wake-up call

Slate: President Obama was roused from bed at 4 a.m. by Chief of Staff Bill Daley after a massive earthquake struck Japan. What’s the procedure for waking up a president? In a 2005 Explainer, Daniel Engber found that only a few people have this privilege…

…When something happens in the middle of the night, who decides whether the president should get out of bed?

It varies from president to president, but the task usually falls to the national security adviser or the chief of staff. In the White House, a small team of “watch officers” – drawn from the CIA, the military, and the State Department – keeps an eye on incoming news and intelligence reports 24 hours a day. If something important comes up during the graveyard shift, the watch officer in charge gets in contact with the national security adviser or chief of staff … the watch officers typically have standing instructions on what sort of news merits a wake-up…

This procedure has been in place only since 1961, when John F. Kennedy ordered the construction of a permanent monitoring station on the site of what was once the West Wing bowling alley. The new facility became known as the “situation room”.

….history remembers a snoozing president more than an alert one. When Henry Kissinger learned of a menacing letter from the Soviet premier in 1973, the White House chief of staff advised him not to wake up the president. (Former aides have said that Nixon, who was distraught over his domestic scandals, had drunk himself into a stupor by 10 the night before.)

Ronald Reagan, who famously slept during Cabinet meetings, also snoozed through two overseas military encounters …. Reagan’s reputation for snoozing even invited a protest: In 1983, steel and auto workers marched on the White House at 4 a.m. to “wake up the president” to the effects of his economic policy. Reagan said he slept through that, too.

Full article here

6 Responses to “wake-up call”

  1. 1 Kelly
    March 12, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    from the article

    “Bill Clinton received wake-up calls from Deputy National Security Adviser James Steinberg when necessary, but he slept through the racket when a gunman fired half a dozen shots at the White House one night in December of 1994. He also slumbered through congratulatory phone calls from foreign leaders after he won the election in 1992.”

    Not surprised. Imagine if President Obama did that……

  2. March 12, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    Yes, Kelly, remember Hillary’s 3:00 AM phone call commercials during the 2008 presidential election? Did we want the inexperienced Obama to be answering that telephone? It’s surprising someone in the Obama campaign didn’t dig up that gunman firing shots at the White House story out of history and use it as a Bronx cheer. On second thought, Hillary was perhaps the best one of the two to take those 3:00 AM phone calls while lying abed beside her sleeping husband.

    I never did think that Hillary’s campaign staff served her well, even while I was rooting for Obama. In fact, I was rooting for him as soon as I heard he was thinking about running a couple of years before he declared.

  3. 3 Shirley
    March 12, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    Chips, I want to thank you for explaining how the Wake up call Is done, and who does It. I always wondered how that was done. This was an Education for me. I need a good education on how some things are done In the Whitehouse. Guess I need some tutoring Lol. I must admit that before President Obama, I somehow wasn’t that curious as to how certain things were done 😦 Shameful I know, shame on me. Anyway, thanks again Chips, I really appreciate that Input 🙂

  4. 4 m
    March 12, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    Yes, I enjoyed reading this too as i was wondering about the procedure. Thanks Chips! (By the way….someday i hope we can know your real name, so it can be put in the history books!) I had forgotten that it was Hilary who put out that commercial. You know i feel the answer to that campaign question is now not an either-or answer. I feel quite confident and comfortable knowing that PBO and Sec of State Hilary may both get emergency wake-up calls in the middle of the night. They have both impressed me so in their current positions. I am so glad she accepted the job and that they work together.

  5. 5 Sue in Minnesota
    March 12, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    Joan, it seems they may have taken too much for granted with respect to The Clinton Political Machine, and underestimated the talents and political smarts of our FABULOUS PRESIDENT…….I’m grateful for their miscalculations. Hillary Clinton is doing a wonderful job as Secretary of State, but I doubt, had she been elected President, that her impact would match that of our Presidents.

    • March 12, 2011 at 6:10 pm

      Sue, you are exactly right about the impact! I wept for joy when our president got elected. And I wept again right after his inauguration, thinking of the future, knowing what he’ll be going through to get anything done.

      That he accomplished so much under such a barrage of vituperation is nothing less than a miracle — as he is himself.

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