Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Washington Post's Self-Satirist Strikes Again

Marc Thiessen lays it on thick:
The Government Accountability Institute, a new conservative investigative research organization, examined President Obama’s schedule from the day he took office until mid-June 2012, to see how often he attended his Presidential Daily Brief (PDB) — the meeting at which he is briefed on the most critical intelligence threats to the country. During his first 1,225 days in office, Obama attended his PDB just 536 times — or 43.8 percent of the time. During 2011 and the first half of 2012, his attendance became even less frequent — falling to just over 38 percent. By contrast, Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush almost never missed his daily intelligence meeting.
Thiessen then shares a response he received, dismissing his argument as complete bunk:
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.”
And yet Thiessen's whinge goes on, "When Obama forgoes this daily intelligence meeting, he is consciously placing other priorities ahead of national security." Because if you don't do things the way Bush did things, well, you may make far fewer mistakes, need far fewer apologists trying to whitewash your record, and the like, but... no, there's really not a valid point you can pull out of that comparison.

A more detailed response from another source:
The White House dismissed the comparison as a difference without substance, with Press Secretary Jay Carney calling the report “hilarious.”

“The President is among the most sophisticated consumers of intelligence on the planet,” National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor wrote in an e-mail. “He receives and reads his [Presidential Daily Brief] every day, and most days when he’s at the White House receives a briefing in person. When necessary he probes the arguments, requests more information or seeks alternate analysis. Sometimes that’s via a written assessment and other times it’s in person.”

The president also has frequent national security meetings beyond the daily briefing, and would also be briefed on the latest intelligence before meeting with a foreign leader, for example.

“Marc basically wrote a story culled from our public schedule that shows how Marc’s old boss, President Bush, structured his day differently than President Obama,” Vietor wrote. “Not exactly breaking news to anyone who has covered this place for the last few years.”
It seems reasonable to ask, also, when we can expect to see similar faux analysis based upon number-crunching of the daily schedules of Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan. Let's recall also, George W. Bush blundered his way into one foreign policy disaster after another - so frequent attendance doesn't save you from being misled or making mistakes.

Having been put firmly in his place, what else can Thiessen do but... double down! Citing the same right-wing outfit that produced the meaningless "skipping" figure, Thiessen extrapolates,
So Obama has spent roughly 600 hours on the golf course, and roughly 536 hours discussing the PDB with his intelligence and national security advisors. White House spokesman Jay Carney said my report was “hilarious.” Really? There’s nothing funny about a president who has more time for golf than he does for his daily intelligence brief.
And, OMG, look how much time he spends eating. And brushing his teeth. And sleeping!

It's fascinating, isn't it, that Thiessen completely ignores the substance of the response he admits, up front, having received - that the President gets his information on a daily basis, simply in a manner different from that preferred by G.W. Bush. Perhaps Thiessen is confused by the notion that a President might read something, but it's interesting to note that Thiessen assumes that it took the President a cumulative zero minutes to read the 500 or so PDB's from the meetings he, in Thiessen's parlance, "skipped". Let's not forget also that you can do business on the golf course. Here's Thiessen's former employer in action:

I wonder when we can expect Thiessen to declare that his former boss's litany of errors ban be explained by the claims that he spent about a third of his presidency on vacation. What was that? You mean, when it's his ox being gored the picture becomes nuanced, the President has lots of duties even when on "vacation", a lot of presidential vacations are "working vacations".... You can't simply sum up the days and draw the conclusion that the President wasn't doing his duties in a manner not reflected by that simply tally? Well, go figure.

But you're still left with the fact that Bush's attendance record didn't prevent him from making catastrophic foreign policy decisions that continue to haunt this country and drain its treasury. Thiessen used to try to rehabilitate the reputation of his ex-boss, but apparently there's no longer any profit in that?

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