At present, Steve Bannon is Donald Trump’s top political strategist, poised to start work as one of the two most powerful aides in the Trump White House. Most people know that, before this summer, Bannon was the chief of Breitbart, a propaganda publication designed to promote the extreme racist ideology of American Nazis.
What not many people know is that four years ago, Steve Bannon was working on the Board of Directors of another extremist right wing front group to try to deny re-election to Barack Obama. This front group spread racist disinformation under the bland title of the Government Accountability Institute.
In the heat of the 2012 presidential contest between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, the Government Accountability Institute released a report claiming that Barack Obama was unfit to be re-elected as President of the United States because he had received in-person Presidential Daily Briefs only 43.8 percent of the time he was in office. The point Bannon was trying to make was clear: A President who only receives briefings about 4 out of every 10 days is too lazy and mentally undisciplined to serve competently in the White House.
There was just one big problem with the Government Accountability Institute’s analysis: As President, Barack Obama actually received briefings every day. The 43.8% of the briefings that Steve Bannon’s report referred to were only the in-person briefings, with White House staff giving oral reports. The rest of the time, President Obama received written briefing documents, which he took time to read every day. So, when the GAI report wrote, “The study covered the President’s first 1,225 days in office, running from January 23, 2009 through May 31, 2012. Of those, President Obama attended a total of 536 Presidential Daily Briefs,” special emphasis should have been given to the word attended. Steve Bannon used this misleading statistic to promote a fake story that Barack Obama was only getting security briefings on 4 out of 10 days, when that wasn’t true at all.
In 2012, Steve Bannon found the idea that a President would only hear daily security briefings 43.8% of the time to be sufficiently shocking to spawn a large number of sensationalistic headlines in the right wing yellow press. In 2016, Bannon is the top strategist to a President-Elect who announced just this morning that he intends to receive a briefing of any kind – written or oral – only once a week. To translate that into an equivalent of the Government Accountability Institute’s breathless low percentage, Donald Trump says that he intends only to receive a presidential weekly brief – on just 14.29% of the days he is in office.
If Bannon truly believed that a President receiving a briefing 43.8% of the time was an indication of unacceptable lethargy in a President, how can he possibly expect the American people to believe that it’s acceptable for Donald Trump to get a briefing only 14.29% of the time?