First Draft: Air Force One’s Big Apple photo op
No matter what kind of day you’re having, it’s probably not as bad as the one Louis Caldera had yesterday. Caldera is director of the White House Military Office, and he approved what might well be one of the most criticized photo op choices of all time: a low-level flyover of Manhattan by a plane often used to transport the president as Air Force One.
Caldera said federal authorities informed the appropriate officials in New York and New Jersey beforehand, but many New Yorkers were instantly reminded of the 911 attacks when they saw the blue and white passenger plane flying by their skyline, trailed by an F-16 fighter jet carrying a photographer. The idea was to get a picture of Air Force One with the Statue of Liberty.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg excoriated the plan, and Caldera reportedly got a dressing down from a “furious” President Barack Obama. Caldera apologized profusely, saying federal authorities took “the proper steps” but “it’s clear that the mission created confusion and disruption.”
That didn’t begin to satisfy many in the media, especially those based in New York City. ABC television’s normally avuncular Charles Gibson added a sarcastic “You think?” after he reported Caldera’s apology. On morning television, the headlines were openly hostile. From CNN, it was “Air Force Dumb.” On Fox, the line was that the flight “Sparks 911 Flashback.” The New York Times ran a picture of the plane on its front page with the restrained caption, “A jet regularly used as Air Force One flew low over Jersey City, above, and Manhattan on Monday, scaring many.”
Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart called it “Mistakes on a Plane,” a riff on the 2006 movie “Snakes on a Plane.”
It’s not like there’s nothing else to worry about: swine flu, health care and climate change, to name three being discussed in Washington today. So you tell us: is the widespread criticism of the AF1 photo op a continuing story or a one-day drama?
Photo credit: REUTERS/Jim Young (Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington after a day trip to New York, November 11, 2008)