Chicago Sun-Times
The scoop from Washington

February 2009 Archives

By Abdon M. Pallasch

Political Reporter/

CHICAGO--I'm about to step into the shower as the doorbell rings. I open the front door in my robe, barefoot, unshaven, my hair askew.

State Rep. Sarah Feigenholtz, one of 12 Democrats running to replace Rahm Emanuel in Tuesday's primary election, opens her eyes wide, covers them with her right hand and turns her head away as she begins laughing.

"It's OK, Sara, you can look. I've got my robe on," I tell her.

Welcome to the front line in the election, the working-class Jefferson Park neighborhood on Chicago's Northwest Side..

It's Saturday morning. Ald Patrick O'Connor is live on the Irish Hour on the radio. The mailbox and television are filling with increasingly nasty advertisements from the candidates.

Feigenholtz turns to her staffers, who are also laughing and one says, "You aren't the name on our list."

The Pallasch household has gotten at least five fliers from Feigenholtz in recent weeks, but all addressed to the woman of the house. Feigenholtz has surgically targetted women voters in her campaign. If she can just get all the women in the district to vote for her in a 12-candidate race with 10 male candidates, that's certain victory.

"You just missed her," I said. "But I show her all the stories."

"Don't show her that last one," Feigenholtz says sternly, apparently referring to a short item I wrote Thursday about how Feigenholtz used to date one of her main rivals, Cook County Commissioner Michael Quigley.

WASHINGTON--The Hoopster-in-Chief is basketball heavy this weekend. On Friday, the Chicago Bulls visited the White House. In the evening, Obama and friends hit the Wizards-Bulls game. On Saturday, Obama played at the court in the Interior Department.


WASHINGTON--Another Chicagoan, attorney Charles P. Rose, a partner at Franczek Radelet & Rose is joining the Obama administration. Rose will be nominated by President Obama to serve as General Counsel for the Department of Education. Rose has worked with Education Secretary Arne Duncan, the former Chicago Public Schools.

WASHINGTON--Embattled Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) through his attorney, Tim Wright, on Friday told Illinois Attorney Gen. Lisa Madigan that her legal brief to cut his appointed term short doesn't cut it with them.

Two main points from Wright's letter (see pdf here)

1. Legal--Asserts violation of federal law to have a special election to effectively end his appointment.

2. Political--State can't afford special election.

WASHINGTON--Watch for debate over President Obama's Iraq combat troop pull out plan.

*Troops to be drawn down over 19 months, not 16 as anticipated.

*Forces left on the ground as support in non-combat roles will number between 35,000 and 50,000. For some, this number of soldiers to remain in Iraq is a problem.

WASHINGTON--The Senate just voted to require transparency in President Obama's giant stimulus package and wants more sunshine on the TARP bank bailout money. Maybe these legislative experiences will trigger some movement in the chamber to do the right thing and finally require electronic filing of Senate campaign finance reports.

Hard to believe--but it is true--the Senate to date just does not want the public to have easy access to these reports. Presidential candidates, House contenders and political action committees have to e-file. But the Senate has been resisting for years.

On Thursday, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wi) joined by Thad Cochran (R-Ms) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) for the FOURTH time introduced a bill to mandate electronic disclosure of Senate campaign finance reports. As noted in their release, the "legislation is identical to legislation that was introduced in the 108th, 109th, and 110th" sessions of Congress.

At present, the Federal Election Commission copies information on Senate receipts into their database. The FEC does not copy expenditures, making it difficult to do detailed analysis of campaigns.

The bill has been stalled in the past because non-related matters have been attached.

This is an easy one. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nv.) should call the bill clean. And within 30 days. Let's just get this done.

Obama to attend Bulls game tonight

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By John Jackson

Chicago Sun-Times NBA/Bulls writer
WASHINGTON--If I had any lingering doubt that President Obama would attend tonight's Bulls game in Washington, it was quickly eliminated when I tried to enter the Verizon Center for the Bulls' morning shootaround.

Normally, I just breeze into the building for a shootaround by showing my media pass to the one or two guards working roughly eight hours before game time. Friday at the Verizon Center, a team of about 20 police officers and at least two bomb sniffing dogs already were in place at the building's loading dock entrance.

I had to go through a metal detector and an officer opened my bag, looked through everything and even opened my laptop. It was roughly the same security procedure I went through on Thursday to enter the White House. The security to enter the Verizon Center right before a game isn't usually that tight, let alone a morning shootaround.

Just to make it official, A Wizards official confirmed once I entered the building that Obama would attend the game.

One more thing: In a shameless attempt to get myself invited to the White House, Obama should have members of the Bulls traveling media back for pickup games, not the players. The media members are closer to his age and he stands a good chance of beating us.

Just a thought, Mr. President.

get-attachment-6.aspx.jpeg (White House photos)


By John Jackson

Chicago Sun-Times NBA/Bulls Writer
WASHINGTON--Usually, teams visit the White House after winning a championship, but the Bulls made the trip Thursday less than 24 hours after one of their worst losses of the season in New Jersey.

Of course, it helps when the President is a big fan.

Players, coaches broadcasters and front office personnel for the Bulls met with and posed for photos with President Obama this afternoon for about 10 to 15 minutes in the Blue Room of the White House.

The Bulls presented the President, a long-time Bulls fan, with a Bulls jersey with "Obama" and No. 44 on the back.

"The President chatted with the players and said he was converting the tennis court out back here into a basketball court and invited them to come and play pick up with him," said David Axelrod, the senior adviser to Obama. "They had a good visit."

WASHINGTON--Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan on Thursday took some initial steps that could result in the Illinois General Assembly bouncing embattled Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) from office by cutting his term short and calling for a special election.
Key to the legal reasoning, issued Wednesday night in the form of an official opinion, is considering Burris' appointment by ousted Gov. Blagojevich as temporary.

WASHINGTON--President Obama, the Hoopster-in-Chief, hosts members of the Chicago Bulls at the White House on Thursday afternoon. The White House said the team would huddle with the president--an avid player--in the Blue Room.

The Bulls will be in town to play the Washington Wizards on Friday. The players and coaches are not expected to be bringing in gear to play a pick-up game. As president-elect in Chicago, Obama at one point had been expected to attend a game, but he had to cancel.

WASHINGTON--No lucky dog yet.

Just to clear the record--President Obama and First Lady Michelle have NOT YET picked a dog breed. After touching base Wednesday with Obama White House East Wing staff about a report in People Magazine that a puppy has been selected-- the word is that the final pick is likely not to come until April.

"The Obamas have not yet selected a dog," I was told. Back in January President Obama said the frontrunners were a labradoodle or a Portuguese water hound. The First Lady seemed partial to a Portuguese water hound in an interview in the new People Magazine out Friday, but one is not to read into that, I was told, a decision.

update 4:20 eastern
WASHINGTON--No lucky dog yet.

Just to clear the record--President Obama and First Lady Michelle have NOT YET picked a dog breed. After touching base Wednesday with Obama White House East Wing staff about a report in People Magazine that a puppy has been selected-- the word is that the final pick is likely not to come until April.

"The Obamas have not yet selected a dog," I was told. Back in January President Obama said the frontrunners were a labradoodle or a Portuguese water hound. The First Lady seemed partial to a Portuguese water hound in an interview in the new People Magazine out Friday, but one is not to read into that, I was told, a decision.

WASHINGTON--Hat tip to People Magazine's Sandra Sobieraj Westfall for the scoop: First Lady Michelle Obama told her the long anticipated puppy pick will be a Portuguese water hound. The dog comes sometime in April.

Some background......
More on the Obama First Dog, settling into Washington
By Lynn Sweet on January 12, 2009 11:27 AM | Permalink

BY LYNN SWEET Sun-Times Columnist

WASHINGTON--President-elect Barack Obama revealed Sunday he is closing in on selecting the first dog -- either a labradoodle or a Portuguese water hound. Here for one week, Obama and his family explored some of the city over the weekend.
The long-promised dog is a gift for daughters Malia and Sasha. "This has been tougher than finding a commerce secretary," Obama told George Stephanopoulos, host of ABC's "This Week."

WASHINGTON---Embattled Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) will deliver his second floor speech on Wednesday--at about 3:45 p.m. eastern on District of Columbia voting rights. He'll also preside over the Senate--the Senators all take turns--later on this afternoon.

Burris--declining invitations to resign--announced two staff pick: Brady King, who will serve as Senator Burris' interim Chief of Staff, and Jim O'Connor, who will serve as Communications Director.

print version
WASHINGTON -- Despite calls to resign -- add Sen. Dick Durbin to the list -- embattled Sen. Roland Burris dug in on Tuesday.

Burris met with Durbin for almost an hour to plead his case, but did not get the boost he hoped for.

"I told him that under the circumstances I would consider resigning if I were in his shoes. He said he would not resign and that was his conclusion," Durbin said.

Durbin said he asked Burris if he was going to run in 2010 and Burris said he has not decided. But a source told the Sun-Times that Burris has come to realize he has been drained of any meaningful political support, and a 2010 bid was not tenable.

In recapping their talk, Durbin said, "I told him it would be extremely difficult for him to be successful in a primary or a general election under the circumstances." Durbin said he would not support Burris if he ran.

Update 10:14 eastern

WASHINGTON--Now I have to stop this and start writing a column.....Here are some post speech scenes I observed from the House gallery balcony overlooking the chamber. Sen. Dick Durbin and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton are at the podium, locked in conversation....She takes a card out of her pocket and a blue pen and starts taking notes on what Durbin is saying.....

....Ok, I feel bad for Sen. Roland Burris. President Obama finished his speech. He worked the GOP side of the aisle. He turned towards the Democrats. Burris is standing alone. He waves at Obama from a short distance away. No response from what I see......No one from the Illinois delegation comes up to Burris. Finally one or two House members, both men who I do not recognize come up to Burris.

The speech is over and Obama is looking up at the balcony, where the press is....he quickly averts his gaze....and then his eyes lock for a moment on the First Lady.....

9:54 EASTERN...These times are a "tremendous burden" but a "great privilege" to shape the world.

For those who are laid off, have homes loosing values, 401k's in the dumps .....I say.....such an honor!

9:54 eastern...Scene in the House press gallery...(not inside the chamber) the journalists who will be doing interviews in Statuary Hall are now scrambling to leave to get there--with escorts--before security clamps down.

9:44 eastern....I'm in the chamber and Obama is talking about how health care reform cannot wait, "it must not wait." I look over to Hillary Rodham Clinton, in the front row with the other cabinet members to see if she reacts. As First Lady in 1994, she got nailed when she tried to steer health reform through Congress. She sits impassively. (I stepped out of the chamber to write this)

9:34 eastern...Here's the, health cafe and education.
Downbeat....China, Germany and Japan are beating us with our own technology....
Upbeat...."It's time for America to lead again."

9:32 eastern....Obama says he will sacrifice some "worthy priorities" and they are.....

9:29 eastern ....A whole lot of Wall Street and bank bashing.
Obama has an interesting rhythm in this speech...some doom and gloom and then a shiny point of light...."slowly, but surely, confidence will return, and our economy will recover."

9:20 eastern
"Nobody messes with Joe," Obama says. Pitches accountability in his stimulus plan and website.

President Obama starts his speech before a joint session of Congress very gloomy.'s the hope....
"We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before"

8:59 p.m. Some pre President Obama speech scenes in the House of Representatives.....

*First Lady Michelle wearing a sleeveless dress. Doesn't she ever get cold?

*Big cheers from Democratic female lawmakers for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, the former House member confirmed Tuesday.

*Embattled Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.), with a red hanky in his pocket chatting with Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) looking all around the House gallery.

*Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) as his tradition, arrived in the chamber hours early in order to claim an upfront aisle seat.

IMG_9779.JPG Left, Sgt. McCallum II, Sen. Durbin center, right, Sgt. Rafael Delgado
(photo by Lynn Sweet)

WASHINGTON--Continuing a tradition, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) invited two wounded Illinois vets to be his guests when the president addresses a joint session of Congress.

On Tuesday, Durbin hosted two soldiers who served in Iraq, Sgt. Rafael Delgado, who lives in Garfield Park in Chicago and Sgt. Ralph McCallum II of Springfield.

A blood drive will be held in the upcoming days at Brands Park,
3285 N. Elston Ave. in Chicago in honor of Delgado. Call the park at (773) 478-2414 for date and time.

Updated 4:34 p.m. eastern time.

WASHINGTON--Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) held a 59-minute meeting Tuesday with embattled Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) and afterwards said Burris told him he will not resign.

Durbin said he told Burris he would not support his candidacy in 2010. Durbin said he asked Burris if he was going to run in 2010 and Burris said he has not decided. A source told the Sun-Times that Burris is not going to run. In any case, the uproar surrounding Burris would make it politically impossible to run since almost every major Democrat in the state has asked Burris to step down.

In recapping their discussion, Durbin said, "I told him it would be extremely difficult for him to be successful in a primary or a general election under the circumstances.

Burris was under some pressure, Durbin said; Burris' legal fees were "hundreds and thousand of dollars."

"I told him that under the circumstances I would consider resigning if I were in his shoes. He said he would not resign and that was his conclusion," Durbin said.

"At this point I suggested to him he had to do everything in his power to bring the facts out as completely as possible. He told me he was limited in some respects in speaking to the press, making public statements."

Burris is facing inquiries from the Senate Ethics Committee and the Sangamon County (Ill.) state's attorney.

"It's now up to Sen. Burris to deal with the facts and challenges before him," Durbin said.

Durbin underscored what Burris told him. "He told me clearly he will not resign"

"Now a lot of people, including a lot of editorial writers who think that I have a very persuasive way about me with Mr. Burris. And I will just tell you that is not the case. He contacted me before he was appointed by Gov. Blagojevich and I advised him, don't do it. He did it anyway. So my advice obviously doesn't move him."

In the most general terms, members are concerned about this.

"Again, it raises sadly the specter of political controversy in my home state. People in Illinois are bone weary of this stuff. They want this Blagojevich burlesque to end and they want to move on. We have a lot of things that have to be done with our new governor and our General Assembly.

"As far as my colleagues here in the Senate, they are grasping as I am to try to get to the truth of this situation. They are confused and concerned about the disclosures that have been made but you know, each of them will have to speak for themselves."

I asked Durbin and he and Burris will work, since Burris is sticking around.

"I am going to do what is best for the state. Working with Sen. Burris on some issues absolutely essential. There are some appointments that require the signature of both senators, for example. So we will find ways to cooperate and work together. I don't want the people of Illinois to lose anything because of this controversy.

WASHINGTON--As President Obama has said, he didn't sign up for an economic meltdown when he campaigned for the White House. Now he has a hand in running the nation's banks, auto industry and housing market. Tonight, before Obama's first joint address to Congress, he is expected to focus on domestic and financial issues.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs made the rounds of the morning shows to preview the speech. On CBS Gibbs said, "I think what you'll see tonight is the president will lay out the many challenges that we have.

:He'll talk about the recovery plan that's now into law and that is already beginning to save and create jobs in this country. He'll talk extensively about a financial stability plan that will get banks lending to families and small businesses again, a home foreclosure plan that helps responsible homeowners avoid foreclosure, as well as a plan to re-regulate the financial industry so that we don't find ourselves, Maggie, facing this situation ever again."

WASHINGTON--Last week, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs issued what sounded like an ominous warning to embattled Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.). Take the weekend to think about his future.

That chilling message was suppose to pry Burris from his Senate seat. Well, the weekend is over and Burris is still here. He'll be at President Obama's address to a joint session of Congress tonight. So far Gibbs threat and the calls from others for Burris to resign ihas not worked. In an earlier post today, I reported that Burris is not resigning but offered this bone to critics: he will not run in 2010.

On NBC's "Today Show," host Matt Lauer asked Gibbs about Burris. Gibbs threat is going into overtime.

"That Senator Burris needs to take some time and think about whether he can actually help this country, whether he can serve the constituents of Illinois," Gibbs said.

WASHINGTON--Embattled Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) meets with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on Tuesday afternoon. Burris understands that he needs to try to mollify Durbin and he will attempt to do that.

Scoop: Burris will also be sending, directly or indirectly (maybe this is it) two messages: he will not resign in the wake of the controversy surrounding his appointment by the ousted Gov. Blagojevich and he will not run for the seat in 2010. Burris has finally realized that not seeking election next year is the least price he will pay.

Here is the state of play regarding Burris, from the Burris perspective.

*Senate Democratic leadership is going to realize Burris is not going away soon.

*The Senate Ethics panel moves slowly.

*The Sangamon Co. (Ill.) inquiry about Burris' will take some time.

*The Senate Democrats need Burris for his vote, especially with the Minnesota seat still up in the air.

*So they all have to make this work somehow.

WASHINGTON -- First, some news, for anyone wondering if Gov. Quinn, who replaced the ousted Gov. Blagojevich, will run in 2010.

He will.

"I have no reason not to run," Quinn told me when I asked him about the 2010 election.

"I think I am doing a good job today. I anticipate I will continue to do that. Stabilizing the ship of Illinois is vitally necessary. I think even in the first three-and-a-half weeks we've done a decent job of turning a page in an unhappy chapter in the state's history," Quinn said.

WASHINGTON--Bud Jackson is a political consultant who has worked campaigns for Roland Burris in the past. When Burris was appointed to the Senate, he was helping out a bit, pro bono, he told me. Now he is dumping on others who, he said, ill advised the junior senator from Illinois.

But Jackson, who makes a living in political communication, wants everyone to know he has nothing to do with the hole the senator has dug himself with his changing stories about his relations with people in ousted Gov. Blagojevich's orbit.

That's why very early this morning he sent out a memo making clear he was not advising Burris in this latest episode, which resulted in massive pressure on Burris to resign.

"His team's public relations efforts have been less than stellar," Jackson wrote. "Turns out that, because my business is political communication, I need to let folks know that I have not been involved in the decisions that have led to the public relations fiasco over the past week. In fact, I actively counseled his team to take very different actions, to no avail."

Arnold and Maria (photos by Lynn Sweet)

Valerie Jarrett

The Crists of Florida

Desiree Rogers

The Jindals' of Louisiana

Pool Report 1
Lynn Sweet
Chicago Sun-Times

Event: White House kitchen preview with chefs and students before the Obama White House First State Dinner Sunday afternoon.

A memo from the East Wing with the menu, settings, flowers, china, glassware and silver flatware is at the end or this report. A transcript will be coming. Interviews with students to come.

If you did not know:
*"The president loves scallops," according to First Lady Michelle Obama.

*The White House Huckleberry Cobbler is "one of the First Family's favorites."

*Mrs. Obama is fond of a White House soup that "tastes creamy without being creamy" and the creamed spinach that has no cream.

The creamed spinach is "delicious," said White House chief Cristeta Comerford.

Nonetheless, Mrs. Obama said, "Sasha still didn't like it." She added that the White House kitchen staff faces a "test" because the staff has to deal with feeding youngsters. ".....And sometimes kids are like, 'it's green,'" Mrs. Obama said.

*Mrs. Obama is contemplating coming up with her own china. "I think so, I think that's, that's part of the job," she said.


WASHINGTON -- It's Friday in the East Wing of the Obama White House, the realm of first lady Michelle Obama.

Many of the cream-colored walls are still bare. The Obama administration, after all, is just one month old.

But there is a growing photo collection in the hallways that charts the increasing activity of the first lady in the last two weeks as she settles in to her new role and starts expanding her portfolio of issues.

The newest item on her non-controversial agenda is healthy living. That's in addition to assisting military families, pushing work-family balance, national service, women's concerns and opening up the White House to the community.

The pictures tell a story of the first weeks of the administration and the first lady ramping up her public appearances. There's the nation's first couple in formal wear at the Alfalfa Dinner. And Mrs. Obama receiving an American Indian shawl at the Interior Department. The first lady greeting White House staff in the East Room and hugging a little girl at a school in the city. An empty frame waits to be filled.

The first lady on this morning is in her office.


Staff Reporters

CHICAGO--Federal authorities questioned U.S. Senator Roland Burris today at his lawyer's office -- a long-awaited interview involving his U.S. Senate seat appointment -- the Sun-Times-NBC/5 team has learned.

Burris is not accused of wrongdoing but was questioned in the case that centers on ousted Gov. Blagojevich and his alleged attempts to sell President Obama's former seat.

Burris chief of staff quits


WASHINGTON--Embattled Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) took another blow on Friday--his chief of staff, Darrell Thompson quit.

Thompson was detailed to the Burris operation from the staff of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nv.) in order to give Burris top notch experienced Senate help to get his office up and running. Thompson was a top staffer in President Obama's 2004 Illinois Senate campaign.

As Burris resists calls for him to step down, Thompson pulled the plug on is short tenure.

"Three weeks ago I was temporarily detailed to serve as Chief of Staff to Senator Roland W. Burris. Though my tenure was relatively brief, I enjoyed and valued my time with Senator Burris, his entire staff and his other advisors," Thompson said in a statement.

"As of today, my role as Interim Chief of Staff to Senator Burris will end. I will resume, in full, my duties as Senior Advisor to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid."

WASHINGTON--White House Secretary Robert Gibbs said Friday President Obama is supportive of an investigation of embattled Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) and signaled that Burris only has a small time left to save his seat.

Gibbs stopped short of calling for Burris to resign. Burris is under a cloud for not disclosing details about his quest for the appointment to fill Obama's senate seat. Burris was appointed by outsted Gov. Blagojevich after the former governor was arrested for trying to sell the seat.

"The president is supportive of an investigation that would get some full story out. And I think it might be important for Sen. Burris to take some time this weekend to either correct what has been said and certainly think of what lies in his future," Gibbs said.

Illinois Gov Quinn on Friday called on Burris to resign.


Chicago Sun-Times Staff Reporter

CHICAGO--Gov. Quinn this morning called on his good friend Roland Burris to resign his U.S Senate seat.

"There's just too much of a cloud of controversy over the appointment process," Quinn said.

WASHINGTON--Here's an overview on many of the Chicagoans in the Obama White House I wrote for Washingtonian Magazine.

WASHINGTON--Chicago native Kathleen Strand is back in the city, after working for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and a string of other political jobs. Strand is joining the Chicago office of the Dover Group as a Senior Vice President of Strategic Communications.

WASHINGTON--The White House web site--uses the occasion of President Obama's first international trip--a quick visit to Ottawa, Canada on Thursday--to live blog the event.

WASHINGTON--President Obama and First Lady Michelle will give the first glimpse of their entertaining style Sunday night when they host a black-tie White House dinner for the National Governors Association.

The East Wing, run by the First Lady has been working on the details of the dinner for several weeks.

It is the debut for White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers, the Chicago executive and friend of both the President and First Lady.

"The White House is the place where our bond as Americans is strengthened," said Rogers in a statement. "We look forward to welcoming the nation's governors to celebrate our democratic ideals, our diversity, our shared values and the best of the American spirit."

The evening will feature performances by the Marine Corps band and Earth Wind and Fire, the jazz and rhythm and blues group from the 1970s with Chicago roots.

WASHINGTON--Stepping up her pace as First Lady, Michelle Obama on Thursday visited the Agriculture Department, part of her tour of federal agencies. She brought a seedling as a gift.

"It will be beautiful some day," she said.

DFA backs Georghgan in 5th c.d. race

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Obama's Gibbs on Burris


WASHINGTON--A big reason that Senate Democratic leaders dropped their resistance to seating Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) last month is that President Obama signaled that the commotion over his appointment by now ousted Gov. Blagojevich was a distraction.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs was asked about the revelations that Burris was not candid (to say the least) when he testified before the state House impeachment panel about his contacts with people in the Blagojevich orbit. Burris also was not candid when I asked him about how he put himself in play at a Jan. 7 press conference here--a day before his Springfield testimony.

Gibbs, asked about Obama's reaction said,"I have to say, I've neglected to speak with him. But I will give you this. Obviously the people of Illinois have been through a lot in the past few weeks. And obviously Senator Burris was seated based in some way on the representations that he made to the U.S. Senate and to the committee in Illinois investigating Governor Blagojevich, and as well in interviews to the people of -- that the people of Illinois heard.

"I think in many ways he was seated based on those representations, and I think that the people of Illinois deserve -- deserve to know, based on some of the things that have happened over the past few days, deserve to know the full extent of any involvement. And I think that's likely to come out as part of some of the investigations that are now ongoing."

Gibbs declined to says whether Burris should resign.

WTTW11's "Chicago Tonight" Elizabeth Brackett signed to write a quckie book about ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich. It's titled "Pay to Play: How Rod Blagojevich Turned Political Corruption Into a National Sideshow." Her agent: Ivan R. Dee.

WASHINGTON--There are a lot of elements to the Obama mortgage foreclosure plan unveiled on Wednesday. I know from the many comments on my blog this is an issue of crucial importance to many of you.

Here is an on-the record briefing from Obama administration officials. (Note that White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs allowed the briefers to be identified and not be sourced as senior administration officials.)

WASHINGTON--Embattled Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) is cancelling his Thursday schedule, where he was to have met with Rockford area civic, elected and religious leaders as Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) sent out a very frosty statement, saying Burris failed to disclose under oath the nature of his relationship with former Gov. Blagojevich.

Durbin is traveling in Athens on Wednesday; in the evening his office issued this statement: "When we met with Roland Burris in January, we made it clear that in order for him to be seated in the U.S. Senate he needed to meet two requirements - first, that he submit the proper paperwork certifying his appointment, and second, that he appear before the General Assembly's Impeachment Committee to testify openly, honestly and completely about the nature of his relationship with the former governor, his associates and the circumstances surrounding this appointment."

"We asked him to testify in the impeachment proceedings, not to embarrass Roland Burris, but to give him an opportunity to clear the air regarding this appointment from a tainted governor. Our hope was that he would use that opportunity to assure the people of Illinois and the other members of the United States Senate that he was not involved in any wrongdoing."

"Now the accuracy and completeness of his testimony and affidavits have been called into serious question. Every day there are more and more revelations about contacts with Blagojevich advisors, efforts at fundraising and omissions from his list of lobbying clients. This was not the full disclosure under oath that we asked for."

"These news reports and the public statements by Roland Burris himself are troubling and raise serious questions which need to be looked at very carefully," Durbin said.

WASHINGTON--Girl Friend Summit alert....Oprah at the White House...First Lady Michelle Obama celebrates African American History month with school kids at the White House on Wednesday afternoon.

Hat tip to The Reliable Source at the Washington Post, where Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts reported that Oprah Winfrey and pal Gayle King were at the White House on Tuesday for an "O" Magazine interview.

This afternoon at 4 p.m. eastern, the first lade brings sixth and seventh graders from the city to the White House to hear Sweet Honey in the Rock, an African American female a capella group.

This event is an example of Obama's efforts to open up the White House to the community.

WASHINGTON--Quick analysis of Sen. Roland Burris before the City Club of Chicago. I watched it on TV, so my impressions may be different from someone in the room. But it is the video that most people will be seeing.

*Burris got a gracious reception. He showed that he is not a pariah despite calls for him to step down, and establishment Chicago at the lunch speech was willing to listen to him. Don't mistake that, however, for the political support he needs to remain politically viable.

*Unlike his most recent appearances on TV, he did no damage to himself.

*However, he gave no explanation about all the conflicting explanations of who he talked to in the Blagojevich orbit in his quest for the senate seat vacated by President Obama.

*Clean sound bite: "I've done nothing wrong. I've nothing to hide."

*Minus: Offered no vision of what he wanted to do as a senator. No rationale of why he should be in office at this point in time. No suggestions at all about his senatorial agenda.

Why? Because I don't think he has one.

1:09 Chicago time..Green gives Burris a City Club mug.

1:08 Chicago time...Green reads question from Jeff Berkowitz, about contacts with Blaogjevich..."Not making any responses to those questions."

1:07 Chicago time....Former Ald. Bernie Hansen--question about great lakes....Burris done with talking about expensive Washington hotel rooms.

1 p.m. Chicago time....Burris is taking questions, it turns out, read by Paul Green....

Burris asked about living arrangements in Washington....surprised to find the federal government did not pay rent of senators....

Burris did not read $787 billion stimulus bill.
"I got handed a 800 something and page document:.....thumbed through it....

...implies he has told all he knows about facts leading up to his appointment....

12:58 Chicago time....Burris declares...."won't engage the media" anymore after today. "And have the facts drip out on a selective basis."

12:54...Burris is now addressing what folks want to hear...his defense...
Some choice quotes...

"I've done nothing wrong. I've nothing to hide."

"Stop the rush to judgement."
"I am the real Roland."

"Trust and relationships take time to build"

12:52 Chicago time....FYI...BURRIS NEVER VOTED ON THE LILY LEDBETTER ACT.... That was Senate vote 4 on Jan. 15, with a roll call at 12:58 pm.

Burris was sworn in that day. His first vote was at 4:28 p.m.

12:26 Chicago time....Burris is talking things he had nothing to do with...the Chicagoans in the White House....expanding childrens health...the Lily Ledbetter act.....(passed on the day Burris sworn in the senate.

"and the landmark $787 stimulus package"

Embattled Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) was just introduced by Chicago Ald. Ed Burke (14th) at the City Club of Chicago. Burris is not going to take questions after his speech, according to his new press spokesman Jim O'Connor, who was a press secretary for Blair Hull's 2004 Senate campaign.

Burke gave him a very upbeat, supportive introduction.

Burris is talking about his first month in office.

WASHINGTON--President Obama unveils his mortgage foreclosure plan Wednesday in Phoenix.

Key elements:

*help some homeowners--whose property has decreased at least 15 percent--reduce monthly payments.
*make it easier to modify loans.
*keep interest rates low.
*no help for speculators.
*help homeowners before they default.

WASHINGTON--A top ethics watchdog group on Tuesday called on the Senate to expel Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) for the misleading statements he made about the circumstances leading up to his appointment by ousted Gov. Blagojevich.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington Executive Director Melanie Sloan said, "The evidence suggests Sen. Burris lied under oath when he failed to disclose these contacts earlier. As a result, prosecutors should investigate and see if Sen. Burris can be prosecuted for perjury." Sloan continued, "Separately, the Senate Select Committee on Ethics should commence its own investigation to determine if Sen. Burris lied to Senate leadership or the Senate Rules Committee when the Senate was considering whether or not to seat him.

"If so, the ethics committee should recommend that the Senate expel Sen. Burris for improper conduct that reflects upon the Senate."

WASHINGTON--The Senate Ethics Committee, chaired by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) is opening a preliminary probe into Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) and his seeming misleading statements about events leading up to his appointment by ousted Gov. Blagojevich to the Senate seat vacated by President Obama.

"Whenever allegations of improper conduct are brought to the attention of the
Senate Ethics Committee, we open a preliminary inquiry," Boxer Communications
Director Natalie Ravitz said Tuesday.

Burris, on his first statewide swing, said Tuesday he will cooperate with any state and Senate investigations.

A Senate probe could take months.

WASHINGTON--Chatting with WGN host Bob Sirott on WGN-AM radio right now about Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.)

WASHINGTON -- I bet Sen. Roland Burris only casually flagged Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Dick Durbin about the affidavit he sent to the Illinois House impeachment committee -- the one where he came clean about multiple contacts with ousted Gov. Blagojevich's brother Rob asking him for fund-raising help.

Burris, I'm told by several sources, strolled up to Durbin, the No. 2 Senate leader, and Reid on the Senate floor while they were in the midst of overseeing the vote on President Obama's stimulus bill, one of the most important pieces of legislation in the history of this nation. .

Burris vastly minimized the nature of the document he filed.

WASHINGTON--Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) press conference on Sunday met the full force of an aggresive Chicago press corps. The journalists were pressing him on his varying explanations about contacts with people associated with outsted Gov. Blagojevich as he sought an appointment to a Senate seat from the then governor.

click below for transcript

WASHINGTON--Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) trying to save his sinking Senate career, delivered a brief statement Monday morning where he argued he answered questions about the contacts he had with former Gov. Blagojevich team leading up to his appointment. He did not take questions.

Said Burris, "Very brief statement is that we said in our testimony before the impeachment committee -- my lawyer stated that we will have to file official information in our report because there were some questions asked where we had to get some additional information for the committee. He also stated that we might be incomplete in our report, therefore, we -- if we check the transcripts -- that we would file supplemental information -- (off mike) -- because we might not have answered all questions."

WASHINGTON---I talk about what a great place Chicago is--and a bit about deep dish pizza, Italian beef and ribs--in NBC's Lester Holt's piece Sunday night about the Obama family returning to Chicago for the weekend.

WASHINGTON--Jill Zuckman, national political correspondent for the Chicago Tribune and one of the nation's top political writers, is leaving the Washington Bureau to join the Obama administration as the communications chief for Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a former Illinois lawmaker.

Zuckman's title at DOT is Assistant to the Secretary and Director of Public Affairs.

On pool duty in Chicago, the Sun-Times Abdon Pallasch reports "President Obama skipped the gym workout and instead headed at about 11 a.m. to the University of Chicago Lab School campus for a basketball game with friends. Friends' IDs not yet available."

NBA star Magic Johnson was asked by CNN's John King on Sunday's "State of the Union" what position he would play Obama on a team.

Point Guard, Johnson said.

"He's going to be a point because that's how he thinks......

"....What I'm saying is that a point guard got to think five minutes ahead. You ask these two guys they know the time they know what they have to do at that particular time but they also thinking five min ahead because we got to know what is going to happen five min down the road. So he's got to stay at pt guard because he is running the country the same way he's got to think for the future so he is the point guard for sure."

C-SPAN 2009 presidential rankings.


WASHINGTON--C-SPAN has a new ranking of presidents. Abraham Lincoln is at the top.


WASHINGTON--Neither David Axelrod nor Robert Gibbs, the top Obama White House spokesmen moved the bar much on the Sunday shows over who President Obama will pick for vacant Commerce and Health and Human Services cabinet spots. Not many crumbs offered up in the mortgage foreclosure plan the administration will roll out on Wednesday.

On NBC's "Meet the Press" host David Gregory asked Axelrod, a senior Obama advisor, about any surprises he may have had in the first few weeks in Washington.

"You know, I relearned, David, a lesson that I've, that I, that I've always known but that came back in stark relief, which is that there's a different conversation in this town often than what's going on in the country," Axelrod said.

"On cable television for the last few weeks you've heard the president's plan is in trouble, you know, this big discussion about Republicans and Democrats and so on and so forth. Out in the country people were saying, "I'm losing my job. I'm worried about my health care. I'm worried about staying in my home. I'm looking for someone to act." And they were supportive of what the president was trying to do. And it's always important to remember that the chatter in this town is not the chatter around kitchen tables in this country. And as long as we listen to kitchen table chatter, I think we're going to stay on a truer course."

WASHINGTON--President Obama makes his first international visit on Thursday, when he travels to Ottawa to meet with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other officials. Obama heads to Denver and Phoenix on Tuesday. Obama's team rolls out its mortgage foreclosure package this upcoming week and Obama touts it Wednesday in Phoenix.

President Obama and First Lady Michelle are celebrating Valentines Day Saturday night in Chicago at the Table Fifty-Two restaurant at 52 W. Elm St. The co-owner and executive chef of the restaurant is Art Smith, the one time personal chef for Oprah Winfrey.

The Obama family flew from Washington to O'Hare Friday night on Air Force One for the Presidents Day weekend. The Obamas' I take it want themselves and their daughters to stay connected, grounded and rooted in Chicago even as they get to know Washington in their new roles.

On Saturday morning Obama worked out at the gym at Regents Park in Hyde Park.

The Air Force One traveling party also included First Grandmother Marion Robinson, friend Valerie Jarrett, White House Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Relations and Public Liaison and Heather Higginbottom, Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council.

The Burris affidavit.


February 14, 2009
Chicago Sun-Times Staff Reporters

State lawmakers are calling for a criminal investigation into whether U.S. Sen. Roland Burris committed perjury before a state impeachment panel, in the wake of a Sun-Times exclusive story published online today.

The development comes after the Chicago Democrat failed to initially disclose under oath to a House panel that he was hit up for campaign cash by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's brother.

State Rep. James Durkin (R-Western Springs) said Saturday that the Sangamon County state prosecutor‚s office will be asked to review Burris‚ Jan. 8 sworn testimony before the House panel to determine whether Burris (D-Ill.) perjured himself.

WASHINGTON--My Sun-Times colleagues Dave McKinney and Natasha Korecki write below in a Sun-Times exclusive about Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) omitting under oath that he was solicited for Blagojevich campaign cash before his appointment. He also did not disclose under oath to the Illinois House impeachment committee last month names of Blagojevich associates who he talked to about getting the appointment.

Burris also failed to provide me with a straight answer when I asked him at a Jan. 7 press conference in Washington about how he was trying to get then Gov. Blagojevich to appoint him to the seat vacated by President Obama. "How were you putting yourself in play? Who were you talking to specifically?" I asked. Here is the transcript of the Burris evasive answer to my question.


Chicago Sun-Times Staff Reporters

Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's brother solicited U.S. Sen. Roland Burris for up to $10,000 in campaign cash before Blagojevich named Burris to the coveted post -- something Burris initially failed to disclose under oath before an Illinois House impeachment panel, records and interviews show.

Burris (D-Ill.) acknowledges being hit up for the money in a new affidavit he has sent to the head of the House committee that recommended Blagojevich be removed from office.

The affidavit is dated Feb. 5 -- three weeks after Burris was sworn in to replace President Obama in the Senate.


WASHINGTON--While the Obama White House is searching for a replacement for health czar Tom Daschle, policy work on health care reform--a priority for the administration--Is ongoing with one key advisor especially well connected.

The brother of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel, a noted bioethicist, is advising the Obama administration on health care reform.

Dr. Emanuel is the Chair of the Department of Bioethics at The Clinical Center of the National Institutes of Health and a breast oncologist.

Dr. Emanuel is a special advisor to the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget for health policy. He told me he is "working on (the) health care reform effort." He is "detailed" to the OMB spot and is still officially an employee of the NIH.

Until last August, Dr. Emanuel was commuting between his Chicago home in West Rogers Park and Washington. He moved to Washington last August after his youngest daughter graduated from Northside College Prep at Bryn Mawr and Kedzie.

One of three wildly successful Emanuel brothers (Ari is a Hollywood superagent) Dr. Emanuel also advised the Clinton White House on health care issues. He is a graduate of Amherst College, receiving his masters of science from Oxford University in Biochemistry. His M.D. is from Harvard Medical School. He holds a Ph.D. in political philosophy from Harvard University. In addition, in 1987-88, he was a fellow in the Program in Ethics and the Professions at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

WASHINGTON--White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is retaining his $1.76 million political warchest, I've been told, with Emanuel keeping his options open for a return to an elected position some time in the future.

"The account will obviously remain dormant during the time that former Congressman Emanuel is serving as President Obama's Chief of Staff," Emanuel spokesman Sarah Feinberg told me. "No decisions have been made about what will be done with the account or the funds in the account in the future."

WASHINGTON--Despite President Obama wooing Republicans in general and Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) in particular, the House on Friday afternoon passed the massive recession busting tax cut and spending bill with only Democratic votes. The legislation passed on a 246-183 roll call.

Obama made a personal appeal to Schock--who represents the Peoria area--when they both were at the Caterpillar plant in East Peoria on Thursday. Schock flew to the event on Air Force One.

Schock said he liked the ride--but did not hear anything that changed his mind. He took to the House floor on Friday to underscore his opposition to the Obama stimulus plan and to note that no one at Caterpillar asked for his vote.

"I had the privilege yesterday of traveling with the President to my hometown of Peoria, Illinois, to visit a company that's made the news recently - Caterpillar Corporation. And during that speech the President had me stand up in front of hundreds of my constituents and Caterpillar workers and urge them to call on me to support this bill and asked them to approach me after his speech to put pressure on me to vote for this bill," Schock said.

"I found it very interesting that after the President finished his speech and I stayed around, not one employee at that facility approached me and asked me to vote for this bill. In fact, I have received over 1,400 phone calls, e-mails, and letters from Caterpillar employees alone asking me to oppose this legislation.


WASHINGTON--The Land of Lincoln is joining the crowd making a buck off the popular son of Illinois, President Obama. Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White is selling Obama plates--good only for 60 days--for $50 a pair.

The Illinois Library Association will use the profits to help fund materials for library run summer reading programs for students.

In the first wave, the plates will be sold only to people from Illinois who have autos. For people who don't have cars--no matter where they live-- the souvenir plates can be purchased for $50 after April 17.

Summer reading programs help kids retain reading and learning skills while on vacation.

A tax deduction of $35 can be taken as a contribution to the library association.

It costs about $5 to make the plate; $5 to mail and $2 for credit card charges. Rights to use the Obama photo cost about $650, according to the ILA.

WASHINGTON--Candidates in the March 3 primary in the Illinois fifth congressional race to replace Rahm Emanuel--must as of Thursday report contributions of $1,000 and more within 48 hours.

click below for FEC filing schedule

WASHINGTON--Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) makes his first statewide swing next week, with a high profile appearance before the City Club of Chicago next Wednesday. The five-day trip will give the first clue if Burris will suffer any significant backlash from taking the appointment to fill President Obama's senate seat from the tainted and now former Gov. Blagojevich.

The Burris road trip will stop at Peoria, Bloomington, Normal, Rockford, North Chicago and Chicago and is a mix of government and political business. Burris has a campaign-style schedule, meetings with elected officials, civic groups, union leaders, university presidents, and political honchos.

This comes as state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias is ramping up talk of challenging Burris in the 2010 Democratic primary. However, Giannoulias is still raising unregulated state dollars, with a March 12 fund-raiser in Chicago that cannot be spent in a federal race. Gianoulias is contemplating pouring in some of his own fortune into a Senate bid.

Wheelan new 5th district spot

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WASHINGTON--Vice President Biden on Thursday announced the appointment of Chicagoan Kareem Dale as Special assistant to the President for Disability

Dale, who is partly blind, was the Disability Vote Director for the Obama presidential campaign.

Biden announced the Dale appointment during his visit to the Special Olympics World
Winter Games in Boise, Idaho.

Dale flew with joined Biden on Air Force 2 from Washington to Boise. Said Dale: "I¹m just humbled and honored for the faith the president and vice president have shown in me and I look forward to working with them."

WASHINGTON--The House and Senate conference report for the stimulus bill--The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act--has just been posted with lawmakers having less than a day to plow through the bill. This is the merged version--the final deal--between House and Senate negotiators.

By Abdon M. Pallasch
Chicago Sun-Times Political Reporter

EAST PEORIA, Ill. ‹ Once President Obama signs the $789 billion stimulus
package, roads will start getting built again, orders for Caterpillar trucks
will go up again and the company can start hiring back some of the 22,000
workers it plans to lay off, he said.

³Think about all the work out there to be done, and Caterpillar will be
selling the equipment that does the work,² Obama said to hundreds of
Caterpillar workers at a plant here.
He spoke in front of two new-model Caterpillar electric road-building

WASHINGTON--Visiting the Caterpillar Plant in East Peoria on Thursday afternoon, President Obama was drumming up support for his stimulus bill. He pressured freshman Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.)--Caterpillar is in his district--for his vote by basically wondering out loud if he will measure up to the two men who had the seat before him--Transportation Sec. Ray LaHood and former House Minority Leader Bob Michel (R-Ill.)

No House Republicans voted for the stimulus the first time around. I've heard that as of Thursday, no Illinois House member will vote yes on the final version.

Said Obama at the plant, "I want to thank Peoria's own Ray LaHood, who is doing outstanding work as my Transportation secretary. You know, Ray comes from a long line of Republicans I love, starting with Bob Michel and -- you know, they're just -- I think there's a common-sense, Midwestern, can-do, bipartisan attitude that Ray represents. And I am so pleased that he's in my Cabinet.

"Now, his successor, Congressman Schock -- where is he? He's back here. He's right here. Stand up, Aaron. This is -- Aaron's still trying to make up his mind about our recovery package...... So, you know, he has a chance to be in the mold of Bob Michel and Ray LaHood."

WASHINGTON--Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) withdrew his name Thursday as President Obama's Commerce Secretary. He cited differences with the administration over the stimulus bill and what he said was a "slight" issue over the handling of the Census Bureau.

The Obama team botched its chance to explain in a timely way, clearly, not in code, what Obama did--or did not--want to change in regards to overseeing the Census Bureau after Gregg was nominated.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said "Senator Gregg reached out to the President and offered his name for Secretary of Commerce. He was very clear throughout the interviewing process that despite past disagreements about policies, he would support, embrace, and move forward with the President's agenda.

"Once it became clear after his nomination that Senator Gregg was not going to be supporting some of President Obama's key economic priorities, it became necessary for Senator Gregg and the Obama administration to part ways. We regret that he has had a change of heart".

The Census Bureau is a part of the Commerce Department and some Democrats complained to the Obama White House about the selection of Gregg, who seemed hostile to Census funding and some other issues. The upcoming census is next year, and an expert I talked to said the bureau is behind in planning.

Democrats and Republicans have ideological and practical issues over the Census, especially over statistical sampling over an actual count. How people are counted is important-the Census is the basis for redrawing electoral districts, from alderman to Congress and everything in-between.

So after some Democrats--particularly the Congressional Black Caucus--complained about Gregg, the White House sent some kind of signal--vague, but still something--that the White House will take some kind of oversight role with the Bureau. That morphed into Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel running the Census from the West Wing, though that is not the case. After a few days, as the issue festered, the White House then said in a statement not widely released that nothing would change.

Republicans this morning held a press conference to complain about what they asserted was a power grab.

"Yesterday our leadership, along with a group of members from the House Administration Committee and Government Reform
Committee, sent a letter to the president urging him to reconsider his
plan to hand over control of the 2010 census to political operatives
in the White House," House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Oh.) said.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), long involved in Census issues, said "At today's event the House Republicans went on about how there were political machinations going on. But the only true political machinations have been over the past eight years: the Bush Administration's woefully inadequate planning and preparation for the next census, which may result in a failed count unless action is taken in the weeks ahead.

"A failed census is the ultimate political machination: it means lower income and minority citizens would be more likely to be missed, and affluent citizens would be more likely to be counted twice."

Bottom line: The Obama administraton could have had a different approach to placate nervous Democrats. The Obama team could have made it clear that the White House would appoint the Under Secretary for Economic Affairs, the person who runs the Commerce Department's Economics and Statistics Administration, a shop which includes the Bureau of the Census.

Sean Quinn over at picked up on an exchange reporters (one being me) had with Robert Gibbs on Wednesday over the closed door conference committee for the stimulus bill.

WASHINGTON--President Obama paid tribute to President Lincoln and the slaves who helped build the Capitol during a speech marking the 200th anniversary of the birth of the 16th president. Always aware of the bigger narrative and a compelling storyline, Obama said Lincoln "in so many ways made my own story possible - and who in so many ways made America's story possible."

At a ceremony in the Rotunda, with House and Senate leaders, Obama said, "It is fitting that we are holding this celebration here at the Capitol. For the life of this building is bound ever so closely to the times of this immortal President. Built by artisans and craftsmen, immigrants and slaves - it was here, in the rotunda, that union soldiers received help from a makeshift hospital; it was downstairs, in the basement, that they were baked bread to give them strength; and it was in the Senate and House chambers, where they slept at night, and spent some of their days."

After a day trip to Illinois on Thursday, the Obama family travels back Friday afternoon to Sweet Home Chicago for the weekend. This is first visit back to Kenwood as the First Family.

WASHINGTON -- Just a little over three miles from the White House, I'm standing in front of the "cottage" where Abraham Lincoln and his family lived from June to November in 1862, 1863 and 1864 -- and I am struck by the quiet. This was Lincoln's retreat.

The buildings in this city most associated with the 16th president are the White House, of course, Ford's Theater, where Lincoln was assassinated, and the majestic Lincoln Memorial, designed by architect Henry Bacon with the famous Lincoln statue created by Daniel Chester French.

But not as well known is that Lincoln -- whose 200th birthday is celebrated today -- had his closest personal connection with this 34-room Gothic revival house on a Washington hilltop. Lincoln commuted each day to the White House, often on horseback.

WASHINGTON--A crew from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is at the White House today. The daily briefing is ripe for mocking and mugging--like shooting gold fish in a bowl--and the Daily Show team was there as White House press secretary Robert Gibbs parried with reporters.

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama travels a few miles from the White House on Wednesday to attend a Howard University panel on Black History Month.

The First Lady hits the cover of Vogue....

Burris on Wednesday

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WASHINGTON--Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner made a long speech Tuesday on bringing financial stability to the markets, remarkable for what was not in it--the Obama administration still is not ready to roll out a plan to rescue the nation's housing market and slow down the tidal wave of foreclosures.

Geithner said a comprehensive housing plan will be unveiled in a few weeks. Key elements will be to bring down mortage payments and reduce interest rates.

The Obama team is birthing another web site. will be joining on the Internet.

Click below for Geithner transcript

WASHINGTON--White House press secretary Robert Gibbs made the rounds of the morning talk shows on Tuesday for post-Obama first press conference interviews. On Fox News "Fox and Friends," Gibbs says President Obama may well be meeting Fox's Sean Hannity one day for a beer--and make that a Bud.

Gibbs told FOX, "You know, get him a six-pack of Budweiser and we'll meet Hannity wherever he wants to go."

Sen. Dick Durbin on Lincoln's legacy

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WASHINGTON--President Obama, who campaigned for two years calling for a new era of bi-partisanship, all but conceded Monday night at his first White House press conference that the gargantuan recession busting stimulus bill pending before Congress won't have much GOP support.

The pragmatic Obama-with three Republicans in his cabinet-- as much said that bi-partsianship will, if need be, left for another day because of the economic crisis facing the nation.

WASHINGTON--In 2006, in the wake of a dustup between then Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain, Peter Cunningham--moonlighting from his position as a Chicago Public Schools spokesman--penned a hilarious parody for Obama that was a hit at the Gridiron Club, "If I Only Had a Brain" from the "Wizard of Oz." The refrain was "If I only had McCain."

With McCain leading the opposition on the stimulus bill, it may be time to dust-off the lyrics.

Cunningham is following his former boss, Education Sec. Arne Duncan, to Washington. Cunningham will serve as an assistant secretary for communications and outreach in the Education Department.

Cunningham is well connected in the Chicago political world, where his communications firms clients included the public schools, David Axelrod's firm and Ariel Investments, founded by Obama friend and fund-raiser John Rogers. He also worked as a speechwriter in Mayor Daley's city hall.

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama is stepping up her "rollout tour," on Monday visiting the Interior Department, probably the first First Lady to stop by the agency since Eleanor Roosevelt.

This is the First Lady's third department visit, a low key way to introduce Obama to civil service Washington and let her make some low profile announcements. At Interior, Obama announced President Obama will appoint a policy advisor to his senior staff to work on Indian tribal issues.

"Let's get some good things done," Obama said.

Obama's visit was marked by traditional drumming tribal "Honor Song." She was given a bright lavender shawl, to "engulf her in the goodwill of all of us at the department."

Office of the Press Secretary

February 8, 2009


NOTE: Please view attachment for the traveling press schedule

President Barack Obama will receive the Presidential Daily Briefing, the Economic Daily Briefing and attend a senior staff meeting tomorrow morning in the Oval Office. All three meetings are closed to the press.

In the morning, the President will travel on Marine One to Andrews Air Force Base. The President's departure from the South Lawn will be open press. President Obama will then depart Andrews Air Force Base en route South Bend, IN. President Obama will deliver remarks to residents of Elkhart, Indiana, describing his commitment to put aside politics as usual and implement a plan to create jobs, jumpstart growth and transform our economy for the 21st century. Across the country, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan will help businesses create jobs and families afford their bills, while laying a foundation for future economic growth in key areas like health care, clean energy, education and a 21st century infrastructure. This plan is especially crucial in Elkhart, where the unemployment rate has jumped from 4.7 percent to 15.3 percent since last year. The President will return to Andrews Air Force Base on Air Force One then travel to the White House on Marine One. The Presidents arrival aboard Marine One on the South Lawn will be open press.

At 8:00pm tomorrow night, President Obama will hold a news conference in the East Room. This event is open press, credentialing for this event has closed and riser space has been allocated. Members of the media receiving credentials for a seat should check-in upon arrival in the Lower Press office to receive their seat assignment.

Intown Travel Pool
Wires: AP, Reuters, Bloomberg
Wire Photos: AP, Reuters, AFP
TV Corr & Crew: NBC
Print: The Hill
Radio: Salem Radio Network
Magazine Photo: Newsweek
Independent Pool: AP international

Out of town Travel Pool
Wires: AP, Reuters, Bloomberg
Wire Photos: AP, Reuters, AFP
TV Corr & Crew: NBC
Print: New York Times
Radio: NPR (ABC for Return Flight)
Magazine Photo: Newsweek
Magazine Print: TIME


9:00 AM In-Town Travel Pool Call Time
North Doors of the Palm Room

9:30 AM THE PRESIDENT departs The White House en route Andrews Air Force Base
OPEN PRESS (Pre-Set 9:00am: Final Call 9:15am - Gather at the North Doors of the Palm Room)

9:45AM THE PRESIDENT departs from Andrews Air Force Base en route South Bend, IN

11:15AM THE PRESIDENT arrives in South Bend, Indiana

12:05PM THE PRESIDENT holds a Town Hall in Elkhart, Indiana

2:30PM THE PRESIDENT departs South Bend, IN en route Andrews Air Force Base

4:30PM THE PRESIDENT arrives on the South Lawn

8:00PM THE PRESIDENT holds News Conference

WASHINGTON -- The Obama White House and Democratic allies have opened a multi-front campaign to build pressure on Congress to pass a stimulus package of more than $800 billion, using tools from the old-fashioned bully pulpit to Internet social networking

Lynn Sweet's blog at the Chicago Sun-Times celebrated its third birthday on Feb. 7.

WASHINGTON--The first family, including Marion Robinson, the mother of First Lady Michelle Obama, boarded the Marine One helicopter Saturday afternoon en route to the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland. This is the first Camp David visit for the family. Another young girl was with the family.

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama has been saying she wants to get to know her new city and Friday took some of her newest staffers for lunch at Five Guys Burgers and Fries at DuPont Circle.

The lunch bunch--numbering about eight--consisted of new members of Team MO (new scheduler, office support team) --who did not know the First Lady from the campaign.

The First Lady dined on a cheeseburger, fries and a Coke.

WASHINGTON-- The Obama family will be returning to Chicago next weekend, for a Presidents Day weekend visit back home.

Obama will return to Illinois on Feb. 12, when he travels to Springfield for a daytrip to mark the 200th anniversary of Lincoln's birth.

WASHINGTON--White House press secretary Robert Gibbs just confirmed; President Obama will hold his first White House prime time press conference Monday 7 p.m. Chicago time.

WASHINGTON--President Obama is keeping the White House faith-based office created by former President Bush with new emphasis on forming partnerships with community non-profits-- secular and religious--rather than pushing faith based initiatives.

White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives

White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Meanwhile, at the Thursday briefing, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the Obama family still have not picked a church. The Obamas' quit Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ last year in the wake of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright controversy.

The president and first lady "would like to visit some more" churches before making any decisions," Gibbs said.

WASHINGTON--Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), hit a home run Wednesday night at the Washington Press Club Foundation dinner.

"So I'm up here telling the jokes and Al Franken is going to be the senator. What's wrong with that picture," Klobuchar quipped.

Obama called for executive pay caps


The following is a timeline for when these interviews will air today:

7 am - NBC's 'Today Show' - aired live Tuesday morning

9 pm - CNN's 'Larry King Live' (live via satellite)

10 pm - FOX News' 'On the Record with Greta Van Susteren'

1130 pm - CBS' 'The Late Show with David Letterman' (taped Tuesday afternoon)

*all times Eastern

The national TV appearances mark the first interviews since the Illinois State Senate ousted Blagojevich as governor last Thursday.

WASHINGTON--The Obama White House, elected to office on an anti-lobbyist, anti-business as usual campaign, was forced Tuesday to dump former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle as Health and Human Services nominee--and overall health czar--after his income tax problems became a major distraction.

"I accept his decision with regret," Obama said in a statement. Daschle had several tax issues that derailed his nomination--including not reporting as income a car and driver provided by a friend--as well as disclosures after nomination of big earnings from the very health care companies he will be dealing with as part of the Obama administration. Not a formal lobbyist, Daschle leverged his government cache to each at least $5 million in four years.

Daschle, an early supporter of Obama, said in a statement he was withdrawing in order to "not be a distraction."

Said Obama, "Tom made a mistake which he has openly acknowledged. He has not excused it, nor do I."

LINGERING QUESTION: How did this escape the political and legal Obama vetting teams?

By Chris Fusco and Lynn Sweet
Chicago Sun-Times

Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth, chief of the Illinois Veterans Affairs Department, appears will be tapped Tuesday to be an assistant secretary in President Obama's Department of Veterans Affairs, a White House source told the Chicago Sun-Times Monday night.

Duckworth comes to the White House with backing from powerful political patrons: Obama, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and senior White House adviser David Axelrod, who fostered her failed 2006 House bid.

Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich appointed Duckworth state veterans affairs chief in December 2006 after her high-profile congressional campaign. While serving in Iraq, Duckworth lost her legs and mangled her arm when a helicopter she was in was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.

Duckworth has not been affected by Blagojevich's political problems and has emerged as one of his most widely praised cabinet members.


Department of Education
Washington, D.C.

2:47 P.M. EST

MRS. OBAMA: Well, this is a good thing to see this department fired up and ready to go, right? (Applause.) I am -- I am honored to be here this afternoon. First let me tell you that you couldn't be luckier than to have as your leader this guy by the name of Arne Duncan. (Applause.) Barack and I, my brother, my family, we've known Arne for a very long time, and we've seen his growth, his leadership develop over the years. And he is someone who is committed, hardworking, passionate. But he's someone who is fair, who is honest, who is decent, and who knows that getting to any goal means you have to build a team from within, from the bottom up. And I know he's already beginning to do this. This kind of turnout and enthusiasm is sort of for me, but, you know, you're behind -- (laughter) -- but I know you're also excited about your new secretary. (Applause.)

So I'm honored to be here, to share the stage with Arne, as well as all of these public servants who have dedicated a lifetime to education and to public service.

Arne wanted me to talk a little bit about myself, but I always sort of feel like, after two years of a campaign, you know -- (laughter) -- you know everything. But I think the most important thing to tell you or to remind you is that I am a product of your work. I'm a product of people who were investing every day in the education of regular kids who'd grown up on the south side of Chicago, kids on the north side, folks in the south, in the west -- young people who oftentimes comes into these systems not knowing their own power and their own potential, believing that there's some magic out there, to great things. But because of the work that you've put in, you've taught us and helped many of us understand that it is our own hard work and our own belief in self, our commitment to pushing ourselves along, building great communities and families, and reinvesting that energy once we have some successes.

I am a product of your work. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for the public schools that nurtured me and helped me along. And I am committed, as well as my husband, to ensuring that more kids like us and kids around this country, regardless of their race, their income, their status, their -- the property values in their neighborhoods, get access to an outstanding education. (Applause.)

So as Arne said, this is the first stop in many. I'm going to be visiting agencies throughout this administration to do just something simple, and that's to say thank you -- thank you before we even begin the work, because so many of you have been here struggling and pushing for decades. And Barack and I want to say thank you for what you've done and thank you for what you will continue to do. But we also know that there are new faces coming into this work, and we want to welcome you, and thank you for the hard work that you're going to put in.

And I'm going to spend the next several weeks or months, however long it takes, going from agency to agency, just to say hello, to learn, to listen, to take information back where possible. But truthfully, my task here is to say thank you and roll up your sleeves, because we have a lot of work to do. (Applause.)

But the issues that we're collectively working on affect all of us, all of these communities. They affect you and your children and your grandchildren and those of your friends and your family. We're all in this together. So we have a stake in educating every single child, regardless, as I've said, of background and income.

So the Department of Education is going to be at the forefront of many of the things that we have to do in this administration. And we're going to need that energy in these times of economic challenge. We're going to be making investments -- and I shouldn't say "we," but the administration "we." With these investments we're going to create good jobs, as we renovate and modernize more than 10,000 schools and improve -- (applause) -- the learning environment for about 5 million children across this country. We'll be able to increase Pell grants and make college more affordable -- (applause) -- for 7 million students, and give nearly 4 million students tax credits for tuition. Imagine that. (Applause.)

And with these investments that we hope to make through this stimulus package, we'll be able to prevent teacher layoffs -- (applause) -- and education cuts in hard-hit states. We need to keep teachers in the classrooms throughout this time.

We'll be able to preserve early childhood education programs. (Applause.) And I know all of you all know here the importance of investing in early childhood education, and imagine what we can do with millions of dollars of more investment in this area. We can expand opportunities in low-income districts for all students, and particularly for students with disabilities. (Applause.)

And then as we look over the longer term, these investments will accelerate education reform, one of Arne's specialties, by funding and rewarding innovation -- innovative approaches to teaching and learning, such as teacher quality initiatives, school turnaround programs and, of course, charter schools.

There's a lot of work to do, and we're going to need you. I've said that for two years. Sometimes I don't ask for much other than prayer and hard work, and then a little more prayer and then a little more hard work. (Laughter and applause.) But we've got a great leader in Arne, and a wonderful leader in our President Obama. (Applause.) And more importantly, we have to remember that the children of this country are counting on all of us. They're looking to us for direction. They're looking to us for that ray of hope. They're looking to us to help them figure out how to make it through.

And we have everything we need right here and now to make that happen. So we're counting on you every step of the way. So thank you for taking the time to come. Thank you for your service. And let's get to work. (Applause.)

END 2:55 P.M. EST

As scooped in this blog last week, now former Gov. Blagojevich hits the shows for another media blitz, days after being removed from office last Thursday.

Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel gave up his House seat to join the administration. A special election is being held to replace him. The primary is March 3. The general election is April 7. Today, Feb. 1, there is a forum featuring the Democratic primary candidates. Lynn Sweet, Chicago Sun-Times Washington Bureau chief, is the moderator.

time 1-3 p.m Chicago time.
place DePaul Student Center, 2250 N. Sheffield

Will be broadcast live and live streamed over at Chicago Progressive Talk.

CHICAGO--President Obama ribbed chief of staff and friend Rahm Emanuel Saturday at the Alfalfa Dinner. These dinners are marked by speeches that often are marked by self mockery and mockery of those around you. Obama's quips about Emanuel made note of his well known use of profanity.

Obama's zingers, as provided by excepts from the White House:

"Now, this hasn't been reported yet, but it was actually Rahm's idea to do the
swearing-in ceremony again. Of course, for Rahm, every day is a swearing-in

"But don't believe what you read. Rahm Emanuel is a real sweetheart.

No, it's true. Every week the guy takes a little time away to give back to the
community. Just last week he was at a local school, teaching profanity to poor

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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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