Obama’s defenders insist he has a Nixonian command of foreign policy.
I commented here recently on a startling fact of presidential incompetence, provided courtesy of the investigative work of an excellent new group called the Government Accountability Institute. The group reported a jaw-dropper: President Barack Obama didn’t attend a single daily intelligence briefing in the week leading up to the anniversary of 9/11. In fact, he has attended a minority of daily briefings (44%) since becoming president, and a little better than a third over the last year. While skipping intelligence briefings, the president has enthusiastically campaigned and met with TV personalities. Obama has done so in this dangerous post-9/11 world, and as one who in his re-election speech at the Democratic convention flagrantly mocked his opponent’s foreign-policy credentials.
And then, of course, all hell broke loose in the Middle East — on the eleventh anniversary of September 11, 2001.
Consider the timeline:
The chaos started at the U.S. embassy in Cairo, with scenes looking eerily like a replay outside the U.S. embassy in Tehran 33 years ago under Jimmy Carter. Mere hours later in Libya, we learned of the murder of the first U.S. ambassador killed since the Carter years. By the end of the 9/11 week, the Middle East was in turmoil, with protests against America in over 20 cities, including Iraq, and with Afghanistan suddenly witnessing a surge in violence against U.S. troops, some of which were killed.
In a remarkable display that made those “Osama is Dead” signs at the Democratic convention look haughty and overconfident, Middle East demonstrators hoisted pro-Osama signs and chanted “Obama, we are all Osama!”
Things were looking bad for President Obama. But they got worse.
In one of his campaign interviews amid the Middle East madness, the president stated that Egypt is not a U.S. ally, prompting a public correction by no less than Jimmy Carter. Even worse, Obama and his administration were unwilling to call the Middle East attacks premeditated or even terrorism, and continually (and ludicrously) sought to blame an anti-Mohammed video for the whole sorry mess. On the Sunday talk shows, the president’s U.N. ambassador claimed the action in Libya was “not a premeditated” attack. She was quickly repudiated by the Libyan president, who stated categorically that there was “no doubt that this was pre-planned, determined.” And CNN and others reported that U.S. diplomats in Libya had been warned about the rapidly deteriorating situation three days before it occurred.
Now, we have also learned that al Qaeda appears to have been involved in Libya, as even Mrs. Clinton seems to finally concede, and a released Gitmo detainee was involved as well.
President Obama, bear in mind, did not attend a single daily intelligence briefing leading up to this explosion.
Do you think that this presidential negligence mattered?
Obama’s defenders, naturally, are arguing to the contrary. In moments like this, they know what to do: investigate not Obama, but those who dare to investigate Obama.
One of them is Glenn Kessler, fact-checker at the Washington Post. Kessler has weighed in on this battle over the brief — that is, Obama’s habitual absence from his daily intel briefings. Kessler is arguing, contrary to the likes of myself, the Government Accountability Institute, and Marc Thiessen of the Post op-ed page, that Obama’s absence at these meetings doesn’t matter. Kessler uses historical comparisons from previous presidents to make his case, and sometimes makes a defensible to decent case — while other times not.
For instance, Kessler notes of President Richard Nixon: “Richard Nixon also had few, if any, oral briefings and instead received his intelligence from the morning memo of his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger.” Kessler cites a CIA history of the Presidential Daily Brief (PDB), which says of Nixon: “Throughout the Nixon presidency, the PDB was delivered by courier to Kissinger’s office. Each day Kissinger delivered to the President a package of material that included the PDB along with material from the State Department, the White House Situation Room, the Joint Chiefs, and others. Nixon would keep the material on his desk, reading it at his convenience throughout the day. Feedback to the Agency typically was provided by Kissinger directly to the DCI.”
So, Nixon apparently didn’t meet every day with his intel briefers, though he did meet with Henry Kissinger, his chief foreign-policy and national-security adviser.
Of course, Richard Nixon also entered the presidency with far more foreign-policy experience than Barack Obama. For eight years from 1953-61, Nixon travelled the world as the most active vice president in foreign policy in history (up to that time). He further burnished those credentials throughout the 1960s as a private citizen thinking and writing (extensively) about the world.
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