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September 2006 Archives

Republicans are trying to portray Democrats as weak on national security. On Saturday, 6th CD Dem House nominee Tammy Duckworth--a wounded Iraq war vet--delivers the Dems national reply to President Bush's regular Sunday radio address. She records it on Friday in Chicago, taking on a higher profile.

She'll be talking about national security.

Before he described the secret details of the deal he made with Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, Rep. Rahm Emanuel said, "God willing, there are no reporters in here.''

Emanuel's prayers were not answered.

I was there.

Homesick Chicagoans who get invited--or who crash--the city's annual Taste of Chicago in Washington get a chance to refresh their accents and pack in some of the town's high-calorie treats.

Mayor Daley flies to Washington today for the Taste. The Illinois Delegation--headed by House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert and Senators Dick Durbin and Barack Obama are listed as hosts.

Thursday, Daley tries to get Midwest lawmakers on board for city Olympic bid.

Famous Obama can only manage a ``drop by'' the event.

Relations are frayed in the delegation....

click below to find out what the heck I'm talking about

I made a mistake. I paraphrased Joe Shoemaker, Durbin's press secretary and I made an error. I should have said Shoemaker said the problem is Hastert can't control House Republicans. Instead, I wrote Senate Republicans, when I intended to write House Republicans. I goofed. The column now reflects the correction. Shoemaker's whole point was that it is Hastert who can't wield his power among his House Republicans.

column starts here

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) is lobbing grenades at Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) over something in which there is no disagreement: the need to beef up judicial security in the wake of the murders of the mother and husband of U.S. District Court Judge Joan Lefkow at her North Side home.

Oprah Winfrey is telling some fellow with a web site touting her for president to shut it down and focus on Sen. Barack Obama instead.

Winfrey talks about how Obama should run on Larry King tonight She gave the interview to tout the launch of her radio enterprise on XM. Obama tapes a show with Oprah on or about Oct. 3 to launch his new book. The show will run closer-or possibly on--the Oct. 17 launch date of his new book.

This home town nugget from Winfrey--who has a home on the Mag Mile in Chicago and in California-- ``I'm very much an Illinoisan.''

Fox News is reporting on Monday afternoon that the video of former President Clinton chewing out Chris Wallace during an interview on Sunday is topping the most-viewed list. Was Clinton’s rage genuice but the decibel level calculated? Wallace did not think he was out of line.

No matter, the Dems see an advantage to levergering Dem animosity towards ``fair and balanced’’ Fox to their advantage.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean is using the interview as a rallying cry to raise money. Pressing on national security is part of the Democratic strategy for victory in November.
Dean’s e-mail appeal comes with a link to to the segment. ``Here's the meat of the Fox News interview with President Clinton, where he's had enough of the right-wing revisionist history from the propaganda machine,’’ Dean writes in the set-up.

The traveling White House press corps, in Greenwich, Ct. today, is pressing White House press secretary Tony Snow to disclose details about President Bush's secret to the public fundraising. Snow is resisting giving and says don't worry, there will be plenty of ``open events.'' That is not the point.

Bush is on a list of public officials who refuse to disclose details about who helps them raise political money. The argument that no information can be given out about events held in private homes--even after the fact--is just an excuse given to keep big donors happy. That's what major contributors and fund-raisings in both parties have in common. They like to operate in secret. And the money-hungry politicians don't want to upset their donors.

Bush won't reveals inconvenient details about his fundraising. Neither with Sen. Barack Obama nor Rep. Rahm Emanuel. But at least the president consistently puts the events on his public schedule, something Obama and Emanuel refuse to do.

click below for details

President Bush and Vice President Cheney are out raising campaign money today on Midwest swings.

click for details.

The U.S. is ``getting better'' in executing the Iraq war, said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) offering an unvarnished assessment on Sunday's "CBS News Face the Nation'' with moderator Bob Schieffer and John Harris, National Political Editor, Washington Post.

McCain summary on Iraq to date: Tactics flawed, not enough troops, underestimating the reconstruction challenges, overextending the National Guard.

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow reflected over a Thursday breakfast with reporters—about 50 of them—that he is the only presidential spokesman who has ever been a radio, television and print journalist.

Seated before an assortment of tape recorders plopped near his plate, Snow, after talking awhile, notice that one tape ran out, something a working reporter would care about.

The lumbering old fashioned machine that turned off ith a loud click was mine. With a flourish, Snow made a point of taking out the tape cassette, flipping it over and punching it back on. Just a service he provides.

Unlike the regular White House briefings, the reporters at the breakfast, sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, shot Snow some questions off the main news stories of the day—about how he works, his sources and methods. The session started with a polite complaint—that Snow in his briefings and the president always call on the same people—from the top tier news organizations who get reserved prime seats in the first two rows, no matter what. Snow said it was a``legitimate complaint’’ (of course it is!) said is was a ``problem’’ and said he would encourage the president to spread it around.

Snow has a Chicago connection: he attended grad school at the University of Chicago but never completed a degree.

On to more:

Snow’s operating philosophy: ``If we spin you, we die.’’

Just a few week ago, in a refugee camp in a dry, bare, remote section of eastern Chad, people from the Darfur region of Sudan -- men in white robes, women dressed in the brightest of colors -- who fled across the border to escape death were telling Sen. Barack Obama they wanted to go home.

Sometimes words got lost as translators switched from English to French to Arabic and back again in the sandy-walled building where the men and women sat apart.

In a very long New Yorker profile of President Bill Clinton- titled ``Bill Clinton's quest to save the world, reclaim his legacy-and elect his wife'' by writer David Remnick, the former president at one point muses on presidential politics--and on the prospects of Sen. Barack Obama, the Illinois Democrat.

click below for excerpt where Clinton praises Obama but warns him about timing.

This comes as Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the New York Democrat, is gearing up a 2008 presidential run, with her campaign to come out from behind the shadows after she wins, as expected, a second term in November.

For now, she is the only top tier 2008 Democratic White House potential candidate. If Obama got in---that changes the dynamic. In some ways, because of Obama's surging stature--Obama is Sen. Clinton's biggest possible rival.

Yes that's a lot of ifs....

Let's take these two concepts -- the positive power of the blogs and the sense that people have a right to know about their government -- and see if there is a way to wrangle even more transparency into the federal system.

Many of the public figures I cover resist giving out even routine scheduling information -- especially on the political side of their work, even after events have occurred. Their empowered staffers, acting in the names of their bosses, often treat requests for a schedule with a range of non-responses -- from imperial scorn to silence to collegial replies so artfully vague they are useless. Now, a government watchdog group, the Sunlight Foundation, is offering a bounty of $1,000 to any person -- any self-made activist -- who can get a member of Congress to sign a pledge stating simply they will make public matters relating to their work. The bounty is $250 for getting the signature of a congressional candidate.

click below for details....

Here's the latest from Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), taking another step towards a mayoral run......

WASHINGTON -- In his new book, dedicated to his mother and maternal grandmother -- the women "who raised me" -- Sen. Barack Obama accuses fellow Democrats of being "confused" as the Democratic Party "has become the party of reaction."

He also relates how during a meeting with President Bush he found the president seemingly transformed in one sitting as Bush's "easy affability" over a breakfast "was replaced by an almost messianic certainty" as the encounter progressed.

President Bush taps former USAID chief Andrew Natsios as special envoy for Darfur.


On the eve of his Tuesday speech to the UN---and as the window to save residents of the Darfur region of Sudan from a genocide is closing--President Bush is poised to name a Special Envoy to try to find a way to send a peacekeeping force to the country, CNN and Reuters are reporting.

African Union troops loose their mandate to serve in Sudan on Sept. 30. If this overextended force leaves, people will be slaughtered. Domestically, Bush had been under pressure from Democrats to name an envoy for Darfur.

Last week, Bush suggested that the UN override Sudan objections and send in UN peacekeepers without the permission of the Sudan government. below......White House NSC African Affairs briefer sidesteps direct answer to envoy question.

With the Sept. 30 deadline approaching for the pullout of African Union troops in the Darfur region of Sudan, the Sudan government continues to resist a UN peacekeeping force.

If the AU soldiers leave and not replaced with peacekeepers, people will be slaughtered.

Senators Barack Obama --who recently visited a refugee camp with people who fled to Chad to escape violence in Darfur--Dick Durbin and Sam Brownback called a meeting Friday to ask envoys from three African nations to apply pressure on Sudan. The Sudan government refuses to allow UN troops in the country.

The UN refuses to send soldiers without the Sudan government approval. President Bush--who will be at the UN in New York next week--suggested that the UN vote to send soldiers in without Sudan permission in order to prevent a genocide.

As the prospects of the U.S. sending a special envoy remain unclear. Obama said earlier in the week he was going to contact former Sec. of State Colin Powell and former Pres. Clinton--figures respected by African leaders--to ask them to personally intervene.

Who attended?

Durbin, Obama, Brownback, Sen. Russ Feingold, Sen. Carl Levin and senior staff for Sen. Ted Kennedy
and Sen. Arlen Specter.

Egyptian Ambassador, South African Deputy Chief of Mission and the
Ghanaian Ambassador.

Next Steps as a result of the meeting:

1. Members will reach out to African Union as a whole asking that
they extend their presence until a UN force is in place.

2. Members recognize the importance of a sustained
commitment for AU mission and will work to ensure that there is adequate
U.S. funding.

3. Diplomats are going to provide their recommendations to the
Senators about what is needed in terms of resources in the near future.

(500TH blog entry since founding feb., 2006)

Illinois State Comptroller Dan Hynes is urging Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) to run for president in 2008.

He told me he called Obama this morning with his message--timed to Obama's Sunday keynote to Iowa Democrats--and underscored it at a press conference in Chicago. Hynes said Obama did not know in advance what he was up to and said he sounded ``stunned'' when he reached him on his cell phone.

In a letter to Obama Hynes wrote, ``I have decided to publicly announce that I intend to openly support you for President of the United States in 2008 should you run, and in fact urge you to seek the Presidency. There are other excellent potential candidates in the Democratic Party who each have something unique to offer. But you and you alone can best put together the broadest possible coalition with the charisma and excitement, as well as the substance, to win the election in November, 2008.''

Hynes said when we talked he hoped his actions serve as a catalyst for spurring Obama to consider a White House run and to know that there are people like him out there who will support him. Obama beat Hynes and six others in the 2004 Illinois Senate primary.

click here for Hynes letter to Obama

from the White House.............

This morning, President Bush will make remarks to the House Republican Conference at the United States Capitol. He will then return to the White House, where he will meet with President Roh Moo-hyun of the Republic of Korea. President Bush looks forward to reviewing with President Roh progress in relations since their last bilateral meeting in Gyeongju on issues including our Free Trade Agreement negotiations and the Six Party Talks.

In the evening, President and Mrs. Bush will participate in a social dinner at the White House in honor of the Thelonius Monk Institute of Jazz, which will be followed by entertainment.

9:30 am:
EDT THE PRESIDENT makes Remarks to the House Republican Conference
United States Capitol | Washington, DC

11:00 am:
EDT THE PRESIDENT meets with the President of South Korea
The White House | Washington, DC

7:45 pm:
EDT THE PRESIDENT and Mrs. Bush participate in a Social Dinner in Honor of The Thelonius Monk Institute of Jazz
The White House | Washington, DC

9:00 pm:
EDT THE PRESIDENT and Mrs. Bush attend Entertainment
The White House | Washington, DC

from the AP daybook...................

SUN VALLEY, Idaho -- Blair Hull is keeping a hand in politics, though at a vastly scaled-down level from his days as a $29 million self-funded Senate candidate and a mega-donor to Illinois candidates.

With other wealthy contributors, Hull is now part of an innovative group focusing on ways to invest money to create social and political change rather than just writing big checks to groups.

Sen. Barack Obama picks and chooses what he wants out on his public schedule, so it is interesting to see he is giving a boost to French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy.

Obama is meeting this afternoon with Sarkozy--a leading French presidential candidate from the ruling conservative party in that country’s 2007 balloting to replace President Jacques Chirac.

President Bush talks to the nation tonight, on the fifth anniversary of the 9-11 attacks, to build support for the War on Terror--read it really as for the war in Iraq.

Meanwhile, Al Qaeda issues a new videotape with a new threat to the U.S., timed to the anniversary.

Vice President Cheney gets the Tim Russert treatment on NBC's "Meet the Press."


The freshman Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) acknowledging the heaps of attention he gets, joked when he keynoted the Gridiron Club dinner last March, `` When I actually do something, we'll let you know.''

Obama is poised to pass his first bill, which may actually become a law, co-sponsored with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK.), mandating listing of federal contracts and grants be available on a searchable internet database.

On Friday, House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the House will vote on the measure next week, meaning the bill will vault to the head of the legislative line. The Boehner announcement came after Obama an Coburn reached a deal with House Government Reform Chairman Tom Davis (R-Va.).

The Obama-Coburn version of the measure (final House-Senate language is not available) calls for the website to be in existence by Jan. 1, 2007 and to include the amount of federal funds received in the last ten years and to specifically identify the entity getting the money. At present, Congress appoves funding for projects that are impossible for the public--even members of Congress--to identify.

"I'm pleased that the House leadership agreed with us that all federal spending should be accessible through this website. It doesn't matter if it's a grant, an earmark, or a contract, this legislation will allow the public to know how their tax dollars are being spent," said Obama in a statement.

It is not known yet if the White House is prepared to back the proposal.


Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) had put a secret hold on this bill by Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla) calling for federal contracts to be in searchable internet databases.

But the secret was cracked and Stevens folded.

Still, many steps remain until this becomes a law.

There is no House counterpart legislation-though Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor said there are negotiations ongoing with Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.).

Chicago based U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald spent years and tons of money investigating the Valerie Plame leak.....and it turns out the leaker, former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, came forward early on....and admitted to a grand jury he passed on the information to Robert Novak and Bob Woodward.....still, Fitzgerald couldn't wrap things up early on.....

Armitage is going the disclosure was inadvertent.....finally talking after being unmasked in a new book, "Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal and the Selling of the Iraq War'' by Michael Isikoff of Newsweek and David Corn of The Nation.

Sweet Column: Obama, Getting to the Next level


In South Africa, in Kenya, in Chad, when Sen. Barack Obama took questions from audiences or local reporters during his just completed African swing, it always came up one way or another -- is there a White House run in his future?

War on terror detainees....their treatment, their rights, are at the top of the White House agenda for Wednesday.

Takes away attention from the Iraq war...

From the White House.....

Today, The President Announced That Khalid Sheikh Mohammed ("KSM"), Abu Zubaydah, Ramzi Bin Al Shibh, And 11 Other Terrorists In CIA Custody Have Been Transferred To The Custody Of The Department Of Defense, At The U.S. Naval Base At Guantanamo Bay. ........

N'DJAMENA, Chad--Sen. Barack Obama departed this capital city Sunday morning, en route on an Army military aircraft to Frankfort, Germany to catch a commercial flight back to the United States.

He leaves wtih a ``great urgency'' to pressure the U.S. and other players to force Sudan to accept a United Nations peackeeping force in the Darfur region. Obama's last stop was at a refugee camp near the Chad-Sudan border where some 15,333 people who fled Janjaweed violence live. Of those he talked to, they told him almost to a person they want to return-but cannot unless there are UN troops there to guarantee their safety.

After this major Africa swing--he left Washington on Aug. 18--the Illinois Democrat revs up a heavy political schedule in advance of the November elections, stumping in Iowa on Sept. 17, a stop in the early presidential caucus state that fuels speculation about whether the White House is in his future.

Obama launches his national book tour for his second book Oct. 17 in Chicago.

He reflected on his trip at the back of a plane on Saturday, talking above the roar of the engines to the three print reporters who have been covering his trip.

Obama's next big international journey will be in 2007r--he's looking at China, India and Indonesia, ``where ironicall I actually have more of a childhood than I do in Kenya.''

Click for excerpts.

Visit to camp spotlights ordeal of Darfur refugees

MILE REFUGEE CAMP, Chad -- Janjaweed militias destroyed his house, killed his animals, took his food, closed his business and pushed him out of the Darfur region in Sudan where he lived.

EN ROUTE FROM MILE REFUGEE CAMP, Chad--It took five hours to get to this refugee camp on Saturday from N'Djamena, the capital of Chad. Some 15,000 people live in this isolated camp managed by the United Nations contracting with a variety of humanitarian groups.

Sen. Barack Obama paid a 90-minute visit to the camp, established in 2004 for people fleeing violence in the Darfur region of Sudan.

``I wish I could stay longer,'' Obama told a group of camp leaders.

Obama meets with Chad president


N'DJAMENA, Chad-- Sen. Barack Obama met with Chad President Idriss Deby Itno, shortly after arriving in this Central Africa country on Friday afternoon and said the two had ``extensive discussions'' about getting a United Nations force into Sudan "as quickly as possible.''

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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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