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WaPo’s Kessler Assigns Three ‘Pinocchios’ to True Claim Obama Missing Nearly Half His Intel Briefings

posted at 9:33 pm on September 25, 2012 by

Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler published a column yesterday attempting to debunk the claim in an American Crossroads television spot that President Obama skipped almost half of his intelligence briefings.  Kessler assigned the assertion a 3 out of 4 possible Pinocchios. No matter how Kessler spins it, however, the fact remains that President Obama failed to receive in-person intelligence briefings in the days leading up to the September 11 assassination of Ambassador Chris Stevens.

The Crossroads spot is based on a statistic calculated by the conservative Government Accountability Institute, a number which was picked up on by Post columnist Marc Thiessen, who criticized Obama for his lack of attendance in a column published the day before the deadly Benghazi terrorist attack. Kessler could not assail the indisputable fact that Obama actually attends in-person briefings, so he sought to defend Obama by saying, essentially, that Reagan and Clinton rarely had in-person briefings:

Thomas S. Blanton, director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University, says that there have been “lots of variation in the briefing patterns” among presidents, with different consequences.

George W. Bush ‘wanted personal and oral, and that matched CIA’s institutional interest in face to face with the president, much better for their bureaucratic politics, but unclear how good it was for presidential decision making,” he said. “On Iraq WMD [weapons of mass destruction], the direct brief was clearly pernicious; reading might have pointed to the dissents, but the briefers did not.’

In contrast, Bill ‘Clinton the reader was known to comment that his morning papers were better than the intel brief, and better written — to the point that the CIA director James Woolsey joked that when that Cessna crashed into the White House, that was him seeking an audience with the president.’


Ronald Reagan, meanwhile, also almost never received oral briefings or had meetings with CIA personnel.

The bottom line, Kessler insists, is that “Ultimately, what matters is what a president does with the information he receives from the CIA.” and that ” this attack ad turns a question of process — how does the president handle his intelligence brief? — into a misguided attack because Obama has chosen to receive his information in a different manner than his predecessor.”

Kessler may think it’s “misguided” to argue “process,” but the fact remains that Kessler cannot dispute that the gist of the ad is true: President Obama has the opportunity every weekday to receive in-person intelligence briefings, and yet he chooses to, the majority of the time, elect to simply read them rather than avail himself the opportunity to be briefed by an intelligence expert (or experts) in person. Kessler may protest the verb “skips” to describe Obama’s relation to his daily briefings, but that reveals more about Kessler’s biases than it does the truthfulness of the claim.

As Clive Crook of the Atlantic — no conservative he — put it earlier this month, “Kessler isn’t confining himself to checking facts, he’s contesting one interpretation of the facts with his own interpretation. Whatever the merits of the rival interpretations, that’s not fact-checking, it’s commentary.”

Originally posted on Newsbusters.

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Well now the Smartest Guy in the world can’t possibly make these briefings now can he eh?

I mane hs is the Smartest Guy Evah!!

Scrumpy on September 25, 2012 at 9:37 PM

Interpretors interpretatin’ interpretors!

Say it like it is, Obama is LAZY and Oh So Smart!!

He thinks he can single-handly solve the ME problem, he don’t need no stinkin’ briefings, he gots an Ipad/pod thingy!!

He’s da tech Prezzy…

Scrumpy on September 25, 2012 at 9:40 PM


Scrumpy on September 25, 2012 at 9:40 PM

Mane = Mean duh!

Scrumpy on September 25, 2012 at 9:41 PM

They can all stick their ‘commentary’ where the sun don’t shine…

ALL I want is the DAMN truth ya hear me!!!

Scrumpy on September 25, 2012 at 9:42 PM

Why would he go to an Intel meeting, it has no value to him getting re-elected.

hillsoftx on September 25, 2012 at 9:44 PM

“What is truth?” asked Pilate.

Jingo95 on September 26, 2012 at 12:05 AM

apparently too many pinnochios for obama, he got the message from valerie…


cmsinaz on September 26, 2012 at 6:54 AM

If Clinton had attended more, maybe we don’t get 9/11 in the first place.

GWB got briefed in person because his father did BUT MOSTLY because of 9/11!

Because of 9/11, this narcissistic SCOAMF should be getting personal briefings as often as possible, no matter how smart and in control he THINKS he is. Bengahzi proves he isn’t in control.

PastorJon on September 26, 2012 at 8:07 AM

You can’t ask more detailed questions of just a piece of paper. And you can’t shape future briefings if the authors get no feedback from you.

RBMN on September 26, 2012 at 8:52 AM

Briefings are bad then ?

This our govt ??- with the plethora of Advisors, councils and Under Secretaries ??

This is our Govt ?

Do we need all these Govt people anyway? Clint ?

FlaMurph on September 26, 2012 at 12:30 PM

Politifact debuts new rating: True, But You Shouldn’t Care (Trust Us).

Paradol Ex on September 27, 2012 at 3:53 AM