One of the more recent lines of attack against President Obama is that he’s scaled back in-person daily intelligence briefings. Dick Cheney is feigning outrage, and the criticism is at the center of a new column from the Washington Post’s Marc Thiessen, a former Bush speechwriter.
Putting aside credibility questions involving Cheney and Thiessen, and overlooking the jaw-dropping irony of Bushies stressing intelligence briefings in light of recent revelations, is it possible these criticisms have some merit?
At first blush, it hardly seems unreasonable to think a sitting president, during a war and with facing frequent threats, would want to participate in daily intelligence briefings. And yet, conservative activists, relying on Obama’s publicly-available schedules, insist that the president skips more than half of these meetings.
So, maybe Cheney and Thiessen have a point? Actually, no. Jonathan Capehart has a good piece on this.
The president reads the daily intelligence briefing every day. That he doesn’t meet with his national security staff to discuss it isn’t earth shattering when you know that many of the president’s national security meetings are never put on his public schedule.
“I’d note that these are hardly the only national security meetings he has each week that include an intelligence briefing,” National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor told me via e-mail this morning. When I asked him if he were able to tell me exactly how many national security meetings Obama has during the week, Vietor unsurprisingly replied, “I’m not.”
For Cheney and Thiessen, both of whom probably know better but hope to take a cheap shot on 9/11, the notion that Obama skips in-person national security briefings is outrageous. It’s not – Obama still gets written daily reports, still gets national security information every day, and still has all kinds of intelligence briefings we know nothing about. The controversy, if one wants to call it that, is weak, even by Republican standards.
Thiessen boasted in his column that, unlike that rascally Obama, Bush “almost never missed his daily intelligence meeting.” How nice for him. But given that Bush, in at least one occasion a month before 9/11, responded to a daily briefing, “All right. You’ve covered your ass, now,” it’s more important to consider how a president handles the intelligence, not how many meetings we think he may or may not be attending.