Is President Obama ‘Skipping’ Intelligence Briefings?

Sep 14, 2012 9:48pm

Conservative critics of President Obama are accusing him of “skipping” daily intelligence briefings throughout his first term and in the days leading up to this week’s deadly attacks on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Libya.

The anti-Obama super PAC American Crossroads levels the charge in a new Web ad HERE.

Right-leaning bloggers and American Enterprise Institute scholar and Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen make the case HERE and HERE.

But the substance of the charge, aimed at undermining Obama’s credibility as commander in chief, appears to be more a matter of semantics than hard fact.

Driving the allegation is a report by the Government Accountability Institute, a conservative research group, that analyzed the number of times a Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB) was formally listed on Obama’s schedule since the beginning of his term in 2009.

The group says it examined the publicly available records for the first 1,225 days of the Obama presidency – from Jan. 23, 2009 through March, 31 2012 – and found a PDB on just 536 of those days, or less than half the time.

In the first five months of 2012, a PDB was listed on Obama’s schedule just 58 days, or 38 percent of the time, the report says.  The group claims former President George W. Bush almost always had a briefing on his public docket.

The White House does not directly dispute the numbers, but insists they are a “selective representation of the facts.”  Obama has never “skipped” a Presidential Daily Briefing, aides say, even if an in-person briefing isn’t listed on his schedule.

While his predecessor might have preferred an oral daily briefing, Obama religiously reads a written version of the same prepared material, often on a secure iPad (as seen in this official White House PHOTO). He often receives an in-person briefing in addition, aides note, as well as real-time national security updates during the day, both in the office and on the road.

“He does both all the time, all the time,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters today. “And when he is here in Washington, he has briefings in person in the Oval Office with his national security team regularly.  And when he is on the road, he has phone conversations that supplement and augment the briefings he receives on paper that are specific to the so-called PDB.  I hardly think that is different from previous presidents.”

Aides say there is no evidence to suggest an in-person briefing is any more or less efficient or effective than the president’s consuming the material electronically or in print.

“The quarters from which that criticism comes are pretty clear, and who occupies those quarters is pretty clear,” Carney said of Obama’s critics on the right. “This president is absolutely responsible and voracious consumer of the presidential daily briefing and of the information provided to him by his national security team.

“His record of evaluating and acting on intelligence, I think, speaks for itself,” he said. “I’ll leave it at that.”

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