons. This man has no idea how to run the military or keep our country safe. How many people that Obama said were the best ever and he just had to have in his cabinet screwed up now? Let's see, in only 100 days we've had Napolitano with just about everything she says and does, Geithner who doesn't know crap about running anything except maybe a scheme to get out of paying taxes, Caldera who obviously forgot about 9/11 because he and the Obama administration don't want to hurt terrorists feelings by blaming them and support what they do because they were forced to do what they did, blah,blah,blah, Obama going on an apology tour to demean our country and put it down, Obama spending and taxing us to death and wanting to put a cap and trade system in place to raise EVERYONES electric bills and gasoline at the pump to pay for it and I'm just waiting for Sebelius to probably kill a baby herself since she supports it. This man, along with Napolitano need to be FIRED

Posted by: chloe_658 | April 29, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

This is such a huge blunder that blaming one person, Louis Caldera, is too, too simple. Does the White House Military Office make "photo op" decisions? No. Who requested the "photo op"? That's the real question. Mr. Obama, transparency please.

Mr. Obama's response to the incident, "we found out about along with all of you", speaks volumes. Mr. Obama is not running the show. So, who is?

Posted by: HizrLady | April 29, 2009 8:32 AM | Report abuse


Many witnesses reported that the aircraft, while painted in the familiar turquoise and gray hues, did not have the presidential seal painted on its sides.

Wouldn't an "official photo" require that the plane feature the familiar insignia?

Oh, wait -- they could "photoshop" that in.

But couldn't they have done that with the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty -- as legions of Americans are asking?

And what's up with the reports that a similar flyover "photo shoot" that had been scheduled for Washington next week?

Oh wait -- I get it. Of course. The "second wave."

Will this story fly? Even the predictably gullible White House press corps isn't buying this line... at least, not all the way, as per usual.

My earlier post (below), "The Bizarre, Sadistic Air Force One 9/11-esque Flyover..." was initially written as satire.

But, given the vociferous, indignant responses, the "Thou Doth Protest Too Much," now I must wonder:

Who's wagging the dog?

A congressional investigation is in order.

Right after they do "torture."

Posted by: scrivener50 | April 29, 2009 1:26 AM | Report abuse

A mistake like that is too substantial to ignore. Fire Louis Caldera. It is that simple.

Posted by: paullorie | April 29, 2009 1:20 AM | Report abuse

The "flying photo op" was a costly little project. Between the aircraft used, the fuel and all the government employees involved do we really need to be spending $100K or more on a few PR photos? I suggest billing whoever authorized this unnecessary exercise at the expense of American taxpayers. That's true accountability.

Posted by: aromagic | April 28, 2009 11:17 PM | Report abuse

It is not effective leadership to put the blame on one guy, the guy who thought up the idea. Enough people knew about it, and none of them spoke up to suggest maybe the idea wasn't good. It is unrealistic to expect that one guy bear the brunt of a mistake that lots of people did not step up to stop. It seems President Obama doesn't have a united team but rather a group of dispensable individuals.

Posted by: NHBuckeye | April 28, 2009 10:34 PM | Report abuse

The decision was completely boneheaded, stupid, and just plain wrong. That said, however, this business of "killing" off people - demanding people with stellar careers be dumped for one (admittedly over the top) error, is just as sick. People are fallable human beings. Too many people on this comment line treat human beings - like their children and parents - as mere trash to be tossed on the heap at the first glimmer of some infraction. Much better that the official be held to account, explain what happened, and move on. Summary execution is out of proportion to what happened, as bad as it was. When you get rid a person because of a single short-coming, you are automatically losing all their long-goings - their contribution to society. So, simmer down, and let's move on like adults instead of finger-pointing children in a sandbox.

Posted by: choralsociety | April 28, 2009 9:44 PM | Report abuse


The White House has been over-run with pompous, arrogant, imbecilic, wrong-headed;


Posted by: SAINT---The | April 28, 2009 8:34 PM | Report abuse

This is much ado about nothing. Yes, people were freaked, but we're talking about New Yorkers here.

I'm way more concerned about the escalating situation in Pakistan. There, nuclear weapons are accessible. Now that's something to freak out about.

Posted by: 2stepbay | April 28, 2009 7:21 PM | Report abuse

So, is it not true that Bloomberg's aides were notified of the fly-over?

Posted by: JRM2 | April 28, 2009 6:51 PM | Report abuse

TO: "base camp 55" @4:27 p.m.

Well, it was first meant as a parody... but now, by your overblown outrage, you have convinced me that a full-scale investigation is in order.

Semper fi.

Posted by: scrivener50 | April 28, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Louis Caldera is huge chancre on the Obama administration. I don't know what good he's done in the previous 100 days but he's had one incredibly horrible day. He needs to go!

Posted by: Roofelstoon | April 28, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Time to up the anti psychotropics there pal. One of the frailties of a conjured up conspiracy plot is that you have to be so extremely paranoid to even believe half of it that your credibility is tantamount to used toilet water for anyone forced to listen.

To explain what normally be considered unexplainable, I myself look at probabilities of various occurrences to determine their (un)likely cause. For example:
1) You have a moron for a President who has never held a job in his life.
2) He surrounds himself with people who have even less experience than he does. 3) He has an affinity for pomp and circumstance at any cost.
4) He has a record of gaffe after gaffe since taking office.

Given the about FACTS - this is just one more in what is going to be an extremely long line of screw ups by the time this clown is run out of DC. Some incidents will be more serious than others. Since he is a libtard like most in the press he will get pass after pass as we saw in the smoke and mirror laden election.

Unfortunately, a good number of his screw ups will be serious and cost lives and money. On his part to establish credibility he will have to overreact which will cost more money and more lives.

In short - look forward to a disastrous next 4 years.

Posted by: Bcamp55 | April 28, 2009 4:27 PM | Report abuse

The following comment would not post to the New York Times' story about the Air Force One flyover "terror." Perhaps some fusion center operative took it literally. Maybe Sen. Specter can push for an investigation, since the Defense Department said today it's not reviewing the matter.



Think about it: "Terrorists" hijack the backup Air Force One. It's flown into a lower Manhattan office tower. Thousands perish. When it is revealed that Al Qaeda has struck again, the global war on terror resumes with a vengeance -- with the President who hoped to bring world peace unwittingly cast as the new "W."

But what if word of the "plot" leaked out?

Well... revert to the cover story. Go through with the fly-over (after giving local law enforcement a secret heads-up). When terrorized New Yorkers cry foul, claim it was just an ill-advised photo shoot. Make the "fall guy" a former secretary of the Army, the first Hispanic to serve in that capacity. Get him to "admit" culpability, and hope no one questions the irrationality of the explanation.

Of course, we all know that this is America, and something so Machiavellian, so malevolent, could never happen here. Never.

Posted by: scrivener50 | April 28, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

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