White House official resigns over Air Force One NYC flyover

The director of the White House Office of Military Affairs, stepped down because of a PR photo shoot eerily reminiscent of 9/11.


Alex Koppelman
May 9, 2009 1:15AM (UTC)

It was basically inevitable that someone in the White House would fall on their sword over the incredibly stupid decision to have Air Force One fly at low altitude right around lower Manhattan  (trailed by a fighter jet, no less) in order to get a PR photo. Now, it's happened -- and, just as inevitably, it was announced on a Friday afternoon, the traditional time to release embarrassing information you'd rather not have in the news cycle for very long.

On his way out of the administration is White House Military Office Director Louis Caldera, whose office was responsible for the decision. His resignation is effective on May 22nd, but he's done at WHMO as of today.

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The White House also released one of the photos taken during the shoot. It shows the plane above the Statue of Liberty, with New Jersey in the distance, and it's honestly not a very good picture.  But it is, at least, not as bad as an accompanying report describing how the flight came to be authorized -- and why the White House was (at least according to the document) uninformed before it took place.

According to the report, Caldera was repeatedly informed about the plan but didn't really pick up on it or its implications for various reasons: He was busy upon his return from the president's trip to Mexico, his deputy sent an e-mail about it to an address he didn't check often, he was suffering from back spasms and "went home early a couple days."

There are a couple unintentionally funny notes in the report as well. In his e-mail to Caldera, the deputy director writes that the operation "will probably receive some local press," but, he says, "WH shouldn't catch any questions about it." Not quite the way it turned out, obviously.

And my favorite sentence: "He stated that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel entered the room, described the controversy created by the flight, and asked whether the White House knew about the flyover in advance."

I would have loved to be a fly on the wall to hear how Emanuel "described" the controversy and "asked" about it.


Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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