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Aide resigns over Air Force One fiasco -- Biden not involved

By Jimmy Orr / May 9, 2009

The White House yesterday released one photo from the disastrous Air Force One photo op that panicked thousands of New Yorkers last week. The incident cost the director of the White House Military Office his job.

WHITE HOUSE PHOTO

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Once news broke that an Air Force One jet buzzed Lower Manhattan for a photo op, do you think Obama aides checked to see where Vice President Biden was?

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Thankfully for the president, it wasn't the Veep's idea. It was Louis Caldera, the director of the White House Military Office (WHMO), who rubber-stamped the mission and ultimately paid for it with his job.

Caldera submitted his resignation yesterday and to no surprise, it was promptly accepted. The White House wants the memory of this fiasco to fade -- and fast.

"I have concluded that the controversy surrounding the Presidential Airlift Group's aerial photo shoot over New York City has made it impossible for me to effectively lead the White House Military Office," Mr. Caldera wrote.

Effective?

But was he effectively leading it in the first place? The White House review of the incident shows that Caldera was informed of the mission but missed numerous chances to stop it from happening, failed to alert senior White House officials about it, nor did he even recognize that the public might have a reaction to seeing a jumbo jet tailed by military aircraft swooping down on the city.

That's not to say there wasn't plenty of bad advice to spread around. Like the email sent to Caldera from his deputy director days before the fly-by. It did reiterate prior counsel to inform senior White House officials but its lack of public relations awareness is staggering

"All has been coordinated," wrote Deputy Director George Gilligan Mulligan. "Will probably receive some local press, but WH shouldn't catch any questions about it. Provided in case you want to pass to Jim Messina or Robert Gibbs for awareness."

Well, Mulligan was right. It did receive some local press.

And to Caldera's credit, he did read the email. Unfortunately, that was after someone alerted him that mass chaos and panic occurred in New York City as a result of the flight he approved.

Communicate

Why didn't he tell anyone?

"[Caldera] did not offer a coherent explanation," the report reads. "He stated that it was not a conscious decision he did not decide NOT to notify them. Instead, he suggested that it may have been an oversight. He noted that the deputy director had not told him (and he did not understand) that Air Force One would be flying over lower Manhattan at a very low altitude."

The report does not answer how Colonel Scott Turner, commander of the Presidential Airlift Group, and Deputy Director Mulligan could possibly have thought it was a good idea in the first place. According to the internal review, the two spoke often about the upcoming event.

Even after the fiasco, the deputy director still didn't seem to grasp the foolishness of the overall idea. According to the report, Mulligan believed "the breakdown was the lack of public notification."

Over

With Caldera's resignation, the whole fiasco will begin to fade from the public eye. Although we're guessing the event will be brought up tonight at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner.

And as we noted yesterday, the administration proved they could make news in New York without terrifying thousands. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the Statue of Liberty's crown will be reopened to the public on July 4.

The only thing scary about yesterday's incident was seeing goofy NBC weatherman Al Roker on top of the statue.

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