Concerning the fun parts of his job, Barack Obama resembles the Energizer Bunny. If there are crowds to wow, entertainers to schmooze or donors to pitch, Obama is Johnny on the spot. Too bad Obama’s sparks stop flying when it comes time for the serious, heavy lifting of the presidency.
This phenomenon’s most chilling example involves Obama’s national security-related presidential daily brief (PDB). As the conservative Government Accountability Institute calculated, and Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen first reported Sept. 10, Obama attended only 43.8 percent of his daily briefings between Jan. 23, 2009 (three days after his inauguration) and May 31, 2012. Available nearly every day, the briefing allows the commander-in-chief to hear directly from top intelligence professionals about the latest threats to U.S. safety. These experts are on hand to answer questions, hear suggestions and otherwise help Obama foil America’s enemies.
But Obama has had higher priorities.
According to the institute’s data culled from the official White House calendar and Politico.com’s news coverage of that schedule, Obama chose to skip his daily briefings and, instead, simply read his briefing book. This is a bit like studying one’s chest X-rays at home while spurning a radiologist’s offer to interpret them and answer pertinent questions.
In this sense, Obama quietly reviewed his national security X-rays alone during 56.2 percent of the time the institute analyzed. Obama missed 61.6 percent of these briefings in 2011.
Obama skipped his briefings between last Sept. 4 and 11, the entire week before the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya suffered an Islamic terror attack that killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, technical officer Sean Smith, and former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.
Who knows if a briefer’s classified utterance, or a particularly astute question from Obama, might have triggered tighter security in Benghazi and, perhaps prevented the murders of four Americans?
Even worse, as Thiessen reports, Obama postponed and eventually skipped his briefing on the day after these planned and deliberate assassinations. This liberated Obama for a truly indispensable responsibility that day.
As American embassies burned brightly throughout the Islamic world, Obama jetted off on Air Force One for a campaign fundraiser in America’s least solemn city — Las Vegas.
At last, three days after the Benghazi bloodshed, and nine days after his previous briefing, Obama sat still for a proper briefing Sept. 14, the White House schedule shows. Perhaps the scrutiny of Thiessen and other critics finally has inspired Obama to attend his briefings with the regularity of his predecessors.
Obama last week met with exactly zero world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly, not least of them Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who wants to stop Iran from redecorating Jerusalem and Tel Aviv with mushroom clouds. Obama found time, however, to serve as “eye candy” for Whoopi Goldberg and the cast of “The View.”
Obama has shirked his domestic obligations, too. He reportedly has held just two Cabinet meetings this year — on Jan. 31 and July 26. While claiming to be totally focused on reducing naggingly high unemployment, Obama has not met with his Jobs Council since January. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney explained, “The president’s obviously got a lot on his plate.” This has included a $38,000-per-plate fundraiser at the Manhattan home of actress Sarah Jessica Parker and golf, of which Obama has enjoyed some 104 rounds as president.
Obama’s dereliction of duty would be bad enough if he were a latter-day Eisenhower: a well-respected, perhaps feared, world leader enjoying prosperity at home and peace (or at least a manageable Cold War) overseas. Instead, Obama grows increasingly comical, the domestic economy languishes, and the American flag has become an alternative fuel source across the Middle East. Nonetheless, Ike Jr. parties like it’s 1959.
Perhaps Obama has devolved from president to slacker-in-chief in an elaborate display of empathy for America’s 12.5 million unemployed.
With so many citizens not working, Obama may reckon, why should he?
Deroy Murdock is a columnist with Scripps Howard News Service.