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:
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor:
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.
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?