In the wake of the embassy attacks in Cairo and Benghazi that left four people dead, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, you would think the White House would be on crisis alert. After all, when members of the American Foreign Service come under threat, with one being assassinated– it is comforting to have a commander-in-chief executing his leadership to make sure the situation is under control. Apparently, that isn’t the case in the Obama White House and, for the most part, the national news media don't seem to mind.
As noted yesterday by Washington Post opinion columnist Marc A. Thiessen, “the president was scheduled to hold the intelligence meeting at 10:50 a.m. Wednesday, the day after the attacks, but it was canceled so that he could comfort grieving employees at the State Department — as well he should.” However, the president decided to forgo on rescheduling his planned briefing because he needed to “attend a Las Vegas fundraiser for his re-election campaign. One day after a terrorist attack.”
As my colleague Ken Shepherd noted yesterday, “By contrast, Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush almost never missed his daily intelligence meeting.” In fact, Thiessen wrote on September 10 that:
the former president held his intelligence meeting six days a week, no exceptions — usually with the vice president, the White House chief of staff, the national security adviser, the director of National Intelligence, or their deputies, and CIA briefers in attendance. Once a week, he held an expanded Homeland Security briefing that included the Homeland Security adviser, the FBI director and other homeland security officials. Bush also did more than 100 hour-long “deep dives” in which he invited intelligence analysts into the Oval Office to get their unvarnished and sometimes differing views.
National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor if the president had attended any meetings to discuss the Presidential Daily Brief (PDB) since Sept. 5, he repeatedly refused to answer. He noted that Obama had attended a principals meeting of the National Security Council on Sept. 10 and reiterated that he reads the PDB. ‘As I’ve told you every time you ask, the President gets his PDB every day,’ Vietor told me by e-mail, adding this swipe at Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush: ‘Unlike your former boss, he has it delivered to his residence in the morning and not briefed to him.’
Reading the presidential daily briefing is all well and good, but it's not a copy of Entertainment Weekly or Sports Illustrated. It's helpful to have a briefer there to explain complicated information or to probe for more background on troubling issues in the brief.
Indeed, Thiessen noted, “Vietor’s reply is quite revealing. It is apparently a point of pride in the White House that Obama’s PDB is “not briefed to him.” In the eyes of this administration, it is a virtue that the president does not meet every day with senior intelligence officials.”
It's not a virtue that our national media doesn't find this a problem, especially in light of the troubling incidents of the past few days.