The President’s Thinking Hours



Michael D. Shear: Obama After Dark: The Precious Hours Alone

“Are you up?” The emails arrive late, often after 1 a.m., tapped out on a secure BlackBerry from an email address known only to a few. The weary recipients know that once again, the boss has not yet gone to bed. The late-night interruptions from President Obama might be sharply worded questions about memos he has read. Sometimes they are taunts because the recipient’s sports team just lost. Last month it was a 12:30 a.m. email to Benjamin J. Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser, and Denis R. McDonough, the White House chief of staff, telling them he had finished reworking a speechwriter’s draft of presidential remarks for later that morning. Mr. Obama had spent three hours scrawling in longhand on a yellow legal pad an angry condemnation of Donald J. Trump’s response to the attack in Orlando, Fla., and told his aides they could pick up his rewrite at the White House usher’s office when they came in for work. Mr. Obama calls himself a “night guy,” and as president, he has come to consider the long, solitary hours after dark as essential as his time in the Oval Office.




He works on speeches. He reads the stack of briefing papers delivered at 8 p.m. by the National Security Council staff secretary. He reads 10 letters from Americans chosen each day by his staff. “He is thoroughly predictable in having gone through every piece of paper that he gets,” said Tom Donilon, Mr. Obama’s national security adviser from 2010 to 2013. “You’ll come in in the morning, it will be there: questions, notes, decisions.”  One night last June, Cody Keenan, the president’s chief speechwriter, had just returned home from work at 9 p.m. and ordered pizza when he heard from the president: “Can you come back tonight?” Mr. Keenan met the president in the usher’s office on the first floor of the residence, where the two worked until nearly 11 p.m. on the president’s eulogy for nine African-Americans fatally shot during Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. Three months earlier, Mr. Keenan had had to return to the White House when the president summoned him — at midnight — to go over changes to a speech Mr. Obama was to deliver in Selma, Ala., on the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” when protesters were brutally beaten by the police on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. “There’s something about the night,” Mr. Keenan said, reflecting on his boss’s use of the time. “It’s smaller. It lets you think.”

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119 Responses to “The President’s Thinking Hours”

  1. 1 desertflower
    July 15, 2016 at 12:18 pm

    How blessed we are. For him and our Nerdy:)

  2. July 15, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    LOVE these photos. I also love the photo of him and FLOTUS from the old campaign days on his desk.


  3. 5 carolyn
    July 15, 2016 at 12:25 pm

    It is so wonderful to have a president who has alone time to think and consider! He is admirable in so many ways.

    I read a lot of discouragement here, and I can understand it. However, I am encouraged, because on my Facebook page, I am seeing a different level and content of comment. One of my former students, who now lives in New York, has become a full blown liberal, and is not afraid to post for all to see his beliefs. He was not this way in college. He has learned. And, the replies to his comments are favorable, not what I would have anticipated. I do believe hearts and minds are being changed, slowly…..as PBO knows they are. Keep the faith…..the story is not complete.

    Love to all of you who work so hard, and especially to Nerdy Wonka who keeps us so wonderfully informed.

    • 6 mtmarilyn
      July 15, 2016 at 1:45 pm

      Good morning Carolyn. I know what you mean about changing hearts. It is so wonderful to hear that one of your students has learned about life. Hope you are having a great day.

      It is a beautiful Friday here. We are in the midst of our International Choral Festival with 21 choirs from all over the world. It is so wonderful 4 days of music. This is the first year we have not kept a choir member in our home. All the choirs are kept in local homes. It is such a great way to meet folks from all over the world. If you are interested go to http://www.choralfestival.org and you’ll see all the activities.

      NW, thank you for all you are doing for Chips and for us. Sending much love and prayers to our Miss Chips!!!

  4. 7 vcprezofan2
    July 15, 2016 at 12:28 pm

    😎 Thanks, Ms NerdyW. 🙂

  5. 9 Judith Fardig
    July 15, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    Morning, all. Congratulations to Desertflower. I missed the town hall because several of us from OFA and Moms Demand Action went to a candlelight memorial service for a 19 year old African American man who who gunned down a year ago. No justice, no peace for this family. At least it wasn’t the police who did the shooting, but they just want whoever was responsible to be charged and tried. The candlelight service outside the Capitol was happening last night, too. No doubt many other families were mourning loved ones in similar vigils all over the country. This can’t go on forever.

  6. 10 Roberta in MN
    July 15, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    That has got to be the loneliest job for any man. The weight of the world on his shoulders and most of the time, not really appreciated what he has done for America and it’s people. I am going to miss him and Michelle terribly. I will vote for Hillary because I could not stand a Trump WH. But I can’t even imagine what her WH is going to look like.
    These pictures are just outstanding.

  7. July 15, 2016 at 12:29 pm

  8. 12 Roberta in MN
    July 15, 2016 at 12:31 pm

    Thank you Nerdy for your ever presence on TOD. We would be lost without you. We can’t thank you enough and send you Love and Hugs to keep you going. 🙂

  9. July 15, 2016 at 12:39 pm

  10. July 15, 2016 at 12:51 pm

    • 19 0388jojothecat
      July 15, 2016 at 3:47 pm

      Thank you! This is what PBO means when he says there are MORE good going on out there than BAD. Even when it seems like everything is going wrong and bad luck has hit me, I know that it is temporary, that something good will happen as well and it normally does. Something good can be as little as getting a parking spot upfront and in the shade on a hot day so I don’t have to walk as far. I am thankful for every breath GOD allows me to take.

  11. July 15, 2016 at 1:19 pm

  12. July 15, 2016 at 1:19 pm

    It is in solitude and silence that Pres Obama connects with the underlying unity that connects him consciously with his deep spirit and with all humankind.

  13. 26 Nena20409
    July 15, 2016 at 1:21 pm

    Good Afternoon, well, I am wishing a Good Afternoon knowing that for many, it’s has not been so.
    Thanks TOD for keeping me Focused & sane.
    Congrats, DF for your Au ⭐
    Thank you, NW & TOD Twitter Brigades for keeping me informed.
    My Heart aches for France and her Citizens. Another senseless attack filled with hate and rage.
    WH Presser with Josh “The Voice” Earnest is already in Progress. LIVE

  14. July 15, 2016 at 1:33 pm

    OOooopsie, more meltdown:

  15. 30 joybarbados
    July 15, 2016 at 1:41 pm

    I really do not understand how an intelligent person can decide that Trump deserves their vote. I had decided since 2008 that I would not discuss politics with one of my sisters who voted Republican in 2008, she thought the then Senator Obama was an upstart. So I thought that after almost eight years of his presidency she would have been enlightened. So I calmly asked her if she was still a Republican and her immediate response was yes. I then said, are you voting for Trump? Yes she said emphatically. Then I stupidly said you may as well not vote. She then started some rant about Hillary to which I promptly tuned out. So disappointing.

  16. 32 jacquelineoboomer
    July 15, 2016 at 1:43 pm

  17. July 15, 2016 at 1:57 pm

  18. 43 Nena20409
    July 15, 2016 at 1:57 pm

    Folks, Your Indecisive Idiot, the GOP is supporting.

  19. July 15, 2016 at 2:00 pm

  20. 46 Nena20409
    July 15, 2016 at 2:00 pm

  21. 47 Nena20409
    July 15, 2016 at 2:05 pm

  22. 49 JER
    July 15, 2016 at 2:11 pm

    NOW: Rev. Al Sharpton Remarks at Funeral for Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La. – http://abcnews.go.com/Live

  23. 50 Nena20409
    July 15, 2016 at 2:18 pm

  24. July 15, 2016 at 2:27 pm

    From Benen: Let’s put this another way: during his congressional career, Pence wasn’t just more conservative than Paul Ryan. His voting record also put him to the right of Michele Bachmann, Todd Akin, Steve King, and even Louie Gohmert. That’s not an exaggeration. Bachmann, Akin, King, and Gohmert all had voting records less extreme than Mike Pence.

  25. July 15, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    New polling points to a clear presidential favorite
    07/15/16 11:13 AM
    By Steve Benen

    Just two days ago, Quinnipiac released new swing-state polling that rattled the political world: Donald Trump, the results said, is narrowly leading Hillary Clinton in Florida and Pennsylvania, and the two are tied in Ohio. Add third-party candidates to the mix, and Trump’s lead is even larger.

    The reaction to this polling report was practically an earthquake. Democrats panicked, Republicans beamed, and pundits began saying it’s time to rethink previous assumptions and consider the possibility that Trump may be elected president in the fall. The data was treated as one of the week’s bigger political stories.

    I have a hunch the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll, which is no less important, will generate far less attention.

    In Colorado: Clinton leads Trump, 43% to 35%.

    In Florida: Clinton leads Trump, 44% to 37%.

    In North Carolina, Clinton leads Trump, 44% to 38%.

    In Virginia, Clinton leads Trump, 44% to 35%.

    “With 66 electoral votes at stake in these four states, Donald Trump is playing catch-up against Hillary Clinton,” Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, said.

    It’s possible some of the chatter is the result of human nature: unexpected results seem more interesting than predictable results. The conventional wisdom is that Clinton is ahead, so when Quinnipiac challenges our assumptions, it’s perceived as wildly important, while polls that show Clinton with comfortable leads in Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia seem routine.

  26. 54 Ladyhawke
    July 15, 2016 at 2:32 pm

  27. 55 Ladyhawke
    July 15, 2016 at 2:33 pm

  28. July 15, 2016 at 2:34 pm

  29. July 15, 2016 at 2:35 pm

    Mike Pence is Not a Conventional Politician
    by BooMan
    Fri Jul 15th, 2016 at 01:15:00 PM EST

    In one way, Donald Trump’s selection of Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his running mate is already a partial success. The early media narrative seems to be that Pence is a safe choice or, at a minimum, the least worst choice. And I obviously disagree, since I recently wrote that selecting Pence would make no sense at all.

    Clearly, you can summon up worse options, but that’s not the same as saying that Pence is the least worst option that Trump had.

    Let’s start with some things that are being said that simply aren’t true. Writing for the BBC, Anthony Zurcher says “In a year that has defied political conventions, he was a very conventional choice.”

    But there’s absolutely nothing “conventional” about Mike Pence. He is a man who cannot say if he believes in the theory of evolution and has spent twenty years spreading doubt about climate change. He’s a man who wants teenage girls (including victims of incest) to get parental consent to use contraceptives, who has done all he can to deny contraception to women of every age, who signed a law mandating that all aborted fetuses should receive proper burials, who supports discrimination against gays and wants to withhold federal funding from any organization that “encourage(s) the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus.”

    Is this now “conventional” politics?

    His hostility to the LGBT community isn’t somehow mitigated because he disappointed some of his fellow-traveling extreme social conservatives and (partially) watered down a bill allowing legal discrimination against gays, lesbians and transgender people. His hostility to women’s reproductive health and freedom isn’t transformed into conventional pro-life ideology just because he consented to expand Medicaid under Obamacare.

  30. 63 Nena20409
    July 15, 2016 at 2:37 pm

  31. July 15, 2016 at 2:37 pm

  32. July 15, 2016 at 2:38 pm

    GOP senator: Confirming judges unrelated to ‘doing our jobs’
    07/15/16 10:00 AM—UPDATED 07/15/16 10:11 AM
    By Steve Benen

    If there’s a compelling defense for how Senate Republicans are treating President Obama’s judicial nominees, no one has shared it yet. This goes well beyond the unprecedented mistreatment of Merrick Garland: Politico reported yesterday that this GOP-led Senate has confirmed “just 20 district and circuit court judges … a time when the vacancies are hampering the federal bench nationwide.”

    This may seem like predictable partisanship – there’s a Democratic White House and a Republican majority in the Senate – but note that when Democrats ran the Senate for the final two years of the Bush/Cheney era, they approved 68 federal judges, more than triple what we’re seeing now.

    Also note, some of the pending nominees who can’t get floor votes are jurists who enjoy bipartisan support. The White House routinely accepts consensus recommendations from senators from both parties, and there are plenty of judicial nominees championed by Republicans who are currently stuck – because GOP leaders want to shut down the confirmation process altogether out of partisan spite.

    But the fight took an unintentionally funny twist yesterday when Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) said that when it comes to confirming judicial nominees, it’s not part of senators’ job. The Huffington Post reported:

    Democrats including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) made repeated requests Wednesday to confirm a batch of Obama’s judicial nominees who are ready for votes. Each time they tried, Tillis objected and suggested the Senate shouldn’t be spending time on judges.

  33. July 15, 2016 at 2:53 pm

    Trumps lies…
    “These are the words – the big lies rumbling the ground for some sort of apocalyptic race war – of a dangerous authoritarian personality who is either personally deeply imbued with racist rage or cynically uses that animus and race hatred to achieve political ends. In either case, they are the words of a deeply dangerous individual the likes of whom has seldom been so close to achieving executive power in America.”

  34. 69 Nena20409
    July 15, 2016 at 2:57 pm

    POTUS speaking about Attacks on France

  35. 70 Nena20409
    July 15, 2016 at 3:06 pm

  36. July 15, 2016 at 3:12 pm

  37. 77 Allison
    July 15, 2016 at 3:30 pm

    This show is fantastic!!!

  38. 78 Don
    July 15, 2016 at 3:32 pm

    You talk about someone getting pimped; Chris Christie was nothing more than a chauffeur, a butler, someone that brought Donald Trump hot towels whenever he needed them to freshen up. And now after all of his “service” to Trump, Trump goes out and pick Mike Pence to be this right hand man, ouch, that’s gotta sting, Christie had the ring all picked out.

  39. 83 Linda
    July 15, 2016 at 3:39 pm

    WASHINGTON — The 28 pages of newly declassified material from the 9/11 Commission released Friday by Congress show multiple links to associates of Saudi Arabian Prince Bandar, the former longtime ambassador to the United States.



    Why is Elizabeth Warren not on the speaker’s list for the Convention. I thought she was supposed to be giving a speech the first day ?

    Democratic convention speakers: Obama, Sanders, Biden, Clinton


  40. July 15, 2016 at 3:54 pm

    Is a military coup happening in Turkey?

  41. 92 desertflower
    July 15, 2016 at 3:58 pm


  42. July 15, 2016 at 4:00 pm

    Tanks, armored personnel carriers, troops in Ankara, Turkey’s capital.

  43. July 15, 2016 at 4:02 pm

  44. July 15, 2016 at 4:05 pm

  45. 97 desertflower
    July 15, 2016 at 4:08 pm

  46. July 15, 2016 at 4:10 pm

  47. July 15, 2016 at 4:16 pm

    According to the Turkish constitution the military is required to overthrow a civilian govt. if the secular nature of govt. is in peril.

  48. 100 desertflower
    July 15, 2016 at 4:19 pm

  49. July 15, 2016 at 4:28 pm

  50. July 15, 2016 at 4:29 pm

  51. July 15, 2016 at 4:30 pm


  52. July 15, 2016 at 4:36 pm

    DNC Speakers Monday……. First Lady Michelle Obama and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Tuesday Bill Clinton Wednesday President Obama and VP Biden…….. Thursday Hillary Clinton, Chelsea Clinton. Where is Sen. Warren? I always love to hear the First Lady speak. President Obama too. I probably won’t watch to much of the convention, except to see First Lady and President, VP Biden

  53. July 15, 2016 at 4:43 pm

    No surprise …

  54. July 15, 2016 at 5:06 pm

    Speaking of Crispy Creme…

  55. 119 MightyPamela
    July 15, 2016 at 8:03 pm

    Heads up!! And especially if you are anywhere near LA, this is one for the history books, try to get there, if not, please do have a read!! The excitement is palpable!! Woot!!


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