Chicago Sun-Times
The scoop from Washington

November 2009 Archives

WASHINGTON --White House social secretary Desiree Rogers has been asked to testify at a Thursday hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee about how wannabe reality TV stars Tareq and Michaele Salahi crashed the Obama's first state dinner last week.

Obama mortgage modification push


WASHINGTON--The Obama White House latest mortgage help plan, released Monday, Nov. 30, 2009.

More information about the Obama Administration's mortgage modification program can be found at

WASHINGTON--Chelsea Clinton is engaged to be married; the daughter of former President Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton sent out a mass e-mail with the news. AP had the scoop.

Rahm Emanuel turns 50 on Sunday


A milestone birthday Sunday for White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who turns 50 today.

(White House photo)

WASHINGTON--A White House official just confirmed for me that President Obama met the couple who crashed Tuesday's state dinner--Michaele and Tareq Salahi-- as they went through the receiving line.

The Secret Service on Friday was taking full blame for the incident in a statement issued by director Mark Sullivan. An initial internal investigation found that Secret Service protocols were not followed. "That failing is ours," Sullivan said.

Jim Mackin, the Secret Service deputy assistant director for public affairs said the Secret Service wants to interview the couple.


From the White House..

On Friday November 27, the First Lady will be presented with the Official White House Christmas Tree, which this year comes from Shepherdstown, West Virginia. The 18 ½ ft Douglas-fir will arrive on the traditional horse drawn carriage to the North Portico. The tree will then be on display in the Blue Room throughout the holiday season. The outside arrival event is open to pre-credentialed media.

The Obama White House on Thursday released the Thanksgiving Day menu the First Family is enjoying with about 50 guests--friends, family and staff, according to Mrs. Obama's press office. Mrs. Obama's press office announced Wednesday that the menu would not be released then changed their plans on Thursday. The menu is traditional--and features six varieties of pies. President Obama has often praised the White House pies.

"The President's favorite is turkey and pumpkin pie," a statement said.

Click below for the full menu

Obama state dinner has Chicago flavor


Steve Spielberg, Alfre Woodard, Blair Underwood (photo by Lynn Sweet)

Gayle King (photo by Lynn Sweet)

Deepak Chopra (photo by Lynn Sweet)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and husband Paul (photo by Lynn Sweet)

IMG_0844.jpgPresident Obama, Malia and Sasha at Thanksgiving turkey pardon ceremony at the North Portico of the White House. (photo by Lynn Sweet)

Courage, the pardoned Thanksgiving turkey. (photo by Lynn Sweet)

IMG_0775.JPG Marty Nesbitt and Anita Blanchard at the Obama state dinner (photo by Lynn Sweet)

Rep. Jan Schakowsky and husband Robert Creamer at the Obama state dinner (photo by Lynn Sweet)

IMG_0804.jpgChicago business executive John Rogers at the Obama state dinner (photo by Lynn Sweet)

IMG_0818.jpgChicago business executive Penny Pritzker at the Obama state dinner (photo by Lynn Sweet)

WASHINGTON--The first couple to walk by the cameras en route to the first state dinner hosted by President Obama and First Lady Michelle were dear friends from Chicago, Martin Nesbitt and his wife, Anita Blanchard, the doctor who delivered Obama daughters Malia and Sasha.

Here's a breakdown of the Chicagoans invited to the Obama White House first state dinner on Tuesday night.

Updated Nov. 25

White House staff
White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers
Senior advisor David Axelrod and wife Susan
Senior advisor Valerie Jarrett
First Lady Chief of Staff Susan Sher and husband, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Neil Cohen
Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and wife Amy Rule
Office of Public Engagement chief Tina Tchen

Friends, family who were also earlier and key Obama political supporters
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and husband Robert Creamer
John Rogers
Penny Pritzker
Judd and Linda Miner
Martin Nesbitt and wife Anita Blanchard
Jim and Paula Crown
Eric and Cheryl Whitaker
Marian Robinson
Newton and Josephine Minow

(Pritzker was the National Finance Chair of the Obama presidential campaign; Rogers and Crown were the Illinois Finance co-chairs. Miner hired Obama to work at his law firm when Obama graduated Harvard Law.)

White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers at the Obama State Dinner
(photo by Lynn Sweet)

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama wore a floor-length gold and cream strapless dress with a wrap by India-born designer Naeem Khan at the state dinner Tuesday honoring India Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife, Gursharon Kaur. Earlier in the day, she wore a skirt by Indian-American designer Rachel Roy.

White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers wore a floor-length cream color number by Comme Des Garcons (The I.D. thanks to the Washington Post Robin Givhan who nailed the designer as soon as Rogers walked past the cameras set up near the entry area.)

Second Lady Jill Biden is in a beaded gown by Reem Acra.

Sample table setting for Obama first state dinner. (photo by Lynn Sweet)

Guests will be at tables of ten.
Linens: Apple green
Flowers: Deep purple
hydrangea, garden roses and sweet peas in a palette of deep plum purple and fuchsia

Services and Place Settings
From the White House historic collections
Eisenhower Porcelain, 1955
Clinton China, 2000
Bush China, 2008-2009

Decor: A tent--more like a pavillion-- is on the South Lawn. The theme is a "garden theme," dedicated "to green and sustainable elements."

IMG_0732.jpgPlace card at the Obama first state dinner (photo by Lynn Sweet)

IMG_0736.JPG Desert plate, Obama first state dinner (photo by Lynn Sweet)

Potato and eggplant salad
White House arugula with onion seed vinaigrette
2008 Sauvignon Blanc, Modus Operandi, Napa Valley, California

Red lentil soup with fresh cheese
2006 Riesling Brooks ³Ara² Willamette Valley, Oregon

Roasted potato dumplings with tomato chutney
chick peas and okra
or green curry prawns
caramelized salsify with smoked collard greens and coconut aged basmati
2007 Grenache, Beckmen Vineyards, Santa Ynez, California

Pumpkin pie tart
pear tatin
whipped cream and caramel sauce
Sparkling Chardonnay, Thibaut Janisson Brut, Monticello, Virginia

Petits fours and coffee
Cashew brittle
Pecan pralines
Passion fruit and vanilla gelees
Chocolate-dipped fruit

Perfomances by
Kurt Elling, jazz vocalist
Jennifer Hudson, singer
Marvin Hamlisch conducting the National Symphony Orchestra
A.R. Rahman, Indian film composer
United States Marine Band

Among those present at the White House welcoming ceremony for India Prime Minister Singh:

CNN's Sanjay Gupta, actress Alfre Woodard, actor Blair Underwood, Rep. Joseph Crowley of New York, and a couple helpful photographers told your pooler they spotted Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, and Sam Kass, White House chef standing in the back wearing a suit

Updated 10:08 a.m. eastern time

WASHINGTON--Here's the invite to the hottest ticket in town Tuesday night--President Obama and First Lady Michelle's first state dinner. Several news outlets are reporting that the entertainment will include Chicago's Jennifer Hudson and Kurt Elling. This is the most anticipated event yet produced by White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers--so the Chicago connections are no surprise.

Some 320 guests are expected.The invite is on a cream-colored card embossed with a gold presidential seal and black text:

The President and Mrs. Obama request the pleasure of the company of Mr. _____ at a dinner in honor of His Excellency Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of the Republic of India, and Mrs. Gursharan Kaur, to be held at The White House on Tuesday, November 24, 2009 at seven o'clock.

My column with background on the Obama dinner is here. Mrs. Obama presides over a session Tuesday afternoon with girls she is mentoring on the history of White House dinners. Her East Wing will also show off the place settings at that time. Mrs. Obama will be joined by White House Curator William Allman and Tanya Turner, protocol officer for the Visits Division of the State Department.

All the Chicagoans in the White House--Rahm Emanuel, Valerie Jarrett, David Axelrod and Susan Sher are expected. Emanuel's brother, superagent Ari, will be part of the Hollywood crowd showing up. There will also be a Chicago contingent, including business executive Penny Pritzker, the chairman of TransUnion, Pritzker Realty Group, and Classic Residence by Hyatt. She was the finance chair of the Obama presidential campaign and Obama might not be in the White House today if it were not for her efforts, especially in the first quarter of his campaign in 2007.

For a schedule of how the day will unfold, check out my column here.

WASHINGTON--After President Obama's ninth meeting with his war council--the latest late last night--he will soon announce whether to send more troops to Afghanistan. Politico's Mike Allen is reporting that "Obama is expected to address the nation TUESDAY, DEC. 1, on his new Afghanistan policy, likely in PRIME TIME, Playbook is told." NBC is also reporting this morning that Obama has the information he needs and the decision will be in a week.

WASHINGTON--Plans for an elaborate outdoor arrival ceremony for Indian Prime Minister Singh on Tuesday on the South Lawn were scuttled because of poor weather. Instead, the ceremony will be in the East Room of the White House.

WASHINGTON--Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on NBC's "Meet the Press" told host David Gregory on Sunday that the so-called public option in the health care bills pending in Congress --different versions of the plan in the House and Senate measures--does not have to be a deal killer.

The public option can and will be subject to negotiation, Durbin said."It has been. Putting in the opt-out was clearly a variation on the theme from the beginning."

WASHINGTON--A day after the Senate ethics committee handed him a stinging rebuke, Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) on Saturday voted to advance the Democratic health care bill to the Senate floor and then departed for an official visit to Iraq.

Burris--on his first official overseas trip as senator--is traveling with Democrats Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden of Oregon,Michael Bennett of Colorado and Tom Udall of New Mexico.

Burris "is seeking a firsthand look at security and political developments in the region," according to a release his office sent Sunday. The senators plan to meet with soldiers, "foreign leaders" and security officials. The trip is short; Burris is expected to return by Thanksgiving Day.

Burris, who has not sought much press in recent months--what with ethics investigations hanging over him--will host a conference call Monday from the U.S. Embassy in Baghad. His office is going to try to keep ethics questions off the table. The Burris release said--and the capital letters are from them--"All interested reporters wishing to discuss THIS TOPIC are welcome to call in to hear Senator Burris discuss his findings and to ask related questions."

excerpt from the pool report...

Pool Report Three
Dinner at Valerie Jarrett's place

After apparently making a quick change out of his golf garb, POTUS departed White House at 6 p.m. to attend dinner at senior adviser Valerie Jarrett's condo in Georgetown. Motorcade arrived at location at 6:12 p.m.

We are told that this is "Valerie's birthday dinner." Entire First Family will be here for festivities (but appears to be traveling separately).

Ken Bazinet
New York Daily News

WASHINGTON--Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) just announced from the Senate floor--in a rare Saturday session--that she will vote to allow the Democratic championed health care legislation to proceed. Democratic Senate leaders needed a supermajority, 60 votes, to avoid a filibuster and proceed to the underlying legislation. The vote on the motion to proceed will take place at about 8 p.m. tonight. Sen. Dick Durbin and Sen. Tom Harkin will be flying back to Washington after a daytrip to tour a prison in northwest Illinois the Obama White House wants to buy to house Guantanamo detainees.

To find the bill language, start at

WASHINGTON--As Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on Saturday leads a tour of the nearly vacant Thomson Correctional Center--a top Obama White House contender to house Guantanamo detainees--the White House released its first detailed economic impact statement on the jobs and money that will be channeled to northwestern Illinois if the federal government buys the prison.

Click below for the detailed analysis.

WASHINGTON--As the Senate debates health care on Saturday, Democrats Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois and Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa are making a quick daytrip to the Illinois prison the Obama White House is targeting for Guantanamo detainees. The senators, flying on an Air Force jet, expect to be back for the crucial showdown vote at 8 p.m. eastern Saturday. Today, by the way, is Durbin's birthday.

Durbin and Harkin will be touring the Thomson Correctional Center with
Rep. Phil Hare (D-IL), Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA) Phil Carter, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs, Harley Lampin, Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons and Michael P. Randle, Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Durbin will also lunch with local elected officials and visit with community members who are also having lunch at the restaurant.

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Roland Burris was reprimanded Friday by the Senate Select Committee on Ethics for his "inconsistent, incomplete and misleading" testimony before Springfield lawmakers about his appointment by then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich to the seat once held by President Obama.

The Senate panel issued a "public letter of qualified admonition," a stinging rebuke of Burris' shifting explanations about his appointment.

Senate ethics panel admonishes Burris, but no charges coming


WASHINGTON-- Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) was admonished today by the U.S. Senate ethics committee over his testimony in Springfield concerning how he got appointed to Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat.

But his actions following his appointment by then Gov.-Rod Blagojevich did not rise to level of pursuing ethics charges against Burris, the committee ruled.

Gov. Quinn dozing at health care forum

| 1 Comment

The Dan Hynes for Illinois campaign likes this clip....posted on YouTube....of rival Gov. Quinn dozing during a health care forum with WTTW's Elizabeth Brackett.

WASHINGTON--No sleeping in after returning yesterday from an eight day trip to China, South Korea and Japan, President Obama on Friday morning with First Lady Michelle went to an event at daughter Sasha's school. Here's the pool report from Newsday's Tom Brune, a former Chicago Sun-Times reporter.

Pool report...
President, First Lady visit daughter's school

Though still on far Eastern time, the president, and the first lady, made the
trek out through morning rush hour traffic to Sidwell Friends Lower School in
Bethesda, where Sasha goes, for a non-official visit.

A WH press aide said first couple were attending a school function, but would
not elaborate. Pool was kept outside, and walked to nearby shops for coffee.
Visit lasted about 45 minutes.

For the record: Left White House at 8:30 a.m. Arrived at school in Bethesda at
9:04 a.m. Left school at 9:49 a.m. Arrived White House at 10:18 a.m.

Tom Brune at Newsday

WASHINGTON--After a stall, the Senate voted 59-39 Thursday to confirm U.S. District Court Judge David Hamilton--who now presides in an Indiana courtroom--to the Chicago based 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

Oprah Winfrey, fresh from a ratings hit with Sara Palin, will end her television show in September, 2011, ABC News is reporting.

Winfrey, one of the most influential and richest women in the world has her Harpo Production Company based in Chicago.

Obama home from China

| No Comments

WASHINGTON--President Obama is back in the U.S. after a swing through Japan, China and South Korea. Air Force One touched down at Andrews Air Force Base at 3:48 p.m. eastern on Thursday afternoon; by 4:01 p.m. est Obama was bounding down the stairs to the tarmac. He motorcaded from Andrews AFB to the White House, arriving at the White House at 4:22 p.m. est.

WASHINGTON--Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, fresh from winning governorships in Virginia and New Jersey, hits Chicago on Friday for meetings in the Loop with Illinois GOP leadership to map strategy on Illinois contests for governor and Senate and House seats.

Steele will huddle with state Rep. Beth Coulson (R-Glenview), running for the 10th congressional district seat being vacated by Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), a Senate hopeful.

From Coulson: She "will join Illinois' House Minority Leader Tom Cross and Senate Minority Leader Chris Radogno, as well as Illinois Republican Chairman Pat Brady in the meeting with the chairman to talk about the upcoming midterm elections in Illinois and how to keep the 10th Congressional District in Republican hands."

Illinois voters have a Feb. 2 primary.

WASHINGTON--Illinois State Sen. Jeff Schoenberg (D-Evanston) briefed me Thursday on what is involved on the state end in selling Thomson Correctional Center in northwest Illinois to the federal government.

The Obama administration is considering asking Illinois Gov. Quinn to sell the nearly vacant Thomson to the federal Bureau of Prisons, which in turn would lease a portion to the Defense Department to run a military prison for Guantanamo detainees. Sen. Dick Durbin is leading the drive for Thomson; Illinois House Republicans and Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.) are against the plan.

Schoenberg is the Senate co-chair of the 12-member state Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, which plays an advisory role in the decision.

WASHINGTON--Illinois Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) met with members of the Illinois congressional delegation on Thurday on a trip here that included a fund-raiser Wednesday night for the state senate political committee.

On a trip to Denver on Monday for a mentoring event with high school girls, First Lady Michelle Obama talked about how as a kid she was anxious and nervous when she had to take tests. Read my story on this here.

WASHINGTON--Here's the lighter side of President Obama, about five pounds worth.

Two male network correspondents asked Obama about his weight, after a serious discussion about other issues during one and one interviews in Bejing, China.

Obama told NBC's Chuck Todd, "My weight fluctuates about five pounds. It has for the last 30 years. It's unchanging. I still wear the same -- some of the same stuff I did when I got married 17 years ago. My hair's gotten a lot grayer; there's no doubt about that. But I'm not sure whether that's just because I was about the age where my hair was going to start getting gray."

Chip Reid from CBS also asked Obama about his health. "Well, look, my weight doesn't fluctuate too much. It goes in a five-pound band width," Obama said.

WASHINGTON--The price tag on the Senate Democrats health reform bill was put at $849 billion late Wednesday afternoon by the Congressional Budget Office, less than the amount in the bill the House passed but within President Obama's target.

Here's a top line comparison, according to Senate sources

Senate $849 billion
House 1.052 billion

Cutting the deficit
Senate $127 billion over 10 years
House 111 billlion over 10 years

Coverage expansion. Getting more people insured.
Senate 29 million or 94 per cent of uninsured coverage
House 36 million or 96 per cent of uninsured coverage
A merged version would yield 31 million or 91 percent on uninsured rolls

WASHINGTON--Senate Democrats defeated Tuesday a bid by Republicans to bar money being spent for prisons--that would include a proposed Gitmo North in Illinois--to take detainees from Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba. This is only the first skirmish. Attorney General Eric Holder testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee today--Wednesday-- on his decision to try the 9-11 suspects not at Gitmo in a New York courtroom. The subject of sending detainees to prisons on U.S. soil is expected to come up. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who supports the federal government buying the Thomson Correctional Center in northwest Illinois for the detainees, is on the committee.

Below, release from Illinois GOP survey....

Survey Shows Only 32% of Illinois Voters Support Quinn/Durbin Plan to Move Gitmo to Illinois, 57% Oppose

60% of women, 58% of independents and plurality of Democrats call plan a "bad idea"

CHICAGO - Less than one-third of Illinois voters support a plan to move terrorists from Gitmo to Thomson, Illinois while 57 percent call it a "bad idea," according to a survey released today by We Ask America, a division of Xpress Professional Services, Inc. of Springfield, Illinois.

According to the overnight survey of 1,791 likely Illinois voters, 60 percent of women and 58 percent of independents oppose the plan. Even Democrats narrowly oppose the plan, 44.5 percent to 43 percent.

It has been reported that a prison in northwestern Illinois is being considered to house individuals that have been incarcerated at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay. The individuals in question are being held due to suspicion that they have connections to terrorist activities. Do you think that housing these prisoners in an Illinois prison is a GOOD IDEA or a BAD IDEA?

Overall: Independents Democrats
Good idea: 32.33% Good idea: 33.78% Good idea: 42.62%
Bad idea: 56.95% Bad idea: 57.90% Bad idea: 44.46%
Unsure: 10.72% Unsure: 8.32% Unsure: 12.92%

"Democrat mismanagement and corruption is no excuse to put our homeland security at risk," IL Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady said. "Governor Quinn and Senator Durbin should listen to the people of Illinois and oppose this risky scheme."

ILGOP Note: Poll Data Courtesy of We Ask America, a division of Xpress Professional Services, Inc., 217-522-1257
# # #

Not Sent At Taxpayer Expense


Illinois, Gitmo North?


WASHINGTON--The Obama White House faced resistance this summer over the potential of sending Guantanamo Bay military prison detainees to Standish, Mich. or Leavenworth, Ks. That's a reason they turned to the more receptive Illinois, the adopted home state of President Obama. Sen. Dick Durbin, Sen. Roland Burris and Gov. Quinn--all Democrats--are welcoming the prospect of the federal government buying a little used Illinois super max prison for the detainees.

In contrast, last August, the GOP Kansas senators, Pat Roberts and Sam Brownback were so concerned about sending detainees to their state that they put a "hold" on the confirmation of Obama administration appointees until the White House gave them some answers. On Monday, four Illinois House members--Mark Kirk, Don Manzullo, Judy Biggert and Peter Roskam came out strong in opposition to bringing Gitmo prisoners

Read my overview on the developing story of whether the Thomson Correctional Center in northwest Illinois will be the new Gitmo North here.

Charting the Obama family tree

| No Comments

New York Magazine has a very interesting story about all of President Obama's relatives--especially on his father's side. Read it here.

Olbermann on Sarah Palin

| 1 Comment

Check out a clip from ABC's Barbara Walters interview with Sarah Palin here.

Click here for link to Oprah Winfrey's package of video features about her interview with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

WASHINGTON -- About a year ago, thousands jammed Grant Park in Chicago to celebrate Barack Obama's election to the White House, a communal civic defining moment. But those giddy days are long gone as Democrats in Illinois face the potential of losing the Senate seat President Obama once held next November.

The Illinois primary is Feb. 2, and the Democrat and Republican races are ripening, with the deadlines to file or withdraw nominating petitions now passed.

By Maureen O'Donnell
Sun-Times Staff Reporter

CHICAGO--In a fly-around the state Sunday, Gov. Quinn and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) accused GOP political rivals of spreading panic over efforts to house some Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detainees at the state's little used Thomson Correctional Center in northwestern Illinois.

Republicans, including Rep. Mark Kirk (R-10th), the Republican Senate front-runner, are lining up against the proposal and raising security concerns.

Updated Sunday 8:11 p.m. eastern

WASHINGTON--Illinois elected officials and candidates are dividing on party lines over relocating detainees at the Guantanamo military prison in Cuba to a maximum security lockup in northwestern Illinois. On Monday, the politics on this skyrocket.

While a federal team arrives in Thomson, Ill. for a site visit to the Thomson Correctional Center, four Republican House members from Illinois will be blasting the plan.

The politics of sending Guantamo detainees to the U.S. and closing the military prison there--a key pledge of President Obama--are already red hot nationally.

In Illinois, the question quickly became poltiical because the Feb. 2 primary is just weeks away, with the marquee races in the Land of Lincoln the Senate and governor contests.Republican elected officials and candidates are opposed to the potential transfer; most Democrats who are taking a stand are open to it.

Gov. Quinn and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) held press conferences in Chicago, Rockford and Moline on Sunday to boost prospects for the federal government buying the unused prison.

The Quinn and Durbin press conferences were coordinated with the White House in advance of the site visit, part of a public relations blitz to sell the public on President Obama's plan to relocate the detainees in the U.S. Thomson is one of several sites under consideration.

On Monday afternoon the site team visiting Thomson will include staffers from the Department of Defense, Bureau of Prisons, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice, a White House spokesman and a White House National Security Council member in addition to Quinn and Durbin staff, and representatives from the Illinois Department of Corrections and the State Police.

The group will meet with local officials, a few dozen community members and leaders in a visit Quinn's office helped arrange.

When a similiar site team visited a prison in Standish, Mich., last August, the group numbered more than 20 and included a White House spokesman and a member of the White House legislative affairs staff.

The GOP House members who will blast the transfer plan in Chicago on Monday include Rep. Mark Kirk, the Senate hopeful who is the frontrunner in the GOP primary. Others include Rep. Don Manzullo, whose district includes the prison; Rep. Peter Roskam and Rep. Judy Biggert.

They want the detainees kept in Cuba--and not land on U.S. soil. In a letter to Obama, the four wrote, if the suspected terrorists come to Illinois, "our state and the Chicago metropolitan area will become ground zero fo rJihadist terrorist plots, recruitment and radicalization."

Guantanamo in Illinois? Backgrounder


WASHINGTON--As the Obama White House considers the transfer of detainees held in a Guantanamo Bay military prison to a vacant Illinois maximum security prison, a team from the Justice and Defense Departments will travel to Thomson, Ill. to inspect the facility.

The authority for this team--and the rationale behind President Obama wanting to close the controversial Cuban prison is laid out in an executive order Obama signed on his first day in office, Jan. 22, 2009. Obama is struggling to meet the goal stated in the order--to close Guantanamo by Jan. 22, 2010.

Click below to read Obama's executive order.

By Lynn Sweet
Sun-Times Washingon Bureau Chief
WASHINGTON--A nearly empty state prison in northwestern Illinois has emerged as a possible site to house detainees transferred from the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba, the Obama White House told the Chicago Sun-Times on Saturday.

Gov. Quinn and Obama discussed the federal purchase of the Thomson Correctional Center when Quinn was in Washington on Nov. 4 and visited the White House. The Chicago Sun-Times has learned that Quinn and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) will outline proposals for the future of the prison at press conferences in Rock Island, Chicago and Rockford on Sunday.

Oprah and Sarah Palin


See clips from Oprah Winfrey's Nov. 16 show with Sarah Palin here.

First Lady Michelle Obama's Veterans Day included a visit with President Obama to Arlington Cemetery, breakfast with veterans and a speech bolstering a community service program aimed at helping active and retired military families. Read my column herewhere I note that Mrs. Obama's remarks dealing with Fort Hood--do not touch on the horrible circumstances of the murders. Speech transcript at click.

(Sun-Times photo by Al Podgorski)

Chicago Sun-Times Political Reporter

CHICAGO--America's health-care crisis would be worse than it is without non-profit groups providing the health care that government and the private sector do not, former President Bill Clinton said in Chicago today.

Obama Fort Hood speech. Transcript

| No Comments

Click below for transcript

Updated Tuesday afternoon with Kirk response

Maybe in the end the Stupak-Pitts amendment the House included in the health reform bill approved Saturday night--placing restrictions on insurance paying for abortions--won't survive in the Senate version and/or when the two chambers work out differences in the legislation.

WASHINGTON--President Obama and First Lady Michelle are en route to Fort Hood, Texas on Tuesday morning to attend a service for the victims of last weeks shooting spree. Last May, Mrs. Obama taped a segment to run today--the 40th anniversary of "Sesame Street"--where she talks with three kids, Elmo and Big Bird about planting a vegetable garden. Read my full story about Mrs. Obama--and other first ladies--on the show here.

Click below to see Mrs. Obama's segment


sam kass.JPG
Sam Kass in the White House garden (top) Kass with students (below) (Photos by Lynn Sweet)

WASHINGTON -- A lot of lives have changed since Barack Obama won the presidential election one year ago last Wednesday, none so much as the life of Chicago's Sam Kass, the engaging, shaved-head assistant White House chef and food initiative coordinator, a crusader for healthy eating who has shot to fame in the almost 10 months the Obamas have been in the White House.

Saturday Night Live take on Fox News

| 1 Comment

Late Saturday, after a rare weekend session--which included a trip by President Obama to the Capitol--the House narrowly approved a sweeping, historic health care measure. Next steps: the Senate votes on that chambers version of the legislation and then back to the members for a final vote on a melded bill. So a lot can still change. The bill, passed on a 220 to 215 roll call, had only one Republican vote. How narrow was the win? Two votes to spare; 218 votes were needed to pass. Read Patricia Murphy's Politics Daily report on the showdown health care vote here.

WASHINGTON--You betcha, she's coming. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin--on book tour to promote her memoir, "Going Rogue: An American Life" will headline the Gridiron Club winter dinner here--along with Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.).

Palin, the outspoken 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee, will be the Republican speaker at the Dec. 5 gathering; the equally outspoken Frank, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee is the Democratic speaker. A just published biography of Frank is titled, Barney Frank: The Story of America's Only Left-Handed, Gay, Jewish Congressman

The Gridiron Club is an invitation-only association of Washington journalists whose active membership is limited to 65. The winter dinner is a small affair; each spring the club sponsors a white-tie dinner attended by the who's who of Washington.

WASHINGTON--President Obama, reacting Thursday afternoon to the murders at Ft. Hood, said the shootings were "horrific."

"As some of you might have heard, there has been a tragic shooting at the Fort Hood Army base in Texas. We don't yet know all the details at this moment; we will share them as we get them. What we do know is that a number of American soldiers have been killed, and even more have been wounded in a horrific outburst of violence.

"My immediate thoughts and prayers are with the wounded and with the families of the fallen, and with those who live and serve at Fort Hood. These are men and women who have made the selfless and courageous decision to risk and at times give their lives to protect the rest of us on a daily basis. It's difficult enough when we lose these brave Americans in battles overseas. It is horrifying that they should come under fire at an Army base on American soil."

Listen to it here.

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Mark Kirk, who casts himself as a moderate, on Monday dodged questions about whether he wanted help from conservative former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in his race for Senate -- only to have the truth surface Wednesday. He is indeed soliciting her support -- when she hits Chicago later this month to appear on the "Oprah Winfrey Show."

WASHINGTON--Gov. Quinn raised campaign cash, huddled with members of the Illinois congressional delegation, pitched a plan to help military families and visited President Obama and Chicago pals at the White House on Wednesday.

WASHINGTON--Chris Cillizza scoops in the Washington Post that Illinois Senate hopeful Rep. Mark Kirk--who bills himself as a "moderate" Republican--is seeking the endorsement of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, according to a memo Cillizza obtained.

Cillizza writes in his column, "The Fix" about the Kirk memo, where Kirk is concerned whether Palin will endorse a rival in the February Illinois GOP primary. Palin's endorsement of a third party conservative in a New York race for a vacant House seat--drove the moderate from the contest and Tuesday resulted in the election of a Democrat.

Cillizza: "After noting that Palin will be in Chicago later this month to appear on "Oprah", Kirk writes that "the Chicago media will focus on one key issue: Does Gov[ernor] Palin oppose Congressman Mark Kirk's bid to take the Obama Senate seat for the Republicans?"

"Kirk goes on to write that he is hoping for something "quick and decisive" from Palin about the race, perhaps to the effect of: "Voters in Illinois have a key opportunity to take Barack Obama's Senate seat. Congressman Kirk is the lead candidate to do that."

"Malek confirmed the authenticity of the memo in an e-mail exchange with the Fix."

The economic meltdown impacting almost all of us highlights the need for individual financial literacy. While the U.S. regulatory system failed, people also got themselves into jams by agreeing to mortgage terms that set them up for financial failure.

First Lady Michelle Obama, in launching her mentoring program on Monday, said one goal is to coach young women on financial literacy.

Studies show students especially lack basic financial skills.

Noteworthy: The President's Advisory Council on Financial Literacy is only getting around to having it's first meeting under the Obama administration today. The last meeting was under former President Bush, on Jan. 6, 2009. The council was created on Jan. 22, 2008.

Today will be its eighth meeting.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn hits Washington on Wednesday to meet with the Illinois congressional delegation on high-speed rail, highway and other Illinois transportation funding. He'll have a media availability after a lunch with the delegation with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). Later, Quinn heads to the Charlie Palmer restaurant for a fund-raiser hosted by former Illinois Dem chief Gary LaPaille; tickets between $1,000 and $10,000.

PDF of invite:

Condi Rice beats Sarah Palin


A new Vanity Fair/ 60 Minutes poll finds that former Secretary of State Condi Rice's memoir is more anticipated than Sarah Palin's upcoming book.

From VF/60: "Several noted Republicans will publish memoirs within the year, and the most anticipated turns out to be neither that of the two-term president nor the media magnet John McCain chose as his running mate last year. Rice, the first black, female secretary of state, beat out both Bush and Palin. Asked which memoir--Rice's, Bush's, Palin's, Laura Bush's, or Dick Cheney's--they would most likely read, 22 percent of respondents picked Rice's, followed by 11 percent for Bush's, 9 percent for Palin's, 7 percent for Laura Bush's, and just 4 percent for Cheney's."

Chicago Sun-Times writer Mary Houlihan profiles Chicago fifth grader Lorenzo Rivera, a break out star in HBO's "By the People" documentary on the Obama presidential campaign, where he is featured making canvassing calls. Read Houlihan's Sun-Times article here.

Houlihan: "Lorenzo Rivera may be only 11 years old, but he knows more about politics than many adults.

The Chicago fifth-grader proves just how much in the new documentary "By the People: The Election of Barack Obama," where he is filmed making campaign calls on Obama's behalf in 2008.

In the movie, debuting at 8 p.m. Tuesday on HBO, filmmakers Amy Rice and Alicia Sams capture Lorenzo, only 9 at the time, handling a call to a confused voter with a calm and grace belying his young age.

First Lady Michelle Obama launches a White House mentoring program on Monday, starting with a session of girls from Washington area schools paired with women from the White House East and West Wings. On Wednesday, Mrs. Obama hosts classical music stars for a White House Music Series event, to include a workshop with music students. My story on Mrs. Obama's week ahead is here.

Get the Sweet widget

More widgets


Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Stay in touch

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from November 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

October 2009 is the previous archive.

December 2009 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.