Obama administration Aide who approved Air Force One flyover in New York resign

“How stupid… really. How stupid can you be.  Pretty fuckin’ stupid I guess.”



Ed Pilkington in New Yorkguardian.co.uk, Friday 8 May 2009 22.45 BST

Barack Obama bowed to the loss of one of his senior aides today when he accepted the resignation of the official who had approved the publicity shoot of Air Force One over lower Manhattan that turned into a publicity disaster.

Louis Caldera, who headed the White House Military Office, handed in his resignation to coincide with the completion of an internal inquiry into the flight fiasco. Caldera, a former secretary of the US army under Bill Clinton, featured prominently in the seven-page inquiry report produced by Jim Messina, the White House deputy chief of staff.

The flyover on 27 April had been designed as a routine publicity shoot in a series of images involving Air Force One, the presidential 747 jet, in the air above symbolic locations across America. This one captured the plane flying over the Statue of Liberty, and replaces an earlier picture of the jet traversing Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.

The problem was that pedestrians and workers in downtown Manhattan had not been given any inkling as to the project. So when a large jet, flanked by two fighter aircraft, was seen coming in low over the high-rise buildings in the vicinity of Ground Zero, the first thought upon many people’s minds was a repeat of 9/11.

Emergency phone lines were jammed, and there were scenes of pandemonium as people tried to flee the area. To compound matters, Caldera’s office ordered that no information about the flyover should be given out to the public ahead of the shoot, on the grounds that this was a “classified” mission. New York police and the mayor’s office were told in advance, but expressly told to keep it secret.

As the final straw, it was revealed that the shoot had cost taxpayers $328,835. When Obama learned of what had happened, he is said to have been furious and ordered the review to ensure such an incident never happened again.

In his resignation letter to Obama, Caldera said that the controversy around the aerial photo shoot had made it impossible for him to lead the military office. “It has become a distraction to the important work you are doing as president.”



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