Chicago Sun-Times
The scoop from Washington

September 2009 Archives

WASHINGTON--I chatted with Senior White House advisor Valerie Jarrett on Tuesday afternoon about Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympics and Friday's International Olympic Committee vote. Jarrett is flying to Copenhagen Tuesday night with First Lady Michelle Obama, her chief of staff Susan Sher and her deputy, Melissa Winter.

The IOC has 106 members and the voting could go for several rounds. Only about 50 votes are needed for Chicago to be named the host city over Tokyo, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro. Jarrett said an apt comparison to Chicago's IOC campaign would be the Iowa caucus. Obama's 2008 Iowa caucus win paved the way for his election as president. The Iowa caucus required intense, personal campaigning--much like the final sprint to lobby the IOC members.

Said Jarrett, "The Iowa caucus, where you can have more than one round and every single vote counts and it is very retail and you have to earn the trust and confidence of every single person you can and that's where our effort will is very germane in the home stretch."

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama, off to Copenhagen on Tuesday night to lobby for Chicago's 2016 Olympic bid, said the rash of crime in Chicago won't hurt the city when the International Olympic Committee votes on Friday.

In a session with reporters on Monday, Mrs. Obama said, "You know, there are a number of big cities that are bidding. And when you live in a big city there are issues that are unique to urban settings. Chicago isn't unique in that way. But that's one of the things that I can talk about personally. I mean, you know, most of these Games are taking place blocks away from my house. There's good security by my house these days. And while Chicago is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, it is -- people don't live in fear. The downtown area is completely accessible.

"But more importantly, the character of Chicago shines through. We're Midwestern folks, and there's a bit of southern hospitality that comes along with that place. We know how to treat our visitors with respect and with open arms. And I think that's the character that will shine through, in addition to the fact that it's such an international city.

"Then you think about the countries that are going to be represented and you think of the 77 different community areas in Chicago, it's almost a little U.N. There are significant communities that would support these athletes from across the globe. And it's important for people to understand that Chicago isn't just a U.S. place, it's an international place. And people will be able to go into communities and shop and find food that they get back home. They'll be able to hear their music. They'll be able to see people like them.

"I know Mayor Daley, and he's going to make sure that these Games go off without a hitch because that's the kind of mayor he is. It's not called the "City That Works" for nothing. It really works. And it's not always perfect, but it's really, really good."

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama is flying to Copenhagen Tuesday night to lobby the International Olympic Committee to vote Friday for Chicago to host the 2016 Olympics. She talked up her game in her first ever press conference at the White House on Monday. My report here.

The Chicago Sun-Times has learned that President Obama will be in Copenhagen on Friday to help bolster Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympic summer games. The final presentation to the International Olympic Committee and vote is this Friday.

First Lady Michelle Obama and Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Obama and head of the White House Office on Olympic, Paralympic and Youth Sport land in Copenhagen on Wednesday.

The president departs Washington on the evening of Thursday, October 1 and arrives in Copenhagen on the morning of October 2 local time, just prior to Chicago's presentation to the voting members of the IOC. He will arrive back in Washington on Friday afternoon.

Said Jarrett, "in the spirit of the Games, President Obama wants to make sure that we give this our very best effort in the home stretch. He is delighted to be able to join the First Lady in the final presentation and answer questions from the IOC selection committee."

The White House/State Department took down the photo of the First Family of Spain and their kids--looking goth--but there are a lot of interesting photos taken of the Obamas and heads of state at the reception they threw Sept. 23 while in New York for United Nations meetings.

The Obamas with the First Family of Costa Rica

WASHINGTON -- Oprah Winfrey and first lady Michelle Obama are global brands.

And these two world-famous women will try to translate their personal appeal into Olympic votes for Chicago as they buttonhole targeted members of the International Olympic Committee for one-on-one lobbying this week in Copenhagen in advance of the Oct. 2 vote to choose a host city for the 2016 Summer Games.

At this stage of Chicago's long quest for the Olympics, the only thing that matters is finding more than 50 people from the 106-member IOC to vote for Chicago over Tokyo, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro.

Obama on nukes in weekly address

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The U.S. government is buying enough H1N1 vaccine--250 million doses--so that everyone who wants to be protected can get a free shot or nasal spray. There may be a small service fee.

Here's my report on what's new in the manufacture and distribution of the H1N1 vaccine, from a session Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Dr. Anne Schuchat, the director of the Center for Disease Control's Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, had with reporters in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Thursday. They discussed the national vaccination program for the H1N1 virus, often called the swine flu.

WASHINGTON--When Oprah Winfrey, one of the most famous women in the world, arrives in Copenhagen next week to bolster Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympic summer games, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned she will have a list of members of the International Olympic Committee to buttonhole as she does some one-on-one lobbying.

Obama, Sarkozy, Brown on Iran covert nuke site: Sarkozy calling for sanctions by December if Iran does not back down. Brown: Iran's "serial deception" of many years. Obama: site presents a "direct challenge" to the international community. Obama calling for Immediate investigation.


Chicago Sun-Times Staff Reporter

CHICAGO--It has long been claimed that Rahm Emanuel wanted to find someone to keep his congressional seat warm while he served as President Obama's chief of staff.

Now, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned that Emanuel wanted then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich to appoint Cook County Commissioner Forrest Claypool to his 5th Congressional District seat.

Claypool would serve one or two terms and then be considered for a place in Obama's Cabinet, according to sources familiar with Emanuel's proposal. That would give Emanuel the option of returning to Congress, where he could vie to become House speaker.

Michelle Obama with Carla Sarkozy, the wife of the French President (AP)

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama is making her international entertaining debut this week, at the UN in New York and in Pittsburgh Thursday and Friday, overseeing the spouses program at the G20 summit.

In Pittsburgh, Mrs. Obama on Thursday hosted the G20 leader spouses at Rosemont Farm, owned by Teresa Heinz Kerry, the wife of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and the widow of Sen. John Heinz (R-Pa.).

On Sept. 25, Mrs. Obama takes the spouses to a performance at Pittsburgh's Creative and Performing Arts School and later heads to the Andy Warhol Museum for a tour. At the school, there will be performances by students and stars: cellist Yo-Yo Ma, country superstar Trisha Yearwood and singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles.

Mrs. Obama's gifts to the spouses: "a one-of-a-kind porcelain tea set, White House honey, and a honey vase designed exclusively for the occasion of The Pittsburgh Summit 2009."

The tea set was made by the Picard China, headquartered in the far northwest Chicago suburb of Antioch.

click below for more details on the gifts.

WASHINGTON--Here's the latest on whether or not President Obama is going to show up in Copenhagen to pitch Chicago for the 2016 summer Olympic games, with the International Olympic Committee vote on Oct. 2. I think Obama will be in Copenhagen. But as White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Thursday, the White House likes to keep "you guys on your toes" in the meantime.

Obama is likely to show up in a "quick trip" to Denmark. He won't be there for days to schmooze and lobby. That's what First Lady Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Valerie Jarrett, Mayor Daley, Gov. Quinn, and the rest of the delegation will be doing, starting on Sept. 30.

Gibbs on Thursday said, "as you guys know, we've -- an advance team departed the United States on Monday to preserve the option for the President to visit Copenhagen and lend his voice to America's bid for the 2016 Olympics. That hasn't changed. No final decisions have been made as of yet.

He was asked, "But it sounded like a final decision when you said he wasn't going to go, he was going to send the First Lady."

"Well, the First Lady -- that was a final decision. The First Lady is going. But we like to keep you guys on your toes," Gibbs said.

Question to Gibbs: So it's possible he may go?

"Absolutely. I mean, the advance team was sent in for that possibility. We didn't -- we wanted to ensure that if he went -- if he could go, we were ready. And that's the precaution we've taken."

WASHINGTON--Here's the latest from the Republican National Committee on whether or not RNC chairman Michael Steele has endorsed in the GOP Illinois Senate primary. He has not. (UPDATES FROM THE DSCC AND NRSC BELOW)

I just talked with Gail Gitcho, the RNC press secretary, to clear up the situation regarding the RNC and the Illinois primary.

"Illinois is a targered state for Republicans. It is an important seat and we plan on being fully engaged in the race once we have a candidate," Gitcho said.

"Congressman Mark Kirk is an exceptional leader and clearly is the frontrunner in the Illinois Senate race but the RNC traditionally does not get involved in primaries."

WASHINGTON--Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the former Chicago schools chief, who played pro basketball in Australia, will be part of the delegation heading to Copenhagen to help pitch Chicago as the host of the 2016 summer Olympic games.

And I'm being advised on Thursday morning by the White House that they are still not ready to nail down whether President Obama will show up for the Oct. 2 final sales pitch to the International Olympic Committee.

Valerie Jarrett meets with Tony Blair over Chicago's 2016 Olympics pitch

Rep. Bobby Rush's "call list" to African ambassadors to get out the IOC vote for Chicago

WASHINGTON -- White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, overseeing the Obama administration's drive to land the 2016 Olympic Games, met Tuesday with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in New York, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned. Jarrett's huddle with Blair comes as international lobbying intensifies in advance of the Oct. 2 vote in Copenhagen and Chicago organizers are working on their home stretch strategy.

Blair's personal lobbying with the International Olympic Committee in Singapore in 2005 is credited with helping London win the 2012 Games. First lady Michelle Obama -- and possibly President Obama -- will be in Copenhagen to be part of Chicago's final sales pitch.

Glenn Beck with Katie Couric

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President Obama, in New York for UN meetings, held tri-lateral talks Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority leader Abbas.

Obama's balanced remarks, made at the start of their meetings: "Palestinians have strengthened their efforts on security, but they need to do more to stop incitement and to move forward with negotiations. Israelis have facilitated greater freedom of movement for the Palestinians and have discussed important steps to restrain settlement activity. But they need to translate these discussions into real action on this and other issues. And it remains important for the Arab states to take concrete steps to promote peace.

Tom DeLay on Dancing with the Stars

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WASHINGTON--President Obama is targeting undecided members of the International Olympic Committee to bolster the case to vote Oct. 2 for the 2016 summer games to be in Chicago.

On Sept. 10, he sent a letter to some of the target IOC members and the letter made its way out of the White House on Tuesday.

excerpt: I believe we have an historic opportunity to do great things together, and I look forward to discussing that opportunity with you, if not in Copenhagen, then soon thereafter if Chicago is your choice.

click below for letter text

Obama on David Letterman

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Obama: 'I Was Actually Black Before the Election'

WASHINGTON--President Obama, on five Sunday shows:

*Is undecided on increasing troop levels in Afghanistan
*Insisted there are no tax boosts in his health care propsals though there is debate over this.
*Downplayed assertions, one from former President Jimmy Carter, that racism is at the core of criticism of him.
*Declined to say whether he would sign a bill stripping ACORN, the controversial community organizing group, of federal funding.
*Scolded television bookers for making stars out of people who engage in "rude" behavior rather than civil discourse. My story on this here.

Find my full report on Obama's interviews here. Obama appeared on CBS's "Face the Nation," NBC's "Meet the Press," ABC's "This Week," CNN's "State of the Union" and Univision's "Al Punto." Fox News was not included. Obama tapes the David Lettman show on Monday.

President Obama covered a lot of serious topics on his five Sunday show interview marathon. Over at NBC's "Meet the Press," host David Gregory ended his interview with a question about the South Sider president's team, the White Sox.

The exchange....

DAVID GREGORY: On a lighter note, before I let you go, Mr. President, you were
brazen this summer at the All Star game wearing your Chicago White Sox
jacket out there to throw out the first pitch. Hate to break it to
you, but doesn't look so good for your White Sox here. So I want to know who is
your pick to win the World Series?

You know-- I am-- I think mathematically, the White Sox can still get in the

DAVID GREGORY: They can, mathematically. You're an optimist.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: So-- until they are eliminated, I will make no predictions.

DAVID GREGORY: Oh, come on.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I've got say, though, that the-- the Cardinals have been-- been
coming on strong. And Pujols is unbelievable.


PRESIDENT OBAMA: But-- this is tough to say. The Yankees are also doing pretty
well. (LAUGHTER) And a shout out to Derek Jeter for breaking Lou Gehrig's
record. He's-- he's a classic.

DAVID GREGORY: Absolutely. He is. Absolutely. Mr. President, thank you.


The White House, Twitter and Facebook


How the Presidential Records Act could be impacted by Facebook and Twitter....

Michelle Obama mapping Olympic lobbying drive

President, First lady to pitch Chicago 2016 at upcoming UN, G20 meetings

WASHINGTON -- Friday afternoon, first lady Michelle Obama huddled for 90 minutes with a close circle of senior advisers in her East Wing office to map strategy for her biggest solo assignment to date: traveling to Copenhagen to lead Chicago's drive to land the 2016 Olympics.

The coming days will put Mrs. Obama on the international stage at a level she -- and the world -- has not seen before as she lobbies in Copenhagen, New York and Pittsburgh for Chicago's bid.

WASHINGTON--The Obama White House marketing and sales department is aiming to own all the Sunday message platforms. What's not on President Obama's official Friday schedule today is that he is sitting down with hosts of five Sunday talk shows today in the White House in order to flood the zone on what he wants to talk about--presumably health care at the top of his list. I am guessing the hosts will have lots of questions about the public insurance option.

But the hosts are free to ask what they want--just as I was at the last presidential news conference--so there will be other ground to plow--the upcoming G20 conference next week, the war in Afghanistan--or anything else.

Obama will do interviews on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and Univision. Fox News is being snubbed. Obama does the David Letterman show on Monday--where at present he is the only scheduled guest.

WASHINGTON -- First lady Michelle Obama, who keynoted the launch of a new farmers' market a block from the White House on Thursday, said at the ceremony the success of her White House garden has "been one of the greatest things that I've done in my life so far.''

Mrs. Obama said, "And it's important to know that when I travel around the world, no matter where I've gone so far, the first thing world leaders, prime ministers, kings, queens ask me about is the White House garden. And then they ask about Bo."

Bring on the brisket, President Obama is sending out his L'Shanah Tovah for Rosh Hashanah, which starts sundown on Friday.

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama got a bit fired up at the White House event on Wednesday to bolster the Chicago 2016 Olympic bid. My longer report on the event is here.

Lisa Madigan in DC on mortgage fraud


WASHINGTON--In a posting done without fanfare at, White House communications chief Anita Dunn responded Wednesday afternoon with a rebuttal to the attack on the Obama administration by some Republicans and commentators--Glenn Beck one of them--on the appointments of "czars"--high level advisors who did not face Senate confirmation. Beck just got the head of now former green jobs chief Van Jones.

In a bit of coordinated messaging, the Demoratic National Committee on Thursday morning produced a web video, "Dancing with the Czars."

Glenn Beck hits cover of Time Magazine


WASHINGTON---The newest political phenom is Glenn Beck, entering stage right. He's the cover on the new Time Magazine.

Excerpt: Glenn Beck: the pudgy, buzz-cut, weeping phenomenon of radio, TV and books. Our hot summer of political combat is turning toward an autumn of showdowns over some of the biggest public-policy initiatives in decades. The creamy notions of postpartisan cooperation -- poured abundantly over Obama's presidential campaign a year ago -- have curdled into suspicion and feelings of helplessness. Trust is a toxic asset, sitting valueless on the national books. Good faith is trading at pennies on the dollar. The old American mind-set that Richard Hofstadter famously called "the paranoid style" -- the sense that Masons or the railroads or the Pope or the guys in black helicopters are in league to destroy the country -- is aflame again, fanned from both right and left. Between the liberal fantasies about Brownshirts at town halls and the conservative concoctions of brainwashed children goose-stepping to school, you'd think the Palm in Washington had been replaced with a Munich beer hall.

WASHINGTON--Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.)--who had billed himself as the crucial 60th vote the Democrats needed in the Senate--is breaking from the pack, saying Wednesday he will oppose any health care bill that does not have a public insurance option.

"I firmly believe in a public option and will oppose any bill that does not include one. Illinoisans have seen their insurance premiums skyrocket, while more and more families lose their coverage every day," Burris said in a statement.

Burris could be the one senator immune from pressure from any precinct. Appointed in a controversial move by the tainted now former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who is facing criminal charges, Burris is not running to keep the seat in the 2010 election. He had little choice in deciding not to run; the Democratic establishment lined up against Burris believing he was too politically weak to retain the seat once held by President Obama.

Since White House and Senate power brokers David Axelrod, Rahm Emanuel and Dick Durbin tried to recruit someone else to run for the Senate seat Burris now holds--Burris--who has known them from years--owes them nothing.

Could be interesting. Burris is the one senator with nothing to lose and with limited opportunity to make some kind of mark in the chamber before he has to leave.

WASHINGTON--South Side Chicagoans President Obama and First Lady Michelle, with Mayor Daley gave a big pitch for Chicago's 2016 Olympic bid at the White House on Wednesday.

President Barack Obama uses a light saber on Wednesday as he watches a demonstration of fencing with Tim Morehouse who won a silver medal in Men's Saber Fencing at the Beijing Olympics during an event supporting Chicago's 2016 host city Olympic bid. (AP)

Said Obama, "Americans, like Chicagoans -- we don't like to make small plans. We want to dream big and reach high. We hope deeply. We want these Games. And if you choose Chicago, I promise you this: Chicago will make America proud, and America will make the world proud.>

Obama is saying that he is not going to Copenhagen--as Chicago 2016 officials hoped--for the Oct. 2 International Olympic Committee vote because he is too busy in Washington dealing with health care. He is sending, he said, a bigger "superstar" in his place, Mrs. Obama.

Said Obama, "I would make the case in Copenhagen personally, if I weren't so firmly committed to making -- making real the promise of quality, affordable health care for every American. But the good news is I'm sending a more compelling superstar to represent the city and country we love, and that is our First Lady, Michelle Obama.

" She's going because she and I share the conviction that bringing the Games to the United States isn't just important for the city, but for the American people. And I'm confident she, and my senior advisor and Director of the White House Office of Olympic, Paralympic, and Youth Sport, Valerie Jarrett, will represent the American people well."

WASHINGTON--The debate over ACORN continues on cable shows, after the Monday Senate vote to ban federal money to fund programs run by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). The Senate vote was overwhelming--83 yes, 7 no and 9 not voting. Illinois Democrats Dick Durbin and Roland Burris both voted no.

Critics of Barack Obama during the presidential campaign tried to attack Obama by attacking ACORN, a community organizing group over how they handled voter registration and Census work. The Senate action came after ACORN got caught up in an undercover video sting--where ACORN employees were seen offering advice to folks posing as a prostitute and a pimp.

The actual legislation:
Amendment Number: S.Amdt. 2355 to H.R. 3288 (Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010)
Statement of Purpose: Prohibiting use of funds to fund the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN).

WASHINGTON--Catching up here..former University of Chicago Law School prof and longtime Barack Obama friend and advisor Cass R. Sunstein--who moved to Harvard last year--was confirmed Sept. 10 to be Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Office of Management and Budget. The vote was largely along partisan lines, yes 57, no 40 and 2 not voting. Sunstein left the U of Chicago when he married Obama human rights and foreign policy advisor Samantha Power.

WASHINGTON--House Democrats are proceeding Tuesday with a resolution sanctioning Rep. Joe Wilson, the South Carolina Republican who yelled "you lie" during President Obama's address to a joint session of Congress last Wednesday.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer from Maryland and Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina are bringing the resolution, which says the outburst "was a breach of decorum and brought discredit to the House of Representatives."

From Democratic Leaders on why they are doing this, even though Wilson apologized to White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel after the outburst: "The House general code of conduct requires that, "a lawmaker shall conduct himself at all times in a manner which shall reflect creditably on the House of Representatives." These are the standards members are held to when they take the oath of office. Despite the request of leadership of both parties, Rep. Wilson has refused to apologize on the House Floor, as is considered traditional, when a Member breaches House rules. Therefore, the House is compelled to respond."


WASHINGTON---President Obama told Wall Street Monday the days of big bailouts are over--and consumers need to be more savvy. My report on the Obama speech and the road ahead--a year after the Lehman Brothers collapse here.

WASHINGTON--Rep. Joe Wilson, the South Carolina Republican you yelled "you lie"
at President Obama during his address before a joint session of Congress last Wednesday, faces a push Tuesday to sanction him. I write about the Democrats push to approve a resolution of disapproval against Wilson here.

WASHINGTON--President Obama, speaking for the first time on his decision not to pledge to go to Copenhagen to promote Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympic summer games, said Monday sending instead First Lady Michelle to lead the U.S. delegation is better than him showing up.

"Michelle's our best representative," Obama told Bloomberg News White House correspondent Julianna Goldman. Obama may be staying in Washington because of the pending battles in Congress over health care reform, and he added on Monday, an overhaul of the nation's financial regulatory system.

The White House announced Friday--and scooped in this blog--that Mrs. Obama will lead the U.S. Olympic Committee delegation to Denmark next month for the last sales pitch. The International Olympic Committee votes Oct. 2 between Chicago and cities in Spain, Brazil and Japan.

Obama told Goldman, "You know, I would love to go, because Chicago is my hometown. The track and field stadium, if we got the Olympics here in the United States, would actually be about three blocks from my house, so I could walk over...

"... I don't know if Usain Bolt will still be running at that time. But - so we - we are deeply invested in getting this done. Michelle is definitely planning to go to Copenhagen, and she's, I think, the best Obama representative that we have.

"...I'm in the middle of some very important decisions around health care, the - are obviously still working on the issue of financial regulation. It may not be a time where I can just devote a couple of days to fly over there." Obama said.

WASHINGTON -- Democratic Senate hopeful Cheryle Jackson and I talked Sunday about why she went to work for Gov. Rod Blagojevich as his spokeswoman -- and why she left his administration during his first term when she realized Blagojevich was making decisions "based on personal benefit."

WASHINGTON--White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrettt, who seemed to vanish at the end of last week, was actually dispatched to India on a delicate diplomatic mission: President Obama' tapped her to meet with the exiled Tibetan religious leader, the Dalai Lama.

Jarrettt called on the leading figure for Tibet's autonomy from China on Sunday and Monday, along with State Department Under Secretary Maria Otero, the Obama White House new Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues.

The Jarrett visit to Dharamsala, India, to meet with the Dalai Lama at his residence, comes in advance of Obama traveling to China in November. The Nobel Prize winning Dalaii Lama was in the U.S. in May and has a return trip scheduled for next month; Jarrett's visit could serve to pave the way for a White House meeting with Obama.

WASHINGTON--President Obama hits Wall Street for a few hours today to deliver a speech on the economy, pegged to the one year anniversary of the failure of Lehman Bros. My report here.

Obama jab at insurer went too far

HEALTH REFORM | Obama said Illinois man died because loss of coverage caused delay -- in fact, policy got reinstated, no proof wait was fatal

WASHINGTON -- When President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, he wanted to vividly convey heartbreaking stories of sick folks getting screwed by insurance companies to pressure lawmakers to pass health care reform legislation.

WASHINGTON--Rep. Wilson (R-S.C.), who shouted out "you lie" during President Obama's health care address to a joint session of Congress,on Wednesday, told Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday" he will not apologize again for his outburst--a breach of House etiquette.

"I am not going to apologize again," he said. He said he apologized to Obama on Wednesday he said and "that is sufficient." Actually, the apology went to Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

That means Wilson will likely be brought to the well of the House floor this upcoming week so House Speaker Nancy Pelosi can sanction him.

Wilson said he had a "town hall" moment.

"I would never do anything like that again."

Asked if race was an issue: "I respect the president." He also noted that First Lady Michelle Obama has family in South Carolina.

"I am a civil peson. I have apologized to the president. I believe that is sufficient."

Updated with official announcement at 2:54 p.m. eastern....

WASHINGTON--President Obama just phoned Mayor Daley to tell him he may not be able to travel to Copenhagen next month to help make the final pitch for Chicago to win the 2016 Olympic summer games because of his pending fight to pass health care legislation. First Lady Michelle Obama will lead the U.S. delegation, the Sun-Times has learned.

I'm told the President told the mayor he is very committed, he will continue to press the case and Michelle Obama will lead the U.S. Olympic Committee delegation's bid for the Chicago 2016 games. Obama can't, at this moment, commit to going because he cannot say where the health care issue will be in the first week of October.

This puts pressure on Mrs. Obama to deliver if she indeed ends up filling in for the president. She will be competing with the heads of state of Brazil, Japan and Spain who are going to Denmark on a high stakes sales call to secure the games for Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo or Madrid.

Chicago boosters were hoping that the U.S. Olympic Committee's Chicago bid would be bolstered by Obama because of the enormous international popularity of the president.

The International Olympic Committee meets in Copenhagen on Oct. 2 where the 100-plus members vote on the 2016 host city. White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett--who was part of the Chicago 2016 Committee before joining the Obama administration--is also going to Copenhagen.

The Obamas will host an event at the White House on Sept. 16 with Olympic and paralympic athletes in order to help promote landing the games in their home town.

Mayor Daley said Obama just phoned him

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Sun-Times City Hall Reporter

CHICAGO--Mayor Daley interrupted his own press conference on post-Sept. 11 security
improvements this morning to take a call from President Obama, heightening
speculation that the president has decided to travel to Copenhagen next
month to close the sale of the Chicago 2016 Olympic bid.

While speaking before reporters at the Chicago Hilton, Daley said he needed
to cut short a news conference to take a call. When he returned, he
acknowledged it was from the president.

He wouldn't say what it was about. But he did say it's up to the White House
to make the announcement.

Obama has been widely expected to make the trip, but the White House and the
mayor have been coy about the decision for weeks.
On Thursday, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said a trip to
Copenhagen, where the International Olympic Committee will pick a winner for
the 2016 Summer Games on Oct. 2, was not currently on Obama's schedule.
The president's presence is considered crucial because the heads of state
‹ or royal families ­ of the other finalists are expected to be there.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was widely credited with putting
London's bid for 2012 Olympics over the goal line.


Over at, Patricia Murphy took reader questions about the impact of the Obama health care proposals to Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

From Murphy's report: The top questions included how illegal immigrants will be treated under health care reform (she says they won't be covered); how Medicare can remain solvent if a new health plan launches, and whether taxes and insurance premiums will go up with so many new health care commitments to be paid for.

WASHINGTON-- President Obama may not travel to Copenhagen next month to help Chicago's final push on Oct. 2 with the International Olympic Committee to win the 2016 summer Olympic games. The heads of states of Brazil, Japan and Spain will be in Denmark to help their nations land the games.

At a White House briefing on Thursday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the trip to Denmark is not now on his schedule. White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett --who was part of the Chicago 2016 committee before joining the Obama administration--will be making the trip.

After the briefing, I was told by a White House staffer that Gibbs answer was not definative--meaning it was not a hard no. It just was not a yes. Still, for those who were counting on Obama making it to Copenhagen--well, they can't count on it. Here's how the briefing unfolded.

Gibbs was asked about Copenhagen and the Olympics. Is the president going to go?
"Not that I'm aware of, no."

I then pressed Gibbs for more information about the situation.

"Well, you know now you probably made a few million ears
perk up by saying that he's not coming. So if you have," I said.

Gibbs then told me, " I should -- I said -- I said that as far as the
schedule I had seen, that was not planned."
Asked if the date was being held, Gibbs said he would check.
"Well, this is -- I will, because of those several millions ears that have now since perked, check."
Asked again "Is the date being held" Gibbs said, "Let me check. It's hard for me to look into my invisible crystal ball."

WASHINGTON--When President Obama told a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night illegal immigrants would not be covered by his health care plans--debunking what he called a "bogus claim"-- Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) yelled out, "You lie! You lie!"

Afterwards, Wilson released a statement apologizing for his actions. "This evening I let my emotions get the best of me when listening to the president's remarks regarding the coverage of illegal immigrants in the health care bill. While I disagree with the president's statement, my comments were inappropriate and regrettable. I extend sincere apologies to the president for this lack of civility."

WASHINGTON--President Obama¹s health care speech before a joint session of
Congress on Wednesday night was designed to appease critics on the left and
right, appeal to the folks in the middle who just don¹t want to go broke if
they get sick or find insurance impossible to buy because they have
pre-existing conditions, and calm nervous seniors who worry about their

WASHINGTON--With a host city decision a few weeks away, President Obama and First Lady Michelle, in a move to bolster Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympics, will host Olympians and Paralympians at the White House next Wednesday, I've been told.

WASHINGTON--President Obama,in his health care speech before a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night will blame partisans on the left and the right for inaction, as he tries to prod Congress into passing a major overhaul bill.

In excerpts released by the White House, Obama will say:

But what we have also seen in these last months is the same partisan spectacle that only hardens the disdain many Americans have toward their own government. Instead of honest debate, we have seen scare tactics. Some have dug into unyielding ideological camps that offer no hope of compromise. Too many have used this as an opportunity to score short-term political points, even if it robs the country of our opportunity to solve a long-term challenge. And out of this blizzard of charges and counter-charges, confusion has reigned.

Former Rep. William Lipinski (D-Ill.) who served on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee--and is buddies with Rep. James Oberstar (D-Mn.), the chairman of the panel--and who is a South Siderwants his name on the federal building at 844 N. Rush, on the North Side. The House is scheduled to vote on this building naming for Lipinski on Wednesday. The structure is the headquarters of the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board.

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, awaiting trail on corruption charges, is in the meantime on a book tour to promote his side of the story book, "The Governor." In a telephone interview from New York, Blagojevich tells Peter Slevin of the Washington Post his relationship with Antoin "Tony" Rezko, a developer and fund-raiser now in prison--and cooperating with federal prosecutors--was "stupid."

Slevin writes, "If it hadn't been for Rezko, Blagojevich said, "I don't think I'm anywhere near the situation I'm in."

White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett--who heads the Obama team drive for Chicago's 2016 Olympic bid--will be going to Copenhagen in October for the city's final pitch, I'm told. Chicago's Olympic champions hopes President Obama decides to also travel to Denmark to seal the deal. The White House as of Tuesday is not ready to say one way or the other. Betting is: Obama will go if it looks like it is worth his time.

Former First Lady Laura Bush and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich--both Republicans, as you know, in Tuesday morning interviews said they had no problem with President Obama's back-to-school report. Read my story on this here.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart was the remaining name brand Democrat being mentioned as a possible contender in the 2010 Illinois Senate race. On Monday comes word he will not seek another office and will instead run for re-election.

President Obama urges students on Tuesday--gasp!--to study hard and don't talk back to their teachers. Critics accused Obama of trying to brainwash kids--but the back-to-school speech he will deliver today is pretty plain vanilla. Read my column about the speech here.

Obama's new ways to save your money

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The Obama White House, stung by the uproar over a back to school speech by President Obama--some conservatives are asserting, incorrectly, that Obama wants to spread socialist propaganda to the nations's kids--is releasing it Monday, a day early, so parents can read it for themselves. The speech will be 11 a.m. Chicago time on Tuesday live on C-SPAN and at

The speech has been planned since last July. I write about the inside story behind the speech here.

Former Bristol Palin boyfriend Levi Johnston blabs all--and poses for some interesting pictures--in the latest Vanity Fair.

Obama Ramadan dinner invitee list


WASHINGTON--Vicki Kennedy, the widow of Sen. Ted Kennedy and his nephew, former Rep. Joseph Kennedy are the Kennedy's most mentioned to run in the Jan. 19 special election to fill Ted Kennedy's seat. Here's my report on the situation-which includes an explanation of the replacement process. And no, I don't get steamed up over a "widow preference."

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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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