President Barack Obama blamed intelligence community failures for his foreign policy ineptitude in a “60 Minutes” interview Sunday. But a new report out from the Government Accountability Institute (GAI) reveals another explanation for why the president doesn’t seem to know what’s going on: He has attended less than half of his daily intelligence briefings since taking office.
“I think our head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria,” Obama passed the buck on Monday.
In a study of Obama’s first 2,079 days in office, running from Jan. 20, 2009 through Sept. 29, 2014, compiled from the White House calendar and information gathered from POLITICO, GAI found that the president attended a total of 875 intelligence briefings over the course of 2,079 days in office.
That means Obama has attended only 42.09 percent of his Presidential Daily Briefs.
GAI also compared the president’s briefing attendance during his first and second terms:
First Term: President Obama was inaugurated on January 20, 2009 and was re-elected in November 2012. Between January 20, 2009 and January 19, 2013, President Obama attended 620 PDBs over a possible 1,461 days for a 42.43% attendance rate.
Second Term: President Obama was inaugurated for his second term on January 20, 2013. Between January 20, 2013 and September 29, 2014, President Obama attended 255 PDBs over a possible 618 days for a 41.26% attendance rate.
This isn’t the first time Obama’s intelligence briefing attendance has come under fire. In 2012, GAI reported that the president preferred to receive written versions of intelligence briefs over having face-to-face meetings with intelligence officials.
At the time, former White House press secretary Jay Carney laughed off questions about Obama’s attendance at the crucial daily meetings.
“He gets it every day, OK? The president of the United States gets the presidential daily briefing every day,” Carney said. “There is a document that he reads every day when he is not — well, he always reads it every day because he’s a voracious consumer of all of his briefing materials.”
But as the American Enterprise Institute’s Mark Thiessen pointed out in September 2012 (and Obama’s foreign policy aloofness has since proven), the process of quizzing intelligence officials on matters of national security and global threats “cannot be replicated on paper.”
In a recent Daily Beast piece about Obama’s attempt to blame intelligence officials for the mess in the Middle East, a senior Pentagon official summed the president’s claims up thusly: “Either the president doesn’t read the intelligence he’s getting or he’s bullshitting.”