Marc Thiessen asks a good question in the Washington Post today: Why is President Obama skipping more than half of his daily intelligence meetings?
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 relays a comment by a spokesman for the National Security Council, who points out that Obama still receives the information from the briefing daily. But, as Thiessen points out, the administration has portrayed Obama’s participation in these meetings as evidence of his deep “exploration of foreign policy and intelligence issues.” That’s rather at odds with the reality that he skipped almost 700 of these meetings in three and a half years.
And, of course, we would like for our president to get into just such an exploration of these issues with his resident experts on foreign policy and intelligence. Thiessen cites former security officials who say the meetings are an important way for Obama and his security advisers to ask questions of one another. When the president isn’t there, that isn’t happening.
This is certainly of a piece with the reporting from Bob Woodward’s latest book that “gaps” in presidential leadership mean, at times, “no one is running Washington.”
– By Kyle Wingfield