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February 2010 Archives

Lynn Sweet on Politics Daily Show

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WASHINGTON--President Obama got his first physical as commander-in-chief on Sunday and his Navy doctor said he is "fit for duty." Obama, 48, is in "excellent health" though he is still struggling to stop cravings for nicotine.

After a routine exam at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, a Washington suburb, Capt. Jeffrey Kuhlman, the Chief White House physician, advised Obama to modify his diet to lower his LDL--known as "bad" cholesterol-- and to continue his "smoking cessation efforts." Obama uses what Kuhlman called "nicotine replacement therapy;" Obama has used nicotine gum to help him quit.

When Obama was considering a White House run, now First Lady Michelle Obama demanded that Obama quit smoking as a condition of her getting behind his 2008 presidential bid. Obama last June, was asked if he still smoked; he said he was "95 percent cured" but "there are times when I mess up."

The president, who works out and plays basketball and golf, also has some "grind" and wear on his left knee and Kuhlman recommended a "lower extremity muscle strengthening program" to deal with this.

Obama's health details from his physical exam:

Weight: 179.9 pounds (with shoes and workout attire)
Body Mass Index: 23.7
Resting Heart rate: (seated) 56
Resting blood pressure: (seated) 105/62
Pulse-oximetry: 98% (room air)
Temperature: 97.8 F

Vision: 20/20 both eyes. Mild astigmatism and presbyopia.
Gastriointestinal: Obama took a high-tech screening test, a CT-colonography. His test results were normal. Colonography is less invasive than a colonoscopy and does not involved having to be sedated.

Lipid profile with total cholesterol: 209

Triglycerides: 46
HDL: 62
LDL: 138
Total cholesterol to HDL ratio: 3.4

Homocystein: 11.6 and CRP ultrasensitive 0.015.
FBS: 87
PSA: 0.70

Heart: EKG, EBCT, normal.

Click here to read the medical report.


President Obama's 2010 physical shows he is "fit for duty."Click here for the story on the medical report and links to the pdf of the report and my story about Obama's 2008 physical.

Obama week ahead

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WASHINGTON--Jay Leno gets back the Tonight Show this week and hosts Sarah Palin on his Tuesday show--with the Monday debut featuring Vancouver Olympic greats. To counter, David Letterman on Tuesday booked Mitt Romney. I don't think it's much of a match: Palin will bring Leno more viewers than Romney. Don't take this as a prediction of who will be the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, but, rather, who people want to hear from next Tuesday. Ted Johnson, over at Variety's Wilshire and Washington blog notes how Leno and Letterman are booking political figures for their shows.

smoot photo.JPGJulianna Smoot (photo by Lynn Sweet)

WASHINGTON--The White House makes it official on Saturday: Desiree Rogers, who is stepping down as White House Social Secretary, will be replaced by Julianna Smoot, who ran President Obama's presidential fund-raising operation.

WASHINGTON -- White House social secretary Desiree Rogers told me Friday she will step down next month, after presiding over 330 events in the White House in 14 months.

Rogers, a friend of President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, is part of a high-profile group of Chicagoans in the Obama White House -- along with senior advisers Valerie Jarrett and David Axelrod, chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, and Susan Sher, Mrs. Obama's chief of staff. Rogers will be the first Chicagoan to leave.

I've been told by several sources that Rogers will be replaced by Julianna Smoot, the chief of staff to the U.S. trade representative who ran the Obama presidential campaign's fund-raising operation. The social office is run out of Mrs. Obama's East Wing.

obama joan baez.jpg White House photo) Civil rights concert

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

My April column about the Obama White House social office is here.

My December column about Rogers and the White House state dinner gate crashing controversy here.

WASHINGTON--The resignation of White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers, a story I broke on Friday, triggered questions a few hours later at White House press secretary Robert Gibbs daily briefing.

Here are the exchanges about Rogers:

Q And presumably, if he thinks somebody raised a legitimate point, that would be reflected in this new -- okay. White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers is resigning.

First of all, the President and the First Lady put out a statement saying that they thought she did a terrific job. Could you tell us what she did that was terrific?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I think -- I think countless -- countless numbers of people have come to events here that have -- that showcased the People's House, as they said in their statement. I think the doors of this house were open to folks that had not necessarily always gotten to be here -- whether it was schoolchildren from the area, whether it was low-income kids that got an opportunity to see the White House not from outside of Pennsylvania Avenue through a fence or a gate, but instead up close and inside of it.

I think the President is tremendously grateful for all of her hard work in organizing literally hundreds of events over the course of the past many months, and thanks her very much for serving her country.

Q The White House has been criticized for the Chicagoans who are part of the team. I know this happens with every White House, they bring people from their home -- the President brings people from their home city or home state and they get criticized by Washingtonians. But certainly, Desiree Rogers was part of that Chicago circle. Is that an unfair criticism? What does the President think when he hears people going after Chicagoans like Valerie Jarrett or Axelrod or Desiree Rogers?

WASHINGTON--The Obama White House on Friday tapped several Chicagoans for various positions in the administration:

Below, from the White House....

Katherine M. Gehl, Nominee for Member, Board of Directors of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation

Katherine M. Gehl is presently the fourth-generation Chairman of the Board of her family-owned company, Gehl Foods, Inc. The company has approximately $175M in sales and 200 employees. As Chairman she oversees the development and execution of the company strategy. Previously, Ms. Gehl was a Vice President at Bernstein Investment Research and Management providing investment analysis and planning for private clients, foundations and endowments. Prior to joining Bernstein in 2002, she was Special Assistant to Mayor Richard M. Daley for Technology and Economic Development where she was responsible for developing and overseeing the Chicagoland New Economy Growth Strategy-a five year plan for economic development designed to spur job creation and income growth and position Chicago at the forefront of technologically-advanced cities. In between her work at Gehl and her work for the Mayor, Ms. Gehl was Director of Information Technology Services at Chicago Public Schools for a year and a half, and Director of Organizational Development at Oracle Corporation for three years. Ms. Gehl serves on the Boards of Directors of Public Allies and The Joffrey Ballet. She graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1988 and holds an MA in education from the Catholic University of America, and an MBA from Northwestern University's Kellogg Graduate School of Management.

President Obama also announced his intent to appoint the following individuals to administration posts:

Lester Coney, Appointee for Member, President's Advisory Committee on the Arts for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Lester Coney is the executive vice president in Mesirow Financial's Office of the Chairman. As a civic leader, Mr. Coney has been actively involved in many organizations in support of the arts, civic betterment, and minority and ethnic issues. He is a past chairman of both the Goodman Theatre and City Year Chicago, and founding chairman of Congo Square Theatre Company. He is a trustee for many organizations including: the Art Institute of Chicago, Columbia College Chicago, and Lincoln University. He sits on the board of directors of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation and board of governors of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Mr. Coney's honors include the 2007 Executive Leader Award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals Chicago, the 2007 King Legacy Award from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boys and Girls Club of Chicago, and he was awarded for Leadership in the Arts by the Arts and Business Council of Chicago in 2006.

Howard Gottlieb, Appointee for Member, President's Advisory Committee on the Arts for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Howard Gottlieb is the general partner of Glen Eagle Partners, Ltd., which is a family private investment firm. Mr. Gottlieb is an accomplished violinist and has played in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and has performed as a soloist with orchestras, in recitals and in chamber music groups in the United States and Europe. He is a life trustee of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and serves on the board of trustees of the Merit School of Music, the Lyric Opera, the Ravinia Festival and the American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. He is a former trustee of the Aspen Music Festival. Mr. Gottlieb is a graduate of the University of Chicago and serves on the Visiting Committee of the College.

Cari Sacks, Appointee for Member, President's Advisory Committee on the Arts for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Cari Sacks is a civic and community leader and philanthropist in Chicago, Illinois. She is a Trustee for the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, serving as the Chair of the Exhibition Committee and serves on the Midwest Regional Advisory Board for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Ms. Sacks is a Trustee of the Erikson Institute, a nationally recognized graduate school in early childhood development focused on its commitment to educate and support children and their families though research and policy initiatives.

Amy K. Singh, Appointee for Member, President's Advisory Committee on the Arts for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Amy K. Singh is an attorney who practices in the areas of entertainment, advertising and marketing, and provides counsel to clients on event production and promotion, television production, talent and other matters. Before starting her own practice, she held several positions, including as General Counsel/Senior Vice President of DDB Chicago Inc., and as an associate in the Chicago office of the firm now known as Sidley Austin LLP. Ms. Singh works to support the arts and youth, was a member of the Junior Board of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is currently on the Board of the Mikva Challenge, which develops civic leadership in Chicago's high school youth.


WASHINGTON--White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers told me Friday she will step down next month, after presiding over 330 events in the White House in 14 months.

Rogers is departing after achieving a major goal of President Obama and First Lady Michelle -- opening up the White House to make it the "peoples house."

"As we turn the corner on the first year," Rogers told me, "this is a good time for me to explore opportunities in the corporate world."

Rogers told me it has been "an honor and a privilege to serve this president and First Lady, in what has certainly been a historic presidency."

Rogers, a friend of the First Couple for years, was one of the first Obama administration appointees.

"When I took on this assignment, we talked about the importance of creating the people's house. My work was really to create this framework," she told me.

"I think I completed that work. Our office has been able to lay the foundation for what will be known as the 'people's house' and it has already taken shape."

Rogers tenure was marked by high points--she was a moving force behind a White House music series--and a low point, when the Obama's first state dinner was crashed by a publicity seeking couple, Tareq and Michaele Salahi. Though the Secret Service immediately said it was their fault--agents did not follow security protocols--Rogers got some of the blame.

I asked Rogers if the Salahi episode was a factor in her resignation. "The incident at the State Dinner was not a deciding factor," she told me. "But it did show me a side of the job and of Washington that I had not seen before."

After I spoke to Rogers, President Obama and First Lady Michelle said in a statement, "We are enormously grateful to Desiree Rogers for the terrific job she's done as the White House Social Secretary. When she took this position, we asked Desiree to help make sure that the White House truly is the People's House, and she did that by welcoming scores of everyday Americans through its doors, from wounded warriors to local schoolchildren to NASCAR drivers. She organized hundreds of fun and creative events during her time here, and we will miss her. We thank her again for her service and wish her all the best in her future endeavors."

I've been told by several sources that Rogers will be replaced by Julianna Smoot, the chief of staff to the U.S. Trade Representative who was the Obama presidential campaign chief fund-raiser.

WASHINGTON -- President Obama's bipartisan meeting with congressional leaders over stalled health-care legislation seems to have set the stage for Democrats to press ahead with or without Republicans aboard.

After daylong talks Thursday, here's where I think things stand:

1. Obama needs to show he can govern.

After a month to six weeks -- the timetable Obama cited at the very end -- Democrats will start moving health-care measures. If he can get some Republicans on board, the politics would be better, but "if we can't, then I think we've got to go ahead and make some decisions and then that's what elections are for," Obama said.

"We have honest disagreements about division for the country, and we'll go ahead and test those out over the next several months till November, all right?"

2. The session was aimed at swing Democrats and independents.

The Democrats don't mind if the 2010 midterm elections turn on the health-care issue. They welcome running against health insurance companies, which is how the issue will be framed.

Obama makes "legitimate" point


WASHINGTON--Legitimate? Says who. Says President Obama.

Obama allowed that the Republicans had a few "legitimate" points or arguments during the Thursday session over stalled health care legislation. Obama peppered his comments with the word. Here are some examples:

1. "This is a legitimate debate, and it actually speaks to the point that Congressman Camp was making earlier about what's happening in the exchanges."

2. "The issue here, which we've had an honest disagreement about, is how much should government set baseline, versus just letting people decide that, you know, "I can't really get decent insurance but, you know, maybe this is better than nothing"? And that's a legitimate argument. I don't disagree with that."

3. "I think the cost issue is legitimate, and whether we can afford it or not, we'll be discussing that. And I think that's an entirely legitimate discussion."

4. Sen. John McCain (R-Az.) asked Obama, "Why in the world, then, would we carve out 800,000 people in Florida that would not be -- have their Medicare Advantage cut? Now, I proposed an amendment on the floor to say everybody'll be treated the same. Now, Mr. President, why should we carve out 800,000 people, because they live in Florida, to keep the Medicare Advantage program, and then wan to do away with it?"

Said Obama, "I think you make a legitimate point."

5. "...Well, I -- I -- I think that's -- it's a legitimate point. I would just point out that 80 percent of seniors are helping to pay, in extra premiums, for the 20 percent who are in this Medicare Advantage. And it's not means-tested, so it's not as if the people who are in Medicare Advantage are somehow the poor people who can't afford supplementals. It's pretty random."

6. "You can make an argument that whatever savings we get out of Medicare Advantage should not go to filling the doughnut hole, for example. That's a legitimate argument. You can make an argument that it should go just to deficit reduction. You know, those are all legitimate arguments."

On Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett, the most prominent Chicago staffers in the Obama White House...

Is Emanuel, the chief of staff on his way out or is he the most important person in the Obama administration? Is Chicago in the running to be the headquarter city for the Obama 2012 re-election campaign? Both these matters have been in the national news these past days.

WASHINGTON--Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez testified Wednesday at a Senate Judiciary panel hearing on titled "In Our Own Backyard: Child Prostitution and Sex Trafficking in the United States"

There is "no more heart breaking problem than the sexual exploitation of children," said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), a member of the panel.

Alvarez highlighted a new approach her office is taking on human trafficking crimes.

She told the panel, "I created an Organized Crime / Human Trafficking initiative last July as part of the Special Prosecutions Bureau within my office. Along with our
law enforcement partners, both state and federal, my human trafficking prosecutors have been conducting long-term, proactive investigations into these organized crime targets. Suffice to say, this covert work is proving fruitful, even though I cannot, of course discuss any details of these pending investigations.

Additionally, I have taken advantage of the size of my office - the second largest in the nation - and developed new methods for collection and centralization of intelligence regarding human trafficking offenders. Given the daily interaction between local law enforcement and those forced to work in the sex industry, crucial leads arise on a recurring basis within the various parts of my office, including misdemeanor cases, domestic violence, auto theft, sex crimes, felony review, cold case murder and financial crimes and public corruption.


WASHINGTON--After President Obama offered opening remarks at the bipartisan health care meeting with GOP and Democratic congressional leaders, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) took the floor to frame the GOP positions. He made a request for an incremental approach--not the comprehensive overhaul the Democrats want. Alexander's point: Congress does not do comprehensive well. That's a big bridge to build between the side. Obama's track record is to go for bite sized do-able chunks, but will have a challenge getting congressional Democrats to go along. The GOP wants Obama to "start over," and start with a blank slate, not the Obama proposals posted at

Alexander also asked Obama to "renounce" a controversial Democratic option of passing a health care bill in a process known in the Senate as "reconciliation," which would require only a majority vote--not the filibuster proof 60 votes. The election of Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) left Democrats one vote short of 60.

"Renounce this idea of jamming through" a bill on a partisan vote," Alexander said.

If not, everything at the session will not be relevant, Alexander said.

I doubt the Democrats will ever make that pledge to Republicans and take away what is an important option for them.

"Reconciliation is not something that hasn't been done before," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nv.), in reply to Alexander.

That's that, it seems.

WASHINGTON--White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett gave Fox News an interview on Wednesday, with White House correspondent Major Garrett, signaling, a thawing of icy relations between Fox News and the Obama White House. Last week, First Lady Michelle Obama gave an interview to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee for his Fox News show, in order to publicize her "Let's Move" anti-childhood obesity drive.


Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Ok.)travels to Chicago to headline a March 5 fund-raiser for the Republican National Committee at the Drake Hotel. The ticket prices range from $1,000 to $250. The host committee includes Pat Brady, the chairman of the Illinois Republican Party and a member of the RNC national committee, and other Illinois GOP leaders. One of the RNC's fund-raising committees, the "Young Eagles" are also helping put the event together.

Chicago is fertile territory for GOP fundraising. Sen. John McCain (R-Az.) visited Chicago earlier this month for a funder for Illinois GOP Senate nominee Rep. Mark Steven Kirk (R-Ill.) and to raise money for himself. McCain is in a contested GOP primary against former Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-Az.) Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) hits Chicago in April for a funder at the Standard Club.

Michelle Obama on "food deserts"


First Lady Michelle Obama was in Philadelphia on Friday as part of her "Let's Move" childhood obesity project, finding out how the city solved the problem known as "food deserts." Click after the video for Mrs. Obama's discussion about food deserts with Fox News Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor.

Tammy Duckworth told Gov. Quinn this morning that she was not interested in being the new Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor nominee. Duckworth, a Veterans Administration official and former Democratic House candidate, had talked to Quinn, who was in Washington this week for the National Governors Conference.

While Quinn would not have the power to appoint Duckworth to the ballot slot vacated by Scott Lee Cohen ‹ that would come from the Democratic State Central Committee ‹ presumably his recommendation of a running mate would have great influence over the committee.

NBC5 broke the news that Duckworth did not want to be in the running, and the Sun-Times confirmed with a close associate of Duckworth that she turned Quinn down because she had ³not completed her mission² working on veterans issues.

"While I am honored my name has been mentioned for potential consideration by the Illinois Democratic Central Committee for the Lt. Governor candidate position, I have respectfully requested that my name be removed from consideration. I made a commitment to President Obama and our Nation's Veterans to serve at the Department of Veterans' Affairs and I want to fulfill my promise before returning home. As an Illinoisan, I'm proud to continue to serve in the Illinois Army National Guard and I know that real work lies ahead as the state recovers economically. Governor Quinn has my full support as he continues to fight hard on behalf of working families across the state."

First reported by NBC political reporter Mary Ann Ahern who had the scoop on Tammy Duckworth rejecting Quinn's Lieutenant Governor offer.

After Democrats failed to pass health care--though the House and Senate each approved separate bills--the Senate Democrats lost their filibuster proof advantage when a Republican won the senate seat held by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.). President Obama was sent back to the drawing board for his signature domestic agenda issue. On Thursday, Obama will meet in advance of a meeting with GOP and Democratic congressional leaders. The Obama White House posted their proposals on Monday in advance of the meeting, a package built on the Senate bill, with targeted changes, reporters were told in a briefing call Monday morning. And note: The sweetner Sen. Bill Nelson won for Nebraska is out. The main link is here.

"We took our best shot," said Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director.

Click below for briefing......

President Obama and First Lady Michelle hosted their second ball for the nation's governors on Sunday night at the White House.

The menu:
French Onion Soup with Croutons
Rib Eye Roast with Shrimp Scampi
Roasted Potatoes, Carrots and Mushroom Caps
Seven Layer Salad
Baked Alaska

Wines offered:
Sugarleaf Vineyards Petit Manseng 2008
Landmark Vineyards Syrah "Steel Plow" 2006
Fenn Valley "42 Ice Wine" 2008

Governors' Dinner Table Settings 2010
SERVICE PLATES - CLINTON STATE CHINA SERVICE, made by Lenox Inc., Trenton, New Jersey, 2000. Commissioned to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the White House.

KING CHARLES SILVER FLATWARE, made by Gorham, Providence, Rhode Island, 1974; supplemented in 2006 by Lenox Inc., owner of the Gorham molds.

KENNEDY GLASSWARE, made by the Morgantown Glass Guild, Morgantown, West Virginia, 1961; supplemented in 1991 by Lenox, Inc.

CREAM SOUP CUP AND SAUCER - JOHNSON STATE CHINA SERVICE, made by Castleton China, Inc., New Castle, Pennsylvania, 1968

WATER GOBLET - FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT STATE GLASSWARE SERVICE, Tiffin Glass Co., Tiffin, Ohio; cut by T.G. Hawkes & Company, Corning, New York, 1938-1955; and later reorders

In advance of the Obama White House sponsored bi-partisan health care summit with congressional leaders on Thursday, the administration will post a revamped health care plan at at 10 a.m. eastern time on Monday.

President Obama and First Lady Michelle host their second Governors Ball at the White House Sunday night, headlined by Harry Connick Jr. The nations governors--including Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn-- are in Washington for the National Governors Association annual meeting.

This year, Mrs. Obama is presiding over a program featuring Harry Connick. In the afternoon--following her policy of leveraging White House official events with youth outreach programs--Connick will talk to students about his career. Last year, Mrs. Obama welcomed culinary students to the White House kitchen for a preview advance from the White House chefs of what was then her first big White House dinner.

Obama week ahead: Health reform summit

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White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett hits Harvard University's Institute of Politics on Friday afternoon to headline a forum at 5 p.m. eastern time. Live feed link here

DNC chief Tim Kaine talking politics at the White House with Jarrett Thursday, Politico reports.

Jarrett, who picked up her undergraduate degree at Stanford University in 1978," delivers the Drake Lecture there on March 4. She is a 1981 graduate of the University of Michigan Law School.

The campaign of GOP Senate nominee Rep. Mark Steven Kirk (R-Ill.) is briefing via a conference call at 11:30 a.m. Chicago time Thursday. And it's likely to be about a poll, since the Kirk campaign pollster is in on the call. This comes after the rival Democrat Alexi Giannoulias campaign held a briefing earlier in the week to go over, among other items, a Giannoulias poll showing him at 49 percent to 45 percent for Kirk.

Very cool watching Chicago's Shani Davis speed skate to the gold last night. Rick Morrissey's column here.

Why Robert Gibbs Tweets

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Briefing from the Giannoulias campaign--with the top advisors, not Illinois Democratic Senate nominee Alexis Gianoulias--is to start at 1:30 p.m. Chicago time

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released Wednesday new County Health Rankings in a project with the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. See the Illinois county rankings here. Kendall, DuPage counties ranked healthiest; Cook County is ailing.

WASHINGTON--The Dalai Lama meets with President Obama Thursday at the White House. His invitation came from White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, dispatched last September to Dharamsala, India to see the exiled Tibet leader.

I wrote about Jarrett's diplomatic debut in September.

That visit laid the groundwork for the Thursday meeting, coming after Obama visited China in November. Jarrett and I talked about her quiet diplomacy last week; read my column about Jarrett and the Dalai Lama here.


RNC hits Obama on jobs

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WASHINGTON--Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.) Rep. Debbie Halverson (D-Ill.) and Democratic House hopeful Dan Seals, running for the open seat in the 10th congressional district, are getting a fund-raising boost Friday with Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chief Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) in Chicago headlining separate events for them.

The DCCC is hoping for a payback on March 9 at a mega dollar fund-raiser in Chicago where the draw are the DCCC vice chairs, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fl.) and Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Ia.)

The 2010 White House Easter Egg Roll is April 5. Click here for the link to general information about the Easter Egg Roll. Click here for the link to the lottery page.

There is a deadline for applying for tickets:
Entries for the 2010 White House Easter Egg Roll Online Lottery will be accepted from Thursday, February 25 at 12:01AM (EST) through Sunday, February 28 at 11:59PM (EST)

WASHINGTON--This past Valentine's Day weekend marks one year since the entire Obama family visited their home on Greenwood in Chicago.

The last time the First Family was home was Valentine's Day weekend, 2009. President Obama stopped by briefly after a speech last year. This 2010 weekend, First Lady Michelle Obama took Malia and Sasha to Camp David on Friday; Saturday they made a daytrip from Camp David to Pennsylvania to ski; on Sunday they were at Camp David and returned to Washington later in the day.

I asked First Lady Michelle Obama why trips home never materialized during a January interview.

The First Couple spent Valentine's Day 2009 in Chicago, dining at the Table Fifty-Two restaurant at 52 W. Elm St. On Sunday--Valentine's Day 2010--First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha were at Camp David and President Obama joined them in the afternoon. That evening, the First Family returned to Washington.

Clear enough? Not to the Washington Post. Here is the cautionary tale:

At 10:14 p.m. on Feb. 14, 2009, I filed a post for my Chicago Sun-Times blog headlined "Obama's Valentine's Day dinner at Table Fifty-Two restaurant in Chicago." That headline apparently had the right words in the right order for the automated Google search engine optimization system. So on Sunday--even Tuesday morning--if you typed in Obama and Valentine's Day, even though it was a year later--my blog post from 2009 was at the very top.

But that detail--the 2009 date--escaped the notice of a young Washington Post news aide who was writing the paper's "Names and Faces" feature for the Monday Style section. The writer rewrote the post--with attribution to the Sun-Times--and ran it under the headline, "Obamas' Valentine's getaway" in Monday's Washington Post.

from the Quinn campaign.....


For the week of Feb. 15, Governor Quinn has no public events on his campaign schedule. Until further notice, please expect a weekly public campaign schedule each Sunday afternoon.

Lynn Sweet on the Politics Daily Show

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The Politics Daily Show hosted by Melinda Henneberger with Patricia Murphy, Jill Lawrence, Lynn Sweet and Bonnie Erbe.

Obama weekly address

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Lynn Sweet on the Diane Rehm show

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WASHINGTON--Diane Rehm talked about the news of the week on her Friday news roundup; I was a guest on the panel. Find the show here.

The view from Lynn Sweet's yard


WASHINGTON--Even by Chicago standards, the record snowfall here is a lot. Some are calling this Snowmageddon 2010. Washingtonians have real snow and ice worries. I can't open my kitchen door because the drifts are more than three feet high. I worried that the snow would crush my flat roof.

Two back-to-back blizzards this past week brought the total snowfall so far this winter to 55.9 inches, as measured at Reagan National Airport, the most in 121-years. Now, that's worth complaining about. Usually this place shuts down just on the prediction of snow, with President Obama much amused during his first year in the White House at the contrast between coping Chicagoans and Washingtonians freaked out by an inch of powder.

We Illinoisans accept snow is part of our lives and presume we will dig out of it sooner than later. In Washington--where it snows almost every year, so this is not a surprise--the presumption is reversed, with the recovery from a snowfall--record or otherwise--later than sooner.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who first lived in Washington as a college student in 1963, took to the Senate floor on Thursday to marvel how this city deals with snow.

WASHINGTON--Vice President Biden, flying to Vancouver Friday for the opening of the 2010 Winter Olympics, will headline a pre-games rally for TEAM USA at the Canada Hockey Palace. President Obama, who will not be at the Olympics, taped a greeting for the U.S. athletes, telling them the Obama family--and their dog-- will be cheering them on from the White House.

"Michelle, Malia, Sasha, Bo and I can't wait to follow your journeys," Obama said in a video obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times

Updated Friday morning....Rep. Patrick Kennedy's video announcing he will not seek re-election for his House seat from Rhode Island but will continue the Kennedy family tradition of being involved in social justice causes.

Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), the son of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) facing a tough re-election bid this year, will not run for another term, Politico is reporting.

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WASHINGTON--The White House said Thursday evening that President Obama "spoke to former President Clinton shortly before 7pm tonight and wished him a speedy recovery. He said that the efforts in Haiti were too important for him to be laid up for too long and hopes he'll be ready to get back to work as soon as possible. President Clinton said he was feeling "absolutely great"."

WASHINGTON--With President Clinton hospitalized after suffering from chest pains, CNN'S Candy Crowley is reporting that Chelsea Clinton is with her father at a New York hospital. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was meeting with President Obama in the afternoon, just before news came out the former president's hospitalization. The Obama White House said Obama's 3:30 p.m. meeting with Sec. Clinton began and ended as scheduled and the President has been informed of the reports about President Clinton's condition.

Making the viral video rounds..this Lyons Township dance time with the principal during an all-school assembly in a gym. Graduates of the LaGrange high school include actor David Hasselhoff, School Board Chief Ron Huberman and a White House spokesman, Ben LaBolt.

Updated with Clinton spokesman statement....

WASHINGTON--ABC News reported Thursday afternoon that former President Bill Clinton was hospitalized in New York City. At 3:30 p.m. Thursday Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was at the White House, meeting in the Oval Office with President Obama.

From Politico:
Douglas Band, counselor to former President Bill Clinton, said in a statement:: "President Bill Clinton was admitted to the Columbia Campus of New York Presbyterian Hospital after feeling discomfort in his chest. Following a visit to his cardiologist, he underwent a procedure to place two stents in one of his coronary arteries. President Clinton is in good spirits, and will continue to focus on the work of his Foundation and Haiti's relief and long-term recovery efforts."

Sarah Palin poll numbers dropping


A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds Sarah Palin's standing dropping.

Michelle Obama's war on obesity


WASHINGTON -- First lady Michelle Obama kicked off her "Let's Move" drive on Tuesday, an agenda of nutrition and exercise programs designed to eliminate "the epidemic of childhood obesity" in a generation.

"This isn't like a disease where we're still waiting for the cure to be discovered," Mrs. Obama said. "We know the cure for this. This isn't like putting a man on the moon or inventing the Internet. It doesn't take some stroke of genius of feat of technology. We have everything we need right now to help our kids lead healthy lives."

cnn-obama.jpg (CNN)

The White House Civil Rights concert was moved to Tuesday night from Wednesday because of the continuing snow emergency in Washington. The concert will be webcast live at at 8 p.m. eastern time

WASHINGTON--In a surprise move, President Obama made a very rare briefing room appearence on Tuesday afternoon, taking the podium usually occupied by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs to report bi-partisan meeting with the House and Senate leaders.

He is also took several questions from the press, the first time he has taken questions from the White House press corps since a press conference on July 22.

Obama has been stepping up his outreach to Republicans. Obama said he hoped " this will be first of a series of meetings I will have with the leaders of Congress."

First Lady Michelle Obama is leading "a national public awareness effort to tackle the epidemic of childhood obesity," says the presidential memo President Obama signed Tuesday morning. Her kick off event is at noon eastern time, but the web site associated with the drive is already live:


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release February 9, 2010



Oval Office

9:16 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. I am so proud of the work that the First Lady, along with the Cabinet Secretaries behind me, have done in trying to tackle one of the most urgent health issues that we face in this country, and that is the increase of childhood obesity.

And because of the outstanding planning that they've done, they are going to be rolling out a terrific plan of action that involves the private sector as well as government agencies coordinating much more effectively a lot of public information out there to help parents make good decisions about allowing their children to be active and eating healthier.

And what the executive order I'm going to be signing today does is to create a 90-day plan that allows optimal coordination as we move forward, in addition to the coordination that we're doing with private sector companies and not-for-profits and other organizations out there that are interested in this issue.

So we think that this has enormous promise in improving the health of our children, in giving support to parents to make the kinds of healthy choices that oftentimes are very difficult in this kind of environment. And so I just want to say how proud I am of the First Lady for her outstanding work and I will now sign this order.

(The executive order is signed.)

There you go.

MRS. OBAMA: Nice job.

THE PRESIDENT: It's done, honey. Thanks. (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA: Now we work.

THE PRESIDENT: Now they get to work. Thank you, guys.

END 9:19 A.M. EST

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CHICAGO--A tearful Scott Lee Cohen, the pawnbroker who won the Democratic lieutenant governor nomination, only to have his scandalized past surface and threaten the ticket, said Sunday he would step aside, giving Democratic Party leaders a chance to pick his replacement.

"For the good of the people of the state of Illinois and the Democratic Party, I will resign," Cohen said at the Hop Haus, a bar and restaurant at 7545 N. Clark, during the Super Bowl.

The debacle of Democrats nominating pawnbroker Scott Lee Cohen for lieutenant governor -- a candidate so politically toxic he could bring down the Democratic ticket in November -- highlights the awful job House Speaker Michael J. Madigan is doing as chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois. Unlike every other state party chairman in the nation, Madigan refuses to run a viable statewide political organization.

President Obama and First Lady Michelle are inviting members of Congress, the Obama cabinet and some soldiers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan to their Super Bowl party Sunday.

The Obamas will host seven members of Congress; six men and one female; six Democrats and on Republican. Of the cabinet level invitees, there are five men and four women.

Click below for the names.

Democratic Illinois Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias called for embattled Illinois Lt. Gov. Democratic nominee Scott Lee Cohen to step down, in the wake of allegations of domestic abuse, anabolic steroid use and being behind on child support payments as Cohen was pouring $2 million into his own campaign:

"These revelations are deeply disturbing and there is no place in society let alone public office for this type of behavior," Giannoulias said in a statement.

The first third-party ad in the Illinois Senate race comes from VoteVets and slams GOP Senate nominee Rep. Mark Steven Kirk (R-Ill.), an intelligence officer in the Naval Reserves. Kirk makes much of his military record, so it is interesting to see what impact the VoteVets group has in the race. The spot--running in the Chicago market--hits Kirk on an energy vote and for taking campaign contributions from energy interests. See the spot here.

Illinois Democrats start off the general election season with a big problem and his name is Scott Lee Cohen, the pawnbroker and political unknown who self-financed his way to winning the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor on Tuesday. Then came news Cohen was accused of threatening his live-in girlfriend with a knife and being user of injectable anabolic steroids. Gov. Quinn is saddled with Cohen as a running mate. Under Illinois law, the governor and lieutenant governor contenders each run in their own primaries for the nomination. Once nominated, they have to run as a team, like it or not. On Thursday, Quinn was not liking it and called for Cohen to step down. With the revelations--splashed on the front pages of the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune--Quinn said the "only appropriate thing is to step aside."

The Chicago Sun-Times Quinn/Cohen package


Gov. Quinn said today that if his running-mate, Scott Lee Cohen, can't adequately explain the charges against him -- that he held a knife to the throat of a prostitute ex-girlfriend -- then "he should step aside" as the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor.

and this headlined, Scott Lee Cohen allegedly abused steroids, forced himself on ex-wife


Gov. Quinn's embattled running mate, Scott Lee Cohen, allegedly abused anabolic steroids, displayed fits of rage and forced himself sexually on his ex-wife before their divorce, court documents reviewed by the Chicago Sun-Times show.

and this with the headlines, Details surface of Scott Lee Cohen's 2005 domestic violence arrest SHOCKING PAST | Dem nominee for lt. gov was once accused of holding knife to woman's neck


Scott Lee Cohen -- a pawnbroker who shocked state Democratic leaders Tuesday night by winning the party's nomination for lieutenant governor -- was arrested about four-and-a-half years ago and accused of holding a knife to a former live-in girlfriend's neck, newly obtained court records show.

Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich was re-indicted on Thursday, with eight new corruption charges added, including extortion of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel back when he was a congressman along with one of his brothers. Read the indictment here. Read Sun-Times federal court reporter Natasha Korecki's report here.

Rasmussen Reports came out with the first public post-Illinois primary poll on Thursday morning. ' Interesting finding in Rasmussen poll: While GOP nominee Rep. Mark Steven Kirk (R-Ill.) is ahead of state treasurer Alexi Giannoulias by six points, there is a gender gap: Kirk leads among male voters "but trails his Democratic rival by 13 points among female voters."

Rasmussen findings: "Republican Mark Kirk holds a modest 46% to 40% lead over Democrat Alexi Giannoulias in the race for the Illinois Senate following Tuesday's party primaries.

"The first post-primary Rasmussen Reports Election 2010 telephone survey of the Kirk-Giannoulias race finds just four percent (4%) of likely voters in the state prefer some other candidate, while another 10% are undecided.

"Among voters not affiliated with either of the major parties, the Republican holds a sizable 59% to 22% lead.

"In December, Giannoulias was up by three points over Kirk. In October, the two men were tied at 41% each. In mid-August, Kirk held a modest 41% to 38% lead over Giannoulias."

Michelle Obama on LeMonde cover

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White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel met with a delegation from the Special Olympics on Wednesday--including chair Timothy Shriver after he used the term "retarded" in a comment, a word the disability movement is trying to get people not to use.

The meeting with Shriver and four other disability activists was set up last week, Emanuel's spokesman said, after Emanuel's remark surfaced in a Wall Street Journal report. Though Emanuel apologized to Shriver--son of the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the founder of the Special Olympics--I was told they both decided to do a follow up meeting this week.

Shriver's letter to Emanuel--known for his salty language--was dated Jan. 26.

I read with dismay today, the Wall Street Journal's article describing the tension with policy-making circles that is hardly uncommon in Washington. What troubled me was not the diversity of the opinions surrounding your role - I can only imagine how difficult it must be to serve the country in this time. But what did trouble me was the quote attributed to you describing a plan to air certain ads as "f-----g retarded."

Of course, I have no way of knowing if this expression was actually used by you or anyone else. However, I want to take this opportunity to familiarize you and the members of your staff to the suffering and pain that is perpetuated by the use of the terms "retard" and "retarded." Special Olympics has welcomed the voice of thousands of people with intellectual disabilities who have joined us in trying to change the conversation and uproot the stereotypes and stigmas carried by what we refer to as the "R-word." Regardless of whether the term was actually used or not, I would ask you to join us in this important fight.

Click below for the full letter...

Updated to reflect Hynes call...

The day after the Illinois primary, President Obama called Alexi Giannoulias and Pat Quinn to congratulate them on winning the Democratic nominations for Senate and governor, though Dan Hynes has yet to concede in the close governor contest.

During the White House briefing, deputy press Secretary Bill Burton said Obama called Giannoulis and Quinn. Chicago Sun-Times Springfield Bureau Chief Dave McKinney is reporting that Obama also called Hynes (who ran against him in the 2004 Illinois Senate primary) but did not ask him to concede.

Burton was asked if Obama phoned Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) who on the GOP Senate nomination.

"I think there is other calls on the schedule, but he was not called,"

Burton said he was not sure if Obama called Hynes. Asked if Obama wanted Hynes to concede, Burton said "I haven't talked to him about it."

After an ill-fated attempt to recruit Attorney General Lisa Madigan into the contest, the White House said the Obama team would not take sides in the Illinois Democratic primary.

IMG_1075.JPG (photo by Lynn Sweet)

IMG_1076.jpg (Photo by Lynn Sweet)

CHICAGO--Illinois Republicans, giddy about their 2010 prospects to grab the Senate and governor seats from Democrats are holding a unity breakfast here underscored by the slogan "Illinois Is Next," a reference to GOP wins in Massachusetts, Virginia and New Jersey.

"Welcome to the most important race of 2010 in the United States of America," said GOP Senate nominee, Rep. Mark Steven Kirk (R-Ill.) who waltzed through an easy primary victory. Kirk will face a bruising Senate fight with the Democratic Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias, the state treasurer, who prevailed in a three-way battle.

Illinois right now is in Democratic control--governor, both senators, the Illinois General Assembly--and breaking one party rule will be a Kirk theme. "One party in Illinois should not have all the power," Kirk said.

Picking up where David Hoffman, Giannoulias main rival left off, Kirk attack Giannoulias for his ties to the family owned troubled Broadway Bank in Chicago and his management of the Bright Star college savings program.

Looking over a crowded ballroom at the Union League Club here, Pat Brady, the chairman of the Republican Party of Illinois said, "The Republican Party is alive and well in Illinois."

He added, "Yes we will, we will win back the Barack Obama Senate seat."Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, the chair of the Republican Governors Association and the former chair of the Republican National Committee.

"We're in for a big year in Illinois if we work together," Barbour said.

The Illinois GOP governor primary ended in a draw, with no winner on early Wednesday morning with Bill Brady leading Kirk Dillard by only about 2,000 votes.

The Illinois Democratic primary for governor on Tuesday ended in a draw, with Gov. Pat Quinn and Comptroller Dan Hynes splitting the vote 50-50 each, with Quinn in the lead by about 5,000 votes. Just after midnight, Quinn declared victory. "We have won this election." But Hynes did not concede.

Near midnight Tuesday, Hynes, who surged in the closing days of the campaign--and was slightly behind--said, "We are going to continue fighting."

Hynes hinted at a recount. "We need to count all the votes. All of them."

Said Hynes to his supports at his campaign night headquarters, "Hang in there, hold on tight."

A few minutes later Quinn--the former lieutenant governor was elevated when Rod Blagojevich was impeached and removed from office--met his supporters. "The primary is over," Quinn declared. "I intend to work with our President, Barack Obama, to make sure we move Illinois forward."

Said Secretary of State Jesse White at Quinn election night headquarters, "A primary election is really a Chicago street fight."

Giannoulias takes swing at Kirk

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CHICAGO--Rep. Mark Steven Kirk (R-Ill.) claimed the GOP Illinois Senate nomination on Tuesday, declaring victory at his north suburban campaign headquarters.

"We all know that over the past year a quiet despair has descended on the State of Illinois.
A governor arrested, a senator seat disgraced, corruption rampant, unemployment rising and families struggling. The people of Illinois now see the arrogance of a one-party state," Kirk said.

Check out the eVoter widget on the right of this blog for voting locations and a list of candidates customized to your Illinois address.

No matter who wins today's Democratic and Republican Illinois primaries for senator and governor, the general election contests will be played out on a national stage, for reasons of the calendar as much as the anticipated pitched partisan battles in President Obama's adopted home state.

Illinois has the first 2010 primary in the nation and will, for months, be the only state with twin rip-roaring November battles with governor and senator nominees. Illinois moved its traditional March primary to February to help Obama in the 2008 "Super Tuesday" February primaries and never switched back.

President Obama and First Lady Michelle voted in the Tuesday Illinois primary by absentee ballot, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday.

"They I believe both voted by absentee ballot," Gibbs said.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said at Monday's briefing President Obama and First Lady Michelle "will be traveling to Indonesia and Australia in the second half of March." Obama spent part of his youth in Indonesia with his mother and step-father.

"This trip is an important part of the President's continued effort to broaden and strengthen the partnerships that are necessary to advance our security and prosperity. Indonesia is the world's fourth most populous country, the third largest democracy; is home to the largest Muslim population in the world; and an important partner in the G20," Gibbs said.


Here are the Chicago Sun-Times links to our packages for the Feb. 2 primary elections.

Main election page is here.

Chicago Sun-Times endorsements are here.

Candidates filled out questionnaires for the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. Read them here.

See video clips from the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board interviews, debates and other events here.

Read Chicago Sun-Times profiles of major candidates for Cook County Board president, U.S. Senate and governor here.

Check out the ratings on judicial candidates here.

Read Chicago Sun-Times news stories about the 2010 primary candidates and issues here.

Check out photo galleries of candidates and debates here.

President Obama on Monday will propose a $3.8-trillion fiscal 2011 federal budget that includes $237 million for the purchase and upgrading of a prison in Illinois to house detainees now at the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba.

Obama sends his spending blueprint to Congress, with the money to buy the nearly vacant Thomson Correctional Center in northwest Illinois, 150 miles west of Chicago, in the Department of Justice funding request. The State of Illinois and the federal government are currently negotiating over the purchase price of Thomson.

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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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