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President Bush mixing political with government business today in Miami as the Mid East crisis sizzles.

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said Bush will try to focus on domestic economic items while in Florida....as well as the Israeli-Hezbullah conflict and the fighting in Israel and Lebanon.

Said Snow on Sunday afternoon, ``The President still has a full agenda as President of the United States. He has domestic and foreign responsibilities. In the Port of Miami tomorrow he will be talking in some length about the situation in the Middle East and the way ahead. So we will certainly address that. But there is ongoing concern around the country -- as many of you have reported -- about people's desires to make sure that we've got a growing economy that's going to have opportunities for them and their kids. He's going to talk about that, too.

He'll talk about it in the context of ensuring that the economy continues to grow, as well as working on international trade. Miami has a big and important port. He will make reference to the role of trade and free trade agreements have had in making that port even more prosperous and bustling. He'll talk about port security and a whole series of related issues.

President Bushhosted British Prime Minister Tony Blairat the White House on Friday.....do they have a plan for the Mideast? Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice returns to Jerusalem this weekend.

Opening a backchannel. the Rev. Jesse Jackson is set to meet with Syria's ambassador in Washington on Thursday to talk about the swelling Midde East crisis.

Signing is one thing. Enforcement another. Read on.
Students studying the VRA... here's a learning tool kit.....click the blue line below for President Bush's remarks at the White House signing ceremony and reaction from Democratic congressional leaders...and a useful fact sheet from the White House.


House International Affairs Committee Chairman Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.) and the ranking Democrat, Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), hosted a small, private, invitation-only reception for new Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki just before he addressed a joint session of Congress on Wednesday morning.

It's rare for a world leader to be given the honor of taking the podium in the House chamber to talk to members of Congress. Two Illinois Democrats, Representatives Jan Schakowsky and Rahm Emanuel, led the drive for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert to cancel al-Maliki's invitation to speak because the Iraqi leader condemned Israeli attacks on Lebanon and called "on the world to take quick stands to stop the Israeli aggression.'' His words contradicted U.S. policy.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is leaving Rome...no cease-fire....shelling in Lebanon and Israel continue....

``I think that it goes without saying that this extraordinary gathering of the international community shows our deep concern about the situation in Lebanon, in northern Israel, in the region,'' Rice said.
In the quote below, the word sustainable is key--the U.S. is not calling for an immediate cease-fire because it wants to give Israel time to root out Hezbollah fighters and their artillery.

The press conference between the two leaders.....

All things Obama

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The political blogger over at the Washington Post is making the case for Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) to run for president. But wait! The case AGAINST Obama running is coming.....


http://blog.washingtonpost.com/thefix/2006/07/2008_the_case_for_barack_obama_1.html#more

this just in.....


Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Rep. Rahm Emanuel are leading a drive to pressure House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert to cancel Wednesday's address to Congress by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki because he condemned Israeli attacks on Lebanon -- putting him at odds with U.S. policy.

``We must resolve the status of millions of illegal immigrants who are here already,'' President Bush said Monday morning, as he continues to push for the House and Senate to make a deal on a broad immigration bill.

But the House GOP leaders are holding firm--and do not want to negotiate a deal allowing a guest worker program and a process to legalize the status of millions in the U.S. illegally.

Give Bush credit for trying.

With turmoil between Israel and the Hezbollah in Lebanon growing, President Bush in the coming days meets at the White House wtih the Saudi foreign mininster, new Iraq Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, Romanian President Adrian Nastase and British Prime Mininster Tony Blair..

Big photo op with the American Idol finalists in the Oval Office.

Sen. Barack Obama heads to Iowa in September to raise money for Democrats, knowing that even the news he will be setting foot in the state triggers yet another round of speculation about his White House ambitions.

Obama has been crisscrossing the nation on political travel and has made two international trips as a freshman. Today, he heads to New Orleans for a post-Katrina tour and briefings.


House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, up and about after four days in the hospital last week for treatment of a leg infection, flies to Louisiana today to inspect Katrina damage near Lake Charles.

He'll do a helicopter tour of the area this morning and get briefings by officials before departing for Arizona and Texas to check out security on the U.S.-Mexican border. The bigger theme of Hastert's weekend will be immigration, bolstering GOP efforts to bury provisions in a Senate bill calling for a guest worker program and a path to legalizing the status of millions of illegal immigrants. He wants the House to first pass a bill dealing only with border security before entertaining anything more.

UPDATE FROM SPEAKERS OFFICE
Also, mark you calendars and be sure to watch Fox News Sunday this week (Sunday, July 23 @ 9:00am EDT) to see Speaker Hastert's interview where he will be discussing his recent border trip.


Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) travels to Iowa, the first presidential caucus state, on Sept. 17 to raise money for two Iowa Democrats. The trip comes in the context of growing speculation about the freshman Obama's White House ambitions.

Bush: Stem cell veto message.

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President Bush's first veto..his message on stem cells.......

No photo op for President Bush's first veto....

Evacuations in Lebanon and the potential of a cease-fire between Hezbollah and Israel is the centerpiece of today's briefing by White House Press Secretary Tony Snow.


Said Snow, ``What we want is the proper -- the cessation of violence in a manner that is consistent with stability, peace, democracy in Lebanon, and also an end to terror.

A cease-fire that would leave the status quo ante intact is absolutely unacceptable. A cease-fire that would leave intact a terrorist infrastructure is unacceptable. So what we're trying to do is work as best we can toward a cease-fire that is going to create not only the conditions, but the institutions for peace and democracy in the region.''


I’m on the second floor of the Capitol, the Senate side, walking past the office of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist(R-Tn.)

Out walks actress Mary Tyler Moore, slim and wearing a pantsuit, holding hands with man I did not recognize.

WILL UPDATE WITH VOTES

Hastert Released from Hospital

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House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) was released from Bethesda Naval Hospital at 2:00 p.m. today eastern time said spokesman Ron Bonjean..


Hastert, who takes daily injections for his adult diabetes, was hospitalized July 13 for cellulitis, a skin infection on his leg.

Monday morning e-mail delivered the newest round in the Jackson vs Beavers escalating political rivalry.
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) sent out a fundraising appeal an hour ago for his Aug. 7 golf outing at the Calumet Country Club in Homewood, using Ald. William Beavers (7th) taunts against him--``he can't raise one dime against me'' to bolster his campaign warchest.

``PROVE BEAVERS WRONG AND HELP DRIVE HIM INTO EXTINCTION,'' is the headline on Jackson's fundraising note.

STATEMENT BY GROUP OF EIGHT LEADERS

Today, we the G-8 Leaders express our deepening concern about the situation in the Middle East, in particular the rising civilian casualties on all sides and the damage to infrastructure. We are united in our determination to pursue efforts to restore peace. We offer our full support for the UN Secretary General's mission presently in the region. The root cause of the problems in the region is the absence of a comprehensive Middle East peace.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in Russia for the G-8, goes through in detail the U.S. position in the escalating situation in Israel, Lebanon and Gaza.

What is ``fly the friendly skies'' ?

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) statement on United HQ moving from unincorporated Elk Grove Village to Chicago...the concern was United would fly off and land HQ somewhere else....

The two leaders,in Russia, on existing and brewing conflicts.....

Click below for White House press secretary Tony Snow briefing on the growing Mideast crisis.
Summary quotes here from Snow have Bush calling on all sides to step back.

Snow: `` The President also reiterated his support for the democracy in his
conversation with Prime Minister Siniora. They talked about ways to
move ahead not only within the Arab League, but also the President
encouraging his allies to speak out with everybody involved, including
the Syrians and once again made the point that Hezbollah has been
granted shelter in Syria, it is financed by Iran and both parties should
be held responsible for some of the activities that are going on there.

He also reiterated the statement yesterday, that he believes that
the Israelis have a right to protect themselves, and also that we think
it's important that in doing that they try to limit as much as possible
so-called collateral damage, not only to facilities but also to human
lives.

BRIEFING BY SECRETARY OF STATE CONDOLEEZZA RICE AND NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR STEVE HADLEY

I was a guest on MSNBC's ``Hardball'' hosted by Chris Matthews to discuss Bob Novak finally breaking his silence on his role in the CIA leak case. Matthews wanted to know if I thought Novak was the ``prince of darkness.''


The transcript of the Wednesday panel (click at the bottom ) shows my reply.

For those who have never seen Blogger Sweet in action, check out http://mediamatters.org/items/200607130012
to see a clip from the Hardball show.

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) was admitted to Bethesda Naval Hospital on Thursday for treatment of cellulitis, a bacterial infection of the skin.

His office issued a short statement (click below to read) this afternoon.

I just talked to Hastert Spokesman Ron Bonjean (it's 9:51 p.m. eastern time) Bonjean said the Speaker `is frustrated and feisty that the docors required him to be off his feet to treat his skin infection.''

FYI...Hastert has adult diabetes. A diabetic has increased risks of infection.


President Bush, en route to G-8 summit in Russia, stops in Germany and talks about the many hot-spots around the globe.

The Pentagon took an extra security precaution for Monday's trip to the Guantanamo detention center by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), a strong critic of the prison: It made sure Durbin brought along a Republican.

Durbin toured the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay with Sen. George Allen (R-Va.).

Bob Novak, in today's column, breaks his silence about his pivotal role in the CIA leak case.

It's a "tell-almost."

Washington has been waiting for this column from my Chicago Sun-Times colleague, known for his gumshoe reporting, for years.

President Bush wants the power to strip projects from bills that are snuck into legislation at the last minute. That power is called the line item veto. The House passed a line item bill. Now the matter is pending before the Senate.

The money for these snuck-in projects is obtained in a process called an earmark. Sometimes these projects are called pork. Not all projects are pork. Worthy public policy questions are whether these very local projects deserve federal dollars and of course, how the earmark process unfairly favors some powerful lawmakers over others.

Some earmarks are done in the open. Some are not. Earmarks are controversial. The number of earmarks has jumped in recent years.

There's usually no fingerprints--no name of the sponsor or even specifics about these projects thrown into massive bills just before they are voted on. It's almost impossible for a lawmaker to know what's up.

An example is money the Children's Museum at Navy Pier won in the transportation bill last year. The bill stated that money would go for a `Transportation Museum'' that did not exist. I had to launch a mini-investigation to find the sponsor. The money was earmarked for a contemplated transportation exhibit at the museum.

An earmark is how House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) secured federal funding for the proposed Prairie Parkway, or Hastert Highway. Bush argued today that lawmakers will be less likely to try to slip stuff into bills if it gets noticed.

Sure.

Some lawmakers want to ban earmarks, but they lost that fight a few months ago in the pending (perhaps stalled) ethics legislation. Hastert and company are open to more transparency on earmarks--name and info about each project. The House hangup now is over whether every committee will have to highlight earmarks, or only a few.

Rob Portman, the new Office of Management and Budget director, has been working the precincts in Congress for the line-item veto.


Bush comments below

Durbin visiting Gitmo today

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Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) visits the much criticized U.S. prison in Cuba.

Sen. Barack Obama, whose father is from Kenya, travels to Africa -- and the village where his father lived -- in August on a trip designed to highlight the importance of the continent to the United States and the rest of the world.

Meanwhile, back at the White House.....

President Bush recaps his trip to Chicago in his weekly radio address, touting the economy and pushing for his ``American Competitiveness Agenda.''

Bush shaped his trip around a funder for Judy Baar Topinka, the GOP state treasurer running against Dem Gov. Blagojevich. The sunny-always-see-an-upside Blagojevich said Bush's nice words about the Illinois economy--the lowest unemployment rate in more than five years-- was a compliment to his tenure.

President Bush raised $1.2 million at funder for GOP candidate for governor, Judy Baar Topinka.

The White House produced a road show at the Museum of Science and Industry so President Bush could do a partial overfly of the Washington press corps at his press conference on Friday. Bush tapped local and national reporters for questions.

A point of the White House throwing a press conference in Chicago was to get different questions for the president ( not the same as looking for soft ball questions though certainly there was that potential); the goal was not exactly achieved.

Seven Chicago based reporters asked questions. Only three--from the Sun-Times, Tribune and CLTV- -took advantage of the rare circumstance and had pointed, newsy questions for the president with local angles designed to make news no matter what the reply.

The four others local journalists did not try to plow new ground on any local matter, and asked broad questions about gas prices, technology development, North Korea and troops in Iraq that essentially just gave Bush a chance to amplify previous comments.

The local questions all generated news: about Chicago-based prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald; the wisecrack an aide to Judy Baar Topinka made about wanting the president--hit with low ratings-- to come in the middle of the night to raise money for the GOP candidate for governor and Bush's assessment of Mayor Daley's tenure in light of the clout hire convictions handed down by a federal jury on Thursday.

click below for the transcript of the press conference

President Bush in Chicago tonight, salutes Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert in serious condition after cancer surgery.

The presidents' birthday wish: ``I hope Roger Ebert does well.''

click below for more

Mayor Daley caught a heck of a break last night. Just hours after a federal jury slapped a guilty verdict on four of his City Hall crew for rigged clout-hiring, he dines with President Bush.


Who better to help deflect fallout from the public corruption plaguing Daley's City Hall than the president himself, arriving in time to celebrate his 60th birthday at a dinner with the mayor and seven other men from the Illinois business community.

Bush wanted to leave Washington to get some local flavor in a visit planned around a Drake Hotel fundraiser today for GOP governor candidate Judy Baar Topinka. With Bush as the headliner, Topinka will collect $1.2 million for her race against Gov. Blagojevich at the sold-out SRO event.

Aging Baby Boomer (that's a lot of us) President Bush turns 60 today.

He's packed a lot into today: meeting with the Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada before flying to Chicago where he will spend the night after a birthday dinner with Mayor Daley and ``opinion leaders.''

On Friday, Bush, who usually just touches down in the area for one event, headlines a funder for GOP candidate for governor Judy Baar Topinka gives a speech at the Museum of Science and Industry and heads to Aurora in Rep. Judy Biggert's (R-IL.) district to give a speech bolstering the ``America Competitiveness Agenda'' unveiled in his State of the Union address.



Click the blue line below for details......

Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Ct.) is in a tough primary race. He's worried he may not win--so he is making plans to run as an Independent is he loses in the August primary.

What's interesting here, besides the content about the North Korea launches--is the back and forth regarding whether reporters could use the name of National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.

At the beginning of the briefing White House Press Secretary Tony Snow wanted Hadley to be referred to only as a ``senior administration official.''

This was eventually challenged during the course of the briefing--conducted as a conference call--and permission was given to use Hadley's name.

There's a standoff in Congress over immigration.

The story so far: The House and Senate passed very different immigration bills. The usual procedure is for the next step to be negotiations between a small number of House and Senate members to work out a compromise bill which both chambers could accept.

In this case, the House GOP leaders took an unusual step--they are holding hearings on the Senate bill. Today there is a hearing in San Diego on border security and Friday another will be held in Laredo, Texas. To counter this, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), the Senate Judiciary Chairman, is holding his own hearing in Philadelphia today to draw attention to the Senate bill which includes a guest worker program.

President Bush spends Thursday night in Chicago.....and has big plans to celebrate his 60th birthday next month.

President Bush has a light day today................

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) pushes to restore AMTRAK service to northwest Illinois.

The presidents' regular Saturday radio address.........

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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