911 Not Even On The Radar

By now everyone knows that on April 27th there was a surprise Presidential airshow over Lower Manhattan.  In my essay, No Apologies for the Wet Pants, I posed the question, “how high up was this decision made?”  Yesterday the question was seemingly answered by White House Military Office (WHMO) Director, Louis Caldera, when he took full responsibility.  The question not adequately answered was, “who decided the public should not know in advance and why?”

DoD photo

What we know is that Caldera was involved in the planning of this photo op for weeks.  The FAA, air traffic controllers, the NYPD, even the Parks Police on Ellis Island were all informed in advance, yet somehow inexplicably no one in any real role of responsibility knew about the photo mission.  Mayor Bloomberg and President Obama claimed total ignorance of it until the flight was over.

Call me a cynic, (and I am,) but I am simply not buying it.  My first clue this was complete and utter fertilizer came when Press Secretary Gibbs, glibly brushed off Presidential responsibility by claiming ignorance.  A fact he demonstrates well but on April 27th he was merely evading.

The Internal Review Concerning April 27, 2009 Air Force One Flight

The official review of the incident demonstrates no indication that anyone in the planning ever suspected the general public might be averse to a low flying jumbo jet so close to the spot where terrorists flew very similar planes into the World Trade Center.  Defense Secretary Robert Gates made it seem as though public relations were never considered in the planning of this mission, or at least, those I spoke to had that impression.  Actually, he said the “mission did not include an appropriate public affairs plan…”  I would agree with this statement having read the report.  The official report refers to discussions that included an April 3rd meeting to discuss “operational issues and public affairs/outreach issues.”  At this meeting it was decided “coordination with “the general public” [would] commence two days before the flight.”  It is now very obvious this part of the plan was subsequently altered.

Colonel Scott Turner with President ObamaIn fact, on April 23rd, Colonel Scott Turner, commander of the Presidential Airlift Group (“PAG), decided and informed Deputy Director, George Mulligan, via email, that the mission would be treated as “FODO” (“for official use only”), meaning secret.  The reason stated in the report is securityI am curious where the threat was. Nevertheless, the same email states that the public should be notified on April 26th, the day before.  We know this never happened.  As I read it, the failure, if indeed there was one, occurred here.  Mulligan shoots an email to Caldera that notifies him of Turner’s decision and suggests he tell Gibbs or White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina.  Mulligan claims, he assumed Turner would let the public know.  Turner apparently assumed the White House would.  Meanwhile, Caldera explains he never checked his WHMO email account until after the brouhaha had ensued.  In fairness, Caldera does not hide behind the missed email as an excuse for not informing the White House; it appears to be one in a series of miscommunications.

And what about the price?

So why didn’t Caldera inform the White House?  Well, according to the report, “he did not offer a coherent explanation.”  In business often when a manager assumes responsibility for an unpopular decision that was handed down to him/her, to which that manager was opposed but now must support to the staff, he/she may offer weak or incoherent explanations to rationalize the decision.  I am convinced both Bloomberg and Obama were completely informed.  Caldera is taking the fall to protect the administration and hopefully for the President, he will make this embarrassing situation go away.  Slaughter the lamb and absolve the guilty.

underside-of-planeUnlike some of my conservative friends and do not believe there was a dark conspiracy afoot, but rather, the extent of public reaction totally took them by surprise.  I suspect that the mission was kept from the public to avoid any possible protest.  It seems safe to assume they knew conservatives would race to make a 911 connection and by surprising conservative mouth pieces, I think they expected only a few annoyed conservative critics.

All this and I never mentioned the price tag for the photo above; $328,835.  Report after report has quoted the ridiculous price tag, (just the fuel ran $35,000,) but no one has taken into account the esoteric costs.  For example, how much time, effort, and money went into investigating this fiasco?  In addition to the report I refer to, is another from Gates’ office.  I’ll go out on a limb here and guess we can add several thousand on an already outrageous price tag.  For Pete’s sake, at least use the photos.  I hate paying for things that end up in the trash!  Don’t you?

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    • A close econimic advisor to the President
    • May 12th, 2009

    You just don’t get it. Do you know how many jobs were created just with this one flight? Clearly you underestimate the money we pumped into the New York economy.

    You should meditate more deeply, before posting your opinions. Of course we at the White House knew. It is our humility, that we don’t take the credit.

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