Air Force One fiasco -- Obama demands review

President Obama told reporters that the Air Force One photo op was a "mistake" and "would not happen again." His press secretary later announced that Obama called for a "review into how the decision was made to conduct the flight."

As President Obama addresses the nation tonight (unless you're watching FOX - they're opting out) it seems likely that at least one of the questions will be about the ill-advised Air Force One photo op that panicked New Yorkers Monday.

Although Arlen Specter's announcement yesterday has moved the national discussion forward, the photo shoot -- intended to capture a patriotic image of Air Force One with the Statue of Liberty beaming in the background -- isn't going away.

It's still big news. The president's press secretary announced yesterday that the White House will “conduct a review into how the decision was made to conduct the flight."

The goal? "To understand why the decision was made and to ensure that it never happens again."

The public relations disaster cost taxpayers $328,835. And everyone's pointing their fingers at one guy -- Louis Caldera.


He's the individual -- in his role as the director of the White House Military Office -- who took full blame for the photo shoot in a statement emailed out by the White House press office Monday.

"Last week, I approved a mission over New York," Caldera said. "I take responsibility for that decision. 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."

He may be feeling a lot of distress himself following the review. Administration officials are saying that Caldera could lose his job over it.

"The president will look at that review and determine what action to take," Gibbs said, adding that the review could take "a couple weeks" to complete.

Only him?

Although he rubber stamped the deal, there were plenty of others who could have spoken up to stop it.

Like the NYPD. They knew about it, but they say their hands were tied.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told Newsday that said his agency received an email from the FAA about the upcoming photo shoot, but were advised "under penalty of law do not put this information out."

WCBS-TV obtained a copy of the memo where an FAA employee noted "the possibility of public concern regarding DOD (Department of Defense) aircraft flying at low altitudes" in New York City. But apparently that possibility wasn't enough to make them re-think their approach.


No review is necessary from those who experienced the fly-by. Their reactions? Anger and bewilderment. Those seemed to be the reactions of the day anyway on the Tuesday morning news programs.

Take former Homeland Security Advisor Fran Townsend, for example.

“I’d call this felony stupidity," the tough-as-nails ex-prosecutor said yesterday on CNN. "This is probably not the right job for Mr. Caldera to be in if he didn’t understand the likely reaction of New Yorkers, of the mayor."

Off with his...

Another former Bush administration official, Brad Blakeman, also called for Caldera's head.

"This is more than a lapse of judgment," Blakeman said on FOX News. "This is complete stupidity in a time of economic crisis, wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars for publicity photos for Air Force One when you could have put that on your PC at home and done the same thing without that cost and disruption."


President Obama's 2008 rival was stoked up too -- twittering yesterday that he was looking into how much the photo op cost. He later released a letter he sent to Defense Secretary Robert Gates demanding answers.

“The supposed mission represents a fundamentally unsound exercise in military judgment and may have constituted an inappropriate use of Department of Defense resources,” McCain wrote.


The kindest words may have come from President Obama.

"It was a mistake," Obama told reporters while visiting the FBI. "It was something we found out about along with all of you and it will not happen again."

Of course, the measured public reaction is assuredly much different than what was said in the White House Monday. Gibbs said, "The president was furious upon learning of this decision."

Bad meeting

ABC's Jake Tapper reported that Caldera was called into a meeting with White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and deputy chief of staff Jim Messina.

"It didn't sound like a fun meeting," the White House official told Tapper.

Hey, in case we're ever called into a meeting with Rahm Emanuel, we'll make sure to Twitter it. So follow us!

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