I can just imagine the uproar on Fox News if Barack Obama skipped out of daily intelligence briefings. But for ignoramus Donald Trump, there was barely an eyebrow raised. Former campaign manager Kellyanne Conway deflected from the issue by attacking Hillary Clinton (and Fox host Chris Wallace let her do it) and two Fox panelists suggested Trump's refusal to do his job is admirable.
In his interview with Conway today, Wallace asked about the daily briefings. Conway tried to downplay what should be a huge scandal by saying, Trump doesn’t always skip the briefings. (All transcript excerpts via FoxNews.com, with my emphases):
WALLACE: So, let me ask you about this, and I think one of the reasons such a big deal was made of [Trump’s shocking phone conversation with the president of Taiwan] is because of the fact that the president-elect has had a number of controversial phone calls with foreign leaders. He reportedly told Pakistani Prime Minister Sharif he would, quote, play any role you want me to play to address and find solutions to the country's problems, despite Pakistan’s relationship with terrorists. He also spoke with Philippine President Duterte, who's been accused of ordering the murder of thousands of suspected drug dealers -- which raises the question, Kellyanne, why is Mr. Trump refusing the State Department's offer to brief him before these calls, and why is he skipping the daily briefings, intelligence briefings, that President Obama gets every day?
CONWAY: He's not always skipping those briefings. He's briefed by any number of credible sources on these issues. I think people, Chris, frankly, are cherry picking about these world leaders. They're accusing the president-elect of somehow countenancing some of these behaviors in these other places.
But, look, that's really unfair when you think about we just had an election and the opponent, Hillary Clinton, who was the secretary of state, was using the State Department to get money from foreign governments like Saudi Arabia, which doesn't even respect girls and women.
So, it’s -- I think people just have their hair on fire, particularly those who are still entrenched in the campaign, are trying to reverse the election results from last week.
Unlike his antagonistic grilling of Jill Stein about the recounts, Wallace gave Conway a complete pass on this non-explanation. He never pressed her about who the “credible sources” briefing Trump are nor how many intelligence briefings Trump has actually made time for.
Later, during a panel discussion, Wallace raised the question about the briefings again. But he turned first to Fox News contributor Monica Crowley for response. It just so happens that Crowley is reportedly being considered for the position of Trump’s press secretary. But Wallace didn’t seem to think that worth pointing out to the “We report, you decide” network’s viewers.
Crowley echoed Conway’s “no biggie” response. But she also added on the suggestion that Trump was just following the will of the voters by ignoring intel briefings:
CROWLEY: Well, the president-elect is getting regular briefings from people he trusts, experts like General Flynn, who will be the income national security adviser.
But I think Donald Trump was elected not reinforce the status quo but to shake up the status quo, to challenge the conventional ways of doing things.
Later, Kimberley Strassel, of the Wall Street Journal, had the same thoughts about State Department briefings:
STRASSEL: Well, I think this uproar is totally overwrought. I mean, a lot of this is being driven by State Department functionaries who are very unhappy that Donald Trump is not coming to them. And they are not being allowed to formulate all American policies. By the way, that was what he was elected to do, to a certain extent.
This is complete baloney and it’s a shame that Juan Williams, the lone liberal on the panel, didn’t call his colleagues out on this. If Trump wants to reject or disagree with State Department or intelligence briefings, that’s one thing. But not to bother with them at all is not innovative, it’s negligent. Nobody should get away with calling it anything else.
Watch Conway try to justify the unjustifiable below, from the December 4, 2016 Fox News Sunday. For a little levity, I’m including Saturday Night Live’s cold open which skewers Trump for tweeting instead of focusing on his job. And, of course, Trump had time to whine about that… in a tweet.
You are right about Pence not skipping briefings:
“Vice President-elect Mike Pence, by contrast, has set aside time for intelligence briefings almost every day since the election, officials said.”
If it were the case that Trump has feet of clay, his supporters would drop their fanaticism.
On the other hand, Trump isn’t the one who will actually be making the main decisions in any case. He’s just the public face of the Pence Administration, if you watch carefully. And I’m betting that Pence isn’t skipping any of these briefings at all.
Let’s hope that the rest of the world kicks his orange ass into reality.