Do We Have A President Who Doesn’t Seek Advice?

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The Government Accountability Institute reports that President Obama continues to skip the majority of his Presidential Daily Briefings. This is a stunning fact, first reported two years ago and now updated and reconfirmed. Worse, it was also just reported that Obama likewise doesn’t consult his White House predecessor. Altogether, this paints a very troubling picture.

To recap: In September 2012, the Government Accountability Institute released a study which revealed that our president failed to attend a single Presidential Daily Brief (PDB) in the week leading up to the anniversary of 9/11, despite major eruptions in the Arab world, and despite the obvious fact that we were approaching another 9/11 anniversary (i.e., the highest level of security alert). And yet, President Obama didn’t attend a single briefing that week. In fact, Obama attended only 43.8 percent of his Daily Briefs in the first 1,225 days of his administration. For the year 2012, he attended a little over a third.

This is outrageous, unacceptable for any president. It’s not only unwise from a national-security standpoint but also politically, especially for a president often criticized for spending too much time vacationing and campaigning and dashing for the golf course and fundraisers immediately after beheadings and aircraft downings.

So, that was bad enough. Apparently, however, the problem continues. The Government Accountability Institute has now updated its report and found that President Obama has missed over half the briefings in his second term, obviously learning little (literally) since the first. The man has skipped hundreds of daily briefings. These revelations come amid stinging criticisms of Obama’s methods by former top administration officials, including Leon Panetta, Robert Gates, and others.

By comparison, President George W. Bush not only didn’t miss the PDB but actually expanded it to six meetings per week.

Speaking of Bush, the former president was recently interviewed by Brian Kilmeade of Fox News. Here, we learned that Obama apparently never calls Bush for advice. “[Bush] said he has not heard from President Obama except when the president called with the news that [Osama] bin Laden had been killed,” reported Fox. Bush told Kilmeade: “He has not [called] on a regular basis, which is OK. It doesn’t hurt my feelings. It’s a decision he has made. Presidents tend to rely on the people they’re close to … and I understand that.”

Bush was gracious. And from what I can tell from my research, what he said is accurate. Obama does not consult his predecessor.

Fox added that Bush said “that he used to speak with his predecessor, Bill Clinton, regularly while in office.”

Of course, he did. All sitting presidents speak with and consult former presidents. That’s what they do. They do so at least as a courtesy and at best as a necessity. The guy who held the Oval Office job before you has valuable perspective. If Obama had contacted George W. Bush on Iraq, he might have heard something particularly useful, especially given how badly he has botched the situation by prematurely pulling U.S. troops and smoothing the way for ISIS.

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This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom

Watch: This Is How A REAL President Would React To MH17

Reagon Verse Obama

Editor’s note: A longer version of this article first appeared at The American Spectator.

This generation has its KAL 007. The stunning downing of Malaysian flight 17 is strikingly similar to the shock of September 1, 1983, when the Russians downed a Korean passenger airliner, flight 007, which had left New York City for Seoul via Alaska. In both cases, the Russian government vehemently denied any involvement, disparaging anyone who dared to accuse it of prior knowledge.

Both planes were Asian with similar numbers of dead. KAL had 269 passengers, the Malaysian flight nearly 300. They were mostly Asian passengers but also Americans—61 Americans in KAL 007 and a much smaller (still unconfirmed) number in the Malaysian flight. In both cases, questions arise over why the planes were flying where they were flying. Exactly what happened with KAL still isn’t entirely clear; but it seems the computer on the plane’s guidance system was set incorrectly, allowing it to stray into Soviet airspace. Russian fighter planes stalked KAL 007 before blasting it out of the sky.

In 1983, Moscow initially denied the dirty deed, with Yuri Andropov, Vladimir Putin’s former boss at the KGB, insisting on his country’s innocence. The denials were shattered when the Reagan administration produced audio of the two Russian pilots communicating as they excitedly shot the plane. The audio was secured via the National Security Agency’s exceptional electronic surveillance technology.

But a major difference between September 1983 and July 2014 is the initial reaction of the two presidents.

Obama’s initial response to MH17 has been dissected at length, including my own earlier analysis. He even offended diehard liberals like CNN’s Piers Morgan, and prompted his deep admirer, Chris Matthews, to long for Ronald Reagan. It was extremely disappointing, even as he redeemed himself somewhat with a much stronger assessment the following day.

I will not belabor the point here. Rather, I’d like to underscore another presidential response that I know especially well, and that’s worth remembering—notably, Ronald Reagan’s reaction to a similar situation.

President Reagan was informed of the KAL catastrophe by his closest aide, national security adviser Bill Clark. As Clark’s biographer, I discussed this with him many times.

Reagan was at his ranch in the Santa Ynez Mountains north of Santa Barbara when he received the news via telephone from Clark. “I told him Bill Casey [CIA director] just relayed an unsubstantiated report that the Soviets may have shot down an airliner, possibly Korean,” Clark told me. Reagan replied to Clark: “Bill, let’s pray it’s not true.”

They prayed, but it was true. The Soviets never let prayer get in the way of their work.

As Clark recalled, “He [Reagan] said, ‘Bill, round table it,’ which meant bring it to the decision-making process to get the opinions and recommendations of all the principals in the NSC: Shultz, Weinberger, Kirkpatrick, Casey….”

Clark called Reagan twice that evening with preliminary information, first at 7:30 p.m., California time. Clark was in the “Western Situation Room” at the Biltmore Hotel in Santa Barbara, only a few miles from Reagan. They were not able to confirm the details until 7:10 a.m. the next morning.

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This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom

God And Dick Scaife


Editor’s note: This article first appeared in The American Spectator.

I was saddened to wake up the morning of July 4 and learn that Richard Mellon Scaife, Pittsburgh billionaire, conservative philanthropist extraordinaire, and spearhead of Hillary Clinton’s ominous “vast right-wing conspiracy,” died at age 82. How appropriate that this patriot bid goodbye on July 4. It’s fitting, too, that his death comes within a year of the deaths of his two principal lieutenants at his foundation, Dan McMichael and Dick Larry. Together, these three men established numerous conservative programs, institutions, and even individuals. They made a huge impact.

I got to know Dick Scaife pretty well. About three or four years ago, he read my book Dupes. It’s a lengthy account of how the communist movement has long hoodwinked and exploited American leftists—many of whom Dick Scaife had battled and loathed. Scaife loved it. It was the last full book that he read. I learned that he was recommending the book to his friends. Soon enough, I learned he wanted to meet with me.

We met at his nice but modest home in the Shadyside section of Pittsburgh. I was taken aback to encounter a sick, weakened man who seemed to be on his deathbed even then. He had trouble with his voice, his breathing, his hearing. I had to speak loud. Nonetheless, we got along. Both of us were lifelong Pittsburghers, born at the same hospital just down the road in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh. The big difference, we laughed, was that Scaife’s relations funded the hospital. His relationships and experiences with our common places were always a little different. We both vacationed in Nantucket, for instance, though he had a big house there with a cook and his own private air transportation.

For whatever reason, Dick Scaife liked me. He lived the history and names that I researched and was writing about. He enjoyed reminiscing and sharing information on them. At the end of that first meeting, this supposedly calloused man that many detested asked me in a gentle, sweet way if I would please continue to visit him. I did. These were often long meetings, and it was never easy to leave. He wanted to keep talking. The conversations were usually enlightening, enjoyable, entertaining. We’d talk about his upbringing, his wild youth, his drinking days, his parents, a scandalous remembrance here or there, his encounters with Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, John F. Kennedy Jr. (who he thought was a tremendous young man of great potential), and even the Clintons—who he actually personally liked, though he certainly rejected their politics. Like other close older friends of mine who recently died, he was very concerned and dispirited by the direction of the country he loved, and seriously disappointed in Americans for twice electing Barack Obama. He didn’t think Americans would ever vote for a president so far to the left.

Here are a few remembrances worth highlighting:

Dick Scaife was deeply proud of his family. He adored his mother and father. Dick became so interested in politics, and especially the Cold War, because of his father’s work for the OSS confronting communists during World War II. That brought Dick Scaife into politics. He gave money to the likes of the Heritage Foundation and Hoover Institution precisely because of this battle.

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This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom

What Was The Point Of WWI Again?

Photo credit: State Library of South Australia (Flickr)

On June 28, 1914, a Bosnian-Serb student named Gavrilo Princip killed Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, the duchess. It was the shot-heard-round-the-world, unleashing a series of events that by August 1914 embroiled Europe in war. That deadly summer unfolded 100 years ago, and the world truly was never the same.

Civilization was soon engaged in a horrific conflict marred by mechanized warfare previously unimaginable: tanks, subs, battleships, air power, machine guns with names like “the Devil’s paint brush,” and legions of poison gas—the largest-scale use of chemical weapons in history. Winding through all the agony were rotten, death-strewn trenches, an incomprehensible maze of thousands of miles of freezing, disease-ridden, and rat-infested tunnels where men subsisted below the earth. They rose from this hell only to be fed into a worse one—no man’s land, a dénouement with the human meat-grinder.

It was World War I, the “Great War.”

Ever since, professors have struggled to explain to students how the major powers became engulfed by this nightmare. I start my lectures on WWI with an hour on its causes. These ranged from colonial and tariff disputes to a complicated network of alliances that inexorably committed various countries to battle, beginning with Austria-Hungary, Serbia, Germany, and Russia.

Still, as I cover these causes with my students, they are confused, frustrated, and unsatisfied. Where was the Pearl Harbor? Where were the concentration camps? Where was the Hitler-Stalin Pact? Who was the brutal dictator?

There was none. No such blatant evils precipitated this war.

It was a disastrously wasteful affair that Pope Benedict XV publicly declared an unjust war, a mad form of collective European suicide. The pontiff rightly judged that there were no salient moral issues dividing the combatants. These countries should not have been at war, let alone slaughtering their boys by the millions.

The moral calamity was obvious to all. Quite apart from the bishop of Rome, the acclaimed atheist-leftist intellectual Sidney Hook might have best summed up the catastrophe when he referred to World War I not as the “Great War,” or “War to End All Wars,” or the “Kaiser’s War,” or, in President Woodrow Wilson’s famous line, the war to “make the world safe for democracy,” but as something considerably less inspiring: World War I was, said Hook mordantly, “the second fall of man.”

And so it was.

Religious metaphor best captures the gravity of this giant fall from grace. Historian Michael Hull evokes the image of O Cristo das Trincheiras, “The Christ of the Trenches.” This life-size statue of Jesus Christ hung with arms outstretched on a tall wooden cross was erected on the Western Front. Soiled, bullet-scarred, and, most of all, crucified, the French presented it to the government of Portugal after the war to memorialize the thousands of Portuguese who sacrificed themselves at the Battle of Flanders. It’s an appropriate symbol for the millions who gave their lives for this colossal sin.

Michael Hull maintains that World War I was, in a perverse way, arguably more horrible than World War II. How so? “The horrors of World War I,” writes Hull, “exceeded those of World War II in terms of the sheer futility of squandered lives.”

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This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom

The Five Bailey Brothers Of World War II

Every Memorial Day, I attend a parade in the little town of Mercer, Pa. It’s pure Americana: flags, kids, the snow-cone stand, marching bands, local clubs and rotaries, and veterans of wars past processing down the street.

Every year, one exhibit always strikes me: a car with a placard announcing the “Five Bailey Brothers.” The mere name always gives me a good feeling: Bailey. It reminds me of “George Bailey,” played by Jimmy Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” That movie, of course, has a happy ending—and so does the story of the Bailey brothers.

After years of watching the Bailey car coast by, I finally took the time to track down the last surviving Bailey brother: Richard, or “Dick.” I was pleasantly surprised to learn he happens to live in my town.

Born on Christmas Eve 1922, Dick Bailey was one of five brothers who served in World War II. That’s right, five. You’ve heard of the Ryan brothers in “Saving Private Ryan,” and perhaps the Sullivan brothers in the old black-and-white “The Fighting Sullivans.” And you know from these movies that the U.S. military resolved to never again have so many brothers serve in one war. The loss of one is hard enough for a mom and dad. To lose two, three, four, or, incredibly, five … would be staggering, seemingly un-survivable for a parent.

Nonetheless, there they were, all five Bailey boys: Dick, Jim, Fonnie, John, and Fred. Surely, some were protected with a desk job on the home-front? No, all five were dispatched into enemy territory.

“All had combat,” says Dick.

All volunteered for combat after Pearl Harbor, and all faced it—Europe, the Pacific, Northern Africa; by land, by air, by sea.

One of them, Fred, was shot and taken prisoner by the Nazis. “The Germans didn’t treat him well,” said Dick. “Fred said it was horrible…. He was only 110 pounds when he came home.”

Dick was in the Army Air Corps. He and his brother John were in the war the longest. He served on six islands in the Pacific, including the Philippines. In the Schouten Islands, the Japanese bombed almost every night, late at night, typically two hours at a time, throughout Dick’s eight-month stay. “You didn’t sleep very much,” says Dick in his typical understated way.

In all, Dick served continuously from December 1942 until January 1946. And it was truly continuous. “I was never home the whole time until January 1946.”

No time off whatsoever.

I asked Dick about the moment he finally got home. He said it was the winter of 1946, a blustery January day. For weeks, he had travelled from the other side of the earth, only to encounter a terrific snowstorm as he neared Western Pennsylvania.

He took the train from Pittsburgh to Grove City. Unbeknownst to Dick, his parents had moved to the nearby little town of Harrisville, just down the road. Because of the weather and other obstacles, Dick arrived very late and ended up consigned to a 24-hour diner, held captive by no transportation and a foot-and-a-half of snow. His parents had no idea he was en route home. Amazingly, they hadn’t heard from him in years; and he hadn’t heard from them—such were the dreadful lines of communication and secrecy. In fact, Dick hadn’t been in touch with his brothers either. For all he knew, they might all be dead.

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The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom