Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, President Obama — September 14, 2012 at 6:51 am

Conservatives rush in to bail out Romney – create fake controversy over Obama’s Presidential Daily Briefings


This is getting comical

Faced with the unmitigated disaster that is Mitt Romney and his complete melt down on the national stage from a foreign policy perspective, conservatives are now rushing to his aid, throwing flak into the air in a laughable attempt to distract voters. They are now suggesting that because President Obama doesn’t need to have his security briefings read to him like his predecessor, he is responsible for the attacks on American embassies around the globe.

No, sadly, I am not kidding.

It started with a Washington Post piece that came out Monday from former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen based on a study done by a consultant for the White House Office of Presidential Speechwriting during the Bush administration, Peter Schweitzer. Thiessen and Schweitzer are actually business partners who run a consulting firm called Oval Office Writers.

So, what’s the big controversy? This:

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.

The utter irony of this is that it appears to be an attack on the President to make up for the Romney International Tour of Shame and Embarrassment™ and yet, the very next day after it was published, September 11, 2012, Romney made an even bigger foreign policy blunder.

After hammering Romney for not being tough enough over the past week, this “news” caused right wing radio heart throb Laura Ingraham to sputter:

The man goes to Vegas! How do you go to Vegas for a fundraising trip? … So he feels comfortable running to the slots and running to the roulette wheel and running to the — I have to say it — craps tables, when the rest of us feel like we’re gambling away our prestige in the world, any respect we have left among our allies and among those who should fear us … You got the elliptical trainer, you know, you’ve got your golf games to fit in. You have your fundraising trips, and you can’t keep Beyoncé waiting!

It’s all so very clever and God knows that Mitt Romney needs something … ANYTHING … to distract people from the blatantly clear and obvious fact that he is, without any hyperbole, completely unqualified to be the President of the United States after his recent trip to Europe and, more glaringly, his offensive and embarrassing politicizing of the embassy attacks this week.

The problem is that there is no problem.

President Obama receives his PDB every single day. Now, it’s true that, unlike George W. Bush, Barack Obama doesn’t need someone to read the PDB to him. This whip smart man is perfectly capable of reading, understanding, and synthesizing the briefing materials on his own. He’s in constant contact with his foreign policy staff and does, in fact, meet with them in person several times a week.

Here’s what Washington Post journalist Walter Pincus wrote about this last January:

[Obama’s] approach differs somewhat from those of [his] predecessors and illustrates his way of doing business: He holds regular, open discussions with top policy advisers based on current facts, designed to try to stay ahead of issues before they become problems.

One regular participant in the roughly 500 Oval Office sessions during Obama’s presidency said the meetings show a president consistently participating in an exploration of foreign policy and intelligence issues. {…}

But a senior White House official said the morning meeting is not used to discuss presidential decisions, but rather for the White House staff to get departments to work on present or future issues. {…}

Obama reads the PDB ahead of time and comes to the morning meeting with questions. Intelligence briefers are there to answer those questions, expand on a point or raise a new issue. Clapper may be present once or twice a week, but most often one of his deputies is in attendance in case an intelligence community issue arises.

Questions for the intelligence community raised by the president and others are carried back to the individual agencies, primarily the CIA, and become priority items. Answers, when available, come back that day or are sometimes included in later PDBs.

Clearly the suggestion that the President is somehow AWOL on matters of foreign policy as absolutely absurd. When Ingraham intones about “the respect we have left among our allies and among those who should fear us”, she, like the rest of the Romney apologists, is clearly desperate. I don’t think there is any dispute that President Obama has done more to rid the world of threats than any president in recent history. And our status among our allies is far better than it ever was during the Bush administration.

White House spokesman Jay Carney called the Theissen piece “hilarious”. Politico quotes National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor this way:

The President is among the most sophisticated consumers of intelligence on the planet. 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. {…}

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. Not exactly breaking news to anyone who has covered this place for the last few years.

I get why conservatives are jumping on this with such vigor. I mean, honestly, when it comes to foreign policy, what else can they do? Their candidate is clearly so far out of his league that the idea of him being president is frightening when you consider the foreign policy implications.

He couldn’t take a simple trip to Europe without making a complete fool of himself and he’s even got Vladimir Putin thanking him for calling Russia our “Number One geopolitical enemy”:

“I’m grateful to him (Romney) for formulating his stance so clearly because he has once again proven the correctness of our approach to missile defense problems,” Putin told reporters, according to the Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

“The most important thing for us is that even if he doesn’t win now, he or a person with similar views may come to power in four years. We must take that into consideration while dealing with security issues for a long perspective.”

What puzzles me most is why they would make the comparison to George W. Bush. Bush not only ignored clear evidence that Osama bin Laden was planning to attack the USA, he actually blew off it off, telling the person briefing him, “All right. You’ve covered your ass, now.” Not only did George Bush require the PDB to be read aloud to him, he didn’t respond to threats appropriately when he did. It makes you wonder if Bush needed his PDB to be illustrated with cartoons, too.

The Romney “Death Stench” is becoming increasingly nauseating. This attack on the President, launched by two former Bush speechwriters working in collusion, is just another example among many of how much they are flailing and floundering in the last dying days of the 2012 election campaign. Romney himself looks shattered and his surrogates are left to hang their hats on petty things that are irrelevant.

I believe we have found one thing more powerful than money in an election: a startlingly and stunningly unqualified candidate.

[Facepalm CC image credit: Alex Proimos | Flickr, Editorial quotes graphic by Anne C. Savage | Eclectablog]