The latest right wing attack on President Obama faults him for not regularly attending intelligence briefings in person. Instead, the president evidently often prefers to receive this information in writing. This criticism was reported by Marc Thiessen, based on a conservative research organization's study which reports that President Obama only attends these meetings in person about 40% of the time, while President George W. Bush hardly ever missed an in person intelligence briefing.
Seriously? President Bush? The latest revelations from Kurt Eichenwald show that in the months leading up to 9/11/01 Bush was more extensively briefed on the looming threat of an Al Qaeda attack in the United States than has been previously reported. Yet Bush's team disregarded or discounted this intelligence, failing to take actions that might have uncovered the plot. Which goes to show that it's not the manner in which you receive intelligence that counts; it's what you do with it. Given the Bush administration's faulty handling of intelligence in the run-up to 9/11 and the run-up to the Iraq war, it would make more sense to praise President Obama for reading and thinking about the intelligence reports he receives every day, since personal attendance obviously didn't serve the Bush administration very well.
Thiessen doubled down on his criticism today, attempting to insinuate that preparedness for the anniversary of 9/11 could have suffered as a result of President Obama's practice of reading instead of listening to intelligence reports. But he offers no evidence, just his opinion that hearing the news is somehow qualitatively better than reading the news. Again, because that worked so well for President Bush?
Nobody is faulting President Obama for being unresponsive to intelligence about trouble spots around the world. Instead of any real evidence of a failure to keep apprised of important information, what we get are criticisms of the manner in which the information is transmitted. Talk about elevating form over substance.