US President Barack Obama admits mistake after decision to stage a ‘flyover photo op’ of the presidential airplane over New York City, with a fighter jet giving chase, stirs up memories of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The Internet lit up Monday with incredible video footage of Manhattan office workers streaming out of their buildings as a 747 commercial jet roared low and fast overhead with an F-16 fighter jet seemingly giving chase.
For the residents of New York City, who are still understandably edgy about big planes and big sounds, there was only one possible explanation: another hijacking and possible suicide attack by some terrorist group that hates America.
The reality – that the White House Military Office had authorized the “mission” in order to get a 30-minute publicity shot of the presidential plane against a backdrop of the Statue of Liberty – was almost just as shocking as if Al-Qaeda had been at the controls.
And it was not just the good people of New York City who were furious about the Monday morning fire drill. It seems that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg missed the memo as well.
“I’m annoyed – furious is a better word – that I wasn’t told,” Bloomberg commented to reporters.
“Why the Defense Department wanted to do a photo op right around the site of the World Trade Center catastrophe defies imagination.”
Indeed, the US Defense Department could not have picked a worse place for an aerial “mission” than over Manhattan, or to be more precise, Ground Zero, the hallowed ground in New York City where a group of terrorists slammed two commercial jets into the World Trade Center buildings, killing some 3,000 people.
On Tuesday, Obama chose a meeting with members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as the venue to field questions (or rather question, as only one was permitted on the subject) about the New York City flyover, which was been dubbed “Scare Force One” by US media.
“It was a mistake… it was that we found out about it along with all of you, and it will not happen again,” the president said, as the reporters were quickly escorted out of the room with a wave of Obama’s hand.
The initial statement from the White House was not delivered by the American president, however, but by Louis Caldera, the director of the White House Military Office who signed off on the mission.
“Last week, I approved a mission over New York. 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,” Caldera said in the statement.
As the FBI press conference was coming tio a quick close, one reporter was heard asking Obama if “he [Louis Caldera] was the right man for the job?” The president gave no response to the question.
Now, critics are questioning the logic of conducting a photo op with the president’s plane at a time when the country is still experiencing color-coded jitters over the perennial threat of a terrorist attack, in addition to a lingering financial crisis.
Air Force officials said Wednesday said the three-hour round trip from Andrew Air Force Base in Maryland and back, including all of the ground support and fuel, cost taxpayers $328,835 dollars.
Now we must add to that cost the cost of having all those employees evacuating their offices for many hours at the start of a work week (Incidentally, although it may be simply coincidental, Wall Street on Monday was down almost a full percentage point), not to mention the psychological trauma associated with the whole drama. Seems like a perfect opportunity for an ambulance-chasing lawyer.
Okay, here we go: The President of the United States had no idea that the US Defense Department was taking his Air Force One private jet out for a photo op joyride. That is almost the equivalent of your teenage son taking your brand new Ford Explorer for a spin around the neighborhood without asking for your permission. But wait, it gets better.
The Defense Department also had no idea that the president’s personal plane would be buzzing around the skies of New York for half an hour, causing panic and general mayhem.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates “did not know in advance about this flying photo op,” Pentagon spokesperson Geoff Morrell said. “Once he found out, suffice it to say, he was surprised and not very pleased.” Well, that’s certainly good to know.
So who did know? Well, it seems that the top brass of the New York police department had wind that something was going down, but since the information was stamped “classified” they couldn’t tell anybody, not even the mayor of the Big Apple himself, Mr. Bloomberg. Strange. Very strange.
What is even stranger, however, is that two fighter jets were activated to carry an Army camera man to photograph the plane that (sometimes) carries the president. But why were two fighter jets needed, especially if the president was not, as the White House says, riding in the plane. Wouldn’t one fighter jet suffice for this plane stupid mission (sorry, the silly puns are too tempting to ignore for this story)? Furthermore, why can the Pentagon find the blood and guts to get their jets off the ground for a glamour shot of the president’s jet, sparking fears of another attack, but remained idle on the ground when real terrorists were invading American airspace on 9/11 for almost two hours?
In light of all of this information, I would like to forward my personal theory as to the real events that unfolded in the skies above New York City on Monday morning, August 27, 2009.
US President Barack Hussein Obama was on that plane. Okay, it’s impossible, you say. After all, the White House denies that the president was on board. But isn’t it possible that, in preparation for his 100 Days of Grandeur, the White House thought it would be fantastic if the president was photographed gazing coolly out the window of his outfitted Boeing 747 at the sleepy little village of Big Apple below, with the Statue of Liberty stretching to the blue heavens in the background. Yes, all is fine in the neighborhood so long as it’s Air Force One terrorizing our skies and not some nutty fanatic. No other story makes sense. Why else would nobody know a thing about the mission? Why all the incredible secrecy? Why were two jets sent to tag Air Force One? Why did the incident take place two days before Obama's 100 days in office? Why photograph the jet on a Monday, when Manhattan is packed with employees stuck in skyscrapers, and not a Sunday, when Obama was enjoying a golf weekend, it turns out. Either everybody in the know knew that Obama was on that plane, but are denying any previous knowledge about it or even the flight itself, or nobody really knew that Obama was on that flight, thus underlining the level of secrecy, not to mention irresponsibility, of the Oval Office. Or my hunch is just plane wrong. And I really hope it is.
But… Could it be that Barack Obama, after just 100 days in office, has so much golden stardust clogging his eyes and ears from all the hype and glory about his unassailable greatness, being trumpeted from myriad media around the world, that even a quick spin over Manhattan in his new ride would not be too brash a gesture on his part?
After all, how could the people not forgive Barack Obama for a low-level flight when he is already touching the stars as it is?