The bogus ‘intelligence briefings’ talking point

Updated
 
The bogus 'intelligence briefings' talking point
The bogus 'intelligence briefings' talking point

In recent weeks, and especially over the last few days, the right has become fully invested in a strange line of attack against President Obama. As we discussed on Tuesday, Dick Cheney, former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen, and others are accusing Obama of “skipping” intelligence briefings related to national security. The closer one looks at the argument, the dumber it appears.

And yet, in the wake of Tuesday night’s violence, conservatives are now going all in.

Now, I strongly suspect that Thiessen, a loyal Bushie who’s now a Washington Post columnist, knows what he’s saying is silly. He worked in the White House and surely realizes this anti-Obama attack really doesn’t make any sense at all.

But it’s an election season, Thiessen hopes to undermine the president’s standing, so it’s in his interests to say Obama blew off an intelligence meeting yesterday in order to jet off to Vegas to raise campaign cash.

The truth, as Thiessen probably realizes, isn’t controversial at all. In reality, Obama received a detailed, written intelligence briefing yesterday, just as he does literally every day, which contained pressing national security information. Most of the time, Obama also receives an in-person briefing in the White House, though as Thiessen probably realizes, many of the president’s national security meetings are never put on his public schedule.

But what about the meetings the president is allegedly “skipping”? There are no such meetings – as Dana Milbank explained today, “In reality, Obama didn’t ‘attend’ these meetings, because there were no meetings to attend: The oral briefings had been mostly replaced by daily exchanges in which Obama reads the materials and poses written questions and comments to intelligence officials. This is how it was done in the Clinton administration, before Bush decided he would prefer to read less. Bush’s results – Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, and the failure to find Osama bin Laden – suggest this was not an obvious improvement.”

Indeed, Thiessen’s entire line of attack only helps remind us that George W. Bush received a series of dramatic briefings about a pending al Qaeda strike in 2001, which he neglected to take seriously.

But even if we put that aside, this attempt to smear Obama is nonsensical. I realize Republicans are looking at the polls and feeling antsy, but this line of attack is just dumb.

Update: I’ve since been informed by a Democratic source that the president didn’t even have any fundraisers in Nevada yesterday. The attack is wrong on every possible level.

Marc Thiessen, Intelligence and Barack Obama

The bogus 'intelligence briefings' talking point

Updated