It is worth asking why the intelligence community bothers at all with briefing candidates during the election. Candidates are usually pretty busy, what with trying to win an election to the country’s most powerful office. Given the challenge of scheduling a briefing in between campaign stops, often the first meeting won’t happen until well into September. In 2012, Mitt Romney did not receive his initial briefing until Sept. 17. (If that date is remembered as newsworthy today, it’s for the release by Mother Jones journalist David Corn of a little video showing Romney making an ill-chosen remark about 47 percent of Americans.)The intelligence briefing tradition traces back to Harry Truman, who seems to have offered them to Adlai Stevenson and Dwight Eisenhower during the 1952 campaign in part because he had entered the Oval Office relatively ignorant of intelligence matters. Eisenhower initially declined Truman’s offer, though later changed his mind after press reports indicated that Stevenson had accepted the offer. For its part, the intelligence community looks at the briefing as a perk, an early opportunity to schmooze with the future leader of the free world.
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