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July 2008 Archives

Transcript courtesy Federal News Service.....


BARACK OBAMA CAMPAIGN CONFERENCE CALL
SUBJECT: "THE LAUNCHING OF A NEW WEBSITE AND DISCUSSING HOW THE MCCAIN CAMPAIGN IS TAKING THE LOW ROAD"
PARTICIPANTS: DAVID PLOUFFE, OBAMA FOR AMERICA CAMPAIGN MANAGER; SUSAN EISENHOWER, PRESIDENT OF THE EISENHOWER GROUP, INC., THE GRANDDAUGHTER OF THE FORMER PRESIDENT


For the record....


The comments presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) made about his race in Union, Missouri on Wednesday--was not the first time Obama talked about his expectation that the Republicans will use race to detail his candidacy.

Last June at a Florida fund-raiser Obama--the first African American to have a viable chance of becoming president--said the GOP will go after him because he is black.


Obama said then, "The choice is clear. Most of all we can choose between hope and fear. It is going to be very difficult for Republicans to run on their stewardship of the economy or their outstanding foreign policy. We know what kind of campaign they're going to run. They're going to try to make you afraid. They're going to try to make you afraid of me. He's young and inexperienced and he's got a funny name. And did I mention he's black?"


The latest explosive injection of race into the presidential race came Thursday, when McCain Campaign Manager Rick Davis said "Barack Obama has played the race card, and he played it from the bottom of the deck. It's divisive, negative, shameful and wrong."

Presumptive GOP nominee Sen. John McCain (R-Az.)--who campaigned in Racine, Wisc. on Thursday was asked by CNN's John King if Davis was making a fair criticism about Obama playing the race card. "It is," said McCain. "I'm sorry to say that it is. it's legitimate."


Obama campaign manager David Plouffe in a conference call with Susan Eisenhower said McCain will find this strategy counter productive.

McCain at the Racine Civic Center excerpt, courtesy Federal News Service.

"And my friends, Senator Obama is an impressive speaker, and the beauty of his words has attracted many people, especially among the young, to his campaign. I applaud his talent and his success, and all Americans should be proud of his accomplishment. My concern with Senator Obama is that on issues big and small, what he says and what he does are often two different things. And he doesn't seem to understand --

And he doesn't seem to understand that the policies he's offers -- that he offers would make our problems make much worse and not better."

Paris Hilton jumped into the political news on Wednesday when her image was used by the McCain campaign in an ad mocking the celebrity of presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

But this was not the first time Hilton was injected into political discourse.

Obama himself mentioned her during his routine before the winter Gridiron dinner in 2004, just after he was elected to the Senate. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) used her name to make a point about Scooter Libby getting clemency from President Bush in July, 2007.

"Even Paris Hilton had to go to jail. No one in this Administration should be above the law," Durbin said.

In 2004 Obama riffed about his celebrity at the Gridiron, saying everything changed for him after he keynoted the Democratic convention earlier that year.

"It's like I was shot out of a cannon. I am so overexposed, I make Paris Hilton look like a recluse. "After all the attention -- People magazine, GQ, Vanity Fair, Letterman -- I figure there's nowhere to go from here but down. So tonight, I announce my retirement from the United States Senate. I had a good run."

Of course, all the hype, said Obama, generates wacky tabloid coverage." And with that he hoisted a poster, a mock cover of the National Enquirer with the headline: Obama's shocking secret. He's Strom Thurmond's love child."

Obama said he was not letting all the attention go to his head. He joked that he was hanging out with Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson at a Los Angeles restaurant when Barbra Steisand called him on his cell phone. And he counseled her, you can't just get caught up in the hype."

The Democratic National Committee buttresses the Obama campaign spotlight on McCain negative campaign tactics.

From the McCain campaign......

"If there is a low road, Barack Obama's campaign paved it, because they launched the first negative attack ad in this election. Pointing to your opponents worldwide celebrity and serious lack of experience is not the 'low road' - sorry that's a serious stretch." ---Tucker Bounds, spokesman

The Obama campaign is hitting McCain for taking the "low road" --not his oft quoted "straight talk"--in a new "low road express" website launched on Thursday.

Lois Romano of the Washington Post has this must read about Patti Solis Doyle, the Chicago native fired as Clinton's campaign manager, now in the Obama campaign as the chief of staff to whoever will be Obama's running mate.

headline: After a Spectacular Political Failure, the Former Top Aide To Clinton Makes Herself at Home in Obama's Camp

the lede: Patti Solis Doyle has come home to get her house in order and her reputation back. It has not been a good year.

The "Vote Both" drive--staffed by loyal former Clinton staffers--folds, realizing that booking Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) to be a keynote speaker at the Democratic convention means she is not on the list to be Obama's running mate.

from "Vote Both"

Because of your work, Senator Obama asked Hillary to be his keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention! We hope you are as pleased as we are that he has tapped Senator Clinton to deliver one of the most important messages of that crucial week--the very role that Barack Obama had four years ago.

Regretfully, this means that Senator Hillary Clinton is no longer under consideration as Senator Obama's running mate.

The McCain "celeb" ad using the images of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears to portray presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) as an elite and tax hiker was the peg Thursday morning for a face off on NBC's "Today" show between Obama campaign strategist Robert Gibbs and McCain campaign spokesman Nicolle Wallace.

The spot, out Wednesday, mocks Obama's popularity: "He's the biggest celebrity in the world" and then shows pictures of the two celebs who have gotten into various jams.

That McCain spot followed the "Berlin" video produced by the Republican National Committee--they hired a crew to tape at the Berlin speech--featuring Germans gushing over Obama in ways calculated to turn off U.S. voters.

Matt Lauer asked Wallace to defend the the "celeb" spot because Hilton and Spears are "the punchline of jokes" and "that's demeaning."

Replied Wallace, "I don't think we are making a joke of Sen. Obama and neither were the 200,000 Germans who were there to celebrate his celebrity.

"We are going to focus over the next 90 some odd days talking about the issues where I think we are very much in line with what the American people want and expect from our next president.

"But no one can forget or overlook or obscure the fact that Barack Obama is the celebrity in this contest and Sen. McCain, an American hero, is the underdog We are comfortable with that position, we embrace that position."

At his turn Gibbs said, "I think of what you see is people that are excited about the possibility of change in this country.

"You know John McCain is an honorable man, Matt, who is running an increasingly dishonorable campaign as independent observers have said is false and baseless. The McCain campaign has very clearly decided that the only way to win this election is to become very personal and very negative."

Obama response ad

"Celeb" from McCain campaign

Berlin from the RNC

from the Tuesday print Sun-Times.

CHICAGO--With 99 days until election day, and an overseas swing out of the way, Barack Obama's campaign has some big items on the "to do" list.

"It really is a sprint at this point," said Obama senior adviser Anita Dunn on Monday.

Top items:

• Select a vice presidential running mate. While the selection team is narrowing the choices to present to Obama -- Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine was the latest buzz on Politico.com -- a team at the Chicago headquarters is getting ready for the rollout. The newly minted vice presidential hopeful will find waiting for him or her a chief of staff, Patti Solis Doyle; an advance team; press spokesman, scheduler and plane.

• Gameplan the Denver Democratic nominating convention. Obama's Aug. 28 acceptance speech at Invesco Field is in place, but the other elements have to be finalized such as the platform, other speakers and Obama's "grand entrance" in the run up to Denver. "All of that is being worked out now," said Obama top adviser Valerie Jarrett on Monday.

An item I posted July 25 about Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) canceling a visit to a U.S. military base in Germany has now become grist for the Republicans to attack Obama.

Some points:

*Contrary to what the Republican National Committee stated in one of their missives, Obama senior strategist David Axelrod never said that the Pentagon told the campaign Obama should not come to the base. The GOP, citing my blog post, wrote in one of their releases, "Obama Senior Strategist David Axelrod Said The Pentagon Told The Campaign That Barack Obama "Should Not Come."


*The headline on my original post were my words--not Axelrod's. That headline "Pentagon tells Obama not to visit U.S. troops at German base because it would be too political" was my take.

I revised the headline a few hours later because it was wrong. The Pentagon never told Obama not to come. The issue was whether Obama campaign military advisor Scott Gration, a retired Air Force General, could accompany Obama. I also rewrote a paragraph to eliminate an Axelrod quote that I misunderstood.

The new headline on my post read "Pentagon tells Obama aide a visit to U.S. base in Germany would be seen as political." I thought that new headline and revised paragraph solved the problem; usually there is just one URL for a blog post. But due to a server glitch at the Sun-Times, both the original and updated versions existed on the Internet. The Republicans have been linking to the original post and not the updated version.

CHICAGO--Michelle Obama said yes Monday she is looking forward to a family vacation in Hawaii when she had a few words with reporters after her speech at an Obama funder raiser targeted to women. Credit the Honolulu Star Bulletin for its July scoop that presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) will visit Hawaii next month. In my July 21 blog post on this Hawaii homecoming, I note that this swing will be part of a "bio tour" in the run up to the Denver convention.

CHICAG0--Lynn Sweet chats about Obama's overseas trip--and how the media is treating Obama on Monday's edition of WBEZ's "848."

Air Charter Team
Air Charter Team Offsets Carbon So You Fly Green

10015 N.W. Ambassador Drive, Suite 202
Kansas City, MO 64153
RECEIPT

Date: 7/28/2008
Invoice # OFP45876

Bill To:
lynn sweet (for Lynn Sweet)
1206 National Press Building
Washington, DC 20045



DESCRIPTION AMOUNT

Obama For President Press Billing - Invoice: OFP45876

Jul 21 2008 Flight: EINN - AMM $2466.22

Invoice Total:
$2,466.22


Travel Expenses for Lynn Sweet - Chicago Sun-Times

CHICAGO---The first invoice is in for the Obama overseas trip, $7,930.45 for airfare, and that's not counting Friday flights from Berlin to Paris to London. Also still to come are bills for food, buses, file centers, internet, hotels, baggage transfers, etc.

Air Charter Team
Air Charter Team Offsets Carbon So You Fly Green

10015 N.W. Ambassador Drive, Suite 202
Kansas City, MO 64153
RECEIPT

Date: 7/28/2008
Invoice # OFP45804

Bill To:
lynn sweet (for Lynn Sweet)
1206 National Press Building
Washington, DC 20045



DESCRIPTION AMOUNT

Obama For President Press Billing - Invoice: OFP45804

Jul 20 2008 Flight: MDW - EINN $3107.81 (midway airport/chicago-shannon/don't know if this also covers shannon-amman flight.)
Jul 22 2008 Flight: AMM - TLV $286.20 (amman- tel aviv)
Jul 24 2008 Flight: TLV - TXL $1414.33 (tel aviv-berlin)
Jul 26 2008 Flight: LHR - MDW $3122.11 (london-midway airport/chicago)

Invoice Total:
$7,930.45

CHICAGO--Here's the who's who seated at Michelle Obama's table at a Monday's "Women for Obama" fund-raising lunch at the Palmer House here.

At Michelle's table:

Keynote speaker Alice Waters, who is the queen of Calfornia cuisine and healthy eating; she owns famous restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley. "Much better cook than I am a speaker," she said as she started her talk.

Waters is making a pitch for "slow food," "real food" in contrast to fast food. She said she recently saw a bumper sticker that said "If you are what you eat, then I'm fast, cheap and easy."

Michelle's mother, Marian Robinson
Mrs. Robinson friend Kaye Wilson, godmother to Obama daughters.
Attorney Tina Tchen
Obama's Women Vote chief Becky Carroll
Former Clinton "Hillraiser" Missy Lavender, who runs the Womens Health Foundation in Chicago.
Valerie Jarrett, top Obama advisor
Obama senior advisor Anita Dunn
DNC womens outreach Mame Reilly

CHICAGO---Presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) taped an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press" on Saturday before returning to the U.S. from a Middle East and European swing. The interview underscored what Obama has been saying during the trip: What he saw in Afghanistan and Iraq and what he heard from world leaders will not cause any policy shifts in his campaign.

Obama was asked by host Tom Brokaw on the show, broadcast Sunday, "When you get home and Michelle says to you, "Barack, what did you learn that surprised you? And did you change your mind about anything based on this entire trip?"

Obama replied, " Well, I, I, I didn't see a huge shift in the strategic policies that I've laid out throughout this campaign."

CHICAGO-Presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.)
campaign plane landed at about 830 pm on Saturday, at Midway Airport, returning from
London, the last leg of a swing to the Middle East and Europe.

Obama's latest stop: 10 Downing Street

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(AP photo)

LONDON -- Standing in front of No. 10 Downing Street after meeting with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) said Saturday his overseas campaign swing showed "people at home, but also leaders abroad, some sense of where an Obama administration might take our foreign policy."

If this sneak preview of an Obama White House might strike some as premature -- as it certainly does the rival McCain camp -- the strategy of the whirlwind visits was to tell the story, illustrated by dramatic photo ops in the Middle East and Europe, that there is a place waiting for Obama on the world stage.

Senior strategist Robert Gibbs -- who this time four years ago was busy with Obama's bid for a Senate seat from Illinois -- said the biggest achievement was to show "the American people that Barack Obama can operate at the highest levels on the international scene. And we hope that voters got a chance to see him in action and get a chance to look at the judgment that he has." Obama, 47 on Aug. 4, has argued since he got in the presidential race that judgment trumps any resume gap voters may be worried about.

After immersion coverage of international affairs -- with big media outlet "exclusive" interviews scheduled almost every day since he left Chicago on July 17 -- the Obama campaign on Monday shifts to "talking and focusing on the economic situation," Gibbs said. Ahead soon is what Gibbs called "the last remaining wild card" -- Obama's selection of a vice presidential running mate.

Obama took questions from British and U.S. reporters on the sidewalk in front of 10 Downing Street, the official residence of the prime minister.

Asked about McCain's charge of a premature victory lap, Obama noted that before he left, McCain had been hammering him for only visiting Iraq once (in 2006) and Afghanistan never, and that the trip -- at least to some of the countries -- has been in the works for some time. From Chicago -- and flying under a cloak of secrecy for security reasons, Obama headed to Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq. From the warzones traveling on military aircraft, Obama flew in his campaign planes to Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian West Bank town of Ramallah, Germany, France and England. It was a 10-day, 8-country trip.

"John McCain has visited every one of these countries post primary that I have. He has given speeches in Canada, in Colombia, Mexico, he made visits. And so it doesn't strike me that we have done anything different than the McCain campaign has done, which is to recognize that part of the job of the next president, commander in chief, is to forge effective relationships with our allies."

Obama successfully navigated through a series of meetings that went off without controversy, avoiding political landmines in the complex Israeli-Palestinian conflict. An issue that the McCain forces are stroking is Obama's cancellation of a visit to a military hospital in Germany. Though the Pentagon approved the visit, the campaign yanked it off the schedule after the Pentagon signaled worry about it looking political.

On relations with allies, Obama's most public warm reception came from French President Nicolas Sarkozy, a student of Obama's style who welcomed him to the presidential palace on Thursday. Jordan's King Abdullah personally drove Obama to the airport in Amman on Tuesday in order to spend more time with him. Some 200,OOO Germans filled a Berlin park to satisfy their curiosity about the charismatic American.

Obama was blessed with good timing; just before he left Iraq leaders said they were supportive of Obama's 16-month timeframe to pull out combat troops. And the Bush administration shifted toward the center on Iran, sending an envoy to join with other diplomats to discuss Iran's nuclear capability.

During a meeting with Conservative Party Leader David Cameron, Obama said that he might take a week off in August. He and Cameron chatted about judgment.

"And that is exactly what politics is all about. The judgment you bring to make decisions,'' Cameron said to Obama.

"That's exactly right," Obama said. "And the truth is that we've got a bunch of smart people I think. Who know ten times more than we do about the specifics of the topic and so if what you're trying to do is micromanage and solve everything, then you end up being a dilettante. But you have to have enough knowledge to make good judgments about the choices that are presented to you."

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LONDON--Barack Obama talked with British Conservative leader David Cameron about taking time off in August -- pacing himself and judgment in a conversation TV boom mics recorded.

UPDATE: Some reports suggested that Obama did not know he was being recorded. The session was covered by a press pool of U.S. and British reporters. Kathy Kiely, of USA Today who wrote the pool report had her tape recorder on a chair next to Obama and she was nearby taking notes.


Obama meets Brown at No. 10.

The pool was split for the No. 10 events. We arrived before Obama and were
prepositioned on the patio to await Obama and Brown. Your pooler did not
see Obama's arrival but at 9:03 a.m., the two came out of the doors and
onto the patio.

PARIS -- French President Nicolas Sarkozy gushed over Barack Obama on Friday when the two appeared together at the Elysee Palace, coming close, it seemed, to making an endorsement.

"But, obviously, one is interested in a candidate who's looking towards the future, rather than the past, and that's something that -- a concern that I share," said Sarkozy, capturing one of Obama's central themes. In March, rival John McCain visited with Sarkozy at the palace, but the French leader did not give him the honor of a joint appearance.

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PARIS--Presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama is receiving a very warm welcome by French President Nicolas Sarkozy at a joint press conference here. Sarkozy told Obama, "Here in France we are watching with great interest what you are doing."

PARIS--Crowds lined the street outside the Elysee Palace on Friday to catch a glimpse of Sen. Barack Obama's motorcade. A press conference with French president Nicolas Sarkozy is the main event. The pictures are of the orante room with a glass ceiling where the availabilty is being held.

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(Photos by Lynn Sweet)

BERLIN--A scheduled visit by presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) with U.S. troops Friday at a military base in Rammstein, Germany was canceled after the Pentagon told the campaign it would look too political.

BERLIN -- Facing a sea of people in this city divided by a wall during the Cold War, Barack Obama on Thursday said Europe and the United States have a "shared destiny." A curious and receptive Germany got its first exposure to what commentators here called "Obamamania."

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(photo by Lynn Sweet)

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(photo by Lynn Sweet)

En route Tel Avis to Berlin

On campaign plane enroute Tel Aviv to Berlin early morning July 24,2008

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(photos by Lynn Sweet)

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SDEROT, Israel -- On the trickiest day of Barack Obama's overseas campaign swing, he huddled with Israeli officials Wednesday and traveled by motorcade to the West Bank to meet with Palestinian Authority leaders.

Obama's test has been to navigate through the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during visits to Jordan, Israel and the West Bank, do nothing to inflame American Jewish voters and donors, and lay the foundations for relationships he will need if he is elected president.

The McCain forces have been measuring every word in this highly covered Obama tour, pouncing with glee when Obama incorrectly suggested at a press conference here that he was a member of the Senate Banking Committee. But compared with the high stakes in this region of the world -- and with Iran building a nuclear capability that is of prime concern to Israel -- the goof was minor.

The day included a visit to Yad Vashem, the nation's Holocaust memorial, where Obama, wearing a white yarmulke, laid a wreath of remembrance for the 6 million Jews who died at the hands of the Nazis.

Obama met through the day with Israeli leaders including President Shimon Peres; Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the chief of the Labor Party; Benjamin Netanyahu, former prime minister and head of the Likud Party, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Making the short drive from Jerusalem to Ramallah in the West Bank in a fortified Volvo, Obama met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salim Fayyad. The Jerusalem Post reported that Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Abbas demanded the future U.S. administration exert pressure on Israel to release Palestinian prisoners.

In Sderot, Obama stood in front of a collection of spent shells arranged in the courtyard of a police station. Sderot has been depopulated by at least 10 percent as a result of residents fleeing Palestinian rockets.

At the press conference here, Obama was asked if he thought Israel should negotiate with the Hamas militant group.

"If somebody was sending rockets into my house, where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that. And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing," Obama said.

That's an answer the Israelis want to hear, and a pro-Israel tilt that plays well in the United States. But it gives the Palestinians pause.

Today, Obama is poised to make a near-dawn visit to the Western Wall before flying to Germany for the only public speech of his tour. And it is shaping up to be a doozy, with thousands expected in an outdoor park.

Pool Report No. 1
July 24, 2008
Jerusalem

Senator Barack Obama left the King David Hotel at 5 a.m. and made the short drive in his motorcade to the Western Wall. The visit was unnanounced by the campaign, but dozens of people clearly were anticipating his arrival in the Old City.

It was a brief visit to one of the most sacred spots in Jerusalem, the section of the western supporting wall of the Temple Mount.

Mr. Obama, wearing a white skull cap, made his way down a walkway toward the Wall. He was escorted by the Rabbi of the Wall, Shmuel Rabinovich, and surrounded by many others when he reached the wall.

As the Rabbi quietly read Psalm 122, both he and Mr. Obama flipped through a Holy book on a wooden stand. A clear moon helped illuminate a still-dark sky. The moment unfolded as a lone man standing about 10 yards away yelled over and over, "Obama, Jerusalem is not for sale! Obama, Jerusalem is not for sale!"

After the prayer, Mr. Obama walked a final few paces to the Wall and followed the custom of placing a personal note between the stone cracks, with his prayers or wishes left alongside hundreds of others. Then, he placed his hand on the Wall, bowed his head and stood in quiet contemplation for a few moments.

The heckler continued his chant as Mr. Obama walked away from the Wall. Several other men tried to drown out his voice with chants of, "Obama, Obama, Obama."

Dozens of people cheered and reached out to grab the senator's hand. About 10 minutes after he arrived, his motorcade left the Old City and drove to the Tel Aviv airport.

Jeff Zeleny
New York Times

Obama's Berlin campaign rally

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Obama family People cover

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Interview at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem




JERUSALEM--While meeting with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salim Fayyad on Wednesday, presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) appealed to him on behalf of a suburban Chicago woman who is fighting to get her four daughters back after their father refused to let them leave the West Bank.

While in Ramallah as part of a campaign swing to the Middle East and Europe, Obama, according to a statement, handed Fayyad a note and some background about the situation, "asking the Prime Minister to look into this issue."

Colleen Davis Bargouthi, who lives in south suburban Midlothian, pressed Obama to visit her daughters, who live near Ramallah. The girls, ages 6 to 11 have been there since 2007when her husband, Yasser Shibli Bargouthi, took his family to the West Bank to visit relatives.

Obama made a specific request of the Palestinian Authority in the note. "I would ask that the Minister of Justice look into this case, and our Consul General will follow up."

Obama also told Fayyad that the United States Counsel General in Jerusalem, Jake Walles, will be following up with him. " We have also passed the same information to Walles and asked that he follow up on this issue," the statement said.

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Obama met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad for one hour (15 mins longer than scheduled) at the Mukata, the president's compound in Ramallah. Meeting began 1:30 pm and ended 2:30.

Obama was walked down to his motorcade afterward by Abbas and lots of security. Obama waved but made no statement. Campaign plans to move a statement later today to all traveling press re the mtg

Color below:

Ramallah is about six miles north of Jerusalem but it took half an hour to get there, driving fast. The motorcade left King David Hotel 12:55 pm, north on Highway 1 and then into the West Bank. At 1:05 we stopped at the West Bank Hizma checkpoint along the separation barrier.

At 1:20 at the entrance to Ramallah we passed a VIP checkpoint staffed by Israeli security forces. At this point, dozens of Palestinian forces wearing camouflage, helmets,vests and armed with semiautomatic rifles lined the road to the compound, their backs to the road.

At 1:25 we turned left into an entrance to the walled compound of connected sand-colored, two- and three-floor buildings with red-tile roofs. Yasser Arafat is buried in a crypt on the grounds of the compound but Obama did not tour the gravesite.

It was chaos trying to get inside the meeting. Dozens of local journalists were waiting and Palestinian officials were reluctant to let the Obama pool through in the confusion.

Once the Obama pool was let in there was a stampede up a set of stairs, and in the process a large potted plant was knocked over and the pot broken, spilling soil all over the floor. Staff with brooms immediately appeared and began sweeping.

We were taken through an upstairs hallway with four red oriental rugs and into a room where Obama was seated to the left of Abbas with a small coffee table and a tall Palestinian flag between them, and photos of the late Arafat and Abbas himself on the wall behind Abbas. PM Fayyad was seated off to the right of Abbas. Obama was speaking softly to Abbas (inaudible) and the two were leaning in toward one another. We were permitted in only for a moment for photos, then ushered out. Obama was accompanied by advisers Dennis Ross, Jim Steinberg, Dan Shapiro. Susan Rice, Dan Kurtzer.

A tired Obama visits Yad Vashem

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JERUSALEM--Wearing a white yarmulke, presumptive Democratic Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) paid his respects when he laid a wreath over the ashes of Holocaust victims at Yad Vashem on Wednesday morning.

He was introduced by Dana Porath, who is the content manager for YadVashem.org--and a former resident of West Rogers Park in Chicago. She said the senator's tribute linked him "with the six million of our people who were martyred at the hands of the German Nazis."

Time's Karen Tumulty chatted with Obama on the plane ride from Amman to Tel Aviv

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Ma'ariv headline refers to Obama commenting on the Palestine driver's attack near the King David Hotel. Obama's quote is "We will fight the terror."

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Column in the Wednesday print Chicago Sun-Times...

AMMAN, Jordan--Standing before a podium planted in an ancient ruin, Barack Obama waded -- not by choice -- into the seemingly intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Tuesday.

JERUSALEM-- Aboard the Obama campaign plane flying from Jordan to Israel Tuesday night, reporters collectively balked when Obama staffers wanted to brief a second time in one day without having their names used. The reporters refused and so there was no briefing.The upshot of sticking together: when Obama foreign policy advisor Susan Rice briefs on Wednesday morning, it will be on the record.

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(photos by Lynn Sweet)

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A welcome sign greets travelers on the Obama press plane when they arrive at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel.

Senator Obama: Good evening everybody. I am just going to make a very brief statement. We have had a long day and I will have ample opportunity to talk to all of you tomorrow. But I just want to start by saying that it is wonderful to be back in Israel. I had an extraordinary trip the last time I was here.


(CBS) CBS News anchor Katie Couric talked exclusively, and separately to both presidential candidates. What emerged was a kind of long-distance debate. Their differences over the wars have never been sharper ... or clearer. Couric met with Sen. Barack Obama in Amman, Jordan. He had just flown in after visiting Iraq and Afghanistan. What follows is a full transcript of the interview.


Katie Couric: Sen. Obama, first of all, you have not been to Iraq since 2006. What did you learn on your recent visit that surprised you? Or what was new?

ARRIVAL IN JERUSALEM

A group of nine men, including Israel's Ambassador to the United States (XXx) waited to greet Obama on the tarmac. Your pool was told that one of them was Sallai Meridor, Israel's ambassador to the USA. At about 10:50 p.m. local, the senator emerged from the plane and, after greeting the group at the foot of the stairs, walked straight over to a pair of microphones stationed by waiting reporters and delivered a brief (just under 2 minute) statement.

Assuming full transcript will soon be available, here are the highlights:

Obama said he is looking forward to "having discussions with Israeli's leadership about some of the profound security issues" that the that the US and Israel face. "I want input and insight," said Obama, who added that he's also looking forward to sharing some of his ideas.

"The most important idea for me to reaffirm is the historic and special relationship between the United States and Israel, one that cannot be broken, one that I have affirmed throughout my career, and one that I intend to not only continue but actually strengthen in an Obama administration," the senator said.

Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama, D-Ill., meets with King Abdullah of Jordan on Tuesday in Amman, Jordan.

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(photos via AP)

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Photo by Lynn Sweet

AMMAN, Jordan--Just like any cordial host, King Abdullah drove his guest, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) to the airport.

Abdullah drove a Mercedes 600 from his residence to the tarmac where Obama's "change we can believe in" charter was parked. The two chatted briefly, shook hands and His Royal Highness watched as Obama climbed the stairs to the Israel-bound aircraft.

Good afternoon. It has been a privilege to be joined by Senator Jack Reed and Senator Chuck Hagel. I've been deeply impressed by their expertise and commitment to American national security. By any measure, they have rendered remarkable service to our country - in the Army, and in the United States Senate.

Royal Hashemite Court
Media and Communication Directorate

Amman (22 July 2008) - His Majesty King Abdullah II stressed during talks this evening with US Senator Barack Obama (Democrat, Illinois) that ending the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and achieving a just settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict tops the priorities of the people of the Middle East.

During the meeting, King Abdullah reasserted the need to establish an independent Palestinian state on all Palestinian land in the West Bank and Gaza, saying it is the key to a final settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Obama, a US presidential candidate, is in Amman as part of a tour of the Middle East and Europe. He is accompanied by Senator Jack Reed (Democrat, Rhode Island) and Senator Chuck Hagel (Republican, Nebraska).

I ran across an interesting fist-bump article this morning on USAToday.com, and since Lynn is traveling abroad with Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama, I'm taking the liberty of posting it.

The Obamas have recently received a lot of media attention for their fist bumping. I, too, have used the fist bump with teammates, friends, my boyfriend and, more recently, my boss.

Interestingly enough, USA Today is reporting that the fist bump has made its way into the business realm. Apparently some young men are replacing the traditional handshake for the more informal gesture, especially in social settings with business associates.

I'm young, but I'm not a man and I didn't use the fist-bump outside of the office. I've used it (many times!) in my boss' office after we've solved nerdy Web issues....

(CNN) -- The driver of an excavator was shot and killed Tuesday after he drove the construction vehicle over a number of cars near the King David Hotel in downtown Jerusalem, according to police.

Continue reading here.

AMMAN, JORDAN--The Obama campaign is planning a big public rally in a major park in Berlin on Thursday. Thousands of Germans are anticipated to attend when presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) delivers what is being billed as a "substantive" speech on Trans-Atlantic relations. Yet campaign top advisors Robert Gibbs and David Axelrod insist this is not a campaign event though it is conceived, organized, financed and executed by the campaign.

This seems to be a matter of parsing, for what reason I can't imagine.

The Obama trip to Iraq and Afghanistan is taxpayer-funded official government business. The rest if paid for by the campaign. But all the travel is still a political swing, no matter who pays the bills, done in the context of Obama's presidential candidacy premised in large part on expertise in getting U.S. combat troops out of Iraq and redeployed to Afghanistan.

AMMAN, JORDAN--Presumptive Democratic Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) nominee flies on a military V-22 jet here this afternoon from Iraq for several chores he hopes will lead him to the White House: a one-on-one meeting with Jordan King Abdullah for about 30 minutes; an interview of about the same length with CBS' Katie Couric, a press availability with U.S. reporters and dinner with members of the king's inner court.

After less than a day here, Obama tonight climbs into his campaign plane and flies to Israel. When takeoff occurs is not exactly known. As an advisor to Obama said during a briefing on Tuesday morning, "The dinner is not over until the King says it is over."

The briefing, done on the condition reporters not quote the "senior advisers" (yes, I protested but for a practical matter I did not raise maximum fuss since this is a fight I can wage in the U.S.) revealed:

*The Obama stagecraft will be on display later today when Obama hosts a press conference in the ancient ruins of the Amman Citadel. The backdrop will be the "new" Amman. The camera swing will take in the "old," including the ruins of a temple dedicated to Hercules. The visual metaphors abound: old, new, Obama's "Herculean" task of winning the presidency, etc.

4 - 14 January 2006

January 5 - Arrive Doha, Qatar

January 6 - Kuwait City

January 7 - 8 - Iraq

January 9 - Amman, Jordan

January 10 - 11 - Tel Aviv/Jerusalem

January 12 - Ramallah/Jerusalem

January 13 - Jerusalem

January 14 - Depart

source: Obama Senate office

IMG_6520.JPG (photo by Lynn Sweet)

AMMAN, Jordan--CNN producer Sasha Johnson on the tarmac with the Obama "Change We Can Believe In" campaign plane makes the front page of the Tuesday Jordan Times, pegged to the arrival Tuesday of presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.)

The lede: "US presidential contender Barack Obama is expected to arrive in Amman today where he will hold talks with His Royal Majesty King Abdullah and talk to reporters later in the day, an official said."

Key graf from the king's perspective: "His Majesty would underline Jordan's keeness on a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its support for the Palestinians right to an independent and viable state."

AMMAN, Jordan--The Obama campaign is tapping a range of staffers and advisors to handle the overseas visit to Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian West Bank, Germany, France and England: (will be updating during the day as I get time to load photos)

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International relations and national security advisors James Steinberg, Susan Rice and Scott Gration. (photo by Lynn Sweet)

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Senior strategist David Axelrod (photo by Lynn Sweet)


By Lynn Sweet
Sun-Times Columnist
AMMAN, Jordan--For presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), the political goals of visiting seven countries over nine days-- maximizing media coverage along the way in a series of staged events with dramatic visual backdrops--is to plug his resume gap and show him on an equal footing with world leaders.

AMMAN, JORDAN--Wrapping up a visit to Iraq, presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and two senators along on the trip--Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) issued a delicately worded statement near 2 a.m. here, in time for the Tuesday papers and news in the U.S.

Noteworthy in the statement:

*Obama after brief visit on the ground seems to suggest that a reason for the U.S. troop surge--giving the Iraqis time to stabilize their government, rather than day-to-day policing of violence--never came to pass. A central argument of rival Sen. John McCain (R-Az.), who backed the surge, is that it is working. All three senators opposed the surge.

"Second, political progress, reconciliation and economic development continue to lag. There has been some forward movement, but not nearly enough to bring lasting stability to Iraq," said the joint statement from the senators.


*Obama and the other senators use a word that had been embraced by the Bush White House when it comes to timelines for pulling back combat troops--"aspirational" goals. So Obama seems to favor aspirational goals--with a time frame.

From Honolulu Star Bulletin reporter Richard Borreca...


Presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama is
planning an August fundraiser in Honolulu, according to political
sources.......Sources said Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann and local financier Walter
Dods are the co-chairs for the event scheduled for Aug. 12 at the
Halekulani Hotel.

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Fox News crew at stand-up location at the Four Seasons in Amman, where the Obama entourage is staying. That's Major Garrett, right and Bonney Kapp, left, regulars on the Obama beat. (photos by Lynn Sweet)

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ABC News Jake Tapper does a stand up on the tarmac at the Amman airport.

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Menu from Obama campaign plane.


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Menu from Obama campaign plane.

Obama in Baghdad. Video.

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IMG_6509.JPG (photo by Lynn Sweet)

AMMAN, Jordan--The Obama campaign plane landed here at 6:10 p.m. local time Monday after a long and uneventful flight, except for the abundant food and my new $49 air power cord not charging the battery of my MacBook. Finally, the poorly kept secret secret can be told officially--Obama makes a quick visit to Jordan before heading to Israel and Europe.

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CHICAGO---In a newly painted 757--with the Obama sunrise logo on the tail and "Change we can believe in" painted on the sides--the Middle East and Europe bound Obama campaign press plane was poised to lift off Sunday evening from Midway Airport to meet up with presumptive presidential Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) after he finishes visits to Afghanistan, Kuwait and Iraq.

CHICAGO--No more speculation about where Sen. Barack Obama has been since disappearing on Thursday morning. He landed Saturday in Afghanistan, the start of a seven-nation tour. Obama's press traveling with him in the coming days--meeting up with him on his campaign plane-- agreed not to disclose Obama's departure in order to not compromise his security.

Here's a note from Obama top adviser Robert Gibbs, followed by a pool report by Chicago Tribune's John McCormick.

Note from Robert Gibbs:

At approximately 3:15 AM Eastern/2:15 AM Central, I received a phone call telling me that Senator Obama had landed at the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Since leaving Washington on Thursday, Senator Obama had stopped and visited troops in Kuwait.

What follows is a pool report by the Chicago Tribune's John McCormick....

Technical difficulties

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Blogger Sweet will be back up and running soon. Don't blame her! Blame your friendly neighborhood servers...

Web Queen Kirsten Miller here. Until we get Lynn back up and running, take a stroll around her blog. We've updated the look and feel -- and we hope we've made it easier for you to find all the info you're looking for.

Oh! And we'll have a live video chat with Lynn at 2pm Central time, so c'mon back!

WASHINGTON--Demand has been greater than seats available for journalists who want to on the campaign plane of presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) next week when he touches down in the Mideast and Europe.

The Obama campaign plane, a 757, will have only about 40 journalists on the manifest. More reporters wanted to travel with the Obama campaign; some have been told not to pack their bags, one notified to be on standby. I'm told hundreds of news outlets were interested in making the trip with Obama, very popular in Europe. There are fewer seats available for reporters than usual because the campaign is taking on more staff than routinely flies with Obama. Secret Service agents also travel on the campaign plane.

Two U.S. based reporters for foreign newspapers who I talked to today said they were told no foreign journalists--even from the countries Obama is visiting--will be on the plane.

Obama Iraq 2008.jpg

WASHINGTON--In a run-up to impending overseas travel, presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) returned to a central rationale for his presidential run: the Iraq war and his broad strategy for a new U.S approach to foreign policy. Obama's speech, delivered Tuesday at the Woodrow Wilson Center here is his latest version of the "Obama Doctrine." Obama has talked tough on Pakistan in the past and his words were tough:

" And we must make it clear that if Pakistan cannot or will not act, we will take out high-level terrorist targets like bin Laden if we have them in our sights. Make no mistake: we can’t succeed in Afghanistan or secure our homeland unless we change our Pakistan policy. We must expect more of the Pakistani government, but we must offer more than a blank check to a General who has lost the confidence of his people," Obama said.

Click below for speech....

WASHINGTON--Obama campaign manager David Plouffe stars in a new video aimed at small donors--but when you click the button to give, the minimum is listed as $300. The Obama campaign has yet to release its June fund-raising numbers and that suggests they did not raise as much money as they hoped.

The Obama campaign is able to customize their pitches--the amount of money contributed in the primary and general campaign is noted, as in the note sent to one donor. "Our records indicate that you have given the maximum for the primary campaign and at least $0 toward the general election, which means you are $2,300.00 from your general election limit." A hard soft sell.

click for pitch letter.

WASHINGTON--In the run up to an overseas trip--and to clarify his Iraq pullout plan in the wake of a statement that he will "refine" his plan if president, presumptive nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) delivers what his campaign is calling a major Iraq speech here this morning. This evening Obama appears on CNN's Larry King Live and the Newshour on PBS, covering the waterfront on long form interviews. On Sunday, Obama ran an op-ed in the New York Times where he talked about his 16 month time frame for pulling out combat troops.

Obama is poised to leave on a trip to take him to Jordan, Israel, possibly the West Bank, France, Germany and England. He is also to travel to Iraq and Afghanistan. On a conference call on Monday, Obama foreign affairs advisor Susan Rice was asked why Obama was clarifying his Iraq policy in advance of a "fact finding" trip to talk to commanders on the ground.

Said Rice, " But I think obviously Iraq is an important and critical issue in this election.

"Senator Obama has spoken and written about it multiple times during the campaign, as he will continue to. And this was an important opportunity, in light of recent events -- most notably what we've been hearing from the Iraqi government about its desire for a timetable, what we're hearing from our own general on the ground, General Dubik, about the enhanced readiness of the Iraqi security forces -- to reiterate20his approach and to underscore that he remains firmly committed to ending the war, to responsibly redeploying our forces, and to addressing the critical unattended national security challenges that we face.

WASHINGTON--The Obama team made formal a series of changes and additions in its communications team--including the elevation of Obama communications czar Robert Gibbs to senior strategist. Gibbs has been with Obama since his 2004 general election U.S. Senate campaign. Anita Dunn is the key senior advisor in charge of the Obama communications, research and policy departments.

For memo, click below..

CNN is reporting that "Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama will be visiting the Palestinian Authority president in the West Bank next week, a Palestinian government official said Monday. Obama will be meeting with President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on July 23, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said."

The Ramallah visit comes as part of Obama's Mideast-Europe swing. The Israeli press and my Israel connected sources said Obama will be in Israel July 22-23. Ramallah is a short drive from Jerusalem, especially if part of an Israeli-sanctioned motorcade to zip through West Bank roadblocks. The stop makes sense; even though Obama is also visiting Jordan, a close U.S. ally--it would seem unusual for Obama to meet with Israeli leaders and not venture to the Palestinian West Bank.

WASHINGTON--Presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) raised questions about his Iraq policy when he said he was said he may "refine" it if president. To put to rest his committment to get troops out of Iraq--a central premise of the Obama presidental bid--Obama clarified his position via an op-ed in the Monday New York Times. He will follow up with a speech on Iraq Tuesday in Washington. Obama will be visiting Iraq wth Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) and Sen. Chuck Hagle (R-Neb.).

Obama: As I’ve said many times, we must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in. We can safely redeploy our combat brigades at a pace that would remove them in 16 months. That would be the summer of 2010 — two years from now, and more than seven years after the war began. After this redeployment, a residual force in Iraq would perform limited missions: going after any remnants of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, protecting American service members and, so long as the Iraqis make political progress, training Iraqi security forces. That would not be a precipitous withdrawal. in carrying out this strategy, we would inevitably need to make tactical adjustments.

New Yorker cover
Credit: New Yorker


Put aside the flap over the cover of the new New Yorker, a cartoon portraying the Obamas' in the Oval Office--- Barack Obama in a turban with Michelle Obama wielding an AK-47 machine gun with a picture of Osama Bin Laden in the background. The Obama campaign finds it offensive and with good reason. It is tasteless. David Axelrod on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” said “did we like it? No. Is it the focus of our attention? No.”

The cover hides an in-depth story about Obama’s political roots, taking us to Hyde Park, the North Side and Springfield. New Yorker political writer Ryan Lizza brings us inside Obama’s Chicago political world and the political culture that spawned the presumptive Democratic nominee.

Among Lizza’s scoops:

*Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th), with Obama at the launch of his political career—when he ran for state senate and knocked his opponents off the ballot—is lukewarm in the article and is critical of Obama’s relationship with Tony Rezko. She also sidesteps a question about whether Obama has retained his personal integrity.

"I asked her if what she considered slights or betrayals were simply the necessary accommodations and maneuvering of a politician making a lightning transition from Hyde Park legislator to Presidential nominee. 'Can you get where he is and maintain your personal integrity?' she said. 'Is that the question?' She stared at me and grimaced. 'I'm going to pass on that.'


*Lizza reports that Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) told him that Obama was a “top strategist” for Gov. Blagojevich’s first gubernatorial campaign.

“He and Obama “participated in a small group that met weekly when Rod was running for governor,” Emanuel said. “We basically laid out the general election, Barack and I and these two.” A spokesman for Blagojevich confirmed Emanuel’s account, although David Wilhelm, who now works for Obama, said that Emanuel had overstated Obama’s role.”

Pool report, click below

Chicago Sun-Times reporter Stefano Esposito writes about the Michelle and Barack Obama love story in the Sunday Sun-Times.

The American Federation of Teachers was one of the first unions to endorse Sen. Hillary Rodman Clinton (D-N.Y.) The Chicago native returned home on Saturday to attend a wedding and to address the group, where she plugged presumptive nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and paid her props to an influential union that was for her and worked in at least 14 states to get her the nomination. Obama will be endorsed by the union on Sunday and talks to the AFT via a remote hook-up from San Diego.

Mayor Daley, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) also spoke. Gov. Blagojevich was invited, did not accept.

Video link for clip from Clinton's speech. http://www.aft.org/convention/videos/index.htm

WASHINGTON--Former White House Press Secretary Tony Snow died early Saturday, after a long fight with cancer. It was an honor to know Snow. He will be missed.

Click below for statement from President and Laura Bush.

UPDATE: The Obama team sent over a PDF of a letter from Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fl.) thanking Obama for his work on immigration legislation that eventually stalled. This is to rebut the assertion from McCain backer Martinez on Friday and in the column, from Sen. Lindsey Graham that Obama was not around to help when it mattered. http://www.suntimes.com/images/cds/MP3/Martinezletter.pdf END UPDATE

WASHINGTON -- No matter if you are—or are not — voting for presumptive GOP nominee Sen. John McCain (R-Az.), he deserves credit for trying to forge a bipartisan deal on immigration in 2005 and 2006 at great personal political risk, a situation unfamiliar to rival Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.)

McCain put his comeback presidential bid in peril because of his leadership role with Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) to find a path for millions of illegal immigrants to stay in the U.S.

Louis Roug of the Los Angeles Times continues her Friday fund-raising crawl with Obama at the Park West at 322 W. Armitage.

Click below

Obama spokesman Jen Psaki issued a disclaimer on top of the pool report by Louis Roug containing some wild and tasteless riffs from comic Bernie Mac, who was listed on the invitation as a "special guest" at the Obama fund-raiser in the Hyatt. Let's see if Mac's crack about "hoes" causes some headaches for Obama, who spent the last few days courting the female vote.

" Senator Obama told Bernie Mac that he doesn't condone these statements and believes what was said was inappropriate," Psaki said. Obama told the comic "you got to clean up your act." Did he mean it? Or was he just messing with Mac. Click below for the pool report.

WASHINGTON-- Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) longtime consumer advocate--safe toys, safe food, airplane smoking bans--takes on a new cause, how poorly prepared the federal government is to help people make the mandated switch to digital television sets next year.

The McCain campaign opens its books on bundlers and small donors after the Friday New York Times noted the Obama and McCain campaigns lagged on updating lists of big fund-raisers. (Sun-Times work on this front was noted in the article.) Now the McCain campaign is pledging a new series of moves to increase transparency. Obama through his presidential run has stayed a few steps ahead of the competition. Click below for McCain campaign manager Rick Davis about setting up new searchable data base and "best effort" monthly reports. Will Obama meet and match or up?

"Senator Obama has long believed we should take all necessary steps to ensure affordable homeownership for millions of American families, and that includes an essential role for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Nearly a year ago, Senator Obama called for a major response to the housing crisis and significant relief for struggling homeowners. It took Senator McCain three different tries to figure out a real response to the housing crisis, and his current plan does nothing to help more than two million homeowners who are facing foreclosure," said Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton.

My Chicago Sun-Times colleagues Chris Fusco and Dave McKinney write in the Friday Chicago Sun-Times about how presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.)--as a state senator--gave a $100,000 state grant to a supporter for a botanic garden in a blighted community that was never built. The project was out of Obama's state senate district--but squarely in the First Congressional District of Illinois that Obama at the time was running to represent. Tim Novak contributed to the report. Obama's full response is at the end of the story.


Obama's $100,000 garden grant wasted
He vowed to 'work tirelessly' to build an oasis for Englewood. It never happened.


BY CHRIS FUSCO AND DAVE MCKINNEY Staff Reporters

As a state senator, Barack Obama gave $100,000 in state money to a campaign volunteer who failed to deliver on a plan to create a botanic garden in one of Chicago's most blighted neighborhoods.

Obama -- who was running for Congress when he announced the project in 2000 -- said the green space in Englewood would build ''a sense of neighborhood pride."


Kenny B. Smith, a onetime campaign volunteer for Barack Obama, can't explain exactly how he spent $100,000 of taxpayer's money on a garden that was never built.


Instead, what was supposed to be a six-block stretch of trees and paths is now a field of unfulfilled dreams, strewn with weeds, garbage and broken pavement.

UPDATE 6 p.m. central time

WASHINGTON--Reports from the London press that presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) will arrive in England on July 18 are not accurate, the Sun-Times has learned. Look for him to arrive at a later date. Reports that the Obama overseas trip will be bookended with European stops NOW are not right as I write this.

Based on new intelligence, here's what is shaping up. I have been reporting from a reliable Israeli connected source that Obama is already booking appointments in Israel and will be there July 22 and 23. Stories from French and German news outlets put Obama in France and Germany on July 24 and 25 (those dates may be flipped). That leaves two countries to account for, England and Jordan. Common sense would put a Jordan stop adjacent to the Israeli visit, since the countries are neighbors. So by elimination and logic, that would put London at the end. END UPDATE

"As someone who grew up without a father in the home, Senator Obama has spoken and written for many years about the issue of parental responsibility, including the importance of fathers participating in their children's lives. He also discusses our responsibility as a society to provide jobs, justice, and opportunity for all. He will continue to speak out about our responsibilities to ourselves and each other, and he of course accepts Reverend Jackson's apology," said Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton.

Below is a release from Rep. Jackson:

Congressman Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. released the following statement in reaction to Reverend Jackson's comments that were recorded after a Fox News interview:

"I'm deeply outraged and disappointed in Reverend Jackson's reckless statements about Senator Barack Obama. His divisive and demeaning comments about the presumptive Democratic nominee -- and I believe the next president of the United States -- contradict his inspiring and courageous career.

"Instead of tearing others down, Barack Obama wants to build the country up and bring people together so that we can move forward, together -- as one nation. The remarks like those uttered on Fox by Revered Jackson do not advance the campaign's cause of building a more perfect Union.

"Revered Jackson is my dad and I'll always love him. He should know how hard that I've worked for the last year and a half as a national co-chair of Barack Obama's presidential campaign. So, I thoroughly reject and repudiate his ugly rhetoric. He should keep hope alive and any personal attacks and insults to himself."

A developing tempest--perhaps--brewing, triggered by comments made by the Rev. Jesse Jackson about presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). Here what Jackson told CNN on Wednesday afternoon:

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We want to get right back to another story we're following. Breaking news, the Reverend Jesse Jackson saying some very, very disparaging words about Senator Barack Obama, even though he supports him for president of the United States. CNN's Don Lemon has been working this story, together with a lot of us. First of all, Don, I know you're watching this story. Senator -- Reverend Jackson is about to join us on the phone. But just remind us, before you start talking to Reverend Jackson, what exactly he said on an open mike that's causing so much distress right now.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Well what he said to me earlier, and we're going to talk to him in just a little bit, we just got him on the phone, Wolf. He said that he made some crude what he called crude and hurtful comments that he would much rather have made to the senator in private. He did not know the microphone was open. He said it was a hot mike, didn't realize it.

WASHINGTON--The latest report on the Obama campaigns efforts to figure out how to highlight presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-lll.) when he visits Germany on or about July 24 comes from AFP's Berlin bureau has this lede:

BERLIN (AFP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel has slammed a request by Barack Obama to give a speech this month before the Brandenburg Gate as inappropriate, her deputy spokesman said Wednesday.

The conservative leader said that while she would be pleased to meet the US Democratic presidential
hopeful, it would be wrong for him to hold a "campaign rally" at the historic symbol of German unity.
"It is unusual to do electioneering abroad," spokesman Thomas Steg told reporters.

"It is unusual to hold election rallies abroad. No German candidate for high office would even think of using the National Mall (in Washington)

Protective pool report from Perry Bacon, Washington Post...

No major news. The Senator went to the Russell Senate building in the
morning to tape appearances with the three network orning shows. After 9
a.m., the pool headed to a large office building on 12th and
Pennsylvania . The candidate and David Axelrod went into a unmarked door
on the side of the building on E Street that read "Tenant Entrance
Only."

WASHINGTON—The Obama’s did not anticipate the massive news interest in the “Access Hollywood” interview they did with their adorable and charming daughters, Malia, 10 and Sasha, 7, regret they put them in the spotlight and won’t do it again, presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) said Wednesday morning.

Obama made the rounds of three morning news shows and was asked in each about the speaking debut of his daughters. The Obamas up until July 4 minimized their daughters public exposure. They have been seen often, but never heard from.

The "Access Hollywood" interview was conducted July 4-Malia’s birthday—while the family was campaigning in Butte, Montana. “Access Hollywood,” never expecting to get the Obama children on camera, is running excerpts of the unexpected scoop over four nights this week.


WASHINGTON--Sen. Barack Obama told an influential Hispanic group on Tuesday that White House rival Sen. John McCain -- a champion of comprehensive immigration reform Congress has refused to pass -- has let them down, while McCain's allies disputed Obama's claim that he was a key fighter in trying to get the hot-button measure approved.

The two White House rivals spoke -- separated by a few hours -- to the United Latin American Citizens convention here, the second time in two weeks they pitched themselves to a major Hispanic association, with each booked at another Hispanic conference later this month.

WASHINGTON--Presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and wife Michelle focus in coming days at wooing female voters. As a trade-off for helping her pay off campaign debts, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) appears at a "Women for Obama" fund-raiser in New York on Thursday.


From the Obama campaign...

CHICAGO, IL—Over the next two days, Barack and Michelle Obama will hold campaign events to highlight Obama’s plan to provide economic security for America’s working women. Obama’s plan directly addresses the challenges that women and families face affording quality child care, juggling personal and professional commitments, and coping with soaring prices.

Michael Powell of the New York Times wrote a delicious pool report--with his ruminations about the role of wealth in our society--covering high-dollar fund-raisers headlined by presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) on Tuesday night, with one in the elegant "chateau" of Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WVa.)

Rockefeller is married to Sharon Percy, the daughter of former Sen. Charles Percy (R-Ill.), whose career in the Senate ended when he was defeated by Democrat Paul Simon. Simon hired one David Axelrod away from his job as a Chicago Tribune political writer, launching Axelrod on his political career when he joined the Simon campaign.

Today Axelrod is Obama's chief strategist. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) went on to win the seat held by Simon. Click below for the magnificent Powell pool report....

I blogged about this double date fund-raising on Monday....More details out today...

From the Obama campaign...

WEDNESDAY, JULY 9

**Location for planning purposes only. Tickets are no longer available**

FUNDRAISING EVENT WITH SENATOR OBAMA


THURSDAY, JULY 10

**Location for planning purposes only. Tickets are no longer available**

WOMEN FOR OBAMA FINANCE BREAKFAST WITH SENATOR OBAMA AND SENATOR CLINTON

The event is a fundraiser. Tickets are required, but are no longer available.

###

WASHINGTON--Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill) speaking Tuesday to the United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) convention hours after White House rival Sen. John McCain (R-Az.), accused McCain--a leader on Senate immigration issues, especially in 2006--of not doing enough to pass comprehensive immigration reform. McCain's team strongly disputes this Obama assertion. McCain earlier today said political reality means lawmakers want to deal with border security first.

Excerpt from Obama speech:

"Now, I know Senator McCain used to buck his party on immigration by fighting for comprehensive reform, and I admired him for it. But when he was running for his party’s nomination, he abandoned his courageous stance, and said that he wouldn’t even support his own legislation if it came up for a vote. Well, for eight long years, we’ve had a President who made all kinds of promises to Latinos on the campaign trail, but failed to live up to them in the White House, and we can’t afford that anymore. We need a President who isn’t going to walk away from something as important as comprehensive reform when it becomes politically unpopular.

That’s the commitment I’m making to you. I marched with you in the streets of Chicago to meet our immigration challenge. I fought with you in the Senate for comprehensive immigration reform. And I will make it a top priority in my first year as President – not only because we have an obligation to secure our borders and get control of who comes in and out of our country. And not only because we have to crack down on employers who are abusing undocumented immigrants instead of hiring citizens. But because we have to finally bring undocumented immigrants out of the shadows. Yes, they broke the law. And they should have to pay a fine, and learn English, and go to the back of the line. That’s how we’ll put them on a pathway to citizenship. That’s how we’ll finally fix our broken immigration system and avoid creating a servant class in our midst. It’s time to reconcile our values and principles as a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws. That’s what this election is all about."

This new Obama ad will run in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – the same states in which the Republican National Committee spots are hitting Obama on energy.

This is the RNC spot

WASHINGTON--Presumptive GOP nominee Sen. John McCain (R-Az.), speaking to the United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) convention here, devoted only a small portion of his speech to his years of work on immigration reform. He said he wants focus on convincing Congress to pass measures dealing with securing borders first in order to build support for comprehensive reform.

I and many other colleagues twice attempted to pass comprehensive immigration legislation to fix our broken borders; ensure respect for the laws of this country; recognize the important economic necessity of immigrant laborers; apprehend those who came here illegally to commit crimes; and deal practically and humanely with those who came here, as my distant ancestors did, to build a better, safer life with their families, without excusing the fact they came here illegally or granting them privileges before those who have been waiting their turn outside the country. Many Americans, with good cause, did not believe us when we said we would secure our borders, and so we failed in our efforts. We must prove to them that we can and will secure our borders first, while respecting the dignity and rights of citizens and legal residents of the United States of America But we must not make the mistake of thinking that our responsibility to meet this challenge will end with that accomplishment. We have economic and humanitarian responsibilities as well, and they require no less dedication from us in meeting them.

Click for speech

WASHINGTON--The Obama campaign--sending Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) on a fund-raising spree--has him down for three higher dollar events in Chicago on Friday July 11. Write or raise $10,000 for Obama's White House run and you can get a picture of him at the Hyatt on Wacker reception. For the $100 customer, there is a concert at Park West, at Clark, Lincoln and Armitage featuring Jeff Tweedy & Friends and Otis Clay.

Meanwhile, Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) swap out as headliners Thursday in New York for fund-raisers. Clinton appears at an event for Obama; Obama goes to a reception for Clinton's debt retirement fund. And...Clinton hits Chicago on Saturday for a wedding in the family of a high school buddy and to appear at the American Federation of Teachers meeting in the city.

click to see invites....


They are talking to LULAC-- to the League of United Latin American Citizens at its annual convention in Washington, D.C.

Second of three July appearences before big Hispanic groups.

From new McCain ad: John McCain doesn't always tell us what we "hope" to hear. Beautiful words cannot make our lives better.

WASHINGTON---My analysis of the Obama campaign announcement Monday that Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) will accept the Democratic nomination in Denver’s Invesco Field, a 75,000-seat outdoor stadium—rather then the smaller indoor Pepsi Center where the rest of the Democratic convention will be held in August:


*Obama will create a visual statement of being a leader of a movement that the McCain campaign cannot come close to replicating. I envision on the front pages of newspapers, covers of magazines, first screens on web sites, a photo taken from a blimp of a full stadium with a circle over a tiny figure on a stage with the headline, “The Next President?”

WASHINGTON—The Obama campaign is taking on three more Clinton staffers…..the latest hires are Sara Hurwitz, from the Clinton speechwriting shop….Isaac Baker, communications chief for Clinton in Ohio, who will handle similar duties for Obama in the general election contest….and a very strategic hire to smooth over relationships with angry die hard Clinton female supporters……Dana Singiser…director of womens outreach for Clinton, who will work on womens outreach for Obama.

UPDATE TUESDAY
The Obama campaign made it official...
Obama release...

Obama Campaign Announces Dana Singiser as Senior Advisor to Senator Obama

WASHINGTON--The Obama campaign can't control leaks coming out about his upcoming international trip from foreign capitals. The latest, according to an Agence France Presse report is that presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) will meet with French President Nicolas Sarkozy on July 25. The Monday Der Spiegel online reports that Obama will be in Berlin on July 24 but German officials "with Angela Merkel's Chancellery are reserved about the prospects of a speech at the famous Brandenburg Gate."

"The Brandenburg Gate is the most famous and history-rich site in Germany," the Chancellery source said. In the past, the location has only been used on very special occasions for political speeches by world leaders. And it has been reserved for use only by elected American presidents, not candidates. The decision on whether the Democrat can speak at the location ultimately lies with the Berlin state government," Der Spiegel reported.

As noted in earlier blog, the Israeli press is reporting that Obama will be in Israel on July 22 or 23. And as reported in another previous blog, German sources and outlets say Obama is mulling a speech in front of the famous Brandenburg Gate during the last two weeks of July. Obama is also visiting Jordan and England on the swing. He will also be traveling Iraq and Afghanistan.

PDF's of donor packages from the Democratic National Committee, DSCC and DCCC at end of column....

Since the column below ran in the print Chicago Sun-Times on Monday, the Obama campaign announced that 10 low dollar donors--$5 or more--who donate between Monday and July 31 will be flown to Denver and treated to two days and nights at the convention--with a guest. They will be able to meet Obama backstage and watch his acceptence speech in a 75,000-seat stadium. But that effort for 10--get that only 10--contributors from the more than a million small Obama campaign donors---pales in comparison to the large operation in place to stroke the big dollar fund-raisers who provide the bulk of campaign money for the Obama campaign and other Democratic candidates.

WASHINGTON -- For top Democratic donors, the convention at the Pepsi Center in Denver in August means access to hard-to-get credentials, VIP parties, special briefings, concierge service and coveted rooms in the city's top hotels.

While presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama likes storylines to focus on micro donors, the Democratic apparatus he sits on top of is dependent on big fund-raisers who can deliver -- and in turn want to be treated well at the convention. Obama's campaign finance operation will be running a VIP convention operation, with at least 300 rooms in the best hotels in Denver set aside for its very top bundlers.

WASHINGTON----I've obtained a copy of the talking points memo the Obama campaign team is distributing to supporters to explain why presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) did not honor his pledge to to meet with Sen. John McCain (R-Az.) to see if they could make a deal for both of them to use public money to bankroll their general election campaigns.

Most of the hand-wringing 886-word memo--blaming McCain--could be replaced with one simple, more candid talking point: Obama decided to change his mind.

Click below for the memo

WASHINGTON--Former Commerce Sec. William Daley declined to comment when asked Sunday about his plans to run for governor of Illinois. Daley was on an Obama campaign conference call with Obama campaign economic advisor Jason Furman, pressing the case that presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) will cut more middle class taxes than rival Sen. John McCain (R-Az.). Obama and McCain are expected to talk economics this week. But the McCain campaign also plans to press Obama about his comments that he will "refine" his Iraq troop pull-out plan. That's the subject of a McCain conference call coming up this afternoon.

My Sun-Times colleague Abdon Pallasch asked Daley about his interest in running for governor of Illinois. Daley has been laying the groundwork for a 2010 bid, even asking some people to stay neutral until he decides if he wants to jump in. Daley's main consultant is Obama's chief strategist, David Axelrod, who also advises Mayor Daley. (A third Daley brother, John, is the number two man on the Cook County Board.)

With Furman and Obama press staffer Josh Earnest providing verbal cover--Daley said he would "ignore" the question about his political future.


MEMORANDUM

To: Interested Parties
Fr: Jason Furman, Economic Policy Director, Obama Campaign
Re: The McCain Economic Plan: Four More Years?

Earlier this year, Senator John McCain said that the nation had made “great progress economically” under the leadership of George W. Bush. On the eve of John McCain’s “Jobs First” economic tour this week, one thing is clear: the McCain economic plan represents a continuation of the same economic policies we have seen for the past eight years.

WASHINGTON--Presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is tentatively looking at an arrival in Israel on July 22 or 23, Yediot Achronot is reporting on Sunday. The Obama campaign is planning visits to England, France and Germany as well as a swing to Jordan and Israel, where he will stay two or three days. The Obama campaign is not releasing dates yet but news is leaking of his tentative schedule because of the need to make extensive arrangements for his visits and to include local and national officials in other countries.

Obama will also be visiting Iraq and Afghanistan.

WASHINGTON--A German friend passed along the news Saturday that local sources in Berlin are confirming that the Obama campaign was in contact with city authorities to discuss the possibility of presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) delivering an outdoor address in front of the Brandenburg gate. The thinking is Obama would follow in the footsteps of two very famous Cold War-era speeches of U.S. presidents speaking in Germany: JFK "Ich bin ein Berliner" and Reagan "tear down this wall." It would probably be Obama's only public speech during upcoming visits to Germany, France and England on a swing to include stops in Israel and Jordan. There is still no date for the trip. German news sources are reporting the Obama team is working on a visit during the "second half of this month".
,
Spiegel Online International reports that an Obama visit to Berlin his month "looks likely" with Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Pool report on Obama's Independence Day film shoot and chat pooler Jonathan Weisman of the Washington Post had with "Inconvenient Truth" director Davis Guggenheim......

Pool report

Mystery Pool Report

After your poolers pulled away from Montana Technical College, home of the
Diggers, at around 5:20, the bus made its way up toward old, historic Butte
and pulled up to the Clark Chateau Museum, a mansion from Butte’s glory
days.

The pool was told repeatedly that Sen. Obama was merely doing a video shoot
for the campaign’s new media department, a routine operation. But Aliesh,
hired by Essence to do makeup, tipped your pool off that Obama was
accompanied by a famous film maker, as part of a film shoot for the
Democratic National Committee and the convention. Obama entered the mansion
at 5:45. He re-emerged at 6:43, with a stylish film maker in tow and a crew
carrying a film camera, NOT the small digital cameras.

Barack Obama and his family enjoyed a Forth of July parade in Butte, Montana. Obama called Montana one of the prettiest states in the country.

Shot Sunday, June 30, 2008 in Chicago

If president......

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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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