Chicago Sun-Times
The scoop from Washington

Sweet column: Michelle Obama steps up campaign role. Rudy in Chicago.


WASHINGTON -- Michelle Obama, an extraordinary stump speaker and potentially one of Sen. Barack Obama's most effective surrogates, is poised to step up her role in her husband's presidential campaign.

"I hate following my wife," Obama joked, speaking at a New York fund-raiser Friday night after being introduced by Michelle. When someone in the crowd yelled that Michelle should run, Obama said, "Yeah, she's too smart to run. It is true my wife is smarter, better looking. She's a little meaner than I am."

Hardly that. She is, according to spokesman Bill Burton, the "most important adviser" to the Illinois Democrat.

But with the demands of the campaign growing, Barack Obama simply can't be everywhere. John Edwards -- who hits Chicago this week for a fund-raiser -- has wife Elizabeth circulating on his behalf, and everyone knows that Hillary Rodham Clinton has a powerful helper in former President Bill Clinton.

Michelle Obama switched her University of Chicago job to part time, and the Obama campaign has tapped Melissa Winter, a veteran of two presidential campaigns, to serve as her chief of staff in the campaign's Chicago headquarters.

In the month-old campaign, so far, Michelle Obama has traveled to Iowa and New Hampshire, Los Angeles and New York. She will "continue to join the senator from time to time," Burton said.

Michelle Obama, an attorney, is a vice president for community and external relations at the University of Chicago Medical Center. She changed her status from full time to part time Feb. 5, just before Obama's Feb. 10 kickoff rally in Springfield.

U. of C. hospital spokesman John Easton told me the amount of time she will be on the job is not firmed up yet -- but her pay is being reduced in proportion to her work.

Even with her decreased hours, she will remain involved in the community and government affairs committee of the medical center board and will continue her work dealing with community outreach, volunteers and in the National Institute of Health-funded South Side Health Collaborative.

Winter just moved to Chicago from Washington, where for the last 10 years she has worked for Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), serving as his scheduler and executive assistant.

During the 2000 Gore/ Lieberman campaign, Winter staffed Lieberman as he traveled; she also was part of Lieberman's 2004 Democratic primary bid.

Michelle Obama voiced concern about her husband's safety as the couple were weighing the pros and cons of a run late last year. She told the crowd at the Grand Hyatt hotel in New York, "I want to assure everyone who's really deeply worried about us -- you know they worry about our safety and how we're going to hold it together as a family ... because politics is a rough and tumble sport.... We're ready for this because we really don't have any other choice."

Rudy in Chicago
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, the GOP White House front-runner, makes his first visit to Chicago as a presidential candidate. He headlines a $1,000-a-person fund-raiser this evening at the Palmer House Hilton.
Giuliani's Illinois backers include state GOP powerhouses Ron Gidwitz and Pat Ryan.


Has anyone taken a poll of Illinois voters to find out how they feel about Obama running for president. For example when Hillary Clinton first ran for the Senate she assured NY voters that she would complete her first term (which she did) and not run for president.(She did not make this assurance the second time she ran.)
However I would suspect that some Illinois voters are upset that Obama was only interested in running for Senate as a stepping stone for the presidency and was not interested in serving the interests of Illinois citizens.

It should be noted that on the Chris Mathews weekend program Howard Fineman said that people from Hillary`s camp were outraged to find that all the fundraisers that they have contacted remarked that they have been already been contacted personally by Obama which is something a candidate does not do himself. He is obviously neglecting duties as Senator because of his zealous over the top ambition to be president.

Seriously Reba. What about Obama scares you the most?

He never promised IL voters he wouldn't run for President. He never broke "the Hillary promise" b/c he never made one.

Has he neglected his senatorial repsonsibilites in some way or are you just making-up problems that don't exist? Or stretching to find something wrong with him?

I find it ironic you call him "zealous" and "over-the-top" in his bid for President. Seeing as you're a Hillary supporter and all.

Just sayin.

What bothers me is that Obama now has a potential Lieberman mole in his organization. Not a smart move!

You have to remember Reba is a major, major Hillary supporter. She's going to go after anyone who's against Hillary. Watch out, John Edwards, you're next on Reba's hit list.

to Myrna Frap: I notice you took exception to Reba's very legitimate comments. She has that RIGHT, just like you have your rights.

You asked, "has he (Obama) neglected his senatorial responsibilities" in your reply?
Can I give one example: Remember when the papers did articles about how we Illinois veterans (especially VietNam vets) were last among all states as far as benefits and compensations were concerned. Plus, not all that well service at VA hospitals and facilities. Remember that first week. Obama rolled up his sleeves and was going to look into it and do something. And he said to us, "call me anytime." And, of course, the media was there. Well, our service officiers (DAV, AMVETS, VFW, AM LEGION, VET CENTERS) took him at his word. Guess what Myrna, they have called his office numerous times with problems and written letters, as have vets. Phone calls not returned. Its as if his office doesn't exist. No letters from him, his office or staff, either. Its as if our state now has only one US Senator, I guess. So please, don't annoint him for sainthood yet. And Reba is more than right in making her complaints/comment.

Since both Hillary and Obama represent corporate America--additional commentary is unecessary. We will be treated to speeches filled with empty rhetoric, vague promises and no substance. I'm tired of bright candidates giving the professional person's version of ..."the dog ate my homework;" when asked to clearly define their position on real issues such as health care for all, an end to this war, fair trade instead of free trade and a total end of the Unitary Executive obscenity. Watch how they gloss over any suggestion of repealing Patriot, Military Commissions, etc...even though this is necessary to reconstruct the Bill of Rights. Instead, we will be treated to "conversations," and "an audacity to hope." Well, I have the "audacity to question and insist on straight answers with documented plans and proof. I have the audacity to demand accountability and transparency from our would be leaders. Finally, I have the audacity to demand an end to this two party monopoly and begin a real democracy. How's that for AUDACITY.

Yea, I'm sure Illinois voters are just *hating* the fact that the next President will come from their state. How awful will that be for Illinois, putting it on the map like that? I'm sure they preferred the obscurity they've enjoyed for decades before Obama hit the national stage. It's interesting that this question keeps getting raised, and yet I never see a single reporter go to IL to ask how people feel, nor have any polling organizations asked this question. This smells like a Fox question to me -- continually asked and continually unanswered. If anybody were interested in the answer to this question I'm sure someone would have asked the people of IL by now.

Obviously, I don't speak for everyone in Illinois, but on a personal level, I am a little disappointed. I'm all for Obama, but I feel it's a little too early for him to run (only in a political sense, don't read too far into that..)

I don't know if he is or is not neglecting his responsibilities, but I'm sure the second he does, the media will bring it to our attention. Until then, I have no problem with him contacting fundraisers. In fact I'd rather hear that he's contacting them himself. I don't see anything wrong with it. I don't think it's being over the top or zealous...

I honestly doubt he used us as a stepping stone to get to the presidency--he has served the citizens of Illinois...


Every state in the Union has 2 Senators, most of whom are legislatively indistinguishable and can't singularly benefit their respective states. Your state is poised to produce a president and you're complaining that he isn't clocking enough hours? Grow up!

Obama didn't run for US Senate planning on then running for president for '08. Ever since the US public heard him speak at the 2004 Democratic Convention, he has been drawing large crowds urging him to run, saying the country needs his rare leadership ablities and judgement NOW. Even Sen Durbin was urging him to run. Given Obama's personal committment to this country he couldn't/wouldn't say No. If Hillary truely cared about this country she wouldn't be running, she would be endorsing Obama.


Where in my response to Reba did I tell her she had no right to complain or make a comment about Obama? Pray tell?

I simple asked pointed questions about her "comments" that were so obviously biased. I want facts, not someone's uneducated opinion. Sorry for that, I'll try not to offend the delicate nature of Hillary's supporters by asking questions that might help clarify their position. Ooops, I'm sure just offended someone again.

I noticed you conveniently left-off the fact the Obama worked with Durbin on rectifying the problems you describe with veterans. Go here and read for yourself (I suspect you won't)... I'm so sorry he doesn't return your calls and chooses instead to phone donors for his presidential run. He might need the money once he wins the primary. Ooops, I'm sure I've insulted someone with my right to say that.

As for sainthood. I have no intention of sainting anyone in politics. Including Hillary. I especially won't vote for or support anyone who voted us into this bogus WAR and refuses to apologize for it. Ooops, once again, sorry if that offended anyone.

I believe in all person's right to answer for their viewpoints. I just ask that if you put something in a public domain, like a web blog, be prepared for the pointed questions and being asked to clarify your points. I'm not trying to offend anyone, so don't get yur knickers in a twist when I make a comment or ask a pointed question.

I'm an Illinois voter and I'm delighted that Obama is running for President. It's too late for a savior but I'll settle for some common sense.


Obama wasn't just linked with Clare McCaskill (D-Missouri) pushing the Lane Evans Veteran's Act (March 1,2007)...b/c we all know he really doesn't care about vets.


Got anyone more strawmen to knock down?

Obama has been at the Senate and voting straight without fail until last Friday when he spoke to the Jewish lobby. He is always there and always at the committees. I've seen him. he is not an absentee Senator. And is doing bills and working with other senators as well. Lord, knows his attendance is better than Hillarys'
As for how we in Illinois feel, well, everyone I know think it's great he is running. it'll be even better when he wins.
And, i'm glad to see Michelle is taking a bigger role. I think she is a major assest.

DTD wrote that Hillary should not be running; but should put her support behind Obama?? The Hillary who has worked on behalf of the American people for over 30 years? That Hillary? The Hillary that completed her first term as Senator, and is now into her second term as Senator?

Surely you jest.

If Obama is lucky, he will be chosen to be Hillary's running mate for V.P.

hilary clinton is all about self. she has more than a few scores to settle.........what with that great, big, right wing conspiracy and all. dont kid yourself, [Cassandra Wright-Boone | March 12, 2007 08:54 PM]. she's not about the good of the american people. If hilary is lucky, she will be chosen to be Obama's running mate for V.P.

I have attended dozens of Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings while Obama was a member of the Committee. Of all the Democrats, who shows up the most? Obama. Biden, Boxer, Kerry, et al just showed up to get a soundbite and then left. They didn't listen to the experts, they didn't ask intelligent and probing questions. They were there for the press, nothing more. Obama continually asked intelligent questions, and actually attended the hearings to listen. And I'm saying this as a rabid Republican, who will NOT vote for any Democrat. So I think it's clear Obama works hard as a Senator.

Barack's time is now........he has no choice. He must run. This opportunity will probably not come again.

Uh.... Wasn't this string intended to be about Michelle's elevated role in the campaign?

Talk about "flying off on a tangent", "stream of consciousness" or whatever....

Sorry, that last comment was in response to Cassandra and not apologies!

to Myrna Frap: I'm amused that you feel Sen. Obama is really interested in rolling up his sleeves and getting down to what the problems are with veterans issues. That he just isn't 'words' but rather 'action'. That he just isn't another pretty face with slick talk. And not 'all show, no go'as they say. Because in the end, we all know the 'workhorse' is more valuable than the 'showhorse'. So I tell you what, can I ask you a question? Are you part of the Obama campaign? Perhaps you would be intersted in sitting in on vet center PTSD meetings. And just sit back and listen to the horror stories that combat vets have with how they get the run-a-round at VA facilities, especially Jesse Brown VA Hospital on the westside. Believe it or not, Hines VA Hospital is pretty good. They treat you as human beings there. They try. But Jesse Brown, wow--some politicians need to scrutinize that place. So no need to talk about Walter Reed, you have it right here, under your nose. Right here in your home state of Illinois. Listen to how guys have 10:00AM appointments and 1PM comes around, 2PM comes around, 3PM comes around, finally the guy goes and asks whats going on only to find out they all went home for the day. Or the guy who had a 9:30AM appointment and again 11AM comes around, NOON comes around, finally he asks the receptionist whats going on, only to have this lazy govt. worker receptionist say, "oh, that Dr. isn't here today." When he asks, "couldn't you have informed people of this", he gets a smart a$$ answer like "I get paid every 2 weeks." Or the nurse who mispronounces your name even after you tell her how its pronounced. And is smirky about it. And does it to folks everytime they are there. This happens daily Myrna. Its been like this for probably 10-20 years. Want to hear a good statistic we heard about at our last DAV meeting. Veterans go in for hearing tests. The Chicago doctors (Jesse Brown) patients tested have about a 10% of whom get a rating for some compensation, whereas in Indianpolis close to three-forths the veterans get a rating. Believe me, any infantry or armored or artillery veteran has lost some hearing. Again, you folks who were never there, never in a firefight, need to stop telling the veteran what its all about. We heard that from you so-called liberals and progressives for years after we came home from VietNam. And you all went out of your way to tell us how bad we were. So we don't need no expertise from you. You have none to give. What we want is help and investigations from our so-called elected politicians. Action along with the talk. Play a good game, not just talk it. We want actual achievements, not just congressional bills that turn out to be as cheap as the paper they were written on. Thank you.

I don't get why people keep saying he's a "different kind of politician"? When you compare the time together, Hillary and Obama have the SAME RECORD. Also, he tries to portray himself as an anti-war candidate when he clearly supports a strike against Iran and supports the war in Afghanistan. He's not anti-war, he's just against the Iraq war - and that's even questionable. When he was asked on a TV show whether he'd vote for the authorization to invade Iraq, his answer: I don't know. Google it!

Not to mention that he continues to vote to fund the Iraq war, which Kerry was, at least, principled enough to vote against.

Let's find some common sense and vote for Hillary.

I'm in Chicago. I remember being so exited about Barack Obama going to the Senate and using his strong oratorical skills to fight for us.

If I'd only known then that he was simply biding his time for a run in '08, I'd probably voted differently.

I'm an optimistic pragmatist. I want someone who's willing to stand up and fight for the issues I believe in. I want someone who knows DC, knows the players and their motives; who will go in and stand up to the machine and say, this is what we want, this is what we need, how do we make it happen - without letting congress nibble away at promising legislation in the interest of 'playing nice' until all that's left is a flimsy superficial signing statement. I want the person the republicans fear, because she hasn't promised to back down and capitulate to their desires.

I want the person who has spent her adult life working for human, womens and children's rights, who understands the struggle of the middle and lower classes and who's going to fight to make sure our voices are heard.

I'm voting for Senator Hillary Clinton. And I can't wait.

I can't wait to vote for Hillary in the primary here in Illinois tomorrow. She will make a great president, just like she's been a great senator. I refuse to say anything negative about Sen Obama. If he's the nominee, I prefer to let the Republicans dig up their own dirt on him, rather than having us hand it to them on a silver platter.

Leave a comment

Get the Sweet widget

More widgets


Lynn Sweet

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

Stay in touch

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on March 12, 2007 8:04 AM.

Sweet column: Obama's stealth fund-raising. was the previous entry in this blog.

Sweet blog special: Rudy in Chicago stumps at Harry Caray's. Prospects for Illinois money. is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.