Foreign and Defense Policy

Obama: I’m a better intelligence briefer than my intelligence briefers

In today’s Washington Post, I quote NSC spokesman Tommy Vietor as explaining why his boss has skipped more than half his daily intelligence meetings since taking office – including every day in the week leading up to the attacks on our diplomatic facilities in Egypt and Libya: Obama, they say, doesn’t need briefers because he is just so much smarter than everyone else. As Vietor put it to me in an email, “Unlike your former boss [President Bush], he has it delivered to his residence in the morning and not briefed to him.”

The White House takes pride in the fact that Obama’s PDB is “not briefed to him” – because, they say, he is “among the most sophisticated consumers of intelligence on the planet.” That hubris brings to mind this revealing quote from a September 2008 New York Times profile of Obama:

“I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters,” Mr. Obama told Patrick Gaspard, his political director, at the start of the 2008 campaign, according to The New Yorker. “I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m going to think I’m a better political director than my political director.”

So it should come as no surprise that apparently Barack Obama thinks he’s a better intelligence briefer than his intelligence briefers.

11 thoughts on “Obama: I’m a better intelligence briefer than my intelligence briefers

  1. Has anyone asked the really important question yet? “Was the threat to the Egyptian embassy and the Libyan consulate on 9/11 part of the PDF recently?”

    And: “If not, why not?”

    And: “If so, what did the USA do to prepare for it?”

    Did Obama know that this was going to happen and did nothing about it?

  2. I have heard it said that conservatives are still living in the 19th century (or trying to), but that is a scurrilous lie. Seeing as the telephone (a device permitting President Obama to communicate instantaneously with and ask questions of people not physically in the same room) was invented in the 1870s, it is clear that Mr. Thiessen must be inhabiting the 18th century, if not earlier.

    I won’t even try to explain “email”. I’m afraid his head would explode.

    I have encountered the occasional person who is far more comfortable with face-to-face communication than remote. Perhaps President Bush was one of those. However, Mr. Thiessen should not assume that the rest of the world shares that trait. Personally, I can read at least twice as fast as anyone this side of John Moschitta Jr. can talk, and when someone pulls up and starts reading from a PowerPoint presentation I want to reach for my Smith & Wesson and put a bullet through their laptop.

    But maybe that’s just me (and President Obama).

    • If Obama is so damned smart, why is it he had nothing to say for over five hours, and two days after events could not decide whether Egypt is an ally or not? And why are he and Hillary, the architects of American “policy” toward the “Arab Spring” apparently so confounded by what is going on? If he is so concerned about our embassy personnel, why does he respond to the Ambassador’s death by going to Vegas for a fund raiser? And from descriptions of Obama’s working style, why assume that he is in fact in serious contact with his policy advisers (assuming he has any) by telephone, or otherwise? Obama is simply clueless, and that’s a fact.

      • I have no idea what five hours you’re talking about. As I understand it, the ambassador died somewhere around 1AM Bengazi time, or 7PM EDT. I do not know when that news was communicated back to Washington; it was apparently only reported at the time that the ambassador could not be located. According to news reports the ambassador’s death was first conveyed to Obama on Wednesday morning, time unspecified. He gave a statement around 10:30 in the morning, after attending one of those intellingence briefings that you and Mr. Thiessen insist are so important. You mean you would want him to have skipped that just so he could issue a statement an hour or so earlier in the morning? Please make up your mind! Or are you saying he should have called all the reporters out of bed so he could make a statement at 5:30AM?

        In any case, once he gave his statement, what would expect him to do? Fly to every embassy in a Muslim country and personally conduct a review of security measures? You must be one of those people who also blamed Obama for not focusing all his attention on the BP oil spill, as if he should personally have strapped on a scuba tank and dived down to fix the leak. (Conservative commentator Ben Stein is the one who made that observation, not an Obama partisan.) But even if Obama did conduct that personal security review, the Republicans would turn around and complain that he’s not focusing enough attention on the economy.

        Romney also held a campaign event Thursday morning, when (by the standard to which you hold Obama) Romney should have been visiting the ambassador’s family and cooking them lunch in their hour of grief.

      • @Aria – Are you privy to the contents of the PDB, that you know that the request for more security in Benghazi was part of it? Because so far the testimony indicates that Charlene Lamb was the person who received the request, refused it, and never passed it up the chain for anyone higher to look at.

        It was a failure, yes. It might have been a failure of choosing the wrong person (viz., Lamb) for the State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary slot in charge of embassy security. But despite his political posturing, if Romney becomes President, I can guarantee you that he too will not personally review the security arrangements at every US diplomatic post, not even just every one in the Middle East. No President can micromanage to that level.

        I’m curious – did you blame Bush personally because the 9/11 attackers succeeded despite his rapt attention to all the daily briefs, which included specific warnings that Al Qaeda might try to hijack planes? If you did, then I’ll give you points for intellectual consistency, at least. If you didn’t, yet blame Obama for the deaths in Benghazi, that would be blatant hypocrisy.

    • It seems to me that the thrust of Mr. Thiessen’s article is President Obama’s perceived hubris, not an analysis of his skill at consuming and analyzing information. That being said, would any of us claim that email or telephone communication is as good as a face-to-face discussion when it is readily available? The combination of eye contact, facial expression, and vocal tone are essential parts of communication. Email and the telephone are tools to facilitate communication when the best type, face-to-face, is unavailable.

  3. Sure, that makes sense. He being a MUSLIM with EXTREME TIES to the middle east, he probably knows what’s up whereas the “regulars” don’t have the Extremist ties that he has!

  4. I added a link to this article under my video Barack Obama’s Most Egotistical Moments along with a couple of other moments left out. I doubt I’ll do an update. People are sick of Obama and it’s harder to get views.
    My Obama’s Rudest Moments video was very popular and I thought I would reuse the theme. In this video I used the same Bach background music I used in my original “I’m the Fourth Best President” video. I coined that phrase.

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