Editor’s Pick
APRIL 29, 2009 8:48PM

Air Force One Buzzes Death Star; Governor Tarkin "Furious"

Rate: 8 Flag


Maybe President Obama needs an Image Czar, not merely in the sense of someone qualified to create and manage photo opportunities but someone who would have nixed the ill-considered Air Force One debacle on Monday morning.

The latest government official with egg on his face is Louis E. Caldera, director of the White House Military Office, who approved the mission of flying a kind of stunt double for Air Force One over New York Harbor (and hence through air space still tinged with the tragedy of 9/11) for an "iconic" photo op with the Statue of Liberty. The stunt caused a panic which had office workers reeling out of buildings along the Manhattan and Jersey City waterfronts and NYC's Mayor Bloomberg in an apoplectic state. Apparently, while local law enforcement had been notified in advance of the event, they were not allowed to notify the press or the public; somehow, a prolonged aerial manuever by a 747 and two F-16 jet fighters in broad daylight over one of the mostly densely populated areas on earth was "classified information." This was breathtakingly bad judgement, to be sure; everyone from Bloomberg and the President on down to op-ed writers, citizen bloggers and commentators are in agreement on that. What strikes me is what a wrong-headed exercise this was to begin with.

 First of all, the whole idea of treating Air Force One like a celebrity— framing an aircraft used merely to transport the President of the United States with a heroic narrative— is, as we say in the biz, off-brand. The President would not be buzzing the Statue of Liberty or Mount Rushmore or any other iconic American tourist destination under any justifiable circumstances. That is not his job. That would be a job for military show pilots such as the Blue Angels; the President flies in a Jumbo Jet—in double-wide, high and distant, clear and secure air lanes. Over-promising is a marketing no-no. A cold beer will not hydrate you, and Barack Obama is not Harrison Ford; nor does he have Jack Bauer on his payroll. Most importantly: the jet is not an independent entity, and therefore should not be utilized in the manner of a mascot; or even, really, in the manner of a brand.

Secondly, this is the digital age. If you want to go ahead and defy logic and good sense to show Air Force One and the Statue of Liberty in the same shot, you don't actually have to waste hundreds of thousands of dollars on jet fuel and insurance. Ever hear of Photoshop? CGI? I saw a movie last year about a 300-foot sea monster tearing Manhattan to pieces, and it was pretty damn convincing. They didn't have to sedate the thing, air drop it into Times Square and shout "Action!" And it took longer for me to write this post than it did for me to cobble together the image (above) of Air Force One flying down the Death Star trench.

If you want the cheesola that badly, Mr. Caldera, you could keep Industrial Light and Magic on retainer, you know. Or better yet, you could offer a paying gig to one of the many talented digital artists out there— many can be found at a site like SciFi-Meshes.com, for instance.

No need to freak out swine-flu-frazzled New Yorkers, honestly.

Credits—Death Star image element: scifi-meshes.com


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I would have loved to have added a couple of TIE fighters but that would really have taken some time.
It was an incredibly ill considered stunt. Your brilliant point about the POTUS not doing that stuff ever anyway makes the decisions here all the more surreal.

Nice to see you back ese vato.
Ah, Marco, we've missed you. Excellent piece, and a very good tactical suggestion for the military brand-makers. I bet they got into some verrrry bad habits during the Bush era...again, welcome back!
Always love your posts and so good to get the perspective from a New Yorker. This kind of Ashton Kutchner "you got punked" and no one is laughing belongs on MTV, not the evening news. And not orchestrated by the director of the White House Military Office. Outrageous. Really love the way you write Marco.
Barry, Donna, Mary: thanks for the comments.

A point I meant to make about an image czar (which was a slightly tongue-in-cheek suggestion) is that someone should have realized that this one ill-advised photo-op would spawn an infinitude of very bad photo-ops: i.e. all the video taken by people on the ground and in area buildings which are disturbing echoes of 9/11. There is this sense (again, echoes of Katrina) that the perspective of the citizen on ground level is not even considered. To Donna's point, I hope these are lingering attitudes from the last administration, soon to be fixed.
Marco, I'm glad you got an EP on this. It was so well written and such a strange bizarre story.
Good to see you back here, Marco. That stunt defies all sense. It will be interesting if the clown keeps his job. Worth a follow up on that alone.

Wow my head must be in the sand, I completely missed this! Photoshop indeed. What WERE they thinking. Oh, yes. Obviously they weren't.............
Marco - you are so right about photoshop or using CGI effects!!

I've seen NYC flooded, frozen, blown up, incinerated, over-run by zombies, stomped on by both Godzilla and the Stay Puft Marshmallow man, and watched the Statue of Liberty get decapitated, knocked down, and buried up to her neck in sand, all quite believably.

Hire a few 18 years olds if you people don't know how to do it yourself! Sheesh.
Mary, you're a doll. Thanks again for the kind words. A very bizarre story. Still feels off, but unfortunately, or fortunately, I don't have the patience anymore to figure out the conspiracy angle (that used to be so much fun, back in the X-File days!)

Hi Monte. As you can see I'm only sorta back. You're right... we shouldn't lose sight now of Caldera or the White House Military Office. Be interesting to see what happens to them, but probably nothing will; or else the dept. will do a name-change and he'll sink from sight.

Hi Cherie—
Of course this turned out to be such a non-story in the end.... but I sure wouldn't have wanted to be in one of those tall harbor front office buildings that day. Must have been such a freaky thing to witness.

Hey there dcvd! I actually wrote a post last year in one of my now dormant "other" blogs about the trials and tribulations of the Statue of Liberty in pulps, comics and the movies: