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. Jerry in Florida

    CNN: Is this really news? You folks at CNN will do anything to make President NObama and his idiotic spokespersons look good. You know how the NObama administration is unjustly attacking Fox; therefore, you better continue covering his behind and the lying morons that speak on his behalf.

    While CNN is playing this stupid story up, when are your reporters going to ask the hard questions? Such as: When is Mr. NObama going to get off his "duff" and make a decision on the additional troops that have been requested? While he and the idiots that work for him "fiddle" their fingers and play golf or basketball, our dedicated, proud troops are being mercilessly slaughtered. Where is the transparency on health care? How many jobs have REALLY been created/saved by the stimulus package? And the list goes on and on...

    It seems that fox news is the only media that is calling on the President and his appointed morons to come clean and stop the all the lying.

    Remember CNN, when you stop supporting and excusing President Obama's lies (and eventually you will not have any other choice), YOU will be next on their hit list. You know you influenced the past elections and blatantly supported President NObama two hundred percent. Now do the right thing and start supporting the American people, for a real change.

    Do it for the future of the USA and our children, and our children’s children.

    Yes CNN, I am a life-long Democrat!

    October 30, 2009 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  2. John

    Did you hear that Obama saved or created 650,000 jobs since being in office? At a cost of 150,000,000,000, that comes out to $231,000 per job. That puts these new jobs in the tax bracket that Obama has pledged to increase taxes on. Good job, little buddy.

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

    How about another "3:00" moment, the H1N1 virus immunization debacle.

    The government was warned about it; declared an emergency; and prepared for months / ramped up production and planned distribution. Yet, the government failed. The government failed when they had months to plan.

    This is the same "Katrina-Never-Again" folks!

    October 30, 2009 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  4. Suzanne

    Let me see here, FDR got us into WWII, Truman into Korea, Kennedy almost into Cuba at the Bay of Pigs and let us not forget, Kennedy and LBJ into Vietnam. All Dems. I think you need a little history lesson. Now tell me who's lying about Health Care?? The Dems of course. They'll say anything to promote their socialist agenda. Most Americans love their doctors and health plans. Only the Democrats, who want us all to be dependent on government, want socialized medicine. The Dems don't have a chance in 2010 and Obama will be a one term president. You heard it here first.

    October 30, 2009 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  5. Bryan

    You mean you would rather have someone jump into decisions without contemplating the consequences first? Wow are we use to the Idiot's way of thinking. Obama will make a decision once he's seeked all the advice from the experts about what they think he should do. You can't satisfy these infants "instantaneous gratification" can you? Dear god people let the man make an informed decision. And by the way he's done alot, starting to bring the economy back from the dead in less than 9 months, after the Idiot blantantly ignored the depression's warning signs for the better part of 4 to 5 years is nothing less than a miracle.

    October 30, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  6. max stalnaker

    liberal commie? He bailed out the banks. Is that communism? Well, some people might say so, since eventually the government owned part of the banks. But let us face it, he is not forcing the banks to open up the closed credit spigots. There seems to be very little effective control. Basically, he bailed out the speculators, which does not make sense under any sane system. But then, this is the same policy Bush had. Maybe Obama is a Republican?

    October 30, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  7. laurie

    Oh, look. It appears that the sore-loser Republicans are at it again, venting their vitrol and poor sportsman ship on message boards. Idiots. I guess their just doing what they're best at–telling each other lies and acting spiteful. Babies. Go back to FOX and post there. Everyone here knows you're full of crap.

    October 30, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    And in contrast, BUSH would have slept in until 10 and received news of what Cheney decided while finished a western and having breakfast in bed.

    October 30, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  9. Rob W

    The wingnuts are out in the comments again, I see... talking crazy talk like anybody really cares. Losing the White House for four years made them even nuttier. "ZOMG, Obama is a socialist foreigner commie idiot who's obviously screwing everything up... never mind the fact the rest of the world stopped laughing at us when he was elected, they're all just a bunch of terrorists!".

    I look forward to three more years of comedy!

    October 30, 2009 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  10. Stu

    What a joke!

    October 30, 2009 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  11. Russ in Benton

    Right wingnuts don't need no stinking facts.

    October 30, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  12. Dan Holiday

    So what is the point of the story. He woke up? I mean what did he do about North Korea? I am still waiting on that one...lol.

    October 30, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  13. REG in Az

    Regardless of political preferences, regardless of personal biases, prejudices and emotional attachments, most everyone would prefer our politicians to honestly and effectively be sincere in concentrating on what is best for the people – not just for some of the people but rather for all of the people. Most, when rational and objective, totally understand that it calls for conscientious, unselfish and sincere negotiation, requiring some give-and-take and with the results being compromises that aren’t weighted solely for political or personal benefit, and especially not for Special Interests’, no matter how much support they give the politicians. What has to be seen is that can only be done when extremes are drastically softened and moderation is the rule, with something more centrist being the only logical possibility. To accomplish that people need to understand that they must control the politicians and not just let the politicians control or simply manipulate public opinion for their own purposes. Without dwelling on it but just to remind of the clear and regrettable example of how completely Bush-Cheney, with the stubborn and irresponsibly arrogant total support of the Republican Party, were able to use deceptive manipulation that literally cost all of us so much – “more of the same’ should never be acceptable. We now really need to correct the flagrant abuses implemented that allowed for the considerable benefit of just the few and instead make significant progress back towards the middle, otherwise we will keep sliding down to disaster (which isn’t far away).

    Currently we see contentious and aggressive debate stubbornly offered to sway (manipulate) public opinion in the disputes over achieving success in Afghanistan and Iraq, in rescuing our finances and with Health Care reform, all with belligerent finger pointing and without any concessions. These are very complex and important issues that stand to greatly impact each of us, future generations and even the world for some time to come. Neither side is perfect or without fault and neither is pure in not trying to manipulate public opinion. The first thing that is absolutely necessary is to be cynical about anything they say, judging what it does for them and for the Special Interests who support them, judging how much hype and deception versus fact their positions represent and then judging their history and what that says versus their currently offered rhetoric. They should all be held to compromise and to be honest and conscientious with the people’s interests sincerely foremost on their minds. Wherever, and there are many obvious cases to be seen, it is determined that their positions are solely for their own interests or those of the few, with their stated positions being to block/obstruct progress, refuse compromise, focus on faulting their opponents and/or just offering subterfuge to manipulate the people, then they should be advised that their deception and irresponsibility is recognized and will result in their being rejected at the polls. Otherwise the people are co-responsible in failing to make any progress and just ending up with ‘more of the same’.

    October 30, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  14. Mark

    After less than 9 months in office Bush ignored all warnings and let terrorists attack us. Obama has gone a month longer with no attacks, even though Dick-head Cheney keeps encouraging them to attack. So suck on that you right wing freaks.

    October 30, 2009 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  15. Phil

    Don't all you Obama haters have your own channel now? Please leave the hate, lies, threats and other drivel on your own "fair and balanced" network's website.

    October 30, 2009 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  16. Travis

    Thats News! are you kidding me. Are you going to report if he had a drink of water before he went back to bed.

    October 30, 2009 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  17. Jane/Seattle

    The measurement for all evaluations in Life is Ethical conduct, ideas, choices and ACTIONS. What is wrong with this entire World is that folks have corrupted themselves to follow men rather than their own chosen principles of any Way of Living or their "religions". Period. President Obama, for whatever his reasons, IS sleeping with the "Shock Doctors" (Naomi Klein) and pandering to the Wall Street paradigm of unregulated Capitalism and monopoly business practices while SAYING he supports Main Street. I voted for him, but the moment I saw the political bandwagon in action here in Seattle, I was aware that we were getting tricked once again! The minute I heard who his Economic advisors were to be, this moment we had our answers as Progressives. Capitalism and everything in this country has 2 doors: The one for the unconnected that leads to the criminal justice door and prisons OR the one that leads to the Bank and a blind eye to corruption. Bush et all set this up for the "base" to continue their illegal implementation of Capitalism while enforcing new stringent bankruptcy law for the little guy or healthcare challenged. It is an Immense Insult to make the taxpayer pay for the crimionality of these insider crooks and speculatorsn while hitting the poor, middle class into the inability to file bankruptcy so easily. Even now they still operate under NO LAWS that hold them accountable. The little drop in the bucket idea to cut their pay is nothing compared to the rape and robbery of the Commons that has been pulled off in Plain Sight! They do hold up certain ones for scapegoated like Madoff and others who fell by their own hand of Greed. This unequal hand of biased, subjective, corrupted "activist" judges who play their own games for wealth and power while letting the true American gangsters skate into leadership and more frauds against We The Peoples of the World. My apologies to those in this society who are trying to be ethical and also fight this game for supremacy. I speak not of you here. Yes, Capitalism is a deadly Predatory Game of Chess on this World stage. Obama has yet to show me his cards in transparency as promised. Until then, time tells All for the Universe to see clearly and it does not look good for US at all unless enough people on this planet come to their senses and evolve us to peace. All this requires is for us all to change our minds. Words are cheap, but it is the actions that measure the person for certain. Thanks to who first said this one. J :o)

    October 30, 2009 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  18. Tim

    The problem that I see from trying to make Obama appear like a tough foreign policy leader is that it is completely unbelievable. Iran and N. Korea are playing the same game they've always played but this time they're doing it without the threat of serious consequences. By the time Obama leaves office Iran will have the bomb. This dog has no bite, and no bark.

    October 30, 2009 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  19. Howard

    So, this is his BIG 3 a.m. moment?? We were reading in the papers about N Korea's threats to launch this missile for weeks before this happened. Was Obama too busy meeting with NASCAR drivers out on the WH lawn to have been breifed on this already and to have put together some options for a response?

    Clearly this is either a slow newsday for CNN, or they are continuing to idolize him

    October 30, 2009 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  20. wdd

    Hey CNN where is the story about all the congressional leaders that are under ethics investigation that leaked out.
    Did the Obama admin. tell you not to run it.....CNN SUCKS ....nothing but a left wing news channel ......chickensh.ts!!

    October 30, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  21. phoenix86

    Obama said "OK, here's what we're going to do". And then did nothing.

    Americans may just be realizing this. North Korea realized it immediately, as did Hamas, Iran and the Taliban.

    October 30, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  22. Bill

    For the morons that are saying that Bush kept us safe. No he did not. He let the planes fly into the WTC while he hid under a desk in an elementary school. Republicans run scared and hide anytime there is a threat.

    October 30, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  23. Jim

    Another GREAT story about the President, CNN...What excellent reporting. Please keep up the wonderful work. So intriguing...I can't wait to read the next irrelevant story.

    October 30, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  24. Out and about

    One of the few times he was IN RESIDENCE or IN THE OVAL OFFICE! Didn't we elect him to WORK instead of making public appearances? Glad we could wake him up and so sorry for the inconvenience.

    October 30, 2009 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  25. obummer, 1 and done

    @ Lacrosse Mom

    I love your comments. Everyday when I'm feeling down I look for your comments to bring me a chuckle. Please put down the koolaid and get you facts straight.

    You mean if he actually saved 650,000 jobs, what about the 2.5 million he lost, (continued even faster rise in unemployment since he took office)? do you mean he actually would have saved 3.1 million if he was doing a good job?

    But the NY Times and CNN said so...


    October 30, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
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