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Flyover Photo Released, Caldera Quits

From the New York City CBS affiliate WCBSTV:

(Click to enlarge)


White House Releases Photo From Frightening Flyover In Lower Manhattan; Official Resigns Over Embarrassing Incident

May 8, 2009

On the same day that the White House released the photograph that cost $328,000 and turned the stomachs of thousand of New Yorkers, President Barack Obama accepted the resignation of the official who authorized the presidential aircraft flyover in lower Manhattan last month, CBS 2 has learned.

Louis Caldera, the director of the White House Military Office, handed in his resignation Friday. The news comes as Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the Air Force flyover that sparked a panic was not adequately reviewed and approved by senior service and department officials.

The flyover was arranged as part of a photo opportunity for White House records. The official photo was released along with Caldera’s resignation and the official report on the flyover.

Caldera said the controversy had made it impossible for him to effectively lead the White House Military Office. "Moreover, it has become a distraction in the important work you are doing as president," Caldera said in his resignation letter to President Barack Obama…

Caldera’s office approved the photo-op, which cost $35,000 in fuel alone for the plane and two jet fighter escorts. The Air Force estimated the photo shoot cost taxpayers $328,835

The White House released the report late Friday afternoon via e-mail, with a short written statement from White House press secretary Robert Gibbs…

Caldera, a former Army secretary, has headed the office that coordinates presidential travel on Air Force jets.

When Obama appointed Caldera to the job during the presidential transition, the then president-elect hailed Caldera as having a resume that was second-to-none. Obama said then: "I know he’ll bring to the White House the same dedication and integrity that have earned him the highest praise in every post."

His resignation takes effect May 22, but he is done at the White House Military Office now — not just as director, but in any part of the office’s work. He said he will use the two weeks of his employment to complete the necessary steps to leave the White House…

The cost of the frivolous flight was about $60,000 an hour and that was just for the presidential aircraft. That doesn’t include the cost of the two F-16s that came along.

The flight by the VC-25, a modified Boeing Co. 747, and two F-16 fighter jets cost $328,835, Air Force spokeswoman Vicki Stein said.

That includes $300,658 for the larger plane, which flew a three-hour mission, and about $28,178 for the F-16 jets, which flew 1.8 hours each, Stein said in an e-mailed statement…

The mayoral aide who neglected to tell Mayor Michael Bloomberg about it was reprimanded.

It sure is not much of a photograph.

It looks like something grabbed by one of the accompanying fighter pilots using a cheap digital camera.

If you click on the image to enlarge it, you can readily make out the glare on the glass and the bottom edge of the canopy.

Perhaps they darkened the image hoping no one would notice.

In any case, this sure doesn’t look like a picture taken by a professional photographer for a ‘photo op.’

It certainly doesn’t seem to be worth $328,835 dollars.

By the way, notice that this was put out on a late Friday afternoon, in the hallowed tradition of the Clinton administration.

And speaking of Bill Clinton:

Caldera, a former Army secretary, has headed the office that coordinates presidential travel on Air Force jets.

Let’s look at Caldera’s "military career," such as it is.

Mr. Caldera was graduated from West Point. He subsequently served on active duty from 1978 to 1983 — which is required, if you go to West Point.

Mr. Caldera then attended Harvard Law school. After he graduated he practiced law full-time from 1987 to 1992.

He then ran for the CA Assembly, representing downtown Los Angeles, as a Democrat. Caldera served in the State Assembly from 1992 to 1997.

Before finishing his third term in the Assembly, Caldera left to begin serving as managing director and chief operating officer for Clinton’s Corporation for National and Community Service, a ‘domestic volunteer program.’

And in 1998, Mr. Clinton decided that Mr. Caldera had the qualifications to make a great Secretary of the Army. A seat he warmed from July 2, 1998 to January 20, 2001

Mind you, Mr. Calder was qualified for the job. And he had clearly earned it.

It was not a affirmative action hire at all.

This article was posted by Steve on Friday, May 8th, 2009. Comments are currently closed.

41 Responses to “Flyover Photo Released, Caldera Quits”

  1. catie says:

    Well I may be mistaken on this but I believe during the Bush years this place was staffed with military members not political appointees. Well, I’m actually surprised it took this long.
    On a side note-that isn’t such a great picture.

  2. Douglas says:

    That’s a terrible photo taken from inside the cockpit of one of the chase planes with a cheap digital camera. It’s poorly framed, you can see the distortion and a reflection from the canopy.

    If they were really doing a photo mission, there would be dozens of pictures in high quality 10+ megapixel resolution. They also would have had the camera plane farther out so the relative size of AF-1 and the statue would be closer.

    I’m not into conspiracy, but there’s no way that photo was the reason AF-1 was in New York’s airspace. Someone took that plane for a joyride and now it’s being covered up.

  3. beautyofreason says:

    Wow, that’s not a very good photo. I could do something better in Photoshop by taking a better image of a plane and superimposing it over the NYC skyline, the blending the edges and adjusting the color balance / contrast to make it look like a single image.

    What a waste of taxpayer dollars – and a rude thing to do to New Yorkers after 9/11.

    • caligirl9 says:

      I just thought the same thing. This has got to be a joke.

      *crickets chirping* Oh it’s not.

      There’s no way TOTUS didn’t know about this. The raging Dems I work with are convinced he’s utterly innocent.

      I’m equally convinced that Caldera “volunteered” to resign ’cause a scapegoat was necessary and of course the POTUS ain’t no one’s scapegoat. He be the messiah and he walks on water.

  4. Moonspinner says:

    I am shocked by that picture. It is awful. It looks dreary and ugly, and I never thought anyone could make the presidential plane and the Statue of Liberty look this bad. UNLESS this was the whole point of the photo shoot. After all, Obama and his Administration have that view of America so I surmise that this photo reflects Obama’s view of America – dreary and ugly.

  5. Douglas says:

    Arrrgh. The more I look at it the more it infuriates me.

    I could have taken a spectacular shot. They needed to set up a camera with a very long lens on a barge (or other stable platform) about 2 miles southwest of Liberty island. Then they could have flown AF-1 between Liberty Island and the bottom of Manhattan. The long lens combined with the distance would bring the statue, plane and the Manhattan skyline together.

    Instead we get grandma’s poorly done instamatic snapshot.

  6. curvyred says:

    Explain something to me please someone, why do they keep referring to it as Air Force One – when that moniker is only reserved for when the POTUS is aboard, official statement:

    Office of the Press Secretary
    For Immediate Release
    April 27, 2009”

    “Statement from Louis Caldera, Director White House Military Office, on Air Force One flight over New York

    “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.”


    Is this simply a miscommunication ?

    If anyone is interested WCBS has the “official” review in PDF format:

    (select “click here to read WH’s official review)

  7. VMAN says:

    I think the symbolism in the photo is frightening. Air Force One dominates the photo and we could say for arguments sake that it represents the President who unfortunately is Obama. Then we have the Satue of “Liberty” a symbol of freedom and, of course, liberty which is dwarfed by Air Force One. It says to me that Obama thinks he dominates, both, our liberty and freedom. I do not think it was a coincidence that this is the photo that was released. This man (Obama) is a pig and is laughing at us all.

    • U NO HOO says:

      VMAN, you took my words right outta my mouth, so to speak.

      I’m waiting to see the passenger manifest of the flight to see which Saudi noble(s) was/were on board.

  8. jrmcdonald says:

    This story stinks of cover-up. Thie guy is falling on his sword for some higher ranking drone.

  9. Anonymoose says:

    Real great looking picture….cough. I also wondered why they were doing this “photo shoot” on an overcast day, it would have been much better with a clear blue sky.

    Yes, I’m wondering too if Mr. “This plane is a smooth ride” had let one of his buddies or friends go on a joyride.

  10. Liberals Make Great Speedbumps says:

    Well at least Caldera has the privilege of being the first person in history thrown under Air Force One. I still want to see pictures from INSIDE VC-25. I’m not buying this for a minute.

  11. MinnesotaRush says:

    There just isn’t a piece to this that just isn’t disgusting and shameless.

    They found the sacrificial lamb to bring this hack Chicago politics episode to a close (so they hope).

    And yeah .. your right LBMGS. The passenger list and interior photo’s would be a revelation .. now wouldn’t they. That’s why we’ll never see them.

    Hell. I’d be willing to bet the ‘federal fugitive’ auntie o-blah-blah (“Anyone subject to a deportation order would be considered a fugitive by federal authorities if he or she failed to surrender by the stated time, according to Julie Myers, former assistant secretary of Immigration and Customs Enforcement”) well may even have been on the special tour flight. MO’s mommie, too.

    But .. keep movin’ folks. Nothin’ to look at here. Good grief!

  12. JaneLovesJesus says:

    It’s a great photo and I’ve got just the caption: Obama Looks Down on America

  13. GetBackJack says:

    Who says an F-16 took the photo?

    I see the Air Force confirms there were two chase planes, but I don’t see any acknowledgement of either F-16 being the platform from which this alleged photograph was taken.

    And I don’t see any notation of news service or FOI asking what airplane was used as the platform for taking the alleged photograph. And … just ONE photograph? The Air Force statement says photograph, singular. Surely there was more than one, but the statement uses the singular instead of plural. And further … how do we know this is a photograph taken during this specific incident?

    This ‘explanation’ is full of holes and written to invite us to make our own assumptions.

    So, where specifics would have laid it to rest, we’re given a statement that does not.

    Ergo … there’s something else unrevealed. Like, maybe posh contributors on board frolicking over the skies of Manhattan?

  14. Colonel1961 says:

    An astounding lie. Rama-bama let some buddies ‘Lincoln Bedroom’ the damned thing…

    • Liberals Demise says:

      You just dinged the very things I ‘ve been saying since this “Carpe Diem” happened. There is no doubt that this was a junket ride for BIG money and Commie friends. “WHERE” is the manifest?

  15. LewWaters says:

    We knew someone was going to take the fall. Just another one under the bus from this administration.

  16. canary says:

    The Picture is too dark for 10:30 am. Also, in 2007 or 2008 the FBI was investigating the bank Caldera was on the board, which closed. In “Dreams Obama blamed banks, the white house, and white politicans for the blacks poverty. We will never know if Obama was in the plane.
    Might be a photo-op, to show in Dreams where he slept on a curb, (his friend was gone) and woke up to see a “white man” looking at him. A rags from riches story, for his movie.

    • curvyred says:

      Yes INDYMAC – and he (Caldera) was also a President of the University of New Mexico.



    • proreason says:

      Indymac was the bank little Chuckie Shummer instigated a run on in July 2008, which brought the bank down. But that wasn’t enough to tank the markets, so Soros and the boys did their thing with Lehman Brothers and the unprecedented Money Market Run in Sept 2008. That did the trick.

      In an amazing coincidence, Soros ended up in control of Indy Mac for pennies on the dollar, which should make him tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars that he will spend on good causes. Who wudda thunk he could be such a lucky guy?

      But NO WAY Caldera was involved in any of that. NO WAY.

      He’s a Democrat, after all, and the Democrats are squeeky clean when it comes to stuff like that.

    • curvyred says:

      Of course he wasn’t involved – I would never, ever, ever suggest such a thing. – after all he is a Demmie -that alone makes all of his efforts noble and if he would happen to be caught in “situation” – of course it would be because the evil (muah ha ha ) Republicans and Tea Party participants are on a witch hunt.

  17. DB of Denver says:

    Has anyone noticed the ferryboat, take a look at the wake. It’s making a hard U-turn and getting the hell out of there. That says it all (FEAR) for sure the wake will be photo shopped out when someone in the White House with any lick a sense figures that out.

    • caligirl9 says:

      Good eyes!

      I have to laugh; this story is in one of my local rags and most of the fools posting comments there don’t think TOTUS had any idea this was going on. They seem to believe that he was totally out of the loop in making this decision. I got plenty of thumbs down and “are you stupid?” comments after my message saying “Do we really believe the president didn’t know about this?”

      Normally I’d believe that is so, but this guy we’re stuck with now seems to be such a control freak, he probably wants to know where his awesome ride (even the back-up awesome ride) is 24/7.

      History will reveal the truth unless the paper shredder gets to it first. Oh, and if we survive the next 4 years intact.

    • Liberals Make Great Speedbumps says:


      I just looked at what you’re referring to and that ferry has just “backed” out and is turning to head back to N.J. I’ve been to the Statue of Liberty several times and that is how they maneuver.

  18. Petronius says:

    Imagine the media uproar if this had been a business executive traveling on a private jet.

  19. GL0120 says:

    TOTUS knows all!

  20. proreason says:

    Well it’s all cleared up now.

    Case closed.

  21. Confucius says:

    Isn’t Caldera lucky? Indeed, it’s good to be a terrorist during the Age of Obama.

    No waterboarding or “torture” for Caldera. Just a slap on the wrist and set free somewhere in America.

  22. canary says:

    DB Denver, interesting. So, this is what the White House meant about a photo over the statue of liberty. So, why the heck, did they circle 3 times down upon the buildings, and twice around
    Ground Zero? Who was the pilot? And prehaps that’s why one jet left, not wanting to be part of the cruelness.
    the Black Boxes, so we can know the real truth in their insanity.

  23. BigOil says:

    The real story here is the conspicuous absence of the flight manifest. If Obama’s cronies were not on the plane, I would have expected that information to be in the report.

    • Rusty Shackleford says:

      As it happens, most of what the big 747 does is classified. It is not just a PR vehicle but also a flying command post with an enormous communications center and tons and tons of classified things on board.

      Also, canary, the air traffic around that area is crammed by Newark, LGA and JFK, all very busy places and their route of flight probably was just as confining. One possible reason the SOL looks so tiny is that the big plane was not permitted below a certain altitude, even if it IS the US flagship.

      But with all that said, it was a very unwise, unsatisfactory event. I’ll even go so far as to say the idiot in the big chair truly DIDN’T know what was going on as, given this administration’s inability to function in an efficient manner, as with both Bush’s and Reagan, with hippies in control of all aspects of protocol, I’ll bet the photo-op was scheduled wayyyyyy back in August of 2008. Most of that is handled by the USAF and was probably on the docket for quite awhile and with no orders to countermand it, the plan went ahead as scheduled.

      As it was, a little “heads up” on the part of the PR department for the WH would have been in order. A small news segment to say that the big 747 would be lumbering around so don’t get upset on the three news networks. Heck, it would’ve been a great opportunity for the newsies to drool at the almighty’s awesome reach of power.

      But, sadly, as with all things Obama….it was a clusterf— of the usual dimensions. Like most, I figure it would’ve been best to just not do it at all. But the ridiculous excesses we are accused of do not apply to the black stick or his capos.

      On another note, I have nothing but extreme sympathy for the USAF personnel who have to cater to this tool whenever they have to take him and his wife on a shopping junket for ugly-ass shoes.

    • BigOil says:

      As it happens, most of what the big 747 does is classified. It is not just a PR vehicle but also a flying command post with an enormous communications center and tons and tons of classified things on board.

      Understood. However, we have been assured the sole purpose of this mission was to take a picture of the plane – hard to claim that qualifies as classified information.

      It strains credulity that an administration that rushed to inform our enemies of interrogation techniques could withhold a flight manifest for a photo-op on the basis it is classified information.

  24. gipper says:

    Ladies and gentlemen, forget the price tag and inappropriateness of this joy ride. We are supposed to sacrifice for our dear leader. He won, you know. Now say 20 “Hail, Barrys” and go on about your business.

  25. Mr Michael says:

    I’m going to address the image from the point of view of a photographer… this might give you all some insight as to why the photo looks so ‘ugly’.

    The photo as released from the WH is basically unprocessed. Look at the full sized image… and then look again at the small image posted by WCBS. See how white the VC25a looks in the WCBS photo? It’s been retouched by WCBS for the web.

    Why didn’t the WH do that? Not everybody was going to publish it online. Some in magazines… some in fishwraps… some online… some on-air.

    Side note: With film, you shot ‘bright’, and you could bring some image back in processing… if you underexposed, there was nothing to ‘save’… in Digital it is the opposite. Once the sensor is overexposed, there is no saving the image, but if you UNDERexpose a shot, you can bring a lot of the image out in Photoshop… at the expense of the image looking ‘grainy’. So when you shoot Digital, you shoot slightly dark… then you can fix it in Photoshop. Pop this image in Photoshop, click the settings to Automatically ‘fix’ the levels, and WHAM! White plane. Also, shooting a photo of anything white or black is best done when overcast… you get a MUCH better photo than if you shot in direct sunlight. Best of all if you can get the ground in the sunlight, but the plane in the shadow of a cloud, but you work with what you got.

    And yes, this was a terrible shot when it comes to composition, etc… I have no idea if it’s normal practice to take Promo shots from inside the cockpit… I would think that they had figured out a way to use the Aircraft’s surveillance system somehow… hook up a decent camera instead of a FLIR or something. I truly hope that our military aircraft have the capability to take better photographs than my cell phone.

    None of this takes away from the Criminal Stupidity of the act, or the excellent point about this being such a badly composed and shot image that it just CAN’T be the reason for the flight. But it might explain why the image released from the WH to the media looks so yellow and dull.

  26. Steve says:

    “I truly hope that our military aircraft have the capability to take better photographs than my cell phone.”

    They do. They use “camera pods.”

    BTW, the large photo released by the WH had already been processed through Adobe’s Photoshop, according to the accompanying data.

  27. LarryG says:

    I am certainly no expert in aerial photograpy but I would think an F16 isn’t the best aircraft to use for the purpose. It’s just an assumption, but I think the pilot of an escort jet would be attending to his primary duties. Also, seems like the photographer is entirely too close to the subject. Something not right with the whole thing.

  28. Anonymoose says:

    It was 43 years ago but this shows another photo shoot that went bad, in this case a crash:


    Notice the photogs used a Learjet and some heavy duty gear? And this from the UK shows how professional photos should appear:


    Then again maybe we’re reading too much into things, This is the Obama Administration after all, and spending a third of a million on a photo shoot arming the photog with just a consumer digital camera can’t really be unexpected.

  29. proreason says:

    The plot thickens. Anne Althouse comments on some of the same themes S&L posters have discussed:


    A key point, which I don’t think has been brought up on S&L (apoligies if I’m wrong), is that an F-16 is hardly the plane one would pick for a photo-op.

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