When Should the President be Woken Up?

Barack Obama

Remember the famous "3 a.m. Phone Call" ad that Hillary Clinton ran during the 2008 Democratic primary? It's what Tevi Troy had in mind when he came up with the title for his new book, Shall We Wake the President?

Troy served as deputy health secretary under President George W. Bush and, in his book, looks at how presidents respond to disasters, how their decisions can make or break their presidency, and why Americans should be prepared to handle disasters on their own instead of expecting the federal government to save the day.

So, are presidents always woken up when trouble is brewing?

"There's this idea that a disaster strikes and the phone rings and the president jumps on it and first of all that's not exactly what happens, second of all it's not clear exactly what the president can do in that sort of situation," Troy tells Beltway Buzz.

Just a few weeks ago, as residents of Baton Rouge suffered through extreme flooding, President Barack Obama chose to continue his vacation in Martha's Vineyard.

"He saw this terrible thing going on and he continued to hit the links and play golf. Presidents should be allowed their vacations, but you need to be careful about when to call off vacations and when to think about getting more involved. The next thing is, you could be shown up if you don't go and stand there on the ground. So Donald Trump went and he started giving out supplies for victims in the Baton Rouge area and it made President Obama look bad," Troy says.

They're important decisions that affect a president's chances of getting re-elected or preserving his legacy.

"President Bush was re-elected because of 9/11 and his presidency was destroyed because of Katrina. A disaster made his presidency and then it destroyed his presidency," Troy said.


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