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The Obama backlash. It's started.


While Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is vacationing in Hawaii--might be the last quiet time for years, poised as he is for a 2008 White House run-- a body of anti-Obama material is surfacing--centering around his record and his religious beliefs and yes, his middle name, Hussein. It's a backlash--and a foreshadowing of what is to come.

(see previous posts about a column I did on Obama's middle name and a verbatim from Obama on his middle name when he took my question on it while in New Hampshire.)

A website, does a good job of surveying the poorly sourced stories out there--and setting out the record.

Hey Iraqis, step up!

President Bush still thinks Iraqi war good idea--this at his last press conference of the year.

Says "we will succeed in Iraq."

And get this....I'm glad retail sales are strong this Bush noted....but with the war on, this is what Bush advises: "I encourage you all to go shopping more."

You buying?

Click below for transcript of President Bush press conference.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, on a mini-book tour for the relaunch of her book, "It takes a Village," was interviewed on NBC's "Today Show" on Monday morning by host Meredith Vieira. Vieira pressed the New York Democrat, getting ready to make a 2008 White House run, her thoughts on her biggest rival at this time, Sen. Barack Obama, the Illinois Democrat. Meanwhile, a Des Moines Register poll shows that former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) is very much a factor, leading the Iowa Democratic caucus field at 36 percent to 16 for Clinton and 13 for Obama.

" Well, he's terrific. You know, he's a friend and a colleague, and I have a very high regard for him," Clinton said about Obama. Obama had similiar words of praise for her in the current Newsweek cover story about their brewing presidential candidacies. "Obviously, I'm looking at it," said Clinton.

click below for Clinton interview excerpts.
and Des Moines Register poll story.

Until Sen. Barack Obama burst onto the presidential scene in November, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton was the undisputed 2008 Democratic front-runner. As the cover of the new Newsweek underscores -- and brings center stage to mainstream media -- the contest for the White House starts with two Goliaths.

"The Race is On," declares the cover headline, with a picture of Obama and Clinton. What a political season we're heading into. New York vs. Chicago. The man from Hyde Park vs. the woman from Park Ridge. Can the first female win the presidency? Can the first African American? Are these ceilings glass or concrete?

Last Sunday in Manchester, N.H. I passed by Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) having breakfast with a few other people in the Raddison Hotel coffee shop. The Hoosier lawmaker was in New Hampshire last week as part of his 2008 White House campaign. I did not take the time to talk to him because I was in a rush to get to Portsmouth to cover presidential contender Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), in his stop in this first in the nation primary state. For Bayh, that kind of a by-pass is not good.

About 150 reporters covered Obama. Bayh had three. On Saturday, Bayh said he would not run for president.

Sen. Barack Obama is concerned about his personal security —telling the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board Thursday that he and his wife fear there is a potential for violence — even if he does not run for president. “Being shot, obviously, that is the least-attractive option,’’ Obama said.

Since he was elected to Congress in 2004, Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) has been trying to wrangle a seat on the House Transportation Committee.

The latest CNN 2008 White House poll gives Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) twice the support of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). But the close third place of a non-candidate--former Vice President Al Gore-- shows that Obama as alternative to Clinton theory could be blown away if Gore got in the race.

At present Gore's biggest campaign is to win an Oscar for "An inconvenient truth." But he opened the door to a 2008 run a tiny bit in a recent interview. Obama's game plan can handle Clinton in the race; Gore is something else.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), chief of the Democratic House political operation, was not candid when he said on an Oct. 8 news show he and his staff did not know about the Mark Foley contacts with former pages before the story broke last fall.

What a kidder, that Obama.
Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), preparing for a 2008 White House run, taped a bit of schtick for the Monday night big football game, where the Bears were playing St. Louis.

Obama,coming off a big play in New Hampshire on Sunday--front page in local papers plus Washington Post and Boston Globe--says he needs to talk about a "very important contest.'' It's not what you think.

"In Chicago, they’re asking, does the new guy have enough experience to lead us to victory?"

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Sen. Barack Obama presented himself as a commonsense, pragmatic, non-ideological Democrat on Sunday as he opened his anticipated presidential campaign in this first-in-the-nation primary state.

As the nation gets to know Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) better--as he prepares for a 2008 presidential run--there has been chatter about his little used middle name, Hussein. It's a paternal family name.

At a press conference in Manchester, Obama comments on the attention his middle name has been given lately. He did not address whether focus on the middle name had to do with racial or religious bigotry.

Said Obama. “It would be one thing if my name was John Hussein Smith, then this might be a real problem. When you are already starting with Barack Obama, you know, let me put it this way. If my name is going to be an issue, than I don’t think my middle name is relevant.

PORTSMOUTH, N.H.--Obama packed the hall and then some here. I'm guessing about 600 people at a this booksigning event for his bestselling "Audacity of Hope."

Wrapping up his talk before signing autographs, Obama, mulling a 2008 presidential run, told the audience in this first primary in the nation state that he is is "looking forward to being part of that process with you.''

Obama gave a version of his stump speech. The essential elements.

1. Told the story again of how he stole the title of his book from a sermon by his pastor, the Rev. Jeriamiah Wright.
(Update: told the story twice on Sunday.)

2. How a guy with funny name won the Illinois primary.

3. How with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) in the summer of 2004 they went to Cairo, Ill.--a town at the southern tip of the state with a long reputation for racial intolerance and Klan like activities--and how he, a black, and Durbin, a son of a Lithuanian immigrant were greeted warmly.

4. A quote that is often part of his stump speech, from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:
"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."

Sen. Barack Obama is in New Hampshire, making his inaugural visit to the state with the nation's first primary in anticipation of an expected 2008 run.

Book signing this morning in Portsmouth.
A press conference this afternoon in Manchester. This will be Obama's first exposure to a crowd of reporters as a potential presidential candidate.
A fundraising reception at a Manchester law office Obama did not want on his public schedule
A rally sponsored by the New Hampshire Democratic Party this afternoon.

The House ethics panel was harshly critical of how Illinois Republicans House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Rep. John Shimkus and Hastert staffers handled the Mark Foley page scandal allegations and various judgment calls they made along the way.

"I am proud to have been a part of this unique time in the history of our country," House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said in his farewell address Friday. Congress wrapped up the 109th session. Republicans ended 12 years of controlling the House.

Hastert is stepping down as speaker, but staying in the House. He set the stage for a graceful transition to returning to the rank and file after he hands over the gavel to Speaker designate Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) "So on January 4th I will be privileged to rejoin you on these benches - where my heart is,'' he said.

click below for speechs from Hastert and Pelosi.

Not one individual is being held responsible for the Mark Foley page scandal. No violation of House rules. No reprimands.

But the House ethics committee found people were "willfully ignorant" of the situation.

A little after 1 p.m. eastern time, Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), on the House floor, announced that International Relations Commitee Chairman Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), 82, was married after Thanksgiving.

Hyde is wrapping up a 32-year congressional career.

The co-chairmen of the Iraq Study Group were at the head of a long table, and James Baker scrunched over as he draped his right arm around Lee Hamilton to underscore a point he was making.

Sen. John McCain worries that Congress will continue to resist meaningful lobbying and ethics reform. Rep. Rahm Emanuel is confident that lawmakers learned their lesson -- GOP scandals contributed to Democrats taking control of the House and Senate Nov. 7 -- and critical changes will be made.

"Lynn, the reason why we're here, we do not underestimate how hard this is going to be," McCain (R-Ariz.) said. ''This is going to be very difficult.''

The co-chairmen of the Iraq Study Group plan a media blitz to get the word out about their call for a "new approach" to get U.S. troops out of Iraq.

Read the report at

click below for react from
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.); House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Oh.); House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.); Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-Nv.); Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.); Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.); Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean; Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.); Sen. John McCain (R-Az.)

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton --taking steps to put together a 2008 presidential campaign--tapped longtime top aide Patti Solis Doyle to be her campaign manager, according to the Wednesday Washington Post. Doyle, who has been with the New York Democrat since the first Bill Clinton campaign for president, is the sister of Chicago Ald. Danny Solis (25th) and was raised in Pilsen.

Patti Solis Doyle is a charter member of the senator's inner circle. After the 1992 campaign, she moved to the Office of the First Lady. At present she runs Clinton's political operations. The senator has been calling Democrats the past few days to discuss a possible presidential run. I talked to two people who Clinton was calling.

Meanwhile, Sen. Barack Obama is heading to New Hampshire on Sunday--his first visit ever in his life to the Granite State--and I'm told some 100 reporters may be in tow.

Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, a Democrat running for president lacks the pizzazz of his major rivals; at least thats how it seems to me and the reporter who politely asked him if he was bland.

"There are different types of charisma," Vilsack counseled, not all of the flashy Barack Obama variety. "There is a quiet charisma," he said, "that people look at and say, `this guy is genuine, he is authentic, he is real."

I could walk down Michigan Ave. with Vilsack and I doubt anyone would recognize him. There would be a stampede if I took the same stroll with the two big names mulling a presidential run--Dem senators Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

I asked Vilsack about Obama at a breakfast for reporters on Tuesday morning hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. He said he doesn't get excited about potential rivals.

"I don't fear anybody, if that's your question."

House International Relations Committee Chairman Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) is wrapping up a 32-year career in the House this week.

His colleagues on Tuesday renamed a room on the first floor of the Capitol--known for a few more weeks as H-139-- as the "Henry J. Hyde" room. It's effective next year, the day after his term ends at the beginning of January.

Co-sponsors of the resolution included a handful of the Illinois congressional delegation: Democrats Lane Evans and Daniel Lipinski and Republicans Mark Steven Kirk and Don Manzullo.

Barack Hussein Obama.
The blogosphere and talk radio, even C-Span, has chatter about the middle name of the Illinois Democrat.

The Boston Globe dug up another event Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is adding to his Sunday debut in New Hampshire, a crucial early primary state. Besides keynoting a fundraiser for the New Hampshire Democratic Party in Manchester, Obama, mulling a 2008 run, is scheduling a book signing in Portsmouth.

Question: selling books or running for president?

UN Ambassador John Bolton will never get an up or down vote in the Senate.

He jumped before being kicked out. The Nov. 7 elections guaranteed that. He was serving as a recess appointee----President Bush used a loophole in the Senate confirmation system to get the controversial Bolton in on a temporary basis.

click below for White House statements on Bolton and Blair

Just watched Jay Leno toss supersize softballs at Sen. Barack Obama on the “Tonight Show.��? Leno was buttering up and pandering to the Illinois Democrat, asking him to announce his anticipated 2008 presidential bid on his show.

“Have already committed to the Food Network,��? quipped the tieless Obama. He earlier pledged his formal announcement to Oprah. Go figure.

click below for more

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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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