The Politico headline reporting on the Obama administration’s reaction to my column yesterday exposing the fact that President Obama has skipped more than half of his daily intelligence meetings since taking office reads “White House disputes report on intel briefs.” For its part, CNN reports that “The president's spokesman disputed a Washington Post item that suggested the commander-in-chief has not attended the Presidential Daily Brief (PDB) "more than half the time."
No, he didn’t. In fact, no one in the Obama administration has “disputed” my report on the president’s record on attending his daily intelligence meeting. No administration official has said that the numbers I reported are wrong or that the president does in fact attend his daily intelligence meeting on a daily basis.
What the administration did say is that, while I might be right, it doesn’t matter. Here’s National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor in Politico:
“The President is among the most sophisticated consumers of intelligence on the planet. He receives and reads his [Presidential Daily Brief] every day, and most days when he’s at the White House receives a briefing in person.”
Translation: Obama is so smart and so sophisticated that he does not need a briefer. He does not need an expert to walk him through the intelligence, answer his questions or dive deeper into the findings presented. Reading the PDB briefing every day, his people argue, is just as good as meeting in person every day with his intelligence officials to discuss issues. This is, quite simply, preposterous.
The White House also made the absurd argument that the president has plenty of other meetings at which intelligence is discussed. Administration officials told Politico:
The president also has frequent national security meetings beyond the daily briefing, and would also be briefed on the latest intelligence before meeting with a foreign leader, for example.
Well, yeah. So did President George W. Bush — but he still made time every day for his daily intelligence meeting.
And finally, they argue, that it’s simply a matter of style:
“Marc basically wrote a story culled from our public schedule that shows how Marc’s old boss, President Bush, structured his day differently than President Obama,” Vietor wrote. “Not exactly breaking news to anyone who has covered this place for the last few years.”
On that score, they are absolutely right. Obama does “structure his day differently.” Bush structured his day to include his daily intelligence briefing on a daily basis. Obama structures his day to skip his daily intelligence meeting more than half the time so he can attend to other matters — which means, as I said in my column, he is “consciously placing other priorities ahead of national security.”
So let’s be clear: The White House didn’t “dispute” my report at all — and by its failure to do so, it confirmed it.