When Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen and the Government Accountability Institute reported that President Obama has attended less than half of his Presidential Daily Briefs (PDBs) on intelligence, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney called the findings "hilarious." The next day, U.S. Libyan Ambassador Chris Stevens and three American staff members were murdered.
According to Mr. Carney, Mr. Obama doesn't need in-person briefings because the president gets the written version on his iPad:
He gets it every day, okay? The President of the United States gets the presidential daily briefing every day. 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 now, in an apparent 180-degree reversal, the White House official calendar shows that for the last four days Mr. Obama has ditched his iPad and has instead opted for the live briefings.
That's a good thing. As Mr. Thiessen explains, the live briefings are far preferred over the written daily intel reports, because they offer presidents and their advisors an opportunity to drill down into intelligence threats and to challenge assumptions. "This process cannot be replicated on paper," says Mr. Thiessen.
Still, Mr. Carney owes Mr. Thiessen an apology. Carney said Thiessen's report was "hilarious" and flippantly dismissed the need for Mr. Obama to attend live intelligence briefings. Then, after four Americans were murdered and Mr. Obama's foreign policy approval rating plunged, Mr. Obama has now decided to actually start showing up for his daily presidential intelligence briefings, just as Mr. Thiessen urged him to do.
Mr. Obama's newfound interest in attending his daily intelligence briefings won't undo last week's horrific events in the Middle East. But perhaps it may help in preventing similar atrocities in the days ahead.