How big a deal is it that President Obama skips more than 50% 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…
During his first 1,225 days in office, Obama attended his PDB [Presidential Daily Brief] 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.
This seems like a big deal to me, and indicative of a Commander in Chief who isn’t very engaged in being Commander in Chief, particularly considering that we are at war. But Obama’s National Security Council spokesman says the meetings aren’t all that important.
Vietor did not dispute the numbers, but said the fact that the president, during a time of war, does not attend his daily intelligence meeting on a daily basis is “not particularly interesting or useful.” He says that the president reads his PDB every day, and he disagreed with the suggestion that there is any difference whatsoever between simply reading the briefing book and having an interactive discussion of its contents with top national security and intelligence officials where the president can probe assumptions and ask questions.
This makes no sense to me. If my top priority were keeping the country safe, there’s no way I’d be blowing off face to face meetings and relying on executive summaries.
Compare Obama’s approach to that of his predecessor:
[President Bush] 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.
Now that sounds like a Commander in Chief who takes his constitutional oath to protect the country seriously. Obama sounds like he’s just going through the motions.