It was an episode of “Behind Closed Doors with Joan Lunden” in 2002 that first acquainted me with the now infamous President’s Daily Brief, or PDB. It’s a summary of all intelligence collected by the FBI and CIA for the past 24 hours. Agents work throughout the night to compile the most relevant data they believe should be brought to the Commander in Chief’s attention. In the morning, they head over to the White House to deliver their written reports before going home to bed. The first thing that the President sees in the morning are the PDBs.
The big news right now is that President Bush Jr. had received a PDB on August 6th, 2001 that suggested that terrorists were planning to hijack aircraft and attack buildings in New York and Washington. What perturbs people is that it appears that these warnings were ignored. (Aside: What perturbs people even more is that the next day, Bush went on a 30-day vacation. Apparently, he’s spent 40% of his presidency on vacation. A curious way to run a country where many Americans work overtime due to downsizing.)
Airbag’s Greg Storey suggests that the information disconnect could have been rectified if the PDBs didn’t look like book reports you typed out in elementary school. Slate’s Daniel Radosh playfully suggests that PDBs should be done in PowerPoint instead and offers a sizzling glimpse into his vision. Slide 4 is to your right.
Alas, their efforts are all for naught. According to The Guardian, Bush doesn’t even read the PDBs. He gets George Tenet, the director of the CIA, to summarize it even further, in his own words. Out loud.
Said by the Guardian’s Sidney Blumenthal:
“I know he doesn’t read,” one former Bush national security council staffer told me…It seems highly unlikely that he read the national intelligence estimate on WMD…Nor is there any evidence that he read the state department’s 17-volume report, The Future of Iraq…
And that is what perturbs me. The leader of the mightiest nation on earth, a nuclear superpower and financial powerhouse, doesn’t like to read.
We live in the Information Age, where knowledge is power. Knowledge breeds intelligence and wisdom. The pursuit of knowledge is why you’re reading this blog now – because you want to learn something. You may disagree with my views, but that’s fine – the whole point in attempting to fully understand something is to obtain as many perspectives as possible.
But Bush apparently isn’t even interested in other people’s opinions; in fact, he doesn’t even read newspapers, a fact pointed out by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
In my company, we have all been directed to read. Our VP has helpfully assembled a library of recommended books that cover a variety of topics, including effective leadership, telecommunication fundamentals, and business dynamics. When people argued that they don’t have time in their busy schedules to hunker down and read a book, he strongly suggested they start taking books home with them if they wanted to stay in the loop. Learning is a lifelong process.