Barack Obama has had trouble finding time to meet with his jobs council, the White House press corps and now we’re finding out, attend his daily intelligence meetings, too. As campaigner in chief, he really does have ‘too much on his plate.’ Marc Thiessen has the scoop:
“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.”
After Thiessen followed up with NSC spokesman Tommy Vietor, Vietor shrugged off (but did not dispute) the findings, saying they are “not particularly interesting or useful.” He also noted that the president reads the briefing every day, believing this to be on par with actually discussing its contents with top national security and intelligence officials.
“For the president, the meeting is an opportunity to ask questions of the briefers, probe assumptions and request additional information. For those preparing the brief, meeting with the president on a daily basis gives them vital, direct feedback from the commander in chief about what is on his mind, how they can be more responsive to his needs, and what information he may have to feed back into the intelligence process. This process cannot be replicated on paper.”
Vietor also pointed Thiessen in the direction of a WaPo article from January. Of course, the article paints a laudable picture of how the president runs the meetings, even saying “Process tells you something about an administration. How a president structures his regular morning meeting on intelligence and national security is one way to measure his personal approach to foreign policy.” Considering he rarely shows up, this is pretty ironic.
“While the Bush records are not yet available electronically for analysis, officials tell me the former president held his intelligence meeting six days a week, no exceptions — usually with the vice president, the White House chief of staff, the national security adviser, the director of National Intelligence, or their deputies, and CIA briefers in attendance. Once a week, he held an expanded Homeland Security briefing that included the Homeland Security adviser, the FBI director and other homeland security officials. Bush also did more than 100 hour-long “deep dives” in which he invited intelligence analysts into the Oval Office to get their unvarnished and sometimes differing views. Such meetings deepened the president’s understanding of the issues and helped analysts better understand the problems with which he was wrestling.”
Maybe he can blame Bush for setting the bar too high?
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