Here's an excellent thought from James Traub: "Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to argue that with the rise of the 'national security state' in the years after World War II, every president began his day with a terrifying intelligence briefing which left no doubt that his great responsibility was to protect the American people from danger, not to promote their welfare. That, too, is a balance -- a balance gone terribly awry. Perhaps Obama should occasionally let the Department of Education deliver the President's Daily Briefing. He needs to remind himself -- and us -- of why he is there."
Here's a related idea. If I could insert a footer at the bottom of a Presidential Daily Briefing, it might say something like this:
- The odds are heavily against there being a terrorist attack today.
- Almost 200 Americans will almost certainly die from preventable infections contracted at hospitals today.
- Suicides are likely to take the lives of more active duty soldiers this week than terrorists.
- The average American is orders of magnitude more likely to die today in a car accident or by a gunshot than in a terrorist attack.
- At this point, an extra dollar spent on lead abatement could conceivably save more innocents than an extra dollar spent on counterterrorism.
- America's most serious overreaction to the September 11 terrorist attacks -- the war in Iraq -- killed far more Americans than 9/11 itself, as well as killing orders of magnitude more innocent people.
- Russian nukes, rogue asteroids, and greater than expected climate change -- all of these pose existential threats to the U.S. in a way that terrorism doesn't at present.
- The Pacific Rim is more important to America's national security than the Middle East.
- No counterterrorism policy can stop all terrorist attacks.