Chicago Sun-Times
The scoop from Washington

May 2009 Archives


Updated Saturday night
WASHINGTON--The "personal" trip to New York President Obama and First Lady Michelle made Saturday became grist for the Republican National Committee.

The RNC hit the First Couple up for taking the trip--the RNC called it "a joyride"-- on Air Force One while the nation's economy is suffering.

(Update) The RNC left a misimpression. The Obama's did not take the jumbo jet commonly thought of as the president's plane. Instead, according to Mark Knoller of CBS News, the Obamas flew in an Air Force Gulfstream V (C-37A) for their flight to NYC. "Far less costly than the 747. It's a 12 passenger aircraft," Knoller said in a Twitter dispatch. Any aircraft flying the president is called Air Force One. Other points: the RNC never complained when former President George Bush flew to Texas to weekend at his ranch. I doubt the RNC would have dared criticized Obama if he flew to Chicago on weekends; the Obama's have been home once since the inauguration. (end Update)

The RNC put up a clip from the White House Correspondents Dinner on May 9 where Obama joked about daughters Malia and Sasha taking a ride on Air Force One.

(Update) For their date night, the Obama's ate at Blue Hill.

Then they took in a show at the Belasco Theatre "Joe Turner's Come and Gone," a play by August Wilson about the struggle of a man dealing with the historic scars of slavery. (end Update)

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(AP photo)

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama the Bancroft Elementary
School here on friday and helped plant a dozen cucumbers and four red bell
pepper plants.

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama will be joining President Obama on one leg of his Mideast and European trip next week. She will accompany the president to Normandy to mark the 65th anniversary of D-Day.


(Video courtesy of C-SPAN)

From the pool report....

Another Obama burger run, this time to a Five Guys in Southeast Washington.
President Obama ordered cheeseburgers for himself and members of his staff, and paid at least $80 in cash. The entourage included a NBC News crew that has been trailing the president for a "day-in-the-life" documentary to air next week.
NOTE: Obama visited Ray's Hell Burger in Arlington, Va., a few weeks ago. And First Lady Michelle Obama took her staff to another Five Guys in Washington earlier this year.


President Obama, appearing at a joint press availability Thursday with Palestinian Authority President Abbas, said:

"We are a stalwart ally of Israel and it is in our interests to assure that Israel is safe and secure. It is our belief that the best way to achieve that is to create the conditions on the ground and set the stage for a Palestinian state as well. And so what I told Prime Minister Netanyahu was is that each party has obligations under the road map. On the Israeli side those obligations include stopping settlements. They include making sure that there is a viable potential Palestinian state. On the Palestinian side it's going to be important and necessary to continue to take the security steps on the West Bank that President Abbas has already begun to take, working with General Dayton. We've seen great progress in terms of security in the West Bank. Those security steps need to continue because Israel has to have some confidence that security in the West Bank is in place in order for us to advance this process."

President Obama tapped Chicagoan and major Obama fund-raiser Lou Sussman to be ambassador to Great Britain on Wednesday. The appointment had been long expected. Sussman also chaired Sen. John Kerry's fund-raising operation when he ran for president in 2004.



The transcript of Chris Matthews' interview with Roland Burris on "Hardball" follows:

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), who comes from a Puerto Rican family, said Tuesday that President Obama's nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court represented a certain coming-of-age for the Puerto Rican community.

"Finally we're not the dancers in 'West Side Story,''' Gutierrez said.

"


WASHINGTON -- As the sun was setting on Memorial Day, President Obama was in his White House study, pondering his first Supreme Court pick. His four finalists were all females.

WASHINGTON--President Obama tapped his vast presidential campaign e-mail list to rally his troops behind his nomination of Sonia Sotomayor, sending a video to his backers and asking them to pass it on.

From Obama to his e-mail list, now managed by Organizing for America, housed in the Democratic National Committee...

"I am proud to announce my nominee for the next Justice of the United States Supreme Court: Judge Sonia Sotomayor.

This decision affects us all -- and so it must involve us all. I've recorded a special message to personally introduce Judge Sotomayor and explain why I'm so confident she will make an excellent Justice."

Sonia Sotomayor pictures

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Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor at a ballpark
(photo released by the White House)

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Sotomayor with her niece
(photo released by the White House)

WASHINGTON--The White House sent out talking points about Sonia Sotomayor, nominated to the Supreme Court Tuesday by President Obama. Who gets the talking points: Democratic operatives, press secretaries and people who may be called by reporters or show bookers for comment on the nominee.


Updated 4:11 p.m. eastern time

My Chicago Sun-Times colleague Natasha Korecki is reporting Tuesday morning that Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) was wiretaped while talking to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's brother Robert, who ran his campaign fund-raising operation.

A judge is allowing the tapes to be released to the Senate ethics committee, chaired by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.)

Sun-Times exclusive: Burris promised Blago campaign a check by mid-December

BY NATASHA KORECKI Federal Courts Reporter

In a November conversation caught on an FBI wiretap, Roland Burris promised Gov. Rod Blagojevich's brother that he'd write the governor a campaign check by mid-December, Burris' lawyer said today.

That was about a month before Rod Blagojevich appointed Burris to the U.S. Senate.

But lawyer Timothy Wright told the Chicago Sun-Times today that his client never sent the check because he believed it wasn't a good idea given Burris' interest in the U.S. Senate seat appointment. Wright said Burris' decision not to send the check had nothing to do with Blagojevich's Dec. 9 arrest.

WASHINGTON -- As I am sitting down with Sen. Roland Burris to discuss his Senate career to date and his future election plans, Burris gestures toward the front of his office to point out that he is using Paul Simon's desk and Barack Obama's chair.

WASHINGTON--Die hard White Sox fan President Obama offered a lot of reasons of why Sonia Sotomayor should be confirmed as a Supreme Court justice, including: she saved baseball.


"During her tenure on the district court, she presided over
roughly 450 cases. One case in particular involved a matter of
enormous concerns to many Americans, including me, the baseball strike
of 1994-'95. In a decision that reportedly took her just 15 minutes
to announce, a swiftness much appreciated by baseball fans everywhere,
she issued an injunction that helped end the strike. Some say that
Judge Sotomayor saved baseball."

Keeping on the baseball theme: Obama also noted that she was raised not far from Yankee Stadium:

"But as impressive and meaningful as Judge Sotomayor's sterling
credentials in the law is her own extraordinary journey. Born in the
South Bronx, she was raising a housing project not far from Yankee
Stadium, making her a lifelong Yankees fan. I hope this will not
disqualify her in the eyes of the New Englanders in the Senate "

WASHINGTON--Among those gathered in the White House East Room waiting for President Obama to introduce Sonia Sotomayor as his Supreme Court nominee: the Rev. Al Sharpton; Attorney General Eric Holder; Childrens Defense Fund Marion Wright Edelman; AFL-CIO chief John Sweeney.

Updated at 12:50 p.m. eastern time

WASHINGTON-Sonia Sotomayor, a Hispanic federal appellate judge raised in a South Bronx housing project by a single mother, was nominated by President Obama Tuesday for the Supreme Court seat being vacated by Justice David Souter.

Obama was looking someone with empathy and a "real life" storyline and a connection with how judicial decisions impact the lives of Americans.

He got both with his historic pick of Sotomayor, down to her suffering from juvenile diabetes, being inspired as a youth by Nancy Drew detective stories and, in one of her judicial decisions, "saving baseball," issuing an injunction ending a strike.

Embedded video from CNN Video

WASHINGTON--Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Sunday he would have no problem housing alleged terrorists now at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba in an Illinois prison.

Durbin told NBC's "Meet the Press" host David Gregory, "Well, I'd be OK with them in a supermax facility, because we've never had an escape from one. And as I said, we have over 340 convicted terrorists now being held safely in our prisons. I just don't hear anyone suggesting releasing them or sending them to another country. That isn't part of the prospect that we have before us."

Earlier this week, Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) told me he has no problem housing Gitmo detainees in Illinois. There is a federal high security facility in downstate Marion, Illinois.

WASHINGTON--Sen. Dick Durbin told David Gregory on NBC's "Meet the Press" that President Obama's Supreme Court pick is likely coming this week.


"I think it is going to come this week," Durbin said.


Gregory asked, "You think as early as Tuesday?"


" Well, I, I've been told it's likely to come this week, but I don't know which day."


President Obama sits down for an interview with C-SPAN's Steve Scully.

WASHINGTON--Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers were on a Chicago-bound plane Friday morning forced to make an emergency landing in Pittsburgh because of an on-board equipment misfunctioned .

The three were on United flight 615.

Jim O'Connor, a Burris spokesman, said Burris told him that he heard a loud bang at take-off, sometime near 11:30 a.m. One the plane was in the air, the noises became deafening and the plane began to shake, O'Connor said. There was also a great deal of turbulence.

The pilot announced to the passengers there was a hydrolic hydraulic system failure and the O'Hare Airport-bound plane would be making an emergency landing in Pittsburgh.

Emergency vehicles met the plane on the tarmac upon landing. Burris helped an elderly woman off the plane.

Catherine Mccormick-Lelyveld, a spokesman for the First Lady's office, said Rogers was fine and catching another flight to Chicago.

My musings about Patti and Rod Blagojevich interviews on NBC's "Today Show" to tout their upcome roles on "I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!"

The impeached Illinois governor, facing federal criminal corruption charges is now comparing himself to former presidents.

"I prefer to be compared to people like Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman and others in history, not some of these comparisons," Rod Blagojevich said on "Today."

On an earlier media blitz timed to the start of his impeachment trial, he compared himself to Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi, saying he thought about what they went through and "tried to put some perspective to all this.''


WASHINGTON -- The friendship former first ladies offered Michelle Obama is "very cool." President Obama walks Bo at night while Mrs. Obama takes the early shift. And you can find Mrs. Obama every Saturday watching kids play soccer with other parents.

These details are from an interview Mrs. Obama gave Time magazine for its latest edition, with a photo of her on the cover. While relishing her new role, she told Time, "It's a lot easier to live your life when everything you do doesn't have a consequence."

Other highlights from the interview:


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WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama is the cover on the new issue of Time Magazine. "There are thousands of Michelle and Barack Obamas all over this nation," Mrs. Obama told the newsweekly.

We learn: Mrs. Obama walks Bo the dog in the morning; President Obama takes the puppy out for his last walk at night.

Best advice from former first ladies to Mrs. Obama: Go to the Camp David retreat as much as you can.

Cool photos of Mrs. Obama by Time Magazine photographer Callie Shell


WASHINGTON -- Without a plan detailing where alleged terrorists would be sent, the Obama White House was told by congressional Democrats that lawmakers would not approve funds for closing the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

So what happened? Despite the warnings, with no ammunition to deflect fears about terrorists running around on U.S. soil, the Obama team lost Guantanamo funding votes in the House and Senate. With no plan, resistance to bringing the detainees to U.S. prisons -- and fear-mongering -- have been allowed to grow.

WASHINGTON--President Obama met with Chicago based federal appeals court judge Diane Wood, mentioned as a potential Supreme Court nominee, scooped Bloomberg News reporters Ed Chen and Greg Stohr.


Bloomberg: "Wood, a judge on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, was in Washington today attending a conference on judicial independence at Georgetown University's law school. She told a reporter during a break that she was in Washington for that session and declined to say whether she had been to the White House."

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(photo courtesy VA)
Wounded Iraq war vet Tammy Duckworth was sworn in this week as an assistant secretary at the Veterans Affairs Department. Duckworth, former Illinois Veterans Affairs chief, will oversee the Office of Public Affairs and Intergovernmental Communications. That's Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) far right and William Brandt, a Chicago Democratic activist at the Duckworth swearing in ceremony.

WASHINGTON--On an overwhelming 90-6 roll call, the Senate balked Wednesday on funding for a key pledge of President Obama--closing down the military prison holding alleged terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Illinois senators split on the contentious issue, fueling debate over whether U.S. communities will accept the detainees at local prisons.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) was one of the six Senators backing Obama's cornerstone campaign pledge. Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) voted with the majority.

Arguing for the $80 million for the prisoner transfer--out of $91.3 billion Defense supplemental spending, Durbin said U.S. corrections personnel already handle dangerous prisoners "every single day."

"The reality is that we're holding some of the most dangerous terrorists in the world right now in our federal prisons," Durbin said from the Senate floor.

Burris told me after the vote he thought high security facilities--such as the federal maximum security prison in Marion, Ill. could safely hold the detainees.

Updated with quote from Chris Kennedy

WASHINGTON--Everything I am hearing on Tuesday points to Chris Kennedy getting into the Illinois 2010 Senate race. Maybe this will change but a Kennedy decision is close. As of Tuesday afternoon, the plan calls for him to be announcing sometime probably next week. Long time Kennedy family friend Jay Doherty is being tapped to head up the fund-raising effort.

Kennedy, a son of Robert F. Kennedy and Ethel and nephew of JFK, is president of Merchandise Mart Properties Inc., based in Chicago, a company that runs 13 properties across the country and one in Canada.

Kennedy, who lives in north suburban Kenilworth, turns 46 on July 4.

I talked to Kennedy on Tuesday night. "I'm keeping my options alive and working through a whole series of issues still," he told me.

WASHINGTON--Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told reporters on Tuesday she is traveling to Canada later this month with border issues on the agenda.

She made her comment at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.

Sheldon Alberts of Canwest News Service dug up the details:


Reports Alberts, "The former Arizona governor, who riled the Harper government last month by suggesting some of the 9/11 hijackers entered the U.S. from Canada, is expected to meet with Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan at the Detroit-Windsor border crossing, likely on May 26. Plans are in the works for Napolitano to visit Ottawa the next day."

WASHINGTON--Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, oft mentioned as on President Obama's scope for Supreme Count nominee, was asked Tuesday morning about what it was like to be on the short list.

The setting: A reporters breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.

Said Napolitano, "Man, these are really good eggs."

WASHINGTON--On Tuesday, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Grahnolm--believed to be in play for a Supreme Court appointment-- visits the White House, with the official reason to attend President Obama's event on improving auto emission standards, obviously a big deal to the car making Michigan.

But the White House appointment may also give Obama a chance to talk to Granholm about replacing Justice David Souter on the high court.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday Obama will be doing interviews with candidates and not of them have taken place yet.

Granholm and Janet Napolitano, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and former governor of Arizona are among a bunch of people mention for the slot. This morning, I am going to a reporters breakfast with Napolitano, so I may have some intel to pass along later today.

With governor on their resume, Granholm and Napolitano may score higher on the real life "empathy" factor Obama is looking for than other contenders thought to be on Obama's list.

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Photo by Jessica McConnell/GW

WASHINGTON--White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel shared two painful episodes of his life during his Sunday commencement address to graduates of George Washington University.

Emanuel picked up an honorary doctorate at the ceremony. "Doctor," said Emanuel. "I just want you to know that you've made one Jewish mother happy in Chicago, who spent many a sleepless night wondering what would happen to her middle son."

The stories Emanuel told--how he sliced off half of one of his fingers--and getting fired from the Clinton White House as political director--are often related in Emanuel profiles. What's interesting in recounting is that Emanuel is talking about his personal traumas in his own words.






WASHINGTON -- First lady Michelle Obama for the second time has talked about how alienated she was from the University of Chicago when she was growing up on the South Side.

Mrs. Obama commented about her relationship with the U. of C. in a commencement address she delivered Saturday at the University of California, Merced -- echoing remarks she made to children in March at a school here.

President Obama and Vice President Biden's new financial disclosure reports were released Friday by the White House.

President Obama is pushing Congress to pass a massive health care reform plan. At a New Mexico rally on Wednesday--where most of his planned remarks were on credit card rules overhauls Congress is poised to approve--a man asked why single payer health care coverage is not part of the Obama conversation.

Obama replied....... so this touches on your point, and that is, why not do a single-payer system. (Applause.) Got the little single-payer advocates up here. (Applause.) All right. For those of you who don't know, a single-payer system is like -- Medicare is sort of a single-payer system, but it's only for people over 65, and the way it works is, the idea is that you don't have insurance companies as middlemen. The government goes directly -- (applause) -- and pays doctors or nurses.

If I were starting a system from scratch, then I think that the idea of moving towards a single-payer system could very well make sense. That's the kind of system that you have in most industrialized countries around the world.

The only problem is that we're not starting from scratch. We have historically a tradition of employer-based health care. And although there are a lot of people who are not satisfied with their health care, the truth is, is that the vast majority of people currently get health care from their employers and you've got this system that's already in place. We don't want a huge disruption as we go into health care reform where suddenly we're trying to completely reinvent one-sixth of the economy.

So what I've said is, let's set up a system where if you already have health care through your employer and you're happy with it, you don't have to change doctors, you don't have to change plans -- nothing changes. If you don't have health care or you're highly unsatisfied with your health care, then let's give you choices, let's give you options, including a public plan that you could enroll in and sign up for. That's been my proposal. (Applause.)

Now, obviously as President I've got to work with Congress to get this done and -- (laughter.) There are folks in Congress who are doing terrific work, they're working hard. They've been having a series of hearings. I'm confident that both the House and the Senate are going to produce a bill before the August recess. And it may not have everything I want in there or everything you want in there, but it will be a vast improvement over what we currently have.

We'll then have to reconcile the two bills, but I'm confident that we are going to get health care reform this year and start putting us on a path that's sustainable over the long term. (Applause.) That's a commitment I made during the campaign; I intend to keep it.

President Obama's upcoming Notre Dame commencement speech has sparked an uproar. My Sun-Times colleague Abdon Pallasch reports that controversy often has followed presidents to Notre Dame.












WASHINGTON--Delivering the commencement address at Arizona State University Wednesday night, President Obama turned a flap over the school not giving him an honorary degree into a lesson about life:


( Updated with actual transcript)

Now, before I begin, I'd just like to clear the air about that little controversy everybody was talking about a few weeks back. I have to tell you, I really thought this was much ado about nothing, but I do think we all learned an important lesson. I learned never again to pick another team over the Sun Devils in my NCAA bracket. (Applause.) It won't happen again. President Crow and the Board of Regents will soon learn all about being audited by the IRS. (Laughter and applause.)

Now, in all seriousness, I come here not to dispute the suggestion that I haven't yet achieved enough in my life. (Laughter.) First of all, Michelle concurs with that assessment. (Laughter.) She has a long list of things that I have not yet done waiting for me when I get home. But more than that, I come to embrace the notion that I haven't done enough in my life; I heartily concur; I come to affirm that one's title, even a title like President of the United States, says very little about how well one's life has been led -- that no matter how much you've done, or how successful you've been, there's always more to do, always more to learn, and always more to achieve. (Applause.)

And I want to say to you today, graduates, Class of 2009, that despite having achieved a remarkable milestone in your life, despite the fact that you and your families are so rightfully proud, you too cannot rest on your laurels. Not even some of those remarkable young people who were introduced earlier -- not even that young lady who's got four degrees yet today. You can't rest. Your own body of work is also yet to come.


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WASHINGTON--Scrubs star Zach Braff and several well connected Chicagoans including John Rogers, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and Ald. Sandi Jackson and David Solow scored invites to Tuesday arts night at the White House hosted by President Obama and First Lady Michelle.

Rogers, a close friend of the Obama's--and former husband of White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers--is the founder of Ariel Investments. Another invitee was Matt Yale and his wife, Deborah. Yale was the vice president of public affairs for Ariel--and now is the deputy chief of staff for Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Solow is a Chicago attorney and fund-raiser; Rep. Jackson was an Obama campaign co-chair and is a long-time friend as is his wife, Sandi.

Check out the entire list (included in this post) for a roadmap into the Obama political, personal and arts world. Tuesday's event was devoted to poetry, music and the spoken word. The White House--as other administrations--uses these occasions to build and or maintain relationships.

Students from local universities: American, Gallaudet, Georgetown and Howard were also invited.

I am a big, big Scrubs fan. Braff gets a special salute from me because he was nice enough to give me a brief interview back in February, 2007 on his way into an Obama fund-raiser at the Beverly Hilton. Braff, a Northwestern University alumni, brought his NU friend, songster Joshua Radin as his guest.

Others of note:

From the Chicago area--Attorney Elvin Charity; Mark Eleveld, the Joliet teacher and author; Josh Goldman, the husband of Ikram Goldman, the Chicago boutique owner and unofficial Mrs. Obama fashion advisor.

Notables: HOPE poster artist Shepard Fairey; actor Hill Harper; actor/director Spike Lee; actor Jon Lovett; ABC's George Stephanopoulous and wife Alexandra Wentworth; director George Stevens; Washington Post's Sally Quinn and Ben Bradlee.

Check out the rest....

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama flies to the University of California, Merced on Saturday to deliver a commencement address before her largest crowd since the inauguration. Here's my report on how Mrs. Obama's visit to Merced is expected to trigger an estimated $1.1 million in business for the hard pressed area. The hotels are sold out, the restaurants are booked and the city is putting on a street fair and festival to take advantage of the crowds her visit is expected to generate.

This is Mrs. Obama's first visit to California as First Lady.

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama, visiting the offices of the Corporation for National and Community Service, on Tuesday, talked about her own journey from Harvard Law School, to a Chicago law firm, to Chicago's City Hall and then to running an AmeriCorps project in Chicago called Public Allies.

And I went from college to law school to a big ol' fancy law firm where I was making more money than both of my parents combined. I thought I had arrived. I was working on the 47th floor of one of the largest buildings in the city of Chicago. And I thought, well, I must be doing okay.

But then several things happened over the course of my life in a year to make me stop and actually think for the first time about what I wanted. I lost my father. I lost one of my good friends to cancer suddenly. She was in her mid-20s when she died. And I thought that -- for the first time I had to think about life and the life that I was building for myself, and I had to ask myself whether, if I died tomorrow, would I want this to be my legacy, working in a corporate firm, working for big companies? And when I asked myself the question, the resounding answer was, absolutely not. This isn't what I want to leave behind, this isn't why I went to Princeton and Harvard, this isn't why I was doing what I was doing. I thought I had more to give.

So people were quite surprised when I told them at the firm that I was going to leave this big lucrative paycheck behind and a promising career, and go on to do something more service-oriented. They all told me to wait and to become a partner first, and then leave. And I was -- that was financially the better option, but I knew in my heart that I was making the right decision to leave then.

So I left my job at the firm and started to then think about what I wanted my life to become. And when I thought about the things that I cared about, the things that I was passionate about, service was always somewhere in there. I thought about the things that I did for enjoyment. They were always mentoring, working with other young people, trying to help them get to where I had -- I was to help them think about their lives differently. So I knew that service was always going to be a part of that passion. So my goal was to figure out how I could not do that in my spare time, but how I could make my work service.

So I started doing a bunch of crazy things: working in city government, and that's when -- after city government I left to start this wonderful organization in Chicago, Public Allies, which many of you know of, because it's one of the first model AmeriCorps national service programs.


WASHINGTON--When I talked to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan a few weeks ago, she told me she was interested only in running for governor--not the U.S. Senate. Madigan now is open to changing her mind, several people told me.

She is getting some encouragement from Washington Democrats, who view Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) as very vunerable. On Monday, Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post had the scoop about Madigan's newfound interest in the Senate. Madigan talked to Sun-Times Michael Sneed about her change of heart.

Last month Madigan and Sweet:

Thinking about the Senate? I asked.

"Never given it any serious consideration, Lynn," Madigan said.

But you are considering running for governor?

"Correct," Madigan said.


WASHINGTON--While President Obama makes a controversial visit to Notre Dame in South Bend on Sunday to deliver a commencement address, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel heads to the National Mall to keynote the graduation ceremonies for George Washington University.

GW President Steven Knapp will present Emanuel with an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree.

WASHINGTON--President Obama makes a major personal diplomacy investment in Middle East peace, inviting key players to the White House in the coming weeks.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu arrives on May 18; Egyptian President Mubarak comes on May 26 and Palestinian Authority President Abbas has a May 28 date.

Robert Gibbs on Wanda Sykes

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WASHINGTON - President Obama is reshaping a White House office run by Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett to emphasize a mission heavy on the civic engagement side.

Chicagoans still run the operation: The Office of Public Liaison is now the Office of Public Engagement. Valerie Jarrett, Senior Adviser to the President, Christina M. Tchen, Director of OPE; and Michael Strautmanis Chief of Staff to the Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Relations and Public Engagement.

Person to watch in the operation: Obama presidential campaign grassroots and field organizer Buffy Wicks is tapped to be Deputy Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.

WASHINGTON--Lori Healey, president of Chicago 2016, briefs the members of the Illinois congressional delegation on the status of the bid--5 p.m. Wednesday here.

WASHINGTON--In calling for a lid on health costs--and insurance coverage for all--President Obama on Monday made a reference to fictional characters, Harry and Louise, the stars in health industry ads that helped kill President Clinton's (and Hillary's) health care reform plans.

"But what's brought us all together today is a recognition that we can't continue down the same dangerous road we've been traveling for so many years; that costs are out of control; and that reform is not a luxury that can be postponed, but a necessity that cannot wait. It's a recognition that the fictional television couple, Harry and Louise, who became the iconic faces of those who opposed health care reform in the '90s, desperately need health care reform in 2009. And so does America," Obama said,

Obama put down three principles:


"But I'm also committed to ensuring that whatever plan we design upholds three basic principles: First, the rising cost of health care must be brought down; second, Americans must have the freedom to keep whatever doctor and health care plan they have, or to choose a new doctor or health care plan if they want it; and third, all Americans must have quality, affordable health care."

Note: In calling for everyone to have health care, Obama did not use the phrase universal or single payer health care. We'll see if coverage ends up being a mandated part of the package or--as Obama suggested during the campaign--available to everyone because he will drive down costs.

WASHINGTON---Elizabeth Edwards--on her book tour---is resurrecting for all husband John's affair and possible--we just don't know for sure--love child.

Monday's installment of Elizabeth Edwards has her on NBC's "Today Show" talking to host Matt Lauer. Edwards was willing to ignore her husband cheating on her at first because she thought it was just one episode. Turned out to be a series. She just did not know.

Lauer finally got around to asking, "I know a lot of people have asked me and a lot of people have asked in general why you didn't leave him?"

Edwards replied, "You know, I guess there are all sorts of reasons, but the big reason is that, you know, I promised I was with him for better or for worse. This was a lot worse than I had ever expected, but I thought, you know, that meant something when I said it.

"It still meant something. And, you know, it sounds odd, but except for this very big thing that he had done that was bad, I thought I was married -- believed and believe now that I was married to a magnificent man, you know, somebody who truly cared about other people."

WASHINGTON--The profiles of Chicago pals White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett and White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers are skyrocketing. They team up--and glam up-- for the cover of the latest Capitol File magazine.

Rogers hit the cover of a recent Wall Street Journal magazine story by Amy Chozick titled
Desirée Rogers--the former Mardi Gras queen who holds the keys to Brand Obama
While I think of Rogers as a Chicagoan--her New Orleans roots are part of every profile.

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Capitol File

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Wall Street Journal

I saw Rogers and Jarrett Saturday night at the White House Correspondents Association Dinner. POLITICO posted a video of the two having a small snag getting through security at the dinner.


POLITICO

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), mulling a Senate run, throws her annual "women's power lunch" fundraiser Monday at the Hyatt Regency with marquee speakers White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, Director of Public Liaison Tina Tchen and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).

This will be a homecoming for Jarrett and Tchen who will know just about everybody in the crowd. The event will also serve to introduce Klobuchar, a rising Senate star, to an important Chicago network of Democratic activists.

Schakowsky's "power lunch" funder--her major event--brings together mainly women from the Chicago's feminist, progressive, Democratic activist, charitable communities.

Last year, Michelle Obama was the speaker and outlined in broad strokes what her agenda would be if she became First Lady.

WASHINGTON--President Obama pushes ahead with his health care system reform agenda on Monday. He meets with business and consumer stakeholders and then delivers remarks on reforming the health care system to reduce costs at 12:30 p.m. eastern.

An excerpt from Obama's remarks today:

"We cannot continue down the same dangerous road we⿿ve been traveling for so many years, with costs that are out of control, because reform is not a luxury that can be postponed, but a necessity that cannot wait.

"It is a recognition that the fictional television couple, Harry and Louise, who became the iconic faces of those who opposed health care reform in the ⿿90s, desperately need health care reform in 2009. And so does America.

"That is why these groups are voluntarily coming together to make an unprecedented commitment. Over the next ten years - from 2010 to 2019 - they are pledging to cut the growth rate of national health care spending by 1.5 percentage points each year - an amount that⿿s equal to over $2 trillion."


Obama, February 24, 2009:

"I suffer no illusions that this will be an easy process. It will be hard. But I also know that nearly a century after Teddy Roosevelt first called for reform, the cost of our health care has weighed down our economy and the conscience of our nation long enough. So let there be no doubt: health care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year."

President Obama at the White House Correspondent's Association Dinner. Video, transcript. May 10, 2009

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On Sunday night, First Lady Michelle Obama and First Mom Marian Robinson plus pals and White House powers Valerie Jarrett and Desiree Rogers made a surprise visit to the Kennedy Center Spring gala. On the left is Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. (Photo courtesy WHCInsider.com)

Tammy Haddad, the chronicler of Washington's who's who of the who's who, launched WHCInsider.com, with a big run-up to Saturday's celebrity packed White House Correspondents Association dinner.

Souter, Specter and swine flu: Lynn Sweet on a Diane Rehm show panel Friday discusses the week-in-review.

Courtesy of CSPAN

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Bob Creamer, husband of Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Michelle Obama


WASHINGTON---First Lady Michelle Obama is catching some flak for sporting pricey sneakers while volunteering at a food bank here with congressional spouses. The footwear has been identified by sharp eyed fashion mavens as made by the French design house Lanvin and costing more than $500. The congressional spouse bagging groceries with the First Lady is a fellow Illinoisan---Bob Creamer, the husband of Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).

And her wearing these expensive shoes while doing charity work....Ok? Not Ok?

View suntimes.com's gallery of Michelle Obama's footwear by clicking on the image below:

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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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