October 30th, 2009
05:55 PM ET
4 years ago

Top Obama aides reflect on first year, discuss 3 a.m. moment


(CNN) - Top Obama communication aides Anita Dunn, David Axelrod, and Robert Gibbs sat down with CNN's Wolf Blitzer in an exclusive, reflective interview looking back at the administration's first 10 months.

In the behind-the-scenes interview, Gibbs described the president's "3 a.m. wake-up call" moment last April, when word came in the early morning hours that the North Koreans had conducted a nuclear missile test.

"We all were in a room in - on the first foreign trip in Prague in the Czech Republic - when we were notified of the North Koreans testing a long-range missile, something we'd expected to happen over a certain amount of time," Gibbs said. "And I think it was about 4:00 in the morning we were in there and we then discussed that and I went to wake him up and he soon joined all of us in getting intelligence briefings from in the room as well as back in D.C."

Axelrod said Obama proceeded to get "a read up on the military people, [get] on the line with Secretary Gates, General Cartwright I think. And then he says, "OK, here's what we're going to do."

The full interview is set to air Monday throughout The Situation Room beginning at 4 p.m. ET.


Filed under: Popular Posts • President Obama
soundoff (219 Responses)
  1. CNN do you job right

    I can see the PAID liberal bloggers are out in force today, defending their messiah and praising the party of spending. It would be easier if they would quit spending, but the won't. Let's vote these turds out.

    October 30, 2009 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  2. Hammerer

    Obama will be missing when that 3am call comes. He spends all of his time campaigning or on TV somewhere.

    October 30, 2009 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  3. BobbyB

    And Obama said " What time was that tee time again?"

    October 30, 2009 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  4. MEMBER OF THE PARTY OF NO MARXISM

    Allow me to help. Domestic affairs-failure to create or save jobs, eroding of civil liberties and stomping on that annoying document the constitution and bill of rights.

    FOREIGN AFFAIRS-failure to commit to victory in afghanistan,failure to deter Iran and North Korea from pursuing their nuclear ambitions, continuing to let Russia and China dictate to us how the world will be run.

    COME TO THINK OF IT, THERE ISNT MUCH POSITIVE TO REFLECT ON. BUT THEN DONT BLAME ME I VOTED FOR RON PAUL.

    October 30, 2009 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  5. Charles

    and the final decision was...lets just go back to bed

    October 30, 2009 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  6. Sea.gem

    ...and we are supposed to think he is so 'presidential'....sounds more like a poorly-written script!...Where are your tough questions CNN?...oh yeah, only FoxNews does that and you don't want to be on the "enemies list"...

    October 30, 2009 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  7. marcia Cuffe

    Great job, it took years to create this mess, and It will not take 10 month of office to repair the damage.
    Good Luck

    October 30, 2009 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  8. Frank Timmons

    Here's what we are going to do??? I don't think so. It was more like, "What the &^%$ are we going to do????? HELP!!!!!

    October 30, 2009 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  9. Handled

    Obviously, he handled it. I have not heard much from the N. Koreans since.

    October 30, 2009 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  10. jeff jackson, alabama

    Is this supposed to be a REAL 3:00 a.m. moment ?
    I heard Obama was in the running for the Heisman
    trophy now because he watched a complete college
    football game last saturday. Run with that C.N.N.

    October 30, 2009 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  11. Larry

    J.P. You can read right? If so, you would know that Ms. Dunn referred to Mao one of her "favorite philosophers I use to prove a point." Get that? To prove a point. You probably read on and know that but would rather spew the absurdly bogus rhetoric that she LOVES Mao. Not surprising that you of such ilk would choose THAT angle of the story on which to comment.

    Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, and weak minds discuss people.

    October 30, 2009 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  12. Marry

    It is very hard for me to understand all these – lies – done nothing – no good – liberal – socialist – communist – - Could you please explain a little bit more instead of just making pretty dump comments?
    The president does a great job – smart – considering – brave – fair – measured – and very, very successful!! I am so glad it is him and not Mc Cain/Palin. Then we all would have reason to be very worried!

    October 30, 2009 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  13. Sea.gem

    to all the Bush detractors here...Bush actually brought the N Koreans and Chinese tet al to the table for the talks all you libs wanted...of course, why would a lib ever check facts! One and done.

    October 30, 2009 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  14. Matt

    I'm soo sick of Republicans. They have accomplished nothing, except planting "road-blocks" at every turn. They have become useless to the American people.

    October 30, 2009 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  15. matthew

    ....What? The only thing that stands out in their minds was that he was able to be briefed on North Korea.

    Weak. Obama has made a rough economy worse with his overspending and policies that focus on paying back labor unions, community organizations, GE and far left zealots. Weak indeed.

    October 30, 2009 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  16. Jackie in Dallas

    Boy, some of you think you know EVERYTHING, don't you?

    Most of what he decided to do is probably considered Top Secret, since publicizing it would allow countermeasures by North Korea. You guys think that he's going to tell you everything? Did Bush - either one? Did Clinton, did Reagan, did Carter, did any President? No. His decisions on policy and countermeasures would be considered Top Secret for a reason, and all you are doing is aiding and abetting this nation's enemies by your continued ignorant and nasty attacks.

    By the way, liberal and Communist do not belong in the same sentence together. They have very different philosophies and goals. Neither do socialist and liberal, Nazi and liberal, or Republican and intelligent.

    Mattison, it was a surprise in that, although we were were aware of the possibility that the North Koreans would do the test, the exact date and time were, for obvious reasons, not known. It was also possible that North Korea could have reconsidered the test considering the international support that President Obama had raised for censuring them should North Korea decide to go ahead with them.

    Do you guys think listening to Rush and reading a couple of news stories on Fox and CNN make you experts? I spent many years of my life indirectly and directly involved with military policy, and I can tell you that not even most senior officers are kept totally up to date on EVERYTHING. It is called Need to Know, and there is no need for you to know top secret decisions and strategies. There are mounds and mounds of intelligence that come in from countries around the world every day that affect each and every decision that the President makes involving military policy and strategy. I'm so glad a few yahoos in various places in this country, probably with no more than a high school education, know more than people for whom this is their whole life.

    October 30, 2009 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  17. Phlox News is for blooming idiots

    When will you wing nuts realize that obama has sent over 20,000 troops to Afghanistan in March, after your fearless leader from Texas ignored the requests for 8 months. Ever hear of fact check?

    October 30, 2009 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  18. Rusty

    I'm sure this will be another CNN puff piece. Do you think Wolf has the guts (or the intelligence) to ask these guys how our children are suppossed to live in a country that's will become bankrupt because of Obama's crazy policies?

    October 30, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  19. Linda from Texas

    To all you Christian warmongers, if the President fought off the entire Aghanistan army barehanded you still would not be satisfied.

    October 30, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  20. JM

    He got on the phone to call Don Rumsfeld for advice but couldn't reach him. Donny was last seen looking for WMD's in Iraq

    October 30, 2009 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  21. Bill

    For the clueless idiot that said Nobama did more in 10 months than Bush did in eight years. You must be 15 years old and don't remember 9/11.

    Bush kept you safe for the last 7+ years of his presidency. Nobama, yes, he has accomplished more than Bush! Nobama spent more money for next to nothing than all presidents added together since George Washington. Good Job Obama!

    Question of the day: why is CNN so obsessed with Sarah Palin when they report she has no chance at presidency... because the liberal media and the liberal noisemakers (about 10% of the population so libs are not the majority no matter how noisy they are) are scared sh**tless.

    October 30, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  22. Todd

    Wow, so it was actually more like a 4AM moment. Since most of us that work get up at about 5AM I cant say that is too impressive. And North Korea is an "Inherited" problem. I wonder if I can tell my boss that the problems that come to me at work are inherited so I can avoid messes that come down the pike?

    October 30, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  23. Jack Martin Lowe

    I have a feeling that China has summoned North Korea for a confab regarding the missile tests and other provocations. Obama's global diplomacy and willingness to sit down with our adversaries is making the world a safer place.

    October 30, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  24. John

    What I wouldn't have paid to be in that room. To look around at all of the insecurity and doubt on everyone's face would have been chilling.

    October 30, 2009 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  25. Ken in NC

    I have concluded that those that wanted McCain to win are so hurt that they cannot not say anything nice about President Obama because it might suck the breath from their lungs. I remember the Captain of that freighter that was taken over at sea. I remember that after it was made known that President Obama gave to authorization to take out the bad guys the McCain people complained that he never gave them a chance to give up. When he goes to the bath room McCain supporters complain he is taking to much time in there and when he goes to bed it is because he is so tired from partying all night but when he goes to Dover AF Base in the middle of the night they keep their frigging mouths shut. That's about the only smart thing they have done since they lost the election.

    Now President Obama is not perfect but you could cut the man some slack.

    October 30, 2009 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
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