Friday, May 08, 2009

Scare Force One: Epilogue?

Mulligan gets a mulligan, and Caldera gets the bus.

The report and an underexposed picture were emailed to the press this afternoon. Were they using disposable cameras? As to the review, it was performed by the White House Counsel's office so it's hard to determine how objective it might be aside from not at all.

Digging into the review it mentions all the times the Colonel in charge coordinated with the Deputy in the WHMO but said nothing about why they authorized the mission; why there were F16s; where they came from; or why the general public was never notified in advance as the inital plans called for. The report mentions concurrent reviews being conducted by DoD and FAA, which is a classic blame-shifting exercise in government. By the time they come out--well you know.

Here's something else puzzling:
Gibbs said Obama has ordered a review of how the White House Military Office is set up, and how it reports to the White House and the Air Force.

That review, to be conducted by Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, will also offer recommendations to Obama designed to ensure that such an incident will not happen again, Gibbs said.
Which is odd since the review blasted Caldera, who then resigned. Problem not solved? Well, we still don't know why the event occurred at all, so perhaps this is an additional effort to cover up the true purpose by making the WHMO appear dysfunctional. More bus riders.

previous posts 1,2

MORE 5/9/09

Although the New York Times didn't think the story warranted top coverage on their web page they clearly had to cover the story due to the fact it was a huge embarrassment and due to the fact it occurred, well, in New York. So, Mr. Enchantment was put on the case and came home with a report sans the normal curiosity the Times seems to have about government actions (with one possible exception, covered near the end).

It was clear from the review that everything was funneled to Caldera, who was the only man standing between total White House knowledge and total ignorance, ie, plausible deniability. His underling Mulligan (you can't make this stuff up) took pains to keep his boss in the loop but the boss was just too beat from jetting-setting around the world with White House brass and taking pain pills for his back spasms to comprehend anything. The review mentioned that Mulligan didn't feel right about going around the chain to inform the WH directly and assumed boss man would take care of it--and this is entirely believable.

What about the military side, though? Colonel Turner went out of his way to keep people informed, including a General above him, as well as a press release to Air Force Public Affairs and mentioned that FAA PA would take care of questions in the New York area. The report doesn't say whether Turner had previously briefed any superiors, only saying he wanted the General 'in the loop', which suggests no previous contact. Is that believable?

The fact Turner's email was on a Saturday before the Monday event seems to take a lot of brass--including SecDef Gates--off the hook, since if Gates knew about the flight a week in advance or more it's reasonable to assume he might have mentioned it in passing to fellow cabinet members or the White House; "hey cool, we're taking AF1 over the Statue of Liberty Monday for a photo shot", etc.

But as the review states, the real buffoonery was the failure to inform the general public as was originally envisioned. Had this occurred the entire thing would have been a non-event or perhaps a political point for Obama. Somebody also had to know that a surprise attack might turn out the opposite. Perhaps if Mulligan/Caldera were under the impression the event was to be explained a day in advance to New Yorkers the finger of blame shifts to whomever didn't get that done, either the FAA or Turner. The Times seems to prefer Turner:
The White House report states that while some officials decided on “public outreach efforts” to notify people in advance about the flight, the commander of the Presidential Airlift Group, Col. Scott Turner of the Air Force, decided that the memo warning New York-area officials of the flyover would be marked “official use only,” and that it would tell government agencies not to disclose the event. Information would be provided, the report said, “only if asked.”
But the review states the following on page 3 (emphasis added):
On Thursday evening, April 23, Colonel Turner sent an email to the Deputy Director describing the final details of the flight. It stated that for security reasons, details about the flight would be treated as "FODO" ("for official use only"). Federal, state, and local authorities would be notified on April 24, and coordination with the "general public" would begin "on or after 26 Apr."
In other words, he seems to be saying both--the memo to NY authorities was to be FOUO but the general public would be notified in advance. This occurred on the 24th; Mulligan then forwards the info to Caldera, who claims he didn't read his email. Mulligan also insists he personally visited Caldera's office on the same day and discussed it with him, something Caldera considers a passing mention in the hall on a Friday afternoon (a good illustration of how government works, btw). But if this was indeed some kind of a submarine job on the White House by the military office it would have included Caldera, since Colonel Turner was under the impression Gibbs and Messina were being briefed.

The Times seems to be keeping hope alive, though (emphasis added again):
Mr. Obama appointed Mr. Caldera to lead the White House Military Office in December, citing his 30-year career as a soldier, lawyer, legislator and law professor. It was a rare political appointment for a position that is usually held by a ranking officer in the military.
As if to suggest the possibility of military shenanigans, ie, animosity in the ranks that a civilian political hack grabbed a plum position somebody had their eyes on leading to a hit job. Gates has been tasked to investigate the decision-making process of how training missions are generated, so perhaps there's some smoke to that fire. We still have no clue as to who exactly ordered the photo mission or why, and why the Alabama ANG Red Tail fighter was there, which brings in other possibilities.

Finally, it's still unbelievable that the Mayor of New York would not have been consulted directly on such a thing. The initial stories blamed it on a rookie aide--once again we are asked to believe that one man stood between knowledge and incredible ignorance, just as in the WHMO. Or, a rather bizarre coincidence of gross incompetence, one might say.


Anonymous said...

Caldera isn't just a geologic disaster, is it?

You have to admit, however, the incident produces an addition to the ever-popular game Trivial Pursuit. What is the most expensive photograph ever taken?

Given that Mr. Caldera was a former Secretary of the Army, and that he is a complete idiot, we should not wonder why the Army was in such turmoil during the Clinton Administration. His appointment (along with too many others of his ilk) make laughable Ă˜bama's promise for a revitalized administration.

A.C. McCloud said...

Mustang, you're the first person I've seen to make the geologic comparison, which seems apt. A gold star for you.

I have a feeling Obama appointed Caldera for two reasons, one, he was a loyalist and had military experience and two, he would be a buffer between any hard-core right wing military types in the WHMO and the hard left administration. Remember Colonel Buzz Peterson? So it will be interesting to see who gets the job now.

Eric Rasmusen said...

You’d find my blog post useful. It’s at

I am surprised at lack of blogosphere comment on the White House report. Read it again, very carefully. As you note, the discussion of what to tell the public is very obscure--purposely, it looks like to me. I don't think Col. Turner made the decision to keep it secret. He was just in charge of implementation.