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July 2009 Archives

Here are videos from FoxNews Chicago from the kick-offs of the campaigns of 2010 Illinois Senate hopefuls, Republican Mark Kirk and Democrat Alexi Gianoulias.

Updated version

Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr., over at TheRoot.com has this statement about his meeting with President Obama and Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley to discuss his arrest at his home by Crowley--and Obama's labeling the incident as Cambridge police acting "stupidly." The three were joined by Vice President Biden.

Writes Gates, "It is incumbent upon Sergeant Crowley and me to utilize the great opportunity that fate has given us to foster greater sympathy among the American public for the daily perils of policing on the one hand, and for the genuine fears of racial profiling on the other hand.

"...The national conversation over the past week about my arrest has been rowdy, not to say tumultuous and unruly. But we've learned that we can have our differences without demonizing one another."


President Obama invited Vice President Biden to join Harvard Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr., and Cambridge Sgt. James Crowley for beer at the White House on Thursday, to discuss Gates arrest by Crowley--and Obama saying the Cambridge police acted "stupidly."


Before meeting over beer with Harvard Prof. Henry Gates and Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley, President Obama said Thursday he was "fascinated with the fascination" given this latest episode dealing with Gates arrest.

Obama also tried to downplay expectations of the getting together over beer to discuss the incident, where Gates said he was cuffed and taken to the police station as a result of racial profiling. Last week at a press conference, in reply to my asking Obama about his reaction to the arrest, Obama said the Cambridge police acted "stupidly."

Obama said, "With respect to tonight, you know, I'm, I have to say, fascinated with the fascination about this evening. As you know, this idea was prompted when I was talking to Sergeant Crowley and he said: Well, maybe I'll have a beer in the White House someday. And I said: Well, you know, we -- I'm sure that can be arranged.

"You know, I noticed this has been called the beer summit. It's a clever term, but this is not a summit, guys; this is three folks having -- having a drink at the end of the day and hopefully giving people an opportunity to listen to each other.

"And that's really all it is. This is not a -- this is not a university seminar. It is not a summit. It's an attempt to have some personal interaction when an issue has become so hyped and so symbolic that you lose sight of just the fact that these are people involved, including myself, all of whom are imperfect.

"And you know, hopefully instead of ginning up anger and hyperbole, you know, everyone can just spend a little bit of time with some self-reflection and -- and recognizing that other people have different points of view. And -- and -- and that's all it is.

"And so you know, I will be surprised if you guys all make this the lead as opposed to very important meeting that we just had with one of our most important partners in the world, but -- but the press has surprised me before."

Lynn Sweet blog update

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Hi all.....

I've been away from my Sun-Times blog for a few days: I flew to Costa Rica on Friday for a family wedding and then to Los Angeles for the screening of a new documentary on the Obama campaign, "By the People" by Amy Rice and Alicia Sams, where I am in a few scenes. The movie will be on HBO on Nov. 3. More on "By the People" in later posts.

Yes, I know today, Thursday is the "beer summit" at the White House with President Obama, Harvard Prof. Henry Louis Gates and Cambridge (Mass.) police Sgt. James Crowley. Yes, I saw the Jon Stewart bit featuring my question to Obama last week that got this whole thing started.

I'll be on MSNBC's "Hardball" this afternoon to discuss the "beer summit."

Hope to catch-up with everything very soon.

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary
_______________________________________________________________________________________
For Immediate Release July 24, 2009

STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

2:33 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Hey, it's a cameo appearance. Sit down, sit down. I need to help Gibbs out a little bit here.

Q Are you the new press secretary?

THE PRESIDENT: If you got to do a job, do it yourself. (Laughter.)

I wanted to address you guys directly because over the last day and a half obviously there's been all sorts of controversy around the incident that happened in Cambridge with Professor Gates and the police department there.

I actually just had a conversation with Sergeant Jim Crowley, the officer involved. And I have to tell you that as I said yesterday, my impression of him was that he was a outstanding police officer and a good man, and that was confirmed in the phone conversation -- and I told him that.

And because this has been ratcheting up -- and I obviously helped to contribute ratcheting it up -- I want to make clear that in my choice of words I think I unfortunately gave an impression that I was maligning the Cambridge Police Department or Sergeant Crowley specifically -- and I could have calibrated those words differently. And I told this to Sergeant Crowley.

I continue to believe, based on what I have heard, that there was an overreaction in pulling Professor Gates out of his home to the station. I also continue to believe, based on what I heard, that Professor Gates probably overreacted as well. My sense is you've got two good people in a circumstance in which neither of them were able to resolve the incident in the way that it should have been resolved and the way they would have liked it to be resolved.

The fact that it has garnered so much attention I think is a testimony to the fact that these are issues that are still very sensitive here in America. So to the extent that my choice of words didn't illuminate, but rather contributed to more media frenzy, I think that was unfortunate.

What I'd like to do then I make sure that everybody steps back for a moment, recognizes that these are two decent people, not extrapolate too much from the facts -- but as I said at the press conference, be mindful of the fact that because of our history, because of the difficulties of the past, you know, African Americans are sensitive to these issues. And even when you've got a police officer who has a fine track record on racial sensitivity, interactions between police officers and the African American community can sometimes be fraught with misunderstanding.

My hope is, is that as a consequence of this event this ends up being what's called a "teachable moment," where all of us instead of pumping up the volume spend a little more time listening to each other and try to focus on how we can generally improve relations between police officers and minority communities, and that instead of flinging accusations we can all be a little more reflective in terms of what we can do to contribute to more unity. Lord knows we need it right now -- because over the last two days as we've discussed this issue, I don't know if you've noticed, but nobody has been paying much attention to health care. (Laughter.)

I will not use this time to spend more words on health care, although I can't guarantee that that will be true next week. I just wanted to emphasize that -- one last point I guess I would make. There are some who say that as President I shouldn't have stepped into this at all because it's a local issue. I have to tell you that that part of it I disagree with. The fact that this has become such a big issue I think is indicative of the fact that race is still a troubling aspect of our society. Whether I were black or white, I think that me commenting on this and hopefully contributing to constructive -- as opposed to negative -- understandings about the issue, is part of my portfolio.

So at the end of the conversation there was a discussion about -- my conversation with Sergeant Crowley, there was discussion about he and I and Professor Gates having a beer here in the White House. We don't know if that's scheduled yet -- (laughter) -- but we may put that together.

He also did say he wanted to find out if there was a way of getting the press off his lawn. (Laughter.) I informed him that I can't get the press off my lawn. (Laughter.) He pointed out that my lawn is bigger than his lawn. (Laughter.) But if anybody has any connections to the Boston press, as well as national press, Sergeant Crowley would be happy for you to stop trampling his grass.

All right. Thank you, guys.

END 2:33 P.M. EDT

kirk-search-grab.gif

This screen grab of a Google page is an example of how political targeting works. The searcher--based in Illinois-- was looking for information on GOP Senate candidate Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.). Kirk stuff did pop up in the search--but if you look at the right, you see an ad from Giannoulias, the Democratic Illinois state treasurer running for the Senate, with a link to the Giannoulias senate site.

I hear William Strong has the ability to pour his own money in to a GOP primary in the contest to replace Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) in the 10th congressional district. Kirk is running for Senate.


WASHINGTON -- I asked President Obama what turned out to be a provocative question at his press conference on Wednesday night -- well, it was his answer that was really provocative -- about the arrest of noted Harvard African-American studies Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. at his home in Cambridge, Mass.

WASHINGTON -- While admitting he was not familiar with all the facts in the case, President Obama on Wednesday took the side of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., saying the Cambridge, Mass., police "acted stupidly" in arresting him at his home.


WASHINGTON --Faced with reluctant Democrats and almost no GOP support for his health care plans, President Obama used most of his Wednesday night press conference to try to explain to the public why Congress needs to pass a health care system overhaul.

Questions about health care dominated most of Obama's fourth White House press conference, where he called on reporters from Cleveland and Chicago, cities he will visit today.

lynnblog.JPG

PRESS CONFERENCE WITH PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA SUBJECTS INCLUDING HEALTH INSURANCE REFORM

EAST ROOM, THE WHITE HOUSE, WASHINGTON, D.C.
8:03 P.M. EDT, WEDNESDAY, JULY 22, 2009

Copyright ©2009 by Federal News Service, Inc.


PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good evening. Please be seated.

Before I take your questions, I want to talk for a few minutes about the progress we're making on health insurance reform and where it fits into our broader economic strategy.

Six months ago, I took office amid the worst recession in half a century. We were losing an average of 700,000 jobs per month, and our financial system was on the verge of collapse. As a result of the actions we took in those first weeks, we've been able to pull our economy back from the brink.

We took steps to stabilize our financial institutions and our housing market, and we passed a recovery act that has already saved jobs and created new ones, delivered billions in tax relief to families and small businesses, and extended unemployment insurance and health insurance to those who've been laid off.

Michelle Obama's new hair style

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July 21, 2009 Country Music Night at the White House

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WASHINGTON--The profile of Valerie Jarrett, Senior White House adviser is high and gets bumped up this weekend when she is the cover of the Sunday New York Times Magazine. Hat Tip to Mike Allen of Politicofor what he calls the "West Wing Must-Read" about Jarrett:

From Allen: The cover of The New York Times Magazine -- striking image here -- is: "OBAMA'S BFF / VALERIE JARRETT IS ONE OF THE PRESIDENT'S MOST INFLUENTIAL ADVISERS. SO WHAT DOES SHE DO, EXACTLY? BY ROBERT DRAPER ... Obama's long time aide-de-camp is a woman with chameleonlike ability to move fluidly between high-level policy meetings and outreach efforts involving business groups and African-American leaders. And, from her West Wing office, she can also press the president on any issue. But what does Jarrett really do and what do other top insiders like David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel think about her sizable influence over their boss?"

I thought the main fashion statement President Obama made when he threw the ceremonial first pitch out at the recent All Star Game was over the White Sox jacket he wore. Obama's jeans, which did not strike me as one way or the other, however, were criticized. On NBC's "Today Show" on Tuesday, Obama, asked about the jeans, said First Lady Michelle was the stylish one and he is just "frumpy."

"Here's my attitude. Michelle, she looks fabulous. I'm a little frumpy. You know, basically up until a few years ago, I only had four suits. She used to tease me because they'd get really shiny. I hate to shop. Those jeans are comfortable. And for those of you who want your president to, you know, look great in his tight jeans, I'm sorry, I'm not the guy."

first_pitch_throw_8040.jpg

Read it here.

WASHINGTON--I'll be at President Obama's press conference at the White House on Wednesday night. (7 p.m. Chicago time) I have no idea if I will be called on, but I always go armed with lots of questions just in case. Obama has a lot on his plate--health care is center stage this week, and he is sure to get questions about whether health care bills pending in Congress will ever get to his desk to sign.

I'm interested in your input. What do you want asked?

Updated...

State Rep. Julie Hamos (D-Evanston) is putting together a campaign to run for the 10 congressional district House seat being vacated by Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), who is running for the Senate.

Progress Illinois has a nice round up of stories about who's running in the 10th C.D.

WASHINGTON--Vice President Biden hits Chicago later this month, to speak to the "2009 National Urban League Conference: The Path to Power" on July 31st at 10:30 am. The conference is being held at McCormick Place.

Walter Cronkite, a tribute

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A moving tribute to Walter Cronkite, dead Friday at 92, by Walter Shapiro over at PoliticsDaily.com/

Updated.

WASHINGTON--CBS News Walter Cronkite, America's anchorman, died Friday at age 92. He lived in New York and Martha's Vineyard, Mass.

"He gave up that role 28 years ago, but never lost the weight and respect it accorded him, living the rest of his life as the industry's distinguished elder statesman, CBS News said in announcing Cronkite's death.

He was the anchor and managing editor of the CBS EVENING NEWS from 1962 to 1981.

CBS journalists were mourning Cronkite's passing on Friday.

Katie Couric, anchor and managing editor, CBS EVENING NEWS WITH KATIE COURIC
correspondent, 60 MINUTES:

"When I think of Walter Cronkite, I think of his high journalism standards, integrity - but most of all his humanity. I think he was so trusted because he exhibited a sense of purpose and compassion, night after night. He was the personification of excellence."

It's now official. Obama family to vacation in Martha's Vineyard.

My April post on the Boston Globe story about agents checking out Martha's Vineyard as a possible Obama vacation destination.

Updated

President Obama's NAACP speech, New York, July 16, 2009.

Transcript of speech as delivered.

Text of remarks as prepared.

*********
Text of Sen. Barack Obama NAACP speech, Cincinnati, July 14, 2008

Updated...

WASHINGTON--Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Mn.) asked Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor about influences on her career as a prosecutor. Sotomayor talked about television's Perry Mason in reply. Later, Sen. Al Franken (D-Mn.) (have to get used to calling him senator) also asks her about Perry Mason episodes, wondering if she could name the one episode where Mason, a defense lawyer, lost the case.

Sotomayor is stumped.

"Didn't the White House prepare you for that," said Franken, the comedian now senator who if he took a pledge not to be funny broke it several times at the Wednesday hearing, his first as a senator.

Franken had to confess he did not know either. (Usually one never asks a question like this without knowing the answer.) A few minutes later, Ben LaBolt, a White House spokesman assigned to the Sotomayor hearings, e-mailed that it was "The Case of the Deadly Verdict," broadcast on Oct. 17, 1963. Here's a clip:




And here is Sotomayor's riff about Mason, in reply to Kloubchar:


Sotomayor: I was influenced so greatly by a television
show in igniting the passion that I had as being a prosecutor, and it
was "Perry Mason." For the young people behind all of you --
- you may not even know who Perry Mason was. But Perry
Mason was one of the first lawyers portrayed on television, and his
story line is that in all of the cases he tried, except one, he proved
his client innocent and got the actual murderer to confess.

In one of the episodes, at the end of the episode, Perry Mason,
with the character who played the prosecutor in the case, were meeting
up after the case, and Perry said to the prosecutor: It must cause
you some pain, having expended all that effort in your case, to have
the charges dismissed.

And the prosecutor looked up and said: No, my job as a
prosecutor is to do justice, and justice is served when a guilty man
is convicted and when an innocent man is not.

And I thought to myself: That's quite amazing, to be able to
serve that role; to be given a job, as I was by Mr. Morgenthau, a job
I'm eternally grateful to him for, in which I could do what justice
required in an individual case.


WASHINGTON--Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) just pressed Sonia Sotomayor about televising Supreme Court sessions.

Asked Specter, "Shouldn't the American people have access to what is happening in the Supreme Court?

Sidestepped Sotomayor, "it is an ongoing dialogue."

Rep. Mark Steven Kirk (R-Ill.) will announce a statewide run on Monday, according to a release just sent from his office. The notice doesn't say what office, but Kirk has been making calls to line up support for a Senate run. Kirk's campaign kick off will be somewhere in the northern suburbs.

This means:

*Kirk will have no meaningful GOP primary for the Senate nomination. GOP Illinois party chairman Andy McKenna will now not run. There is no other Republican of stature out there organizing a Senate bid.

*The 10th Congressional District seat opens up. While Kirk has held it with massive support from Democrats in the north suburban district, this is fertile Democratic territory. Expect a conga line of candidates from both parties to line up for a rare open seat. This could be the second open seat; if Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) runs for Cook County Board president, the 7th C.D. seat opens up in heavily Democratic turf.

*One the Democratic side, State treasuret Alexi is in. Cherlye Jackson, the Chicago Urban League chief is in. She was in Washington on Tuesday putting together her campaign.

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(White House Photo)

Lynn Sweet on CNBC

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WASHINGTON--The father of First Lady Michelle Obama is NOT, contrary to what the White House said earlier on Tuesday, buried in the ravaged Burr Oak Cemetery in the Chicago southern suburb of Alsip.

"There has been some confusion that has been cleared up. Fraser Robinson III was buried at Lincoln Cemetery NOT Burr Oak," said Camille Johnston, the communications chief for Mrs. Obama.

Asked how this confusion could happen, Johnston told me "Just confusion - they are a couple of blocks away from each other."

Updated
A spokesman for First Lady Michelle Obama--after first confirming that Mrs. Obama's father, Fraser Robinson III was buried in the ravaged Burr Oak Cemetery in south suburban Chicago--now says he is not there. "There has been some confusion that has been cleared up," Camille Johnston, Mrs. Obama's spokesman, told me. He is buried in the nearby Lincoln Cemetery, she said.
Original

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama's father is buried at the suburban Chicago cemetery--a historic last resting place for African Americans-- at the center of a grisly grave reselling scheme.

"I can confirm the First Lady's father is buried at Burr Oak cemetery. We will have no additional comment on the matter," Camille Johnston, Mrs. Obama's communications chief, told me on Tuesday.

Fraser Robinson III, who died in 1991, was buried at Burr Oak Cemetery, in south suburban Alsip, now declared a crime scene. Investigators are probing a ring that dug up graves, disposed of the bodies and resold the plots.

Sen. Sessions asked Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor at her confirmation hearing, "so first, I'd like to know, do you think there's any circumstance
in which a judge should allow their prejudices to impact their
decision-making?"

Replied Sotomayor, "Never their prejudices. I was talking about
the very important goal of the justice system is to ensure that the
personal biases and prejudices of a judge do not influence the outcome
of a case. What I was talking about was the obligation of judges to
examine what they are feeling as they're adjudicating a case, and to
ensure that that's not influencing the outcome.

"Life experiences have to influence you. We're not robots who
listen to evidence and don't have feelings.
We have to recognize those feelings, and put them aside.....

Updated with fuller quotes

WASHINGTON--On the second day of her Supreme Court nomination hearing, Sonia Sotomayor was just asked by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to explain her use of the phrase ''wise Latina woman." And for the first time, Sotomayor defended herself.


Leahy said, "So tell us, you've heard all of these charges and countercharges
-- the wise Latina and on and on. Here's your chance. You tell us. You tell us what's going on here, Judge. "

Replied Sotomayor, "thank you for giving me an opportunity to explain my remarks. No words I have ever spoken or written have received so much attention.

"I gave a variant of my speech to a variety of different groups -- most often, to groups of women lawyers, or to groups most particularly of young Latino lawyers and students. As my speech made clear in one of the quotes that you referenced, I was trying to inspire them to believe that their life experiences would enrich the legal system, because different life experiences and backgrounds always do. I don't think that there is a quarrel with that in our society.

"I was also trying to inspire them to believe that they could become anything they wanted to become, just as I had. The context of the words that I spoke have created a misunderstanding and I want - a misunderstanding -- and to give everyone assurances, I want to state up front, unequivocally and without doubt, I do not believe that any ethnic, racial or gender group has an advantage in sound judging. I do believe that every person has an equal opportunity to be a good and wise judge, regardless of their background or life experiences.


Statement from Congressman Mark Kirk



"I appreciate Andy McKenna's willingness to consider being a candidate for the U.S. Senate. Andy and I share the common goal of ensuring Illinois has a Republican leader in the U.S. Senate." " I will make an announcement about seeking statewide office soon."

Congressman Mark Kirk

###

The ball is now in the court of Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.); Illinois GOP party chairman Andy McKenna just issued a statement saying that if Kirk runs for the Senate, he won't.

Statement from ILGOP Chairman Andy McKenna


"As Party Chairman my goal has been to build Party unity. Mark Kirk and I met last evening as part of an ongoing discussion about the U. S. Senate race. I reassured Mark that if he chooses to be a candidate, I will not oppose him."


WASHINGTON--President Obama meets with the leaders of the nation's most influential Jewish organizations on Monday, led by Alan Solow, the Chicago attorney who became the chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations last January.

On the agenda: Obama pressuring Israel to halt settlement expansion. The dozen or so organizations invited to the White House, while united over having U.S. policy continue to bolster Israeli security, there is division over Obama pressuring the Israelis while getting--according to critics of the Obama proposal, no significant concessions from Arab governments in return.

WASHINGTON--Democratic senators praised Sonia Sotomayor as confirmation hearings on her Supreme Court nomination started Monday, though Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama), the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said in his opening statement he had concerns over whether Sotomayor was an activist judge. He said Sotomayor may turn out to be like Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who Sessions called " one of the most activist members of the Supreme Court in history."

Excerpt from Sessions:

So I think it's noteworthy that when asked about Judge
Sotomayor's now-famous statement that a wise Latina would come to a
better conclusion than others, President Obama, White House Press
Secretary Robert Gibbs and Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg declined to
defend the substance of those remarks. They each assumed the nominee
misspoke. But I don't think -- but the nominee did not misspeak. She
is on record as making this statement at least five times over the
course of a decade. I am providing a copy of the full text of those
speeches for the record.

Others will say that despite these statements, we should look to
a nominee's record, which they characterize as moderate. People said
the same of Justice Ginsburg, who is now considered to be one of the
most activist members of the Supreme Court in history.

Webcast of Sotomayor hearings

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Can be found here

President Obama's week ahead.

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Schedule for Week of July 13, 2009

The President will return to the White House early Sunday morning. He has no public events for the remainder of the weekend.

On Monday, the President will attend meetings at the White House.

On Tuesday, the President will deliver a speech in Warren, Michigan. Later, the President will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in St. Louis, Missouri.

On Wednesday, the President will attend meetings at the White House.

On Thursday, the President will attend events for Governor Corzine of New Jersey. In the evening, the President will travel to New York City to address the NAACP during their 100th anniversary conference.

On Friday, the President will attend meetings at the White House.


##

President Obama, in Accra, Ghana delivered a speech Saturday intended for many nations in Africa with a pointed message not to blame colonialism of the past for the problems of the present. The Obama administration, through U.S. embassies in Africa, arranged watch parties for the speech across the continent.

Excerpt:
Now, it's easy to point fingers and to pin the blame of these problems on others. Yes, a colonial map that made little sense helped to breed conflict. The West has often approached Africa as a patron or a source of resources rather than a partner. But the West is not responsible for the destruction of the Zimbabwean economy over the last decade, or wars in which children are enlisted as combatants. In my father's life, it was partly tribalism and patronage and nepotism in an independent Kenya that for a long stretch derailed his career, and we know that this kind of corruption is still a daily fact of life for far too many.

Now, we know that's also not the whole story. Here in Ghana, you show us a face of Africa that is too often overlooked by a world that sees only tragedy or a need for charity. The people of Ghana have worked hard to put democracy on a firmer footing, with repeated peaceful transfers of power even in the wake of closely contested elections.

Obama in Ghana photo gallery

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There have been several reports Friday that Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) was not going to run for the Senate. The latest I have from Kirk's operation is that Kirk is still contemplating a bid. The bump here is that GOP Illinois Party Chief Andy McKenna--who had been recruiting Kirk to run--is now mulling a race himself. Kirk and McKenna met with members of the Illinois House delegation yesterday. The delegation is leaning heavily towards backing Kirk, one of their own. Kirk wants to avoid a primary. Kirk is the top choice of the GOP Senate political operation.

CHICAGO--Having tried and failed to raise any significant campaign cash, Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) said Friday he won't run in 2010 and will devote the remainder of his term to his senate work.

Burris announced his decision before a room full of supporters and took no questions afterwards. He read a brief statement at the Chicago South Loop Hotel, 2600 S. State St..

Said Burris:

The reality of being in the United States Senate today requires not only a significant time commitment to performing the job, but an almost equal commitment to raising funds to run competitively for the office. Political races have become far too expensive in this country.

And I'm making this -- as I am making this decision, I was called to choose between spending my time raising funds or spending my time raising issues for my state. I believe that the business of the people of the state of Illinois should always come first. The business of our state should come first. And so, today, I return to the place where my political journey began back in 1978 -- back to the South Side of Chicago, back to my community and my constituency -- to announce, my friends, that I will not be a candidate in the 2010 election, and that I will not run for the United States Senate seat.

obama-pope-benedict.JPGPhoto Gallery: Barack and Michelle Obama with Pope Benedict XVI.

Update.....PoliticsDaily.com Melinda Henneberger on Michelle Obama and the mantilla--the black lace head covering--Mrs. Obama is wearing to meet the Pope.

There is a photo making the rounds of President Obama and French President Sarkozy at the G8 meeting that appears--for that frozen moment--to have the men checking out a young lady going past them. ABC's videotapeplays what was happening before and after the still photo was taken. Conclusion: Obama was not looking; Sarkozy maybe.

Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias raised $1.8 million to date for his Senate bid, while his likely Democratic rivals have zero dollars in their warchests.

Giannoulias has been fund-raising since March. Federal fund-raising reports, public next week, will show that Giannoulias raised about $670,000 in the second quarter of 2009.

He said he was "humbled and honored" that in his "horrible economy, people were so generous."

Giannoulias is also in a position to pour some of his own money in his campaign; his federal financial disclosure statement--which requires that only the range of assets be listed--will show that he is worth between $13 million and $62 million, I'm told.

After the Senate Democratic shop slammed Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.)--who told people he will get in the Senate race--the National Republican Senatorial Committee rushed back a rebuttal on Thursday afternoon.

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(AP)

First Lady Michelle Obama, in Italy on Thursday, tours earthquake damage along with other spouses of world leaders gathered for the G8 summit in L'Aquila, Italy.

Flying to Rome later in the day, Mrs. Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha visited Rome's Pantheon. The Obamas' meet with the Pope on Friday.

Updated

Sen. Roland Burris (D-Illl.) will not run for election in 2010--a not surprising decision given that Burris, appointed by ousted Gov. Blagojevich to fill the seat vacated by Barack Obama had never created a political organization, raised virtually no campaign cash, and faced controversy from the start.

Burris' decision, reported by my Sun-Times colleague Michael Sneed, was fueled in large part by his anemic fund-raising efforts, which will become public next week. Burris will make it official during a speech he will deliver in Chicago Friday afternoon.

When we talked in May about whether he would run, Burris told me, I asked Burris about his timetable for deciding if he will run. "Lynn . . . if you don't have money, whether or not you say you are going to run is not relevant. . . . You take away your option."

Burris wanted to jump in the 2010 election, despite longshot odds, and made the rounds of Democratic heavies in May, but none offered him any support. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)--who suggested he resign the seat because of the circumstances surrounding his appointment by Blagojevich, tried to recruit Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to run for the Senate seat. Madigan on Wednesday said she instead will seek a third term as attorney general.

On the day I talked to Burris about his political prospects -- May 19 -- Burris met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to discuss his future. Earlier, he conferred with Sen. Robert Menendez, the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. And the day before -- May 18 -- Burris called on William Daley.


In the end, Burris sealed his own fate. He had $845 in a 2010 fund from his first quarter fund-raising and the second quarter yielded just about $20,000.

Michelle Obama in Italy

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First Lady Michelle Obama lunches in Italy with G8 leaders spouses. The pool report.

Mark Kirk statement

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WASHINGTON - Congressman Mark Kirk released the following statement today:

"Illinois is sorely in need of strong, independent leaders who will put the
public interest above their own and bring pride back to the Land of Lincoln. We
must set our country on a path of reform and fiscal sanity. The coming election
offers an opportunity to correct our course and set a higher standard for
Illinois.

"I will announce my intentions regarding statewide office very soon."

My Chicago Sun-Times colleague Dan Rozek reports from Lisa Madigan's press conference:


Madigan said she decided to seek a third term because she loves the job and loves her family, which includes her husband, Pat Brynes, and two young daughters, Rebecca, 4, and Lucy, 1.

"At the end of the day, it was a decision that I made with my husband about what was best for us and our family and what is best for the state. I have a job I am deeply committed to and extraordinarily satisfied by. Not everybody can say they have a job they love and have a working family situation as well."

She added: "As a lawyer, right now in my life, this is a great job."

Still, Madigan admitted the decision to run for a third term, rather than seek another office, was difficult for her.

"There was plenty of agonizing over this decision,'' she said.

Asked bluntly why she didn't want to be governor, Madigan replied: "Because I have a job that I love right now. And I also have a family that I love. And I plan on continuing to serve as your attorney general because I think it's
absolutely vital to have an independent advocate in that office."

Madigan even joked about her decision, saying her two terms as attorney general don't mean she has to next run for governor.

"A.G. doesn't always stand for aspiring governor,'' she said, drawing laughs.
Madigan talked to President Obama and has "incredible respect" for him, but she said she decided what office to seek based on other factors.

"But ultimately the decision that I have made was a decision I felt was going to be best for the people of the state of Illinois and best for my family," she said.

Likewise, she said the wishes of her father, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, didn't influence her decision.

"I made a decision about what was best for my family and what I ultimately thought was best for the state at this point,'' she said.

And she said there are plenty of other issues she wants to tackle if re-elected.
"There's plenty of more work to do,'' she said.

She pointedly refused to rule out a run for a different office after serving a third term as attorney general.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's decision Wednesday to seek a third term and not run for the Senate or governor means folks lined up to take her place have to rethink their plans. Now Comptroller Dan Hynes is considering a run for governor. Rep. Julie Hamos (D-Evanston) had been mulling a bid for AG if Madigan was moving on; an e-mail Hamos just sent out dramatizes how folks have to readjust their plans.


Writes Hamos, "We've talked about "when the dominos fall" in Illinois for months. Today was that day. ....Lisa Madigan has been a strong Attorney General and an excellent leader for the state of Illinois. I was pleased to learn that she will continue to provide excellent leadership to our state in these difficult times.

"Over the past few months I have met with Democratic and community leaders and listened to the concerns of voters across Illinois. In the coming days I plan to revisit those supporters and ask for their best ideas on how I can work for the people of Illinois. I look forward to hearing their ideas and input."

In the coming days, I would like to hear from you and your thoughts. As always, you can contact me at http://www.juliehamos.org/contac

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said Wednesday at a press conference in Chicago she knows she surprised people by not running for senator or governor.

Excerpt:

So today, I am announcing that I will seek a 3rd term as Illinois Attorney General.

I understand that some people may be surprised by my decision, because there has been speculation about whether I might run for Governor or for the U.S. Senate. I can't express how honored I am that others would consider me for either of these positions.

But I know that for now, the best way for me to continue serving the people of Illinois is to continue doing the job that I love ... and there is plenty to do.

I promise those of you looking for leaders who will restore honesty and integrity to Illinois government, I will continue to fight for you.

Updating.
Click below....Kirk making Senate calls...

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan will not run for a U.S. Senate seat--despite wooing by President Obama, Rahm Emanuel, Valerie Jarrett, Dick Durbin and the Democratic Senate political operation based in Washington. She will not run for governor. Instead, Madigan is announcing Wednesday afternoon that she is running for another term as Illinois Attorney General.

"She loves her job as attorney general, that's the first reason," said Mary Morrissey, Madigan's political director told me. "Every day she can make a difference."

Madigan is the mother of two young children. In a statement, Durbin, the assistant Senate majority leader--who been strongly urging Madigan to jump in the Senate race said, "Lisa Madigan made the right decision for our state and her family.

"She has been an incredibly capable and effective Attorney General. I look forward to working together with her for the people of Illinois."

Madigan--called the most popular political figure in Illinois by Emanuel, Obama's Chief of Staff--was considered the favorite to win a bid for governor or Senate. Her father is House Speaker Michael J. Madigan (D-Chicago) who is also the boss of the Illinois Democratic Party. He was a crucial factor in her winning her first attorney general race in 2002.

Madigan was spending Wednesday morning calling her network of fund-raisers and supporters with the news.

Madigan did not look forward to having to run in an Illinois Democratic primary--and she would have faced challengers if she went for the Senate or for governor. The White House declined to clear the primary field for Madigan for the Senate--though Emanuel is trying to clear the decks in New York. And Madigan would first have to beat Gov. Quinn--a close friend of Obama advisor David Axelrod--to claim a nomination for governor.

Madigan's decision to stay put allows the political world in Illinois to stabilize and means would be GOP and Democratic hopefuls can now lock in---or drop--plans to run for Senate, governor and attorney general.


Madigan will formally announce her political plans at 2 p.m. central time Wednesday in Chicago at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers.

Madigan has about $3.8 million in her state political warchest she could have used for a run for governor and can use to retain her AG slot. She raised $0 for a federal run.

Remember the tv show "Get Smart" and how Barbara Feldon played Agent 99? In Moscow, President Obama does. First Lady Michelle Obama, daughters Malia, 11 and Sasha, 8, mom Marian Robinson and godmother, Eleanor Kaye Wilson are along for the official visits to Russia, Italy and Ghana.

Asked by ABC's Jake Tapper if Sasha and Malia were having fun in Moscow, Obama noted the trenchcoats worn by his girls and dubbed Sasha the new "Agent 99"-

"You know they're great travelers. Sasha was walking down one of the halls of the Kremlin yesterday. She had her trench coat on, had her pockets in her trench coat. We called her Agent 99, she just looked like she knew where she was going. I thought she was going to pull out her shoe phone," Obama said.

;

;
(photos by AP)

Kal Penn the actor -- and the screen name -- is on a sabbatical.

Kalpen Modi, 32, is best known as Kumar in the "Harold and Kumar" movies. Now he's an associate director in the White House Office of Public Engagement. He finally reported for work on Monday, in a suit and tie.

WASHINGTON--President Obama taped a pitch to bolster Chicago's bid to land the 2016 Olympics. International Olympic officials are in Abuja, Nigeria for the 13th meeting of the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa.

excerpt from Obama's message:

That is why, from the very beginning, I have fully supported Chicago's dream of hosting the 2016 Games.

If Chicago is selected for this honor, we will ensure that the Olympic and Paralympic Games are a key priority for our nation.

We have already established a White House Office of Olympic, Paralympic and Youth Sport to serve the Games. And you can count on our government to work as a committed partner in Chicago's quest to host a great and historic Games and strengthen the Olympic movement worldwide.


Chicago Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet asks Kal Penn about on-the-job culture differences between Hollywood and the White House:


Listen to Penn's full interview:

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton broke her elbow and did not go with President Obama to Russia. Obama just said she will be there in the fall. Before leaving Washington to fly to Moscow, Obama replied to questions from Novaya Gazeta, including one about Clinton, his former rival.

An excerpt.....

In the course of your presidential campaign, you competed with Hillary Clinton. Does this hinder your joint work now?

Absolutely not. This is the beauty of democracy. Secretary Clinton and I engaged in a hard-fought, very competitive race for the nomination of our party. By the way, without question, these primaries made me a better candidate for the general election against Senator John McCain. But in democracies, once the election is over, then all Americans who care about our country get back to work. It was because of how well I got to know Secretary Clinton during our campaign that I knew she would be such an excellent Secretary of State, and she has served our country with excellence.

Dmitry A. Medvedev, President of the Russian Federation, and President Obama, in Moscow, are in a joint press conference right now, and they are talking about strategic arms and warheads. Click below for their joint statements on weapons control issued in advance of their joint statement.

Actor Kal Penn finally starts his White House job today. Penn's joining the Obama administration was announced months ago. Penn will be working in Valerie Jarrett's shop as an Associate Director in the Office of Public Engagement.

My colleagues over at PoliticsDaily.com have some great columns about why Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin suddenly resigned on July 3 and what it means to her, the GOP Party and the 2012 presidential contest.

Melinda Henneberger

Jill Lawrence

Walter Shapiro

WASHINGTON--Before flying to Moscow on Sunday, President Obama sat down Thursday with Jennifer Loven, the Associated Press White House bureau chief for a wide ranging interview; view the 24-minute exchange here.

WASHINGTON--President Obama returns to Chicago on July 23--his third trip home since becoming president--to host two fund-raisers for the Democratic National Committee.


WASHINGTON--Cheryle Jackson, the president of the Chicago Urban League, is moving closer to a run for the U.S. Senate, opening an exploratory committee this week.

Jackson told me she will decide in the coming months if she will officially get in the Illinois Democratic Senate primary and that she is pulling together a fund-raising and campaign team. Jackson told me Thursday her decision will not hinge on whether or not Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan gets in the contest.

"It is not about who else is in the race," Jackson said. Her main issues will pivot around economic development, she said.

WASHINGTON--Another Chicago area resident, Fay Hartog-Levin, a longtime Democratic activist and fund-raiser and an early career supporter of Barack Obama, was tapped Thursday to be ambassador to the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Her husband, Daniel Levin, is the chairman of The Habitat Company and the founder of the East Bank Club. Valerie Jarrett, before joining the Obama White House as a senior advisor, was the President and Chief Executive Officer of The Habitat Company. Levin's cousins are Michigan Democrats, Sen. Carl Levin and his brother, Rep. Sandy Levin.

A Winnetka resident, Hartog-Levin is a senior consultant at the Res Publica Group, a Chicago-based public affairs and media relations firm.

Other Chicagoans nominated for ambassadorships: Big Obama fund-raisers Lou Sussman for England and David Jacobson for Canada

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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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