Obama’s defenders insist he has a Nixonian command of foreign policy.
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Nixon’s successor, Gerald Ford, wasn’t nearly as steeped in foreign policy. And so, as Kessler notes, Ford did indeed maintain a daily intel meeting: “Gerald Ford, who became president when Nixon resigned, decided to add an oral briefing from a CIA official as his first meeting of the morning so he would be better prepared for foreign-policy discussions with Kissinger, who had become Secretary of State.”
Jimmy Carter, on the other hand, scrapped the briefing. Kessler writes: “Jimmy Carter scrapped the oral briefing and instead relied on a one-on-one meeting with his national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski.”
Kessler next deals with Reagan, who he dismisses with the standard, mistaken liberal caricature of Reagan from 30 years ago, which, frankly, I had thought we finally dispatched to the ash-heap of history. Not in some quarters, I guess. (Kessler clearly doesn’t read my books on Reagan.)
Kessler’s general point, however, is well taken. He contends that much of this controversy may be a matter of semantics, based on whether the president is getting an “intel” briefing from intel officials or from national-security officials. He adds, “Clearly, different presidents have structured their daily briefing from the CIA to fit their unique personal styles. Many did not have an oral briefing, while three — two of whom are named Bush — preferred to deal directly with a CIA official. Obama appears to have opted for a melding of the two approaches, in which he receives oral briefings, but not as frequently as his predecessor.”
Obama reportedly more often reads his daily intel brief (on paper) than he actually meets with intel officials.
Note that Kessler is assuming — as is the Obama White House — that President Obama carefully reads his paper briefings and fully understands them, with no need for follow-up or dialogue with the experts. They’re banking on a foreign-policy brilliance bordering on omniscience from Obama, which, given his complete lack of experience in foreign affairs, is completely unjustified.
Most importantly, what Kessler and other Obama defenders are missing is the crucial dynamic that is the post-9/11 world. Consider: it’s really inexcusable that Barack Obama would miss so many intel briefings not only over the past four years, but especially the most recent year and, most shockingly, in the literal week prior to 9/11 — while he was campaigning, cavorting with celebrities, and as the Middle East exploded in some of the worst images since the protests in Iran in 1979. And now we continue to learn how little Obama and his team understood about the roots of the recent conflagration, particularly in Libya.
If Kessler and President Obama’s defenders think I’m wrong about this, then I ask them to consider a basic question: What if the president we’re talking about here wasn’t Barack Obama, but George W. Bush? What would they be saying then? Think about that one, liberals.
Oh, and as Marc Thiessen and the Government Accountability Institute now note, Obama is suddenly attending his daily intel briefings. Hmmm. Sure, that’s no doubt a response to political criticism. But do you think — on the heels of Libya, Egypt, and all else — that maybe Obama feels like he might have been missing something?
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