Another 9/11 is upon us, and fittingly, one of the most-read stories on WashingtonPost.com is Marc Thiessen’s opinion/news jam about President Obama missing more than half of the daily intelligence briefings arranged for his benefit. (Also fittingly, this article cannot quite equal the page views for a tale about a professional wrestler having a heart attack. PostScript was all prepared to tsk about this until she realized it’s the wrestler who punk’d everyone with Andy Kaufman, and she loves that guy.)
Five thousand comments into the commenters’ reaction to Thiessen’s argument — which counters statements the White House has made about Obama’s intense involvement in national security — readers have basically two opinions. PostScript does not even have to enumerate them because weather3014 has already done so:
Anybody who supports President Obama doesn’t care about this. Anybody who dislikes President Obama isn’t surprised by this. Basically opinions on President Obama are so polarized that asking why he is skipping the meetings is a wasted question. Minds are already made up about Mr. Obama and no amount of good or bad information will change anyone’s mind.
As little as PostScript wanted to admit that Weather might be right and we are all wasting our lives, energy, brainpower and money trying to introduce new information into the mix at this point in the presidential election, she couldn’t find anyone in the comments who took in this new information and reached a different conclusion than before. Not that there weren’t cogent, on-topic comments incorporating the new information; it’s just that the article seems to have changed no actual minds. PostScript won’t know for sure, of course, until the next 84 rounds of polling are completed by companies biased for each side.
So, besides oft-repeated retorts about Obama being busy playing golf and former president George W. Bush needing someone to read the briefings to him, what is the commentariat telling us today?
ttbelllein has a possible explanation for why Obama has missed so many of the daily briefings: He doesn’t need to go every day:
He reads the briefings daily. When he does have concerns and questions and feedback, he attends the meeting. And he’s very engaged and involved in meetings when he goes.
When he’s confident that the security issues of the day don’t require his presence at that day’s meeting, he focuses on other priorities important to the country.
jeffdc1 argues that prioritizing that way means Obama is not getting full information:
Having face-to-face meetings enable the participants in those meetings to get to know one another better over time. The better you know someone the better you can judge what they’re telling you — whether they really believe what they’re saying, whether they have doubts, whether there’s been dissent among peers before making a recommendation, etc. Tone of voice, body language, words chosen in response to questions, etc. just can’t come through on paper.
Attending meetings frequently will allow that to happen, but more frequent attendance makes it easier. Does the President know the people in the daily briefings well enough to be able to discern everything he can during personal interactions with them when he does attend? I would hope so. But the fact that he has attended less than half of these meetings casts some doubt on it.
Stevedoro, echoing Weather’s point above, says it really matters if you think the president is currently failing or succeeding at foreign policy:
I wouldn’t mind him not attending the meetings if I felt like the Obama Administration had a handle on foreign policy and security, they just don’t seem to care. Witness the lackadaisical attitude towards the supposed chem weapons in Syria, he continues to make empty threats and nothing more.
And jeffdc1 returns for a further point suggesting the administration is misleading us, which is worrisome:
The White House shouldn’t argue that the President is “consistently participating in an exploration of foreign policy and intelligence issues” and point to his attendance at the daily intelligence briefings for support when he attends less than half of those briefings. Doing so diminishes the credibility of the White House, and thus the President.
Well, even if new information and new arguments aren’t actually changing anyone’s mind here, PostScript is at least glad we’re still having the arguments. Clearly we all think we’re having an effect. Persuasion, like professional wrestling, is a mostly mental game.