President Obama and the “Intelligence Brief” Scandal

The last few weeks have produced many intriguing political moments, but none as shocking as the revelation that President Obama has been absent from the vast majority of his daily intelligence briefings.
According to a study by the Government Accountability Institute, Obama failed to attend a single Presidential Daily Brief (PDB) in the week leading up to the recent anniversary of 9/11 and the chaos that erupted in the Arab world. The mere fact that we were approaching 9/11 was a crucial enough reason to attend not one but all the briefings. President Obama attended none.
Worse, this is apparently nothing new. Obama attended only 43.8 percent of his Daily Briefs in the first 1,225 days of his administration. For this year, he attended a little over a third.
This is stunning, and there’s no excuse for it.
Washington Post columnist, Marc Thiessen, who worked for President George W. Bush, pressed NSC spokesman Tommy Vietor for an explanation. Thiessen reported:

Vietor did not dispute the numbers, but said the fact that the president, during a time of war, does not attend his daily intelligence meeting on a daily basis is “not particularly interesting or useful.” He says that the president reads his PDB every day, and he disagreed with the suggestion that there is any difference whatsoever between simply reading the briefing book and having an interactive discussion of its contents with top national security and intelligence officials where the president can probe assumptions and ask questions. “I actually don’t agree at all,” Vietor told me in an e-mail. “The president gets the information he needs from the intelligence community each day.”

That’s simply the White House covering for the president.
Similarly, White House spokesman Jay Carney dismissed the PDB charge as “hilarious.” No, no, said Carney, the president “gets it every day.” By “it,” Carney was apparently talking about the intelligence briefing papers, not the actual meetings.
Pro-Obama journalists happily accepted Carney’s explanation. CNN posted Carney’s comments under a photo of a pensive Obama sitting at an intelligence briefing.
Sorry, but, once again, there’s no excuse for this, especially in the post-9/11 world. George W. Bush not only didn’t miss the PDB but actually expanded it to six meetings per week.
Consider, too, the case of Ronald Reagan, who liberals, ironically, portrayed as an uninformed idiot who didn’t pay attention in meetings or read anything.
Reagan, in fact, attended the daily intelligence briefing. I could lay this out at length, but here I’ll offer just two Reagan sources, both still living, who can speak to this:
One source is Herb Meyer, special assistant to CIA director Bill Casey in the 1980s. Meyer told me: “Of course Reagan attended all those daily briefings. And after the briefers returned to CIA headquarters, Bill [Casey] would meet with them just to be sure the president (and Haig &Weinberger) got answers to whatever questions they may have had. In short, it was a very—very—serious business.”
Another source is Bill Clark. Clark was Ronald Reagan’s right-hand man in foreign policy. As hisbiographer, I know Clark well. He is 80 years old and lives in California. Clark told me this about Reagan and the PDB:

Bill Casey would, by courier, send the President’s Daily Brief each morning at about 5:00 a.m. to our war room downstairs in our [National] Security Council…. It would be delivered to the president in his residence before he came over [by 7:00 a.m.]…. He’d write questions all over the margins about things that weren’t clear in the briefing. And, of course, the agency [CIA] would come down with further explanations.

Clark recalls how Reagan craved that regular morning update. He would read it and then they would meet. Reagan ate up these briefings. He asked questions of his advisers. He probed for ideas. Reagan attended the briefings and used them as presidents should.
When Reagan finished his presidency, after two terms, genuine freedom and democracy were surging all over the communist world.
As for President Obama, if he’s in the process of finishing his presidency, after one term, he’s facing a surge of radical Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East. Can any of that be blamed on Obama’s failure to attend these routine briefings? Maybe, maybe not, but it certainly can’t help.
In fact, as Marc Theissen and the Government Accountability Institute have noted in follow-up stories, Obama is now suddenly attending his daily briefing. That’s no doubt a response to political criticism. But could it be—on the heels of the eruptions in Libya and Egypt, which Obama initially blamed not on pre-meditated terrorism but a video—that maybe President Obama feels like he might have been missing something?

Dr. Paul Kengor


Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values. His books include “The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism” and “Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.”

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  • Really telling would be the briefing record of Bill Clinton. If his numbers matched Bush and Reagan it would really tell the tale. Good luck on getting information on that before the election.

  • Poppiexno

    Outrage upon outrage and STILL people will vote for him. Mind boggling.

  • John

    Pathetic. And no one in the “mainstream media” seems interested in reporting on this. An even worse scandal that we’d better start hearing about NOW is the multiple times Obama campaign staffers have been caught trying to help his supporters vote multiple times, as exposed by Project Veritas.

  • Dan

    Obama is no president. He is a failed community activist. And he continues to only serve his community of anti-Americans, faith-haters and baby-killers. The best example ever of someone who has accomplished absolutely nothing of lasting value in his entire life. A completely vacuous human being-let alone President.

  • Cheryl Dickow

    Excellent point! I would be very interested to see if this runs along party lines or is just Obama’s lack of leadership or concern for our country.

  • I am sorry but I don’t see the point in this article. Comparing Obama with Bush or Reagan has no meaning. Obviously this article supports conservative readers and primarily Catholic.

  • How can you support your accusation of Obama serving a community of anti-Americans, faith-haters and baby-killers?

  • Victoria

    Bush and Reagan were presidents who acted in a responsible manner, unlike Mr. Obama, which is what the article is pointing out. Perhaps if he had been paying more attention, the massacre in Libya could have been averted.

  • Oct. 15th: during the primary campaign between Hillary and Obama, the question was thrown out there: “Who will answer the 3a.m. phone call?” or something like that…well, now we know. Obama answered that 3a.m. phone call and then went back to sleep and when he woke up, he headed for Vegas…all this after having been informed that our Embassies were under attack by mobs of Islamist extremists and that our Ambassador and 3 other Americans had been murdered…don’t give him another 4 years to answer that 3a.m. phone call – get out and vote! And keep in mind that if Obama gets re-elected, we will also have Pelosi and Reid for another 4 years…think about that…

  • Oct. 15th: Maria Teresa Fernandez, Obama is boldly and arrogantly trying to take away our freedom of Religion. He not only supports the killing of human babies in the womb of their mothers (primarily blacks and Hispanic babies) right up until the 9th month of gestation where the abortionist partially delivers the fully formed, fully alive baby and then pierces his skull and sucks out the brain; Obama was the only senator who voted against the born alive infant act which mandated that a baby who survives an abortion must be comforted and cared for – Obama is a channel for evil, deep and penetrating evil…

  • Oct. 15th, Maria Teresa, this is not about conservative reader or Catholics – it’s about human beings…during the holocaust, more than 8 million human beings were slaughtered…since 1973 more than 60 million human lives have been exterminated, which is the genocide of generations of human beings. Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, mandated that abortion facilities be placed in poor neighborhoods because she did not want ‘undesirables’ (blacks and Hispanics) to be able to perpetuate their race…this is all fact.