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Tuesday, October 18, 2016


The Untold Story of Intelligence Briefings to America's Presidents from Kennedy to Obama
by David Priess

Every president has had a unique and complicated relationship with the intelligence community. While some have been coolly distant, even adversarial, others have found their intelligence agencies to be among the most valuable instruments of policy and power.
Since John F. Kennedy’s presidency, this relationship has been distilled into a personalized daily report: a short summary of what the intelligence apparatus considers the most crucial information for the president to know that day about global threats and opportunities. This top–secret document is known as the President’s Daily Brief, or, within national security circles, simply “the Book.” Presidents have spent anywhere from a few moments (Richard Nixon) to a healthy part of their day (George W. Bush) consumed by its contents; some (Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush) consider it far and away the most important document they saw on a regular basis while commander in chief.

 The details of most PDBs are highly classified, and will remain so for many years. But the process by which the intelligence community develops and presents the Book is a fascinating look into the operation of power at the highest levels. David Priess, a former intelligence officer and daily briefer, has interviewed every living president and vice president as well as more than one hundred others intimately involved with the production and delivery of the president's book of secrets. He offers an unprecedented window into the decision making of every president from Kennedy to Obama, with many character–rich stories revealed here for the first time.

I picked this book up not looking for the juicy details of secrets for the Presidents but to learn about the process.  That is the mechanism of Presidential decision making. There were few if any secrets. There was lots of information  about how choices were made, some wise, some botched  for a myriad of reasons. I delayed reading this book till after this years Presidential campaign began in earnest and then  delayed it even longer. It became a frightening book to say the very least and the reason is quite simple. I imagined this process and the contents it contains on a day by day basis in the hands of the most unqualified and dangerous MAN in American History to be nominated by a major political party for the Presidency of the United States ever………

Then after the electorate chooses Hillary, go ahead and read this most interesting book, in a calm manner, somewhat,though not perfectly  assured, that the fate of our nation rests in reasonably intelligent hands


Vicki said...

Looks like a good read. Thank you for your review. I am as frightened as you of a Trump Presidency. But he is going to continue to be a "bull in the china shop" that is our American democracy.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Hillary doesn't have a sparkling relationship with Classified Documents...or emails...I don't trust her to make good decisions. IF my husband who had a Top Secret Security Clearance had done what she did...he would have been court marshaled...and would still be in jail. Because she is a Clinton doesn't give her special rights.
I am not so much in favor of Trump either but he hasn't killed anyone.
For me it is the lesser of the evils. I guess I will be a deplorable.
I am truly afraid for our country with either of them in power.
I wish I could fast forward 100 years and read a history book.

Arkansas Patti said...

I think I will take your advice and wait till after the election and if by some horror the bull gets in, think I will skip it all together. I have a weak heart.

Anvilcloud said...

The cartoon fits. Trump makes America look imbecilic.

Red said...

This history ties in well with what's going on today in the election.

Anonymous said...

Good review! I think you opened up an important window on how the most important job in the world, the presidency, functions. I think there's a small liberal arts college or a community college in your area that would love to have you teach a couple classes and impart some of the wisdom you've acquired.

Still, as for intelligence and the presidency. The US is involved in eight military conflicts at the moment and has destroyed much of the Middle East and killed, from Serbia up through today, between 1.5 and 2 million people. It could be we need less intelligence, not more.

There's a long essay by CLR James called Every Cook Can Govern. It describes Greek democracy, which was very participatory, as was American democracy at one time, if you read deToqueville's account of it in the 1830s, Democracy In America. Things have evolved to where we think we need to leave our "democracy" in the hands of a professional political class, aided by a permanent class of experts. They've kept the nation intact and our standard of living fairly high, but the average American probably has little idea at what cost to other people.

Valerie said...

Simply loved the cartoon. However, I cannot offer much of an opinion about your forthcoming election except to say Trump is not doing himself any favours with his behaviour.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Interesting point...and then, so is Bubba Muntzer's point that maybe we need less intelligence instead of more. Or less willingness to live well at the expense of so many others.

Should Fish More said...

You are correct in writing that Trump is perhaps the most dangerous threat to our country. There are some who would like him to win because he mirror's their values, others, like a commenter above, would like him to win because it put's the country perhaps, maybe, actually not possible, road to revolution.
My take is that we can deal with 4 or so years of Mrs. Clinton and not come out the losers on the other side; in other words, maybe a bit like we are now. Maybe health care better, who knows.
With Trump, it's russian roulette with 3 chambers loaded, spun and fired 6 times. If you're real, real lucky, our brains won't decorate the wall behind.
Take care, TB

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Janie said...

Uh-oh. Now that the election is over and Trump was elected, I don't know if I can read this. It does sound interesting, though.
Good cartoon, although maybe a little too real.

Ien in the Kootenays said...

Love the cartoon. Terrified of the coming 4 years. Grateful I live next door. My two bits are here.