Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Is Obama Getting a Pass for Monday's Air Force One NYC Flyover?

If George W. Bush's White House military office had staged an Air Force One photo op flyover of Manhattan without warning New Yorkers beforehand resulting in buildings being evacuated and widespread panic, would media have castigated him for his wreckless stupidity and obvious disengagement from tensions those in the area still have due to 9/11?

This seems an important question given what happened Monday, and how the press are covering the incident with someone in the White House they can't hide their love for.

As the Associated Press reported Tuesday (video of incident embedded right to give you an idea of the panic this caused h/t NBer klchadwick, vulgarity warning):

It was supposed to be a photo op that captured images of an Air Force One plane with a majestic Statue of Liberty in the background. Instead, it turned into a public relations nightmare that led to recriminations from the president and mayor and prompted thousands of others to ask, "What were they thinking?"

Recriminations FROM the president? Excuse me, but as the story continues, we find that HIS administration was responsible:

Just before the workday began on Monday, an airliner and supersonic fighter jet zoomed past the lower Manhattan skyline. Within minutes, startled financial workers streamed out of their offices, fearing a nightmarish replay of Sept. 11.

For a half-hour, the Boeing 747 and F-16 jet circled the Statue of Liberty and the Financial District near the World Trade Center site. Offices evacuated. Dispatchers were inundated with calls. Witnesses thought the planes were flying dangerously low.

But the flyover was nothing but a photo op, apparently one of a series of flights to get pictures of the plane in front of national landmarks.

It was carried out by the Defense Department with little warning, infuriating New York officials and putting the White House on the defense. Even Mayor Michael Bloomberg didn't know about it, and he later called it "insensitive" to fly so near the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The director of the White House military office, Louis Caldera, took the blame a few hours later. One of the planes was a 747 that is called Air Force One when used by the president.

"Last week, I approved a mission over New York. I take responsibility for that decision," Caldera said. "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."

When told of the flight, President Barack Obama was furious, a White House official said on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

So, Obama is off the hook because he's furious? 

Amazingly, protecting the president from responsibility or scrutiny concerning this matter seemed top priority to his adoring fans in the media. The "NBC Nightly News" didn't even mention Obama's name in their brief segment on the story:


We're back with the story of what happened in the skies over New York today. Given the recent history of this city, it doesn't take much at all to scare people or even to trigger a full-on panic. From a distance, it was a shocking sight, a jumbo jet up on its side looked for all the world like it was being chased by a fighter jet. And then if you got closer, you could see even more horrifying detail. The jet was Air Force One. The fighter jet was real, and then people started evacuating some downtown offices. And given the memories of 9/11 and what happened here, who can blame them. The story tonight from NBC's Mike Taibbi.

MIKE TAIBBI reporting:

It was cell phone video that would soon go viral: frightened citizens from lower Manhattan to Jersey City racing away from what they thought was a new disaster. They could see a 747 overhead, trailed by an F-16 jet. They could hear the roar of the engines. Who wouldn't think of that other terrible sunlit day, and now think, `Can it be happening again?'

Offscreen Voice: Oh, my God.

Ms. SAMIRA ATTASH: Go to The New York Times section.

TAIBBI: A few blocks from ground zero, Samira Attash and her husband, Kaiser, were working from home when they looked out the window and saw it, too. And Samira grabbed for her camera.

Ms. ATTASH: Oh, my God. That's not normal.

TAIBBI: To her eye and to scores of others who shot still photos, the sight of that low-flying 747 trailed by a fighter jet was either one terrible scenario...

Ms. ATTASH: I thought it was a hijacking, and I thought at any moment the plane is going to crash in front of our building.

TAIBBI: ...or a different disaster. The big jet was in fact an Air Force One look-alike. In any event, hundreds panicked and left their buildings just in case the worst was happening again.

Unidentified Man: It seemed like it was going beeline towards our building, right straight towards us.

TAIBBI: But it was no disaster. The epicenter of 9/11, on a busy Monday work day, was just being used as a backdrop for an FAA-approved photo shoot of the presidential backup plane. According to every agency either alerted or part of the planning, it was never part of the plan for the general public to be notified beforehand; but for those who live and work in lower Manhattan, the problem is the memories of 9/11 are especially acute. But while the president's press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said he didn't have a clue...

Mr. ROBERT GIBBS: I did--I don't know.

TAIBBI: New York's mayor, Michael Bloomberg, was steaming.

Mayor MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (Independent, New York): First thing is, I'm annoyed--furious is a better word--that I wasn't told.

TAIBBI: And Senator Chuck Schumer called the whole operation outrageous.

Senator CHUCK SCHUMER: And really borders on being either cruel or very, very stupid.

TAIBBI: Late today, a statement from Louis Caldera, director of the White House military office, saying, "It's clear the mission created confusion and disruption. I apologize." Whether New Yorkers will accept the apology? To be determined. Mike Taibbi, NBC News, New York.

CBS's Katie Couric was even more nonchalant about the matter in her "Evening News" report Monday (from closed captioning):

A scare in New York today. Workers in skyscrapers near Ground Zero looked out to see a low-flying 747 shadowed by a fighter jet. With images of 9/11 still fresh in their minds, people poured into the streets. Turns out it was one of President Obama's planes doing a photo shoot near the Statue of Liberty. The White House military office is apparently updating its photo file of Air Force One near national landmarks. The president reportedly furious about the incident and the military office has apologized.  

And that's it.

Is this how the coverage would have went if this incident happened while Bush was in power? Would a totally unknown official in the White House military office been allowed to apologize, and the president get a pass because he was furious?

Or would the Bush Derangement Syndrome afflicted press have viciously excoriated the president for his astounding stupidity and disengagement from the public he serves?

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Success to our President

There is a reason why we seem to be falling apart, a reason why our President seems not to have a backbone. Sure, he has ideas and plans for our government. But he has forgotten why this country is great, why it is strong, why it is that people from everywhere come here to be home. America is great because of WE THE PEOPLE, who have entrusted you, the president, the senator, the representative, the governor, the mayor with governing, for a limited time. The Politians are not kings and princesses. They are people, elected by the people to govern the people, not rule. Our government will fail if those people in Washington DC forget that we, the people are more than just a bunch of folks to tax. We need to be together and united, yes. But individually, each of us can be entrusted to our part to correct and improve the world around us.

Each of us possesses the liberty that is enumerated in our Constitution. These Liberties which Americans have died for are Liberties that are not found in Hugo Chavez’ Venezuela, Fidel Castro’s Cuba, North Korea, China, Russia or even Great Britain. It is important to be diplomatic, but that is a job for Ambassadors and Diplomats, not Presidents. It is sad to say that today, all that are oppressed for standing up for liberty, freedom of speech, freedom of religion or freedom of the press, lost when Mr. Obama seemed to befriend Mr. Chavez. And as for Chance, we found out on September 11th that there is little and no time for chance. Americans went about their business on a beautiful Tuesday morning, and they never went home. Some of them had to make the unthinkable decision on how to die. Not having a job is easy compared to facing the unexpected visit of death.

Our President is responsible for protecting our liberties, no matter who he or she is. Here is hoping that our President remembers that there is a greater strength among all of us. Coming from all walks of ‘Life’, we can bring this country to a better place. The government and our President can not succeed alone. It is not a mess, but a challenge. If there is a ‘good reason’ to destroy the small business model for free enterprise, our President needs to step up to the plate and explain why it is being destroyed now, now, when we really need small business in America. Our President’s success will be measured in our success.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Report: Congress Set to End Tax-Free Online Shopping

Alliance of 'brick-and-mortar' retailers and state governments team up to craft federal legislation to collect online sales tax.

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Let It Steep

This past week saw some amazing displays of grassroots politicking.

It also showed the nastier side of politicking.

On one hand, the tea parties here in the Houston area (and around the nation), displayed what the power of the Internet and of discontent can muster.

The Houston Tea Party Society estimates that between 8 and 10 thousand people turned out for the downtown tea party rally on Wednesday.

TAXDAY1LOUIS TAXDAY2LOUIS TAXDAY3LOUIS TAXDAY4LOUIS TAXDAY5LOUIS these are pictures taken by reader Louis Z.  at the downtown Houston rally (click to enlarge to full size)

Having talked to the organizers of the event, I know they had to be thrilled with the turnout.  Their's was a bottom-up effort.  There was little (if any) input from any organized political party.  And they counted among their members republicans, democrats, libertarians, and independents.

There were also large rallies in Ft. Bend County and in northern Harris County.  Those events also drew thousands. 

All of the rallies made it clear that there are a lot of people who want to share their ideas and voice their concerns.  There is nothing more American than the ability to stand on the courthouse steps (or wherever there is a microphone) and speak out. 

It is part of the American fabric that we may protest and gather and voice our dislike of policy and direction.

TAXDAY1JAN TAXDAY2JAN TAXDAY3JAN these are pictures taken by reader Janelle L. at The Woodlands Creekside rally (click to enlarge to full size)

One can be hopeful that the thousands who attended the rallies will become more involved in the political process.

But with that hope must also come the knowledge that we have a real problem facing us that is more pressing than stimulus packages:

As one watched the spotty, partisan national coverage of the events it became apparent how the deep divide is in this country. 

To illustrate my point, here are a few of the comments I got an a pre-tax day post I wrote about the pending parties and connections to established political parties:

"Another article penned by the media displaying their outright hate of America, being they always choose to defend the ones who want to destroy America byway of initiating Socialist programs. You guys must feel so proud of your traitorous actions every time you cash your paychecks."

"Tom, get your head out of the sand. The tea parties aren't about Republicans, Democrats, Independents or any other party. They are about "WE THE PEOPLE." "

"wackkk!!! This is all grassroots. Tom stop being a rookie, and learn the game. THE RNC is trying to take credit but the real "reality" is that a couple of Houstonians began the movement from all sides of the aisle."

There is a grassroots element to this.  And it may have started out as such (in Chicago).  But it has the support now of a Republican party that is looking to find a foothold after November's elections.

It (the GOP) has seized upon this "movement" and is trying to adopt it.  And so there IS a connection to the establishment, even if the original tea partiers don't like it.

At the same time, it is naive to believe that this incredible fervor is ONLY about taxes and spending.  There is an ideological bent to the Tea Party Organizations that stems from that core belief.  But, like any group that grows rapidly, the ideas that bind the tea partiers reach far beyond stimulus and debt.

But why is it that readers/viewers are so defensive of an affiliation to any party?  Why is it that an article written about an event yet to happen draws so much passion?

On the flip side, why are so many NOT involved in the tea parties quick to dismiss the partiers as right wing zealots?

Why do they try to cast them as dangerous or unstable

It is because we are so divided.  November did little to unite us (to this point).  Despite promises from both sides of hand holding and aisle reaching...we are in the same predicament that we found ourselves before anyone went to the polls.

And that is, despite branded affiliation or socioeconomics, we are a nation of blame right now.  The left blames the right.  The right blames the left.  The politically affiliated blame the independent voices.  The independents bristle at the notion of being branded this or that.  And the problem is always someone else.

It's enough to make everyone stew (or steep as the case may be).

Thanks for reading.  TA


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