The Post’s Fact Checker, Glenn Kessler, takes issue with my report that since taking office President Obama has skipped his daily intelligence meeting more than half the time. So let’s fact check the Fact Checker.
After hearing from sources in the intelligence community that President Obama was not attending his daily intelligence meeting on a daily basis, I asked researchers at the Government Accountability Institute, a nonpartisan research group headed by Peter Schweizer (who is also my business partner in a speechwriting firm, Oval Office Writers) to examine at Obama’s official schedule. We found during his first 1,225 days in office, Obama had attended his daily meeting to discuss the Presidential Daily Brief (PDB) 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.
After Islamist radicals stormed our embassy in Cairo and terrorists killed our ambassador to Libya on Sept. 11, I further reported that Obama also skipped his daily intelligence meeting every day in the week leading up to the attacks. The day after the attack, he scheduled but then canceled his daily intelligence meeting, while finding time to go to Las Vegas for a campaign rally.
These facts are not in dispute. Indeed, before publishing both of my columns, I specifically asked National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor if there were instances where the president had, in fact, held his daily meeting on the PDB that did not appear on the official public calendar. He offered no examples, and not once did he challenge the numbers I presented. Neither has any White House official challenged them in the weeks since this controversy erupted. So, as a factual matter, Kessler offers no evidence that the information I presented on Obama’s PDB meeting attendance is wrong.
What Kessler and the Obama White House do argue is a matter not of fact but of opinion — that it does not matter if Obama attends a daily intelligence meeting because he reads his PDB every day. Kessler compares Obama to former presidents going back to Reagan and Nixon and finds that “many did not have an oral briefing” — and that this means Obama has simply “chosen to receive his information in a different manner than his predecessor.” There are several problems with this.
First, Kessler ignores one giant difference between then and now: Sept. 11, 2001.
Comparing lax presidential briefing habits before and after 9/11 is like comparing lax presidential security habits before and after the Kennedy assassination. After terrorists killed 3,000 people in our midst, everything changed — and the president’s daily intelligence meeting took on dramatically increased importance. President Bush made it a priority to sit down with his senior intelligence advisers every day to discuss overnight intelligence on threats to the country. President Obama has not.