By Andrea Shea King
Air Force officer: ‘It shows a kind of arrogance’
An Air Force officer who served in the Clinton White House and for two years carried the “nuclear football” briefcase of codes says it’s almost certain that the “highest levels” of the Obama administration knew about and approved this week’s stunt in which Air Force One buzzed New York City.
Retired Lt. Col. Buzz Patterson served in Clinton’s White House from 1996 to 1998 and was responsible for the president’s “emergency satchel,” the black bag of nuclear codes that accompanies the president at all times.
He wrote “Reckless Disregard” and “Dereliction of Duty” after his retirement from the military.
During an interview on “The Andrea Shea King Show” last night, he said, “I can’t imagine that anyone who works in the Air Force thought that was a good idea. I have worked in the White House and having worked for the Military Office, with the guys at Andrews Air Force Base and the ground crews, that (decision) had to come down from on high.”
Among the procedures with which he became familiar during his work with Clinton were those involving the preparation of the president’s 747 jet for flight.
“It defies my belief that the White House staff did not know they were launching the 747 to go up and do this. So it had to come down from the White House. It wouldn’t have been done on behalf of the folks at Andrews (Air Force Base). It would have been done at the direction of the White House,” he said.
Patterson said the low-flying escapade over Manhattan clearly was not an oversight.
“The White House Military Office director is the Obama appointee – Caldera in this particular situation. So, he got the notification, he got the direction from somebody – I’m guessing Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff would probably be the person behind this.”
Does that mean the president also knew?
“I’m guessing he probably did. Did Emanuel know about it? I guarantee you he did. It did not come from the Andrews folks. It came from on high,” Patterson said.
He said the stunt reveals the judgment level in the Obama White House.
“I think that it shows you… quite clearly the lack of knowledge, the lack of focus or the understanding the Obama White House has toward the military, much like my former boss President Bill Clinton. I think it also shows a kind of arrogance to using toys – I’m sure that would be a phrase President Obama might use, his ‘toys’ – to get photo op shots around New York City and not recall or remember what happened on 9/11 and the fact that it might have caused some alarm. And I think really, it shows again a hundred days, a hundred mistakes with the Obama administration.”
Patterson explained the process that would have had to take place to get the jumbo jet in the air.
“The White House Military Office would have called the presidential pilot office at Andrews and said, ‘We want to get this airplane airborne. We want to get some photo ops over New York City. We want to get some photos with the statue of Liberty in the background or the Empire State Building or whatever, and we’ll have a couple of aircraft with it taking pictures of the airplane with the background of New York City. And that’s what happened,” he said.
Though Patterson believes the responsibility for the flights estimated to cost more than $300,000 resides at the highest levels, Military Office Director Louis Caldera has accepted the responsibility. In a statement released Wednesday, Caldera said:
“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.”
But Patterson isn’t buying it.
“No doubt Caldera is taking the hit for this… that’s kind of how the Obama administration works, much like the Clinton administration – they have to push this down to the lowest level that it’ll actually stick. So they had to push this down to ‘Who can we cut loose?’ And I guarantee you he’ll be fired within the next week or two. This façade of an investigation and a review of what happened will end up on his desktop and he’ll be fired. … But it probably wasn’t his fault. It probably came from above, and he was the person, the lackey, executing the orders to do this. He called Andrews and the Andrews Wing Commander got involved and the president’s pilot squadron got involved and so this thing happened. So he’ll probably be the guy that’s the scapegoat.”
Patterson currently flies for a carrier on a route crossing the nation.
“I fly an airplane out of Los Angeles into New York City all the time. I fly a large airplane. In NYC airspace at any point in time, especially during the day during normal waking hours to fly over the city like at that low level, it’s almost impossible to coordinate with the FAA. So there was a lot of coordination done on this, a lot of advance legwork and groundwork done on this.”
“It boggles my mind because when I fly into New York City, we have to stay on this straight and narrow path that you cannot deviate virtually by feet, and here’s a 747 that’s got the approval to fly all over the city at low level and again, scare the people of New York. It just defies description,” he said.
“I can’t imagine as a pilot, and an Air Force officer and a former Clinton administration official, I can’t imagine who thought that was a good idea!”
It’s just the latest evidence of mistaken judgment, he said.
“The releasing of the CIA interrogation stuff, which is a farce; the fact that he flies to Iowa on Earth Day in a 747 to talk about saving and preserving our resources and fuel; the fact that he launches an empty airplane to New York City for a photo op; this is exactly out of the playbook of President Bill Clinton in my time at the White House. It’s remarkably and scarily similar,” Patterson said.
“I think that they are – much like the Clinton administration – incredibly ignorant and devoid of reality when it comes to this country. They didn’t even think about the impact this might have, because they don’t understand that the war on terror is a real war on terror. They’ve changed the verbiage. They’ve changed the terms,” he said.
“The fact that they would fly a large airplane over a city that was attacked on 9/11 and the response of the people of New York was obviously 180 from what the Obama people thought. They just assumed there’d be no reaction because they don’t feel there’s a threat out there? They don’t understand that this country is still at war with terrorists and with the people who want to change our way of life. Instead, we’re shaking hands with Hugo Chavez; we’re shaking hands and brushing up with Hamas and Iran. We’re doing all these things that the Bush administration never would have even considered imaginable. So I think it shows not only arrogance, but more importantly, more troublingly to me, it shows that they’re just out of touch.
“I find it incredible with our current economic situation that we’re flying 747s empty anywhere in the country, much less for a photo op. And again, they’re so wantonly careless about this,” he said.