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When in command…COMMAND!!

Christopher Harris

Admiral Chester William Nimitz (1885-1966), was Commander in Chief, United States Pacific Fleet (CinCPac), for U.S. naval forces and Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas (CinCPOA), for U.S. and Allied air, land, and sea forces during World War II. One of his more famous quotes was, “When you’re in command, COMMAND!!”

When the Founding Fathers and authors of the U.S. Constitution were drafting Article II to create the Executive Branch, they tailored the position specifically for men with the type of qualifications and proven character and integrity of the nations first Commander-in-Chief, General George Washington. Quite frankly, he has cast a long shadow and set a benchmark that all of the other 42 Presidents have had to try to live up.

The President of the United States wears three hats, according to the Constitution.
1) Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Military
2) Head of State for Foreign Affairs
3) Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. Government.

It’s obviously a very taxing job, with a tremendous amount of responsibility, especially since the Executive Branch has assumed all sorts of additional powers since the beginning of the 20th Century. It’s a job that no person could do alone, even under the best of conditions, so the President has to rely on a large team of advisers who work even longer hours than he does, to provide him with all of the necessary information for him to make the best possible decision, with the information he has at hand.

Ever since June 1961, during the administration of John F. Kennedy, the President of the United States has received an “Intelligence Check List”, now known as the Presidents Daily Brief. The “PDB” is a closely held, top secret, intelligence product that summarizes all of the data and collected over the past 24 hours from the veritable alphabet soup of intelligence agencies.

From 1961 until 2005, the responsibility of briefing the President on the PDB belonged to the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI), who is also the head of the CIA. However, ever since 9/11, the responsibility of giving the briefing has fallen upon the shoulders of the Director of National Intelligence (NDI). With rare exceptions, like “For The Presidents Eyes Only”, the PDB has historically also been made available to other high ranking officials with a responsibility for National Security, such as the Secretaries of State and Defense and the National Security Advisor.

Obviously, with the instability and volatility of the world, especially since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the events of 9/11, you can imagine that it is crucially important for a President of the United States to be kept abreast of what is going on, so that he can fulfill his oath of office, and to the “best of his ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

If we take a quick jump backwards to the administration of President George W. Bush, you will see that in his book, “The CIA at War: Inside the Secret Campaign Against Terror,” author Ronald Kessler said,

“[President] Bush surprised his CIA briefer at his first daily CIA briefing at the White House on February 15, 2001. The next day, Bush would be making his first foreign trip as president, to see Mexican President Vicente Fox. At the end of the briefing, Bush brought up the trip.

“Are you coming with me?” the president asked.

No other president had wanted to be briefed by the CIA when he was out of town. But from that point on, the briefer or an alternate traveled with Bush on every trip. They saw him six and often seven days a week, whether at Bush’s ranch in Crawford, his parents’ home in Kennebunkport, at Camp David, or in the White House.

Bush almost never missed a briefing, according to CIA officials and briefers interviewed for the book. In contrast, according to Government Accountability Institute figures quoted in a Washington Post column by former Bush speechwriter Marc A. Thiessen, during 2011 and the first half of 2012, Obama’s attendance record fell to just over 38 percent.

After Bush was elected, his father, George H. W. Bush, a former director of Central Intelligence (DCI), told his son that he found the most important item of a president’s day is the intelligence briefing. Meeting face-to-face with the DCI was also important, the former president said. Nothing else can replicate the personal interaction and discussion.

When Bush chose Andrew H. Card, Jr. as his chief of staff, he quoted his father’s advice and said: “Make sure that happens. I want to see the CIA director and talk with him.”

“With President Bush, I really saw the value of the personal interaction that we had on an almost daily basis,” Hayden says.

Now if we jump forward to the administration of our current President, you will see that it has widely been reported and confirmed that President Obama has a slightly lower attendance record. Peter Schweizer with the new, conservative leaning investigative research organization, Government Accountability Institute (GAI), produces an up-to-date document entitled “Presidential Daily Briefings: A Time-Based Analysis”, which records how often, and how much time President Obama spends attending his crucial Daily Brief. The information is compiled from the White House official calendar, as well as from a very comprehensive calendar provided by Politico.

The updated study covered the president’s first 2,079 days in office, running from January 20, 2009 through September 29, 2014.  Of those, President Obama attended a total of 875 Presidential Daily Briefs for an overall 42.09% attendance rate.

The GAI also compared the attendance record of President Obama at his Daily Briefing between his first term, and up through his second term. During his first term, he had a 42.43% attendance record, while so far, through September 29, 2014, his attendance has dropped down to 41.26%.

So during a time of unprecedented turmoil, when there is an ever growing threat to the safety and security of the United States of America, it appears that we have a Commander-in-Chief who is AWOL almost 60% of the time. Sounds like our President either no idea how, or no desire to command…when he is IN COMMAND!!


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