Waking the President

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During a press gaggle on Air Force One today, White House press secretary Bill Burton said that national security advisor Tom Donilon woke the president at 3:55 am with the news of North Korea’s artillery attack on a South Korean island.

Two thoughts: First, this may be the closest we’ve come to the infamous “3 am phone call” that Hillary Clinton warned us about during the 2008 primaries–and I see no sign that our children were unsafe because it was Obama and not Hillary who fielded it.

Second, why wake the president at all in this situation? I can’t imagine that an executive decision needed to be made at that moment. The obvious response was to issue a condemnation, which the White House did in the press secretary’s name at 4:33 am; that midlevel officials talk to counterparts in Asia; and then everyone updates POTUS after the sun rises. It seems more important for the president to get a sound night’s sleep so he can think clearly than for him to find out about bad news in real time, to little practical effect.