According to this morning’s Real Clear Politics average, Barack Obama’s job approval rating is 41.4%. That’s a tick higher than the percentage of daily intelligence briefings he has attended so far in his second term.
Not that he was that much more vigilant about national security in his first term, during which he was present for 42.1% of those briefings.
A report by the Government Accountability Institute (GAI) out today reveals that Obama has skipped 57.9% of these briefings, known officially as Presidential Daily Briefs (PDB), in the 2,079 days of his presidency to date. The shocking report comes less than 48 hours after Obama’s appearance on “60 Minutes” in which he blamed the lack of preparedness for ISIS’s rapid rise on his intelligence team, calling out Director of National Intelligence James Clapper by name.
During the interview, Steve Kroft asked, “How did they [ISIS] end up where they are – in control of so much territory? Was that a big surprise to you?” Obama replied:
[National Intelligence Director] Jim Clappper has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria. [Emphasis added]
Spokesmen for the administration spent much of the day Monday trying to spin Obama’s comments, which drew the ire of reporters on both sides of the aisle, but to no avail. Many commenters were struck in particular by his choice of pronouns, referring to “they” rather than “we,” or even more fittingly “I,” in explaining away this security lapse.
It is not only the press that is rankled by Obama’s feeble attempts to deflect blame. Members of his security team, who warned him early and often about the rise of ISIS, are also fuming. The Daily Mail quotes an unnamed source within the White House as saying:
It’s starting to affect morale around here.
Any time you’re hired by a boss to advise him about what to do in a high-stakes area, and he ignores you for a long time, it’s going to gnaw at you.
He had enough to go on … He knew what was at stake. He knew where all the moving pieces were.
By February  we had generals basically reading out their memos to Congress.
The reference in the last statement is to testimony by Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, who told the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee in February that ISIS “had already seized Fallujah and Ramadi,” and had the “ability to concurrently maintain multiple safe havens in Syria.” Flynn was ultimately fired, but not before delivering a warning to the Obama administration about its naïve “narrative that al Qaeda’s brand of nihilistic extremism had died with Osama bin Laden in 2011.”
It is understandable, if not defensible, that Obama was AWOL during the majority of his PDBs inasmuch as national security simple doesn’t interest the president, who fancies himself more a domestic policy geek. That it is a fundamental responsibility of any world leader, let alone leader of the free world, is an inflection point on the gravity of his dereliction.