October 30th, 2009
05:55 PM ET
13 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. Dan

    That is phenomenal. There was an international crisis and our President actually woke up to address it. Wow. I'm sure other presidents would have slept right through it, but not Pres. Obama. How lucky we are to have such a dedicated public servant in the White House. Please.

    October 30, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  2. Rory

    "Ok, here's what we're going to do." - followed by....what? I don't remember anything actually happening.

    October 30, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  3. Objective Thinking

    I applaud Obama's cautious, yet firm response to North Korea's missile test.

    That said, Hillary's 3 AM remark was about an emergency. Obama's aides take a missile test and use that as their own litmus test to prove that Obama is ready to handle emergencies? There was NO ACTION required for us to take in this incident. All that was needed was a quick, diplomatic response. Obama succeeded in giving a quick, diplomatic response, but that is NOT the type of 3 AM emergency wake-up call that separates instinctive presidents from inexperienced ones.

    You don't have to be an Obama hater to see past this BS public relations speak.

    October 30, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  4. SMSgt

    It was more like when the tropps were killed in the War and the Generals asked for reinforcements, but Obama said call back in a few months

    October 30, 2009 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  5. anotherGDlefty

    What ?

    You mean the world didn't implode into some sort of fascist, marxist, socialist black hole.............

    October 30, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  6. Bob in Pa

    So what did we do ...?
    I believe nothing is the correct answer.

    October 30, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  7. BobAbrams

    This is sooo funny to me. The "3am Moment". Well, I had a "3am Moment" last weekend. I stumbled into my house completely hammered and passed out on my couch in the same clothes I wore the day before and didnt wake up until noon. Wow!!!

    October 30, 2009 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  8. Keith in Austin

    First year of incredible spending, liberal agenda and apologies to the World for America. Year 2: Higher taxes, weakening defense and more spending. Obozo is a dismal failure and will be gone in 2O12!

    October 30, 2009 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  9. A wised up Democrat who is now an Independant

    Boy I wouldn't say anything about a 3 AM moment. OBAMA's time has already come and gone. He was requested to help our troops but oh no he let that one slide. And it has been far more important for him to go on political tours and propose a bill to pay the Taliban, for what? I don't know. I guess to kill what remaining troops we have there now. OBAMA NEEDS TO BE IMPEACHED ALONG WITH BIDEN before they can do any mre damage to America.

    October 30, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  10. GOP=Party of spend and bankruptcy

    McCain would not have been able to even answer a 3 p.m. call, unless someone would wake him from his nap. Sarah would have answered it, but she would have to have been paid $100K to talk to anyone.

    October 30, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  11. Pat

    Propoganda...it's just that easy

    October 30, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  12. B

    Obama has done more positive work in 10 months than- the Idiot- did in eight years and most understood that would happen.

    Just try to think of any major accomplishments that Bush made except –Destroy our image around the world, and this economy ......

    October 30, 2009 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  13. smith

    President Obama is doing a great job. He thinks of the least of us.
    I think thats the way God intended, Christians.

    October 30, 2009 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  14. Wise Latina

    The rest of Obama's quote was: "...and here is what we are going to do – ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!"

    And of course ABSOLUTELY NOTHING was done.

    Obama did also say that he was "deeply concerned" by the episode – but this concern was due to being rudely awakened in the middle of the night after some hard partying.

    October 30, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  15. Rick

    Um... I don't remember them doing much of anything until those two Americans were imprisoned and then he sent Bill Clinton.

    October 30, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  16. Mike in Dallas

    I can see the PAID Repub bloggers are out in force today. Mr President you are doing a great job for the American People in spite of the Party of No. It would be easier if they would help. But they wont. Lets vote those turds out. I say lets vote "straight dem ticket" and the surviving repubs will be a lot easier to work with.

    REPUBS DONT LOVE AMERICA ONLY MONEY. VOTE THEM OUT. Starting with FAT BOY in NJ. You can look at his photo and know he is lying. Donate to the DNC now. OBAMA-BIDEN 2012

    October 30, 2009 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  17. obummer, 1 and done

    What did he decide to do, apologize

    October 30, 2009 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  18. Jefe

    I would have thought it would take someone who had gone though that exact same experience hundreds of times in order to handle it, or at least someone who stuck by a cheating spouse for years.

    October 30, 2009 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  19. HM

    I'm so glad Gibsy could be there to record the moment for posterity. His first words were probably, "Is North Korea our friend or South Korea; I always get them confused"

    October 30, 2009 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  20. Paul from Phoenix

    He had his moment.....and he failed.

    October 30, 2009 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  21. WrongKindofChange

    "OK here's what we're going to do. Tell North Korea I'll make an appearance with their leader and make it seem like we're all happy and everything's good but in reality I will secretly remain a coward and not stand up to these oppressive nations that use terror as a threat. Everyone got that. All right...break!"

    October 30, 2009 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  22. Ralph

    "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."

    And what did he do?
    Obama called North Korean actions "provocative." The Obama administration also stepped back from initial calls for tougher sanctions on the DPRK. The U.S. delegation to the United Nations pushed, along with their Japanese counterparts, for a strong statement stating that North Korea had violated UNSCR 1718.

    Strong statments !!!!
    How reassuring......

    David M. Axelrod, Rahm Israel Emanuel and Barack Hussein Obama..
    whoop, whoop, whoop, whoop

    October 30, 2009 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  23. Disgusted in Texas

    I supported this man and voted for him in the primaries. What a disappointment he has turned out to be.

    I was disgusted with his visit to Dover airport as a "tribute" to our fallen heroes. If Obama went there for the right reasons why in the world did he take the press corps with him? He used it as a photo op pure and simple. That visit should have been done in strict privacy with the greatest respect shown for those soldiers and their families. In my opinion it was just the opposite.

    Mr. President...bring them home or give them what they need to win the war with. Forget the polls and upcoming elections and do what you promised to do.

    PS...you might want to get Hillary out of the middle east ASAP. She is not the way to build allies or influence our enemies. Quite the opposite seems to be happening.

    October 30, 2009 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  24. WrongKindofChange

    "Ok, here's what we're going to do...cancel our missle defense system. Let's see how North Korea will react to that."

    October 30, 2009 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  25. thepeoplesvoice

    "A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly.
    But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself.

    For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist.

    A murderer is less to be feared."
    -- Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC)

    October 30, 2009 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
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