One of the centerpieces of the Democratic case for Barack Obama’s reelection in Charlotte last week was the President’s record on national security – specifically, his decision to pursue the operation that eventually led to the death of Osama bin Laden.
That impressive achievement, however, may be blunted by the force of revelations by former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen in today’s Washington Post. Thiessen writes:
President Obama is touting his foreign policy experience on the campaign trail, but startling new statistics suggest that national security has not necessarily been the personal priority the president makes it out to be. It turns out that more than half the time, the commander in chief does not attend his daily intelligence meeting.
The Government Accountability Institute examined President Obama’s schedule from the day he took office until mid-June 2012, to see how often he attended his Presidential Daily Brief (PDB) — the meeting at which he is briefed on the most critical intelligence threats to the country. During his first 1,225 days in office, Obama attended his PDB just 536 times — or 43.8 percent of the time. During 2011 and the first half of 2012, his attendance became even less frequent — falling to just over 38 percent. By contrast, Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush almost never missed his daily intelligence meeting.
Thiessen was able to get comment from the White House’s National Security spokesman, Tommy Vietor, who told him, “The president gets the information he needs from the intelligence community each day.”
Vietor’s reason for believing this is apparently that despite not attending meetings, President Obama reads the briefs on National Security that he receives every day, and simply can’t find time to attend the specific meetings. Thiessen does not find this persuasive:
Yet Vietor also directed me to a Post story written this year in which Obama officials discuss the importance of the intelligence meeting and extol how brilliantly the president runs it. “Obama reads the PDB ahead of time and comes to the morning meeting with questions. Intelligence briefers are there to answer those questions, expand on a point or raise a new issue,” The Post reported. “One regular participant in the roughly 500 Oval Office sessions during Obama’s presidency said the meetings show a president consistently participating in an exploration of foreign policy and intelligence issues.”
Not so consistently, it seems.
Thiessen has been a consistent critic of the Obama administration’s approach to national security and, as such, he is likely to be dismissed by liberals as a hack trying to turn a non-issue into an issue. Their argument might be considered stronger if not for reports that the President spends extraordinary amounts of time each day engaged in what amount to trivialities. For instance, one can imagine an argument that the President ought to spend less time perfecting his skill at bowling, and more time attending these briefings.