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. EJ

    Bush haters - enough already! Your guy is in there. I've never seen anything as rude as some of the comments on this site. You people need to get over it – your guy isn't doing any better than any of the others have. They're all POLITICIANS!!!! They ALL LIE. Anyone who thinks their guy is better than his predecessors is either an idiot or just naive.

    October 30, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  2. Jobless Recovery

    Obama has failed in every policy he has set forth on. Unfortunately, his on the job learning has increased unemployment, we are now losing a war in afgan, and he has increased debt 1.42 trillon more in debt.
    All you people bow to him, but don't question him. Dem or Repub...always question your leaders!!

    October 30, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  3. wdd

    I'm glad you left wing idiots will have cnn to come to for your support group, your going to need it in 2010 and 2012.

    CNN , no wonder you have last place ratings in cable news.


    October 30, 2009 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  4. Jobless Recovery

    Snifit...every fact you have ever posted is a lie. Included this one. He didn't "save jobs"..he is responsible for a net loss by 1 million.
    WE, the taxpayer (though not you, because i'm sure you don't make any money), have paid 250,000 per job! How is that good government?

    October 30, 2009 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  5. JT the Show Me State College Freshman

    Bipartisanship helps to avoid extremes and imbalances. It causes compromises and accommodations. So let's cooperate.
    Zbigniew Brzezinski
    I personally cannot believe all the attacks from both sides here. Are we so divided and partisan, that we cannot do what is right for our country. What happened to "country before party." Is that only when you win (I am talking to you right and left nuts). President Obama is trying his best to bring this country out of a hole that is a thousand miles deep. He has Excecutive authority, which means, he cannot force congress to do his ideas. So if you want to blame someone for this mess, blame congress.
    PS: Suzzane, FDR, had no choice but to go into WW2, remember Pearl Harbor. We got attacked first, not the oppisite. While you are right about Truman starting Korea, who was president for most of the war? President Eisenhower, who was president for 8 years. Truman was president for only 1 term, so saying that it is totally his fault is not exactly correct. JFK did send troops into Vietnam, but he did that because the generals told him to send more troops there or else, failure. Sound familiar. The Republicans demanded that he send more troops to an never ending war. Speaking of that, I know that he is going to be strongly critisized no matter what decision he makes about Afganistan. Remember, who started this war and ran it poorly for over 8 years. Do not forget that. So no matter what the situation, lets at least try to work together as Americans, so we can help the president get out of this rat hole.

    October 30, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  6. EJB

    I find it interesting that all the people who claim to not like government spend so much time criticizing government. If they feel that way about government, why not ignore government? Point being, it is not that they dislike government, it is they do not like this government.

    October 30, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  7. odumber, 1 and a half year old maturity level...

    @ obummer

    Give me a break... Your comments make me cringe each day knowing that an adult with, presumably, a fully-functioning brain could truly think that information from one source could ever be 100% accurate. Not to mention the conservative talk-radio talking points you regurgitate as news, you clearly don't have even an inkling of a clue as to what you are talking about.

    The only evidence I need for that is how you apparently scan CNN blog looking to pick a fight, even though their reporting is sub-standard compared to your Glenn Beck, chicken little drivel you consider news.

    Boo sir, boo.

    October 30, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  8. K2

    Wow, his big 3 AM event was to wake up to find out North Korea ignored his offer to sit down without pre-conditions. That must have been infuriating. I'm amazed he was able to keep reality in perspective and hold tight to his "do nothing" agenda.

    October 30, 2009 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  9. TCM

    Sniffit, anytime you post, and start with "FACTS:"...now, that's a joke...
    The WH didn't save 650k jobs, nor could they account for them if they could...anyone could easily create a flashy website with colorful pie charts to fool the public with an initial degree of success; as you're living proof of that!

    This 3am article, coupled with the 650k article is merely liberal spew on the eve of two pivotal elections. Too bad liberals are such liars.

    October 30, 2009 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  10. Marti

    Apparently, all the folks that say Obama did nothing after that 3 am call about Korea are FORGETTING, that at the time.. North Korea was holding not 1 but 2 American Journalists and putting them on trial. Of course the President had a measured response, he was still trying to get the Americans Freed! God what morons all you Obama haters are, at least know all the facts before you start spouting your crap!

    October 30, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  11. D..

    Oh, Gibbs... that's your idea of a "3 a.m. wake-up call" moment?

    October 30, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  12. CBR

    It remains a mystery to me that so many contributors write as if they were there and know exactly what went on. The ideological lines are never broken as if ideology drives all decisions for everyone.

    Sometimes the government is correct and sometimes mistakes are made. As long as our government officials are human there will be mistakes and two or more sides to every story. Let's try to write what we believe without belittling everyone else or using derogatory terminology. That just might help the debate.

    October 30, 2009 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  13. Sniffit

    I love Obama so much! Don't you? Who wouldn't? I just get goose-bumps every time I hear his name! I don't care what he does! Everyone should just shut up and do what they're told!

    October 30, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  14. LacrosseMom

    @ Sniffit......... thanks for the FACTS.

    To the GOP:

    READ ....... the article on CNN!

    We ARE in RECOVERY..... the Bush Disaster was huge! At the time that President Obama was sworn into Office....... we had been losing......... 750,000 ......... monthly!

    The Obama Stimulus SAVED our Economy! Like it or not! ITS FACT.

    October 30, 2009 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  15. Sea.gem

    Hey James,

    It was Clinton that gave away Bin Laden AFTER he was in custody...@ phoenix was correctly commenting on the rogue regimes' exploiting Obama's naive "hug-a-terrorist" approach...it is political theater at its finest!

    October 30, 2009 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  16. Gag Me Lacy

    Oh my you pass this **** off as news. So what exactly did this iconic man do at 3AM? I am deeply moved by this story CNN keep up your unbiased reporting.


    October 30, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  17. nancy

    Can this president EVER make a decision?? ANY decision?? Hilary was right-he is not ready to be president and there is no time to learn on the job.

    October 30, 2009 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  18. Sniffit

    I just don't understand why everyone doesn't just do whatever President Obama says. He's soooo dreamy!

    October 30, 2009 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  19. Sherry

    President Obama is doing a great job – -don't like it – move to North Korea!

    October 30, 2009 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  20. Wade

    So his 3AM moment is a military briefing over something everyone in the free world knew was going to happen???

    Must be a slow news day.

    October 30, 2009 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  21. Steve in North Carolina

    To Jackie in Dallas. You are right! There is a difference between socialism and communism.

    Since we are seeing "Csars" running around making policy decisions without congressional oversight, strong arm attempts to repress opposing opinions and the free press, attempts to redistrubute wealth etc., I'm going to go with communism. The parallels to Russian are too similar to ignore.

    Thanks for clearing that up for us!

    October 30, 2009 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  22. Don in Boca Raton

    The country is not going to get any better, in fact I can see it getting worse. The right will continue to promote lies, obstruct programs that "will" help the common people, and give rediculous talking points (death panels, c'mon) while trying to tell the country that they should be in power because "they" will help. Meanwhile the left will not push the "will of the people's" agenda without the repubs posing in democratic clothing challenging the message and blocking actions.

    Then you have the independants.... talking trash about "everybody"

    Right Wing News Media.... twisting the story and aggitating the tea party nitwits.

    last but not least... Just dumb people (i.e. Birthers) who believe that old politicians know more about science than the scientists who have been studying the same things for their whole careers. people who think the president is a communist, socialist, marxist, racist, they call him Hitler (for crying out loud).

    October 30, 2009 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  23. Flipper

    That was Obama's "3am call?" Then it was a MASSIVE FAILURE! Since those missile tests, North Korea received exactly what it wanted: the sending of former Pres. Clinton to negotiate the release of the two reporters, and the agreement from the Obama administration to abandon the 6-nation talks.

    Wonderful!! And I thought some Dems were against "unilateral action."

    October 30, 2009 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  24. Bill Johnson

    Sniffit....Sniff what.... I have a feeling I know!

    October 30, 2009 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  25. terminator II

    When all you red/blue clowns are done with the bluster it will be too late for America!

    October 30, 2009 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
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