Chicago Sun-Times
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March 2010 Archives

WASHINGTON-- President Obama and French President Sarkozy are meeting at the White House today and dine tonight at the White House with their spouses, First Lady Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni Sarkozy.

On Tuesday here, the Sarkozys visited Ben's Chili Bowl, a famous local diner.

The two couples have met several times in the past year, in Europe and in the U.S. And Sarkozy, when he was mulling a presidential run in 2006, called on a freshman up and coming Senator--Barack Obama of Illinois-- his Hart Senate Office Building. Obama was welcomed by Sarkozy at the French presidential palace during his campaign European swing in July, 2008 and Sarkozy gushed all over him. But since Obama has been president, the relationship has not always been that smooth. At a Tuesday afternoon pres conference at the White House, Sarkozy said there is a lot of "trust" between the two nations.

First Lady Michelle Obama and Carla Sarkozy at G20 summit in Pittsburgh in September here.

Obama, Sarkozy--is one of them checking out a girl last July? Click here.

The Obamas and Sarkozys in France last June here.

The Obamas and Sarkozys in Germany last April here.


On April 6, 1968, President Lyndon Baines Johnson ordered federal troops to Chicago to halt violence that broke out in the city in the wake of the April 4, 1968 assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis.

By April 7 in Chicago--Palm Sunday, 1968--11 people were dead with more than 500 injured and 3,000 arrested.

Some 5,000 federal troops arrived after Johnson talked twice to the late Mayor Richard J. Daley, the father of the current mayor. Two newly transcribed tapes--done by the University of Virginia Miller Center of Public Affairs Presidential Recordings Program--reveal the appeal Daley made to Johnson for help on the afternoon of April 6. The first conversation was for three minutes starting at 5:19 p.m. The second was just a minute starting at 5:35 p.m.

Here's an excerpt of the conversation:

Hear the audio

The Johnson conversations in the wake of the King murder show "as the streets erupted in Washington, DC., Chicago, Detroit, and Boston, Johnson struggled to provide local officials with the federal resources they needed to help restore peace to their cities," the U of Virginia presidential recordings program found.

"We're in trouble. We need some help," Daley said to Johnson.

The two are obviously familiar. Johnson calls Daley "Dick." Johnson keeps mispronouncing the name of the Illinois governor--Gov. Samuel Shapiro. Daley calls Attorney General Ramsey Clark "Ramsey."

Johnson and Daley talk briefly about the procedure that Shapiro and Ramsey need to follow to get troops to Chicago quickly.

Johnson asks Daley how many he wants.

"At least 3,000," Daley said.

Johnson replies, "Yeah, well, you better say 5 (,000.)"

To hear the complete "We're in trouble" conversation, click here.

To hear the second tape, "They're on the way," click here.

To hear the third tape, from April 19, 1968--where Johnson chastises Daley for delaying in asking for federal troops, click here.

Below, the transcript of the "We're in trouble" conversation Johnson had with Daley.

Operator: There you are.
President Johnson: Hello?
Richard Daley: Mr. President?
President Johnson: Yes, Dick ?
Daley: We're in trouble. We need some help.
President Johnson: Yes. I was afraid of that.
Daley: Yes. It's starting to break down in different places.
President Johnson: Yeah.
Daley: And we just met with our people, and they felt that we should try to get some federal assistance. I've talked to [Illinois] Governor [Samuel H.] Shapiro, and he's ready to do anything and everything, so we needed help as soon as we can get it.
President Johnson: All right. First thing you ought to do is talk to the Attorney General [Ramsey Clark∇] and see what kind of finding his legislature's got to make. In the meantime, we'll--I've talked to the Attorney General. I told him I'd call early this morning and told you, because they have to move from California, you see?
Daley: Yeah.
President Johnson: They won't do any good tonight.
Daley: Mm-hmm. Well, we--
President Johnson: That's why--
Daley: --hope to get them in tonight if we can.
President Johnson: Well--
Daley: Where is Ramsey tonight?
President Johnson: He's right here at the Department of Justice, and I'll switch you over there now, and you can talk to him. But the Governor has to--[unclear comment by Daley] You know the finding they have to make? [Unclear comment by Daley] They have to make a finding in the state that you've used all your [National] Guard, that you've used all your facilities, that you're unable to take care of the situation--
Daley: Yeah.
President Johnson: --and therefore, you ask for federal troops.
Daley: Yeah.
President Johnson: Then he has to make a finding for the President. The President has to issue an order. That is to keep a President from doing it except for at the instance [sic: insistence] of local officials.
Daley: I see.
President Johnson: [with Daley acknowledging] That's what I anticipated this morning, and I knew dark was coming, and I knew if we thought we'd rather have them, they ought to be moving.
Daley: Well, these fellows kept saying to you, you know, which they will, but now this--we had a meeting [unclear]--
President Johnson: That's what they did to me yesterday and I just cried.
Daley: Yeah.
President Johnson: I chewed--I ate my fingernails off and I finally ordered the men on my own while a mayor couldn't make up his mind. And we got them in, but they got big headlines here. Here's the--"Too Little, Too Late?"
Daley: Yeah.
President Johnson: "Long Stretches of the Capital Laid to Waste. What it Cost: 690 Injured, 299 Fires." So, what we'll do is we'll--we will have Governor Shapiro call Ramsey and I'll have Ramsey alert to the call. He'll be waiting for it.
Daley: All right.
President Johnson: Just tell him to call the White House, and they'll connect him. That's number--
Daley: I see.
President Johnson: Just tell him to ask for the White House in Washington. They'll connect him. He'll tell him exactly what kind of wire to send. He'll--ask him to dictate it--
Daley: Yeah.
President Johnson: And then, in the meantime, I'll see where he can find the troops and how many. Do you know how many they want?
Daley: At least 3,000.
President Johnson: Yeah, well, you better say 5[,000].
Daley: Yeah. I think we need 5[,000].
President Johnson: I would tell him--
Daley: Fine.
President Johnson: --what you're do, and we'll be right back to you, Dick.
Daley: I'll have Shapiro call Ramsey--
President Johnson: That's right.
Daley: --through the White House.
President Johnson: That's right. Thanks.
Daley: Thanks, Mr. President--
President Johnson: Right.

From the pool report....

Air Force One touched down at 8:50am DC time. President Obama exited 10mins later in light drizzle. Motorcade departed.

WASHINGTON--Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) sent out a fund-raising appeal for Illinois Democratic Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias, the state treasurer and flew to Texas this weekend to raise money for the Senate Democratic political operation.

Excerpt from Durbin Giannoulias letter:

"Republican Congressman Mark Kirk, who has taken more than $1.3 million in contributions from the health care lobby, has already promised conservative voters at a closed-door fundraiser that he will "lead the effort" to repeal health care reform if he gets to the Senate. Mark Kirk appears to be more interested in opposing President Obama at every turn than in doing what is right for Illinois families.

"...Alexi is the first Senate candidate in Illinois history to refuse contributions from corporate PACs and federal lobbyists. He's building his campaign from the ground up on the support of people just like you. And that's why he needs your help today."

Click below for pool report on Durbin in Texas with Vice President Biden.

WASHINGTON--President Obama made an unannounced trip to Afghanistan; with him Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and other top national security aides. Obama is delivering a message to President Karzai that in his second term, "to make him understand that in his second term, there are certain things that have been not paid attention to, almost
since day one."

The Afghanistan government was informed of Obama's visit on Thursday, according to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

Subject: WH pool - Afghan #2

Pool was briefed on AF1 shortly before landing by NSA James Jones and LTG Doug
Lute, top AfPak official at NSC.

Jones said POTUS would "engage" with Karzai on benchmarks. Please check against
transcript, but some quotes:

POTUS will "engage President make him understand that in his second
term, there are certain things that have been not paid attention to, almost
since day one. That is things like...a merit-based system for appointment of key
government officials, battling corruption, taking the fight to the
narco-traffickers, which fuels, provides a lot of the economic engine for the

He also said they would dicuss the importance of the reintegration and
reconciliation process. More to come.


President Obama, contrary to the schedule, is in Afghanistan Sunday, not Camp David. Click here for report.

WASHINGTON--Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton joked about sending White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to Moscow on Friday to finalize a nuclear arms deal.

Emanuel's reputation for arm-twisting members of Congress--grown larger with the successful passage this week of the health care bill--gave Clinton grist to suggest he be sent to the Russian Duma to twist some arms there.

"Just as we have to go to our Congress, President Medvedev has to go to the Duma. And I think President Obama has said that he would send Rahm Emmanuel to Moscow and we all immediately endorsed that offer. You know, if President Medvedev wants to take us up on it, we're ready," Clinton said.

WASHINGTON--The Obama administration on Friday announced a new program to help homeowners in trouble with their mortgages. Here are some frequently asked questions and answers about the program intended to help avoid foreclosures.

Below, from the Treasury Department:

On March 26, 2010, the Administration announced several enhancements to the existing Making Home Affordable Program (MHA) and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) refinance program that will give a greater number of responsible borrowers an opportunity to remain in their homes and reduce costly foreclosures. The changes will improve the effectiveness of the existing MHA program by providing temporary assistance for unemployed homeowners while they search for re-employment, providing servicers and lenders more flexibility to reduce mortgage principal for underwater borrowers, increasing incentive to servicers to participate in MHA, facilitating transitions to more sustainable housing for borrowers who do not succeed within the HAMP program, and expanding opportunities to refinance into affordable FHA loans for underwater borrowers.

Q: When will homeowners begin to receive help under the new enhancements?

It will take time to get these new program enhancements up and running. Some pieces, such as increased payments for alternatives to foreclosures, will be put in place in the coming weeks. We anticipate the full set of programs to be available by the fall.

Q: How can I learn more about these beneficial changes?

Fact sheets are posted on More details will be published as they become available.

Q: I am unemployed and having difficulty paying my mortgage. What benefits are available
under the Temporary Assistance for Unemployed Borrowers?

The program will require services to provide a minimum of 3 months, and up to six months for
some borrowers, of temporary forbearance for eligible unemployed borrowers, during which
their payments will be reduced to no more than 31 percent of their monthly income. After the
forbearance period, borrowers will be evaluated for a HAMP modification if they have a
mortgage payment greater than 31 percent of their monthly income and meet other income
documentation and property eligibility requirements. The temporary assistance will enable
unemployed homeowners to remain in their homes as they continue to seek employment. If the
forbearance period ends without re-employment, the homeowner may be considered for a HAMP
program supporting alternatives to foreclosure including short-sales.

Q: How do I know if I qualify for the temporary assistance for unemployed homeowners?

Servicers participating in HAMP will be required to offer assistance to all unemployed
borrowers who meet these eligibility criteria:
 Homeowner's mortgage meets HAMP eligibility requirements, including that the house
is owner-occupied and the loan balance is below $729,000.
 Borrower submits evidence that they are receiving unemployment insurance (UI)

UPDATED With Lipinski inserts and statement....

WASHINGTON--The House voted 220 to 207 on Thursday night on the final piece of legislation in the Democratic health care package.

The House passed the main part of the bill on Sunday, in a close vote won with a pledge to make some immediate changes in the Senate drafted bill. The changes had to be made in steps in order to avoid the need in the Senate for a filibuster-proof 60 votes.

Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) voted against the base, or underlying bill, which passed with a three vote margin. He was the only Illinois Democrat and one of 34 Democrats to vote no on the base bill. For Democratic leadership and the Obama White House the vote that counted was the one for the main bill on Sunday--not the subsequent votes on the "fixes."

Lipinski said a main reason--but not the only one--he voted no on Sunday--when it counted--was his view that the underlying bill did not have enough safeguards to insure the ban on federal money paying for abortions. He did go on to vote for reconciling the Senate and House version of the bill

The Senate passed the "fixes" in the reconciliation bill on Thursday 56 to 43, and as mentioned, the House voted on it Thursday night. Lipinski was one of the 220 Democrats.

His explanation on his votes below; interesting, no mention of his reservations about the abortion language in the statement. UPDATE: After I posted this, Lipinski spokesman Nathaniel Zimmer sent this: Wrote Zimmer, "Under the rules governing reconciliation, the reconciliation bill cannot address the issue of abortion."


"I voted against the Senate health care bill because it is deeply flawed. But once it passed, I voted for the separate reconciliation bill on Sunday because it makes a number of much-needed improvements to the Senate bill.

It lessens the Senate bill's burden on small businesses in my district by exempting the first 30 employees when calculating a health care tax, removes the "Cornhusker kickback," phases out the Medicare prescription drug 'doughnut hole' that costs many of my elderly constituents $4,000 per year, improves Medicaid funding for Illinois and other states, and makes college more affordable by eliminating subsidies to banks in favor of a direct lending program.

The reconciliation bill also improves on the Senate bill by reducing the number of people whose health insurance plans would be hard hit by an excise tax and by delaying the effective date of the tax.

Today, after a ruling by the Senate parliamentarian resulted in the House of Representatives having to vote again on the reconciliation bill, I cast the same vote I cast on Sunday in favor of the reconciliation bill. The reconciliation bill is the first step in trying to improve the Senate bill, which I opposed. Many more changes are needed to this faulty bill, and I will continue to fight to make those revisions."

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

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin returns the favor to Sen. John McCain, who tapped her as his runningmate for his 2008 White House bid and stumps for him today in Arizona. McCain faces a GOP Senate primary challenge.

The cables will show some of the event at about 3 p.m. eastern time, 2 p.m. Chicago time

Illiinois Gov. Pat Quinn will ask the state Democratic party to tap Sheila Simon, the daughter of the late Sen. Paul Simon to be his running mate, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting. This comes in the wake of the debacle over Scott Cohen--the pawnbroker with a sketchy past who won the lieutenant governor nomination in the February primary, only to be pressure to step down because his presence on the ticket would have possibly doomed Quinn.

In Illinois, the governor and lieutenant governor are nominated in separate primaries and then are fused into one ticket.

BY DAVE McKINNEY AND STEVE CONTORNO Springfield Bureau Reporters
SPRINGFIELD -- She doesn't have the bow-tie, horn-rimmed glasses or booming baritone, but she's got Downstate roots, potential appeal to women voters and a name revered among Democrats.

Sheila Simon, daughter of the late U.S. Sen. Paul Simon, is Gov. Quinn's choice for a running mate, a top source told the Sun-Times.

WASHINGTON--The House voted 220 to 207 on Thursday night on the final piece of legislation in the Democratic health care package.

The House passed the main part of the bill on Sunday, in a close vote won with a pledge to make some immediate changes in the Senate drafted bill. The changes had to be made in steps in order to avoid the need in the Senate for a filibuster-proof 60 votes.

The Senate passed the "fixes" in the reconciliation bill on Thursday 56 to 43.

WASHINGTON--President Obama spent a lot of time in Iowa in the run-up to the crucial 2008 caucus vote, and on Thursday stopped at a favorite Iowa City bookstore while in town to deliver a speech--more like a pep rally for the new health care law he signed on Tuesday.

After he strolled through the store he bought-with cash--"Journey to the River Sea" by Eva Ibbotson and "The Secret of Zoom" by Lynne Jonell for his daughters and a Star Wars pop up book for the son of Press Secretary Robert Gibbs that cost $37.44.

Click below for pool report.

WASHINGTON--The Senate on Thursday passed a bill making certain "fixes" to the health care bill Obama signed into law on Tuesday, with just one more vote--in the House--needed before the legislation is complete.

Many House Democrats voted for the bill Sunday on the strength of a pledge by the Senate to immediately rewrite portions of new legislation to make it amenable to the House. This process--called reconciliation---yielded a 56 to 43 Senate roll call. No Republicans voted for the "reconciliation" package and three Democrats were no votes---Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska,and both Arkansas senators, Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln.

WASHINGTON--Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) tells Patricia Murphy of Politics Daily he never asked for a special Medicaid reimbursement deal just for Nebraska that came to be derided as the "Corhhusker kickback." Read her exclusive q and a with Nelson here.

Updated Thursday afternoon....

First lady Michelle Obama took daughters Malia, 11, and Sasha, 8, mother Marian Robinson and some pals to New York for a spring break trip where they hit Broadway shows, toured the Empire State Building and visited Harlem and Brooklyn. They returned to Washington on Wednesday, stopping at the Statue of Liberty en route back to the White House.

Here's the bite they have taken from the Big Apple, besides lunching at the Russian Tea Room and the Dinosaur Bar-B-Q in Harlem:

• Wednesday. The Obama group toured the "Sesame Street" studio. They hit Brooklyn, visiting the Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory and a well-known pizzeria, Grimaldi's. (The New York Times quoted the waiter who served the entourage: "I think they said it was better than Chicago pizza.")

• Tuesday. Harlem was a focus. The Obama group toured the Studio Theater and the famous Apollo Theater. Mrs. Obama and friends dine at Aquavit, ownded by Marcus Samuelsson, the guest chef at White House first state dinner for the Prime Minister of India.She ordered the tasting menu.

• Monday night: A preview of a new musical, "The Addams Family," which opens next month.

• Sunday matinee: The musical "Memphis" about an interracial couple in segregation-era Tennessee. Before that, brunch at the Mesa Grill.

• Saturday night: Blue Man group. On the same day they stopped at Dylan's Candy Bar.

First Lady Michelle Obama appears as a cartoon character on "The Simpsons," voiced by actress Angela Bassett.

WASHINGTON--President Obama signed an executive order on Wednesday to reaffirm that the new health law he signed Tuesday will not allow any federal funds for abortion. Although the event at the White House was closed to the press, the White House did release a photo of the invitees: the anti-abortion House Democrats who voted yes on the health bill after Obama pledged to sign the executive order. The group was led by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) fourth from left. That's Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Ill.), third from left.
abortion exec order signing.jpg
White House caption....
President Barack Obama signs an Executive Order that reaffirms the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's consistency with longstanding restrictions on the use of federal funds for abortion, in the Oval Office, March 24, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

WASHINGTON--Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) faced off against Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) Wednesday morning on NBC's "Today Show" over the health bill, as the Senate today takes up a slew of GOP amendments to the new health care bill signed into law Tuesday by President Obama.

The bill passed the House on Sunday with only Democratic votes. Only Democrats in the Senate are expected to support the bill in upcoming votes.

Said Durbin, asked about bipartisanship, said "For some on the other side of the aisle, I'm afraid bipartisanship hasn't started with this president. As Senator DeMint said himself, the object behind the health-care debate was to break the presidency. America doesn't want a broken presidency. They want a president who's going to work with both parties."

WASHINGTON--House Speaker Nancy Pelosi--ebullient, elated, energized and enthused hours after President Obama signed the health care bill--met with 13 columnists Thursday afternoon to discuss the historic legislation--and said White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel-contrary to his tough-guy image--is a "softie."

Other highlights from Pelosi, who discussed the bill as she ate a few squares from an organic Swiss Dark Chocolate Bar:

WASHINGTON--The annual AIPAC policy conference here--American Israel Public Affairs Committee--drew Democratic and GOP Illinois candidates looking for Jewish-American support.

Illinois GOP Senate nominee Rep. Mark Steven Kirk (R-Ill.), who is making his support for Israel a major part of his campaign, hosted a group of Illinois AIPAC members--about 100 at a session at a hotel here on Tuesday afternoon. I'm told by someone who was there he was "warmly received."

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) was also seen introducing around AIPAC the Illinois Democratic Senate nominee, state treasurer Alexi Giannoulias. Durbin was an honorary host for a bi-partisan Illinois delegation reception in honor of Lee Rosenberg - the incoming president of AIPAC, who is from Chicago - Monday night, but he did not attend.

Democrat Dan Seals and Republican Bob Dold, candidates running for Kirk's vacant House seat--in the heavily Jewish 10th Congressional District--also hit the AIPAC conference. Dold also made some other calls while here.

State Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington), the GOP candidate for Illinois governor also flew here for the conference to woo votes to a community where he is barely known.

WASHINGTON-- President Obama signed the health care bill Tuesday morning, a historic accomplishment no matter what else happens in his term. Obama paid tribute to Congress by inviting all the members who voted for it to the signing ceremony--all Democrats, since no Republicans voted for the historic measure.

"The bill -- the bill I'm signing will set in motion reforms that generations of Americans have fought for and marched for and hungered to see. It will take four years to implement fully many of these reforms, because we need to implement them responsibly," Obama said at the White House.

Obama emphasized features of the bill that will kick in this year:

"This year, tens of thousands of uninsured Americans with pre-existing conditions, the parents of children who have a pre-existing condition, will finally be able to purchase the coverage they need.That happens this year.

"This year -- this year, insurance companies will no longer be able to drop people's coverage, when they get sick -- or place -- they won't be able to place lifetime limits or restrictive annual limits on the amount of care they can receive.

"This year, this year, all new insurance plans will be required to offer free preventive care. And this year, young adults will be able to stay on their parents' policies until they are
26 years old," Obama said.

Notables at the White House: Sen. Dick Durbin. Sen. Roland Burris. All Illinois Democratic House members were invited, except Rep. Dan Lipinski who was the only Democratic no vote from Illinois.

Also...Caroline Kennedy and her son, Vicki Kennedy, the widow of Sen. Ted Kennedy, and Rep. Patrick Kennedy.

WASHINGTON--The historic health care bill President Obama signs into law on Tuesday has provisions that roll out over a period of years. Jill Lawrence at has a timeline about what happens when.

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WASHINGTON--With the House passing health care on Sunday, Organizing for America, the Obama presidential campaign network folded into the Democratic National Committee, released some numbers on their grass-and-netroot efforts to help get the bill passed.

john king.jpeg
John King interviews Vicki Kennedy on the set of his new CNN Show, "John King, USA."

WASHINGTON -- At 10:20 p.m. Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was imploring House members to vote yes for a landmark health care bill that a little more than an hour later would pass, after a long day of final wrangling.

Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-Ill.) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) sat in the front row on the Democratic side as Pelosi spoke. Across the aisle where Republicans sit -- almost as far away from Pelosi as a lawmaker could get -- I spotted GOP Illinois Senate nominee Rep. Mark Steven Kirk in the last row, ducking out after a few minutes.

Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-Ill.) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) sat in the front row on the Democratic side as Pelosi spoke. Across the aisle where Republicans sit -- almost as far away from Pelosi as a lawmaker could get -- I spotted GOP Illinois Senate nominee Rep. Mark Steven Kirk in the last row, ducking out after a few minutes.

Then, as Pelosi was wrapping up her remarks, I saw Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) entering the chamber -- as it happened through a door on the Republican side -- and he headed toward the Democratic seats. But Lipinski paused in the middle aisle, glanced up at the packed House galleries and never crossed over to stand with the other Democrats, leaving right away. The scene that unfolded seemed apt.


President Obama talks on the phone with a ,ember of Congress in Chief of Staff Rahm Emenuel's office at the White House in advance of the Sunday, March 21, 2010 historic health care vote in the House. From left, aides Phil Schiliro, Sean Sweeney, Rahm Emanuel, Jim Messina, and DanTurton. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Click below for transcript of Obama's remarks delivered after the close 219-212 vote.

House passes health care 219-212


WASHINGTON--The House Sunday night, on a 219-212 roll call, approved the Senate version of a health care bill, setting the stage for final passage of the historic measure with two more votes expected in the next hour. The legislation passed with three votes to spare.
Click here for the roll call.

All 219 votes were Democratic. There were 34 Democrats and 178 Republicans voting no.

All Illinois Republican House members voted no.
Illinois Democrat Dan Lipinski voted no.

All other Illinois Democrats voted yes.

The Obama presidential order negotiated with Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) on abortion delivered critical last minute votes. Patricia Murphy at Politics Daily has the details.

WASHINGTON--House Speaker Nancy Pelosi invited guests to her box in the House chamber for the historic health care vote Sunday night, including Chicagoan Ezekeiel Emanuel, a White House health policy specialist who is the brother of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. The Emanuel brothers were profiled Sunday by Katie Couric on the CBS show "60 Minutes."

Pelosi's list:

Speaker's Gallery

1. Mr. Pelosi

2. Nancy Corinne Prowda (daughter)

3. Alexandra Pelosi (daughter)

4. Michiel Vos (son-in-law)

5. Gordon Witman, PICO

6. Richard Kirsch - Health Care for America Now (HCAN)

7. Robert Hall - American Academy of Pediatrics

8. Rich Trumpka - AFL-CIO

9. Dr. Willard Edwards - National Medical Association

10. Christina Romer - Council of Economic Advisors

11. Mark Duggan - Council of Economic Advisors

12. Zeke Emanuel - Senior Advisor for Health Policy, OMB

13. Jason Furman - National Economic Council Advisor

14. Nancy Ann DeParle - White House Office of Health Care Reform

WASHINGTON--Former President Clinton filled in for President Obama at the Gridiron Club and Foundation annual spring dinner on Saturday night, and he was a hit, with zingers aimed at himself, Obama and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

"So tell the truth. You guys miss me?" Clinton said at the top of his remarks.

Emanuel was not at the white tie and evening gown dinner--this weekend marked the Bar Mitzvah of his son--but fellow Chicagoans White House Senior Advisors Valerie Jarrett and David Axelrod were at the head table.

"Look, I know Axelrod from Chicago and Valerie. I know them before Let's get this straight," Clinton said.

"I found Rahm. I created Rahm. I made him the man he is today. I am so sorry," quipped Clinton.

Below, from the White House...


Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release March 21, 2010


Today, the President announced that he will be issuing an executive order after the passage of the health insurance reform law that will reaffirm its consistency with longstanding restrictions on the use of federal funds for abortion.

While the legislation as written maintains current law, the executive order provides additional safeguards to ensure that the status quo is upheld and enforced, and that the health care legislation's restrictions against the public funding of abortions cannot be circumvented.

The President has said from the start that this health insurance reform should not be the forum to upset longstanding precedent. The health care legislation and this executive order are consistent with this principle.

The President is grateful for the tireless efforts of leaders on both sides of this issue to craft a consensus approach that allows the bill to move forward.

A text of the pending executive order follows:

Foster a yes on health care


(please note: You'll notice I struck the portions where I wrote earlier that Lipinski would be eligible to buy health coverage for his lifetime after serving a stint as a congressman. Lipinski spokesman Nathaniel Zimmer said that would only kick in at his retirement. I am not certain, but debate is going on now on the health care bill and I am in the House press gallery working on Monday's column, so it is difficult to sort this out now. The central point is the same: Lipinski got insurance when he came to Congess, even with a pre-existing condition.)

WASHINGTON--With the House Sunday health care vote a cliffhanger--Democratic leaders are close to the 216 needed for passage--holdout Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.)--a diabetic--over the weekend became a special focus of Democratic leaders.

I'm told that Democratic leaders in Washington and Illinois are "confounded" by Lipinski's opposition to the bill because he is a diabetic who would find it tough--maybe impossible--to find insurance coverage if he were not in Congress.

Lipinski, a strong anti-abortion lawmaker, has said he will vote no on the bill unless stricter bans are in place to ensure no federal money is channeled to clinics providing abortions or to insurance plans offering abortions. He has other issues with the legislation, but abortion is the major one.

As of mid-day Sunday, President Obama's team is weighing issuing a executive order to assure the anti-abortion holdouts, led by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) that the Hyde amendment (named for the late Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) banning any federal money for abortion would apply to anything new created in the bill--whether it be clinics or insurance coverage. Stupak has said no final deal has been reached. A group of abortion rights lawmakers were meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to go over the executive order proposal.

Rep. Dan Lipinski wants stricter anti-abortion language in bill; abortion rights Rep. Mike Quigley, his fellow Illinois Democrat, wants no deal with opponents

WASHINGTON -- Over the weekend, President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were still scrambling to lock in 216 votes for their health-care bill, with a small group of Democrats -- whose support could be crucial -- holding out for stronger anti-abortion provisions.

Check out "biggest whoppers" when it comes to the health care bill the House will vote on Sunday.

Pro Publica has the most user friendly version of hte health bill I've seen--comparing the bill House members are set to vote on Sunday with a version passed last year. Read it here.

WASHINGTON--The June 15, 1997 New York Times Magazine cover was a story headlined "The Brothers Emanuel" by Elisabeth Bumiller, a report on the Emanuel brothers--Rahm, Ezekiel, and Ari. Back then, they were already wildly successful. But as we know, the story only got better. Our Chicago boys went on to be: Rahm, White House Chief of Staff; Ezekiel, advising the White House on health policy and Ari, a Hollywood super agent then and a super super agent now.

On Sunday, CBS anchor Katie Couric presents an updated version of "The Brothers Emanuel." Last I heard earlier this week, the show was lining up shots of the homes the Emanuel brothers lived in while growing up on Chicago's North Side and Wilmette.

Her story is supposed to include a look inside his office. I wonder if Couric can put on television a shot of a little sign I saw on a desk in Emanuel's White House office when I was there: "Undersecretary of Go F--- Yourself." Emanuel's office, I observed, is full of pictures of his wife and three kids and memorobila--he has the iron door plaque from his House of Representatives office on a shelf. Above his desk are 10 frames holding a total of 31 family pictures. Emanuel also has a framed picture of him hugging and giving a kiss to Stephen Colbert. Colbert autographed the photo with this note: "Rahm, when will the feeling return to my cheek?"

Politico's Mike Allen has this report Friday morning: "EXCLUSIVE: On '60 Minutes' on Sunday, Rahm Emanuel acknowledges that he has disagreed with President Obama, but say the president doesn't want 'yes' people -- he wants to get a wide variety of opinions. Katie Couric is the correspondent on the 12-minute, long-in-the-making segment on THE BROTHERS EMANUEL, an idea she had back during the campaign. Like everyone else, she wants to know what their mom put in their cereal. Katie interviewed Rahm (the middle child) once in October and again this month. The segment includes him giving her a fun tour of his office -- then escorting her across West Exec to the EEOB, where big bro Zeke is a bioethicist at OMB. K.C. talked to both of them, then did an interview with Zeke. Ari the agent didn't play, but a little bird tells Playbook he provided some adorable family photos."

Updated with Gutierrez statement....

WASHINGTON--Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) decided on Thursday to vote "yes" for the Obama health bill, after threatening to vote no because of issues related to coverage of illegal immigrants in the bill and the lack of action from the Obama White House on comprehensive immigration reform.

Why is Gutierrez, a national leader on immigration moving to yes? The headline his his statement (below) tells his story. "Discussions with Obama ensure we can have
a victory for health care and for the immigrants of our nation."

Gutierrez statement:

Today, Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL), chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) Immigration Taskforce made the following statement at a press conference with fellow members of the CHC:

"I've spent the past week speaking at length with the President and his staff. In fact, I spoke with him again just this morning. I shared with him that I believed that we could have a victory for every American who deserves affordable, high-quality health care and for the immigrants of our nation.

"I told President Obama I would not sacrifice either goal. After extensive discussions with the President, I believe we have a health care bill I can vote 'yes' for, and I believe we have a commitment to move forward on a comprehensive immigration reform package as soon as possible.

WASHINGTON--The health bill is posted at
A vote is expected on Sunday, March 21, 2010.

Here is the link to a Ways and Means Committee analysis.

Here's what you will find at
H.R. 4872 - Reconciliation Act of 2010

§ Text of the Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute

§ Section-by-Section of the Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute

§ Text of the Senate Amendments to H.R. 3590 (Senate health bill)

§ Text of the bill as reported (reported by the Budget Committee)

§ H. Rept. 111-443: Budget Committee Report (Volume 1)

§ H. Rept. 111-443: Budget Committee Report (Volume 2

WASHINGTON---The Obama White House will honor the president of Mexico and his wife in the second state dinner of the administration on May 19.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs announced the upcoming event at the Thursday briefing--held outside on a warm day in the Rose Garden.

"Lastly, want to announce that in recognition of the deep ties and
strong relationship that President Obama has forged with Mexican
President Felipe Calderon, President Obama and the first lady will
host President Calderon and the Mexican first lady in a White House --
at the White House for a state dinner on Wednesday, May 19th," Gibbs said.

"The dinner will take place in the context of an official visit by
President Calderon, during which the president will have an
opportunity to discuss a wide range of issues with President Calderon,
including economic competitiveness, our growing security cooperation,
clean-energy opportunities, immigration and other key issues."

WASHINGTON--If there was any doubt--the Obama White House reaffirmed Thursday plans to buy a near empty state prison in Thomson, Ill, whether or not terrorists will be transferred there from Guantanamo Bay military prison.

The Obama administration's Justice Departmant "would be seeking to purchase the facility in Thomson even if detainees were not being considered for transfer there," Assistant Attorney General Ronald Welch wrote in a letter to Rep. Don Manzullo (R-Ill.).
However, Welch said the facility is being acquired "to fulfill both of the goals of reducing federal prison overcrowding and transferring a limited number of detainees out of Guantanamo."

Thomson is in Manzullo's district and the lawmaker has been trying to convince the Obama White House to buy Thomson to house just high security federal prisoners--not Guantanamo detainees.

The Justice Department request for $237 million to buy, activate and operate Thomson is in the fiscal 2011 budget now pending before Congress.

Obama on Tiger Woods

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WASHINGTON--President Obama was charitable in his comments about Tigers Woods when he was asked about the star golfer--who cheated on his wife in multiple affairs playing in the upcoming Masters tournament.

Fox News Bret Baier put a Woods question to Obama at the end of a Wednesday interview.

Baier told Obama, "One of the e-mailers asked to ask you, what do you think about Tiger returning to the Masters?

Replied Obama, "You know, I think that, you know, Tiger has acknowledged that he betrayed his family and, you know, that's a personal issue that he's got to work out. I hope they've worked it out. I'm sure he's going to still be a terrific golfer. All right."

WASHINGTON--White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Thursday that President Obama will postpone his trip to Indonesia, Australia and Guam to stay in town for showdown votes on health care that could come this weekend.

Obama's original schedule had him departing on March 18; he pushed it back to Sunday morning and on Thursday Gibbs said the whole trip was scratched until June.

"The president telephoned the leader of Indonesia and will call
the leader of Australia later this afternoon and told them that he
most -- must postpone his planned visits for a later date so that he
can remain in Washington for this critical vote. The president now
expects to visit Indonesia in June," Gibbs said.

"The president greatly regrets the delay. Our international
alliances are critical to America's security and economic progress,
but passage of -- passage of health-insurance reform is of paramount
importance, and the president is determined to see this battle
through," Gibbs said.

President Obama filled out a bracket for ESPN for the second straight year Wednesday.

Obama picks: Kansas and Kansas State to join Kentucky and Villanova in the men's basketball Final Four this season, with the Jayhawks defeating Kentucky for the title.

michelle sotomayor ginsburg.jpg

From the White House....

First Lady Michelle Obama listens as Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor talk with a group of young women, during a mentoring event at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., March 17, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

WASHINGTON--GOP Senate nominee Rep. Mark Steven Kirk (R-Ill.) said if President Obama signs a health insurance reform bill into law--and if he is elected to the Senate--he would "lead the effort" for its repeal.

"As your senator I would lead the effort to repeal this bill," Kirk said.

The Obama White House roared back at Kirk on Wednesday. White House Senior advisor David Axelrod told the Chicago Sun-Times, "Given the great challenges America, and families across Illinois face today, the last thing we need is another Republican Senator in Washington who is more focused on tearing down the President than he is on solving problems."

Kirk's comments were made March 12 to the New Trier Republicans corn beef and cabbage dinner. Kirk's staffers refuse to release Kirk's campaign or governmental schedules in order to discourage routine press coverage, so remarks Kirk makes on the stump are rare. During the primary campaign Kirk's political operation declined--even after the fact--to release any details of where he went to speak or raise money.

WASHINGTON -- First lady Michelle Obama urged the nation's food industry on Tuesday to "step it up" and move faster to create and market healthier foods to kids, her toughest speech yet in her anti-childhood-obesity campaign.

"I'm here today to urge all of you to move faster and to go farther, because the truth is we don't have a moment to waste -- because a baby born today could be less than a decade away from showing the first signs of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, Type II diabetes, if he or she is obese as a child," Mrs. Obama said.

WASHINGTON--Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) just announced that he will--albeit reluctantly--vote for President Obama's health bill. Kucinich was one of the leading critics of the plan and an advocate for a public option--which is not in the legislation. Kucinich may well have been under intense pressure as Democrats hunt for 216 votes in the House. Obama gave Kucinich a ride on Air Force One on Monday when he flew to Ohio to stump for his plan.

While saying this is not the bill he wanted, Kucinich said the Obama legislation "clearly does not advocate socialism or government takeover of health care."

WASHINGTON--House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Obama White House are hunting for 216 Democratic votes for President Obama's health care bill, but six Illinois Democrats are not at "yes" yet -- with Rep. Luis Gutierrez emerging as a "no" -- for now.

Obama gets no automatic breaks from some of his former Illinois congressional colleagues at this stage in the negotiations.

"Am I going to vote for the proposal as it is currently formulated? No," Gutierrez told me Friday.

Gutierrez's pledge of a no vote is linked to his pressure -- with other immigrant rights groups -- on the Obama team to try to pass a comprehensive immigration reform package this year.

Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich details the "deal" he was trying to get Rahm Emanuel to broker to fill President Obama's Illinois Senate seat in an interview with Fox News Greta Van Susteren. Blagojevich sat down with Van Susteren in advance of the Sunday telecast of "The Apprentice," where he is competes to stay on the good side of Donald Trump and not hear "you're fired."

Van Susteren asked Blagojevich about Emanuel in the wake of stories about the White House chief of staff supposedly naked in the House gym, confronting now former Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY) in the shower over a budget bill. I've been told, by the way, this did not happen the way Massa told the story.

Blagojevich, asked what he thought about the Massa-Emanuel episode, used the question to pivot into a discussion about how he asked Emanuel--then a Chicago congressman--to broker a deal with Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan (D-Chicago) to appoint Madigan's daughter to fill Obama's Senate seat in exchange for his backing a series of Blagojevich legislative proposals.

Madigan's daughter is Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Blagojevich discusses all this with Van Susteren while he is facing federal criminal charges that he tried to "sell" Obama's Senate seat.

It was Emanuel's toughness that appealed to Blagojevich, he said. Note also that Blagojevich is making statements about discussions that may have been captured on wiretaps, so we will see how his version plays out at the trial.

Blagojevich has been saying that he was making a political trade for the Obama seat; his answer to Van Susteren sums up and previews Blagojevich's defense. (Last June, Emanuel praised Lisa Madigan during a breakfast session with reporters when the White House was trying to convince her to run for the Senate. Read my report here.)

Said Blagojevich, "Yeah the deal on senate seat with me was, I was not selling a senate seat for financial gain, or money that's a lie. I wanted to make a political deal. The attorney general of Illinois, Lisa Madigan, her father is the Democratic house speaker, he was blocking a public works bill, he was blocking expanding health care, and he was pushing a tax increase.

"I wanted Rahm and sought Rahm out to be the middleman to make the deal happen. I would appoint her senator in exchange for the jobs bill, health care expansion, and written promise not to raise taxes on people. Rahm was prepared to do it and then everything changed when I was arrested 6:00 in the morning.

Obama week ahead

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tom hanks spielberg.jpg (White House photo)
Obama at the White House theater with Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg for screening of episode of their HBO miniseries "The Pacific." I think that's Obama pal Marty Nesbitt in the third row. Anyone have id's for the rest?

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett spoke recently at Harvard Law School; Jarrett's daughter, Laura, a Harvard Law student, was in the audience.

Rev. Wright's latest on Obama

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WASHINGTON--President Obama's former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright--whose fiery sermons presented the Obama presidential campaign with its greatest crisis-- talks to Hamill Harris of the Washington Post about Obama.

Now retired from Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ, Wright told Harris, "It is unrealistic to think that one person can change the mess that this country has gotten into, but to pick on him is like picking on one of my kids," Wright said. "I have been knowing him for 20 years.

"I have not stopped loving him because of what the press did, and to see him beat up on because of things he is not responsible for is painful.

"Rahmism," on Rahm Emanuel

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Read the New York Times Peter Baker story here.

President Obama on Tuesday at White House event honoring Greek Independence Day

We have some outstanding members of Congress who are here, and we've got at least one potential member of Congress -- Alexi, stand up -- from the state of Illinois. (Applause.) We've got in fact, in addition to Alexi, we've got a lot of Greek American friends here who've been great friends and supporters of mine, including folks here from Chicago. I think we've got just about all of Greektown here. (Laughter.) And we also have some of the outstanding Greek Americans who are serving in my administration.

WASHINGTON--When you go to Google News and type in "Rahm" what pops up first is "Rahm Emanuel shower," a reference to the Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY) saga, which has yet to run its course. Ouch.

The Washington Post Wednesday story about how business is notreally done in the nude in the House and Senate gyms.

David Letterman is the latest to pile on.

Top Ten Signs Rahm Emanuel Is Nuts, from Tuesday's "Late Show" on CBS

10.Every morning takes a leak off the Truman balcony

9.President Obama smokes cigarettes; Rahm eats them

8.Spotted today at Toyota dealership

7.He's leaving Obama to become a special advisor to Richard Nixon

6.In a fit of rage, he snapped Dennis Kucinich in half

5.Changing his name to Rahm Emanuel Lewis

4.Refers to every cabinet official as "Clarkie"

3.Recently got into heated policy debate with his stapler

2.You mean, besides walking around D.C. naked?

1.Even Andy Dick is telling him to chill

My columns about First Lady Michelle Obama's Inaugural gown going on display in the Smithsonian are hereand here.

WASHINGTON -- With her mother, Marian Robinson, sitting in the front row, first lady Michelle Obama officially handed over her inaugural gown to the Smithsonian on Tuesday, and a group of friends from Chicago were there to mark the historic occasion.

"And I have to say, to be honest, I am very honored and very humbled, but I have to say that I'm also a little embarrassed by all the fuss being made over my dress. Like many of you, I'm not used to people wanting to put things I've worn on display. So all of this is a little odd, so forgive me," Mrs. Obama said.

"But at the same time, I truly recognize the significance of this day. This gown -- and all of the items that we'll see in this wonderful exhibit -- help us connect with a moment in history in a very real way," she said.

Mrs. Obama's gown, designed by Jason Wu, her Jimmy Choo heels and Loree Rodkin bracelets, earrings and ring now are in the Smithsonian's popular "First Ladies" collection. Mrs. Obama's ensemble, worn Jan. 20, 2009, is in a glass case in a new gallery in an expanded exhibit.

Some of Mrs. Obama's closest friends were at the ceremony marking the donation of the gown and the opening of the exhibit. The Chicago pals included Sandy Matthews; Anita Blanchard; Cheryl Whitaker; Kelly Dibble, and Eleanor Kaye Wilson, the godmother of the Obama girls, Malia, 11, and Sasha, 8, and a close friend of Mrs. Robinson's.

And there were women from Chicago who serve in the White House: senior adviser Valerie Jarrett; Mrs. Obama's chief of staff, Susan Sher, and White House fellows director Cindy Moelis. Also in the audience was Bettylu Saltzman, the Chicago Democratic activist who early in President Obama's political career spotted him as an extraordinary political figure.


From this afternoon's meeting with Netanyahu, Biden returned to the David Citadel hotel and met with opposition leader Tzipi Livni. He then taped an interview with Chris Matthews.

Around 4 p.m. Biden went to Mt. Herzl, Israel's national cemetery and, wearing a black skullcap, laid a wreath on the graves of Zionism pioneer Theodore Herzl and of late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. The wreath of red and white flowers he laid on Rabin's grave had a banner on it that read ``The case of peace for which you fought has become our own.'' Biden, flanked by Jill, was joined by Rabin's children, Yuval and Dalia.

Biden then toured Yad Vashem, Israel's Holcaust memorial museum. After the tour, Biden kindled the eternal flame in the Hall of Remembrance. A choir sang Hannah Szenes's (sometimes written Sennesh's) song commonly known as ``Eli Eli'' (really named ``A Walk to Caesaria'' I think.) Biden laid a wreath on a rock slab beneath which lay buried ashes of Jews murdered and cremated at six concentration camps. As the prayer for the souls of those killed was chanted, the lights in the already dark hall went out for about a minute (I'm told by mistake) spooking the security as the only light came eerily from the eternal flame reflecting off the ceiling.

After signing the visitor's book at the end of his visit, Biden recalled how he took his sons to the Dachau concentration camp as teenagers so that they could understand as young men that ``mankind could be so brutal.'' ``But also I took my son here to Israel to let him know that the indomitable spirit of human beings is not able to be snuffed out,'' Biden said.

Biden signed the visitors book and said, roughly:

What I wrote in the book is as a fan of the Irish poet William Butler Yeats, writing about his Ireland, he said, too long a suffering makes a stone of the heart. What I wrote here is that every day Israel makes alive the poet's words too long a suffering makes a stone of the heart which is for world Jewry Israel is the heart. For world Jewry, Israel is the light. For world Jewry, Israel is the hope. If anyone every wondered about that they ought to take the tour of the museum. They would not doubt it again.

The word, phrase ``never again'' is used so often it almost has lost its meaning. But then again all you have to do is walk through, walk through Yad Vashem and understand how incredible, how incredible the journey has been...for world Jewry and why Israel is such a central part to its existence.

Biden's last stop for the day is back at the prime minister's residence for dinner with Netanyahu.

Janine Zacharia
Washington Post

WASHINGTON--More GOP youths are more excited about the 2010 elections that their Democratic counterparts. That's a finding from a poll on youth trends by Harvard University's Institute of Politics in the Kennedy School of Government.

A finding: "Millions of young people are losing faith in government, politics and in many cases - the American dream," said John Della Volpe, Director of Polling for Harvard's Institute of Politics. "Millennials are calling on government to follow through on the bright promise that a generation dedicated to public service has come to passionately believe in."

WASHINGTON--Illinois Democratic Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias got a show of support from the Obama White House on Tuesday, with Giannoulias here for a Greek Independence Day reception and a meeting with senior advisor David Axelrod.

At the Tuesday briefing, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about the purpose of Giannoulias meeting with White House aides.

"Well, obviously he knows -- he knows David from Chicago. I don't know whether he's going to meet with Patrick while he's here," Gibbs said, a reference to Patrick Gaspard, who handles politics for the White House.

Said Gibbs, "Alexi Giannoulias is the Democratic nominee for the United States Senate and has the support and the backing of the White House."

Giannoulias, the state treasurer and a basketball playing buddy of Obama, is running for Obama's old Senate seat against GOP nominee Rep. Mark Steven Kirk (R-Ill.).

Giannoulias trip to the White House was first disclosed Monday in this blog.

Updated ......

WASHINGTON--President Obama is lunching Tuesday with four top executives from Chicago area companies, including TransUnion's Penny Pritzker, the woman who chaired Obama's finance committee.

The list:
Jim Skinner, McDonald's
Greg Brown, Motorola
Glenn Tilton, United Airlines
Penny Pritzker, TransUnion

The Obama White House added the event to Obama's public Tuesday schedule, with the lunch topic the economy, according to a pool report.

First Lady Michelle Obama and her mother, Marian Robinson, looking at Mrs. Obama's newly displayed 2009 inaugural dress.

WASHINGTON--"So here we are, it's the dress," said First Lady Michelle Obama on Tuesday, standing next to the gown she wore at the inaugural, less than an hour before it was put in a glass case in the Smithsonian as part of its permanent exhibit on First Ladies.
She was joined at a ceremony at the National Museum of American History by Jason Wu, the 26-year old Taiwan born gown designer.

Mrs. Obama--with her mother, Marian Robinson in the front row--along with a gang of friends from Chicago--said she found the situation--I took it be standing next to her dress, about to become part of a museum exhibit-- a "little odd" but understood the historic nature of the situation.

Wu--who became famous overnight when Mrs. Obama choose his dress, put his hands over his heart and said "Mrs. Obama, thank you," when he spoke.

The Wu gown, Jimmy Choo high heels, earring, a ring and a bracelet are all now in a glass enclosed case.

WASHINGTON--Well, this won't help put all this chatter about White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to rest--a story about Emanuel, naked, razzing a lawmaker in the House gym for not backing President Obama's budget. That's from departing Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY) who is not resigning from his House seat quietly. He is trying to tackle Emanuel on his way out the door.

Massa, from upstate New York, is quitting Congress, he said at first because of cancer. Then news came out he may be facing ethics charges about making inappropriate remarks to a male staffer. Then, in radio show, he said House leaders forced him out because of his lack of support for health care.

Emanuel is a former Chicago congressman, and all former House members retain rights to use the House gym. Emanuel is a regular for early morning work-outs.

"I'm sitting there showering, naked as a jaybird, and here comes Rahm Emanuel, not even with a towel wrapped around his tush, poking his finger in my chest, yelling at me because I wasn't gonna vote for the president's budget," Massa said. "Do you know how awkward it is to have a political argument with a naked man? ... It's ridiculous."

He added, "By the way, what the heck is he doing in the congressional gym? He goes there to intimidate members of Congress."

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, on Tuesday's "Good Morning America" told ABC's George Stephanopoulos, "I think this whole story is ridiculous. I think the latest excuse is silly and ridiculous. ... We're focused not on crazy allegations, but instead of making this system work for the American people, rather than work for insurance companies."

This won't go away soon. Massa is booked on Larry King and Glenn Beck.

WASHINGTON--My take on the chatter surrounding Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod over at ABC's "Top Line."

WASHINGTON--Former President Bill Clinton will pinch hit for President Obama at the March 20 Gridiron Club and Foundation spring dinner.

Clinton will substitute for Obama because Obama and First Lady Michelle will be on a swing to Indonesia, Guam and Australia in March. The club marks its 125th annual dinner this year.

The Gridiron Club is an association of print and broadcast Washington journalists whose active membership is limited to 65. Each spring the club sponsors a white-tie dinner which features a show put on by club members. Keeping to the journalists' club motto to "singe, not burn,' skits lampoon journalists and the figures they cover. In addition to Clinton, there will also be Democratic and Republican speakers; Sen.Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Ut.)

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) were the headliners at the Gridiron 2009 winter dinner.

The 124th annual dinner of the Gridiron Club featured Vice President Biden and two prominent governors who could never be president because they were not born in the U.S.--Democrat Jennifer Granholm of Michigan and Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger of California

WASHINGTON--Rahm Emanuel and now David Axelrod tenure as President Obama's top advisors continue to generate news and columns questioning their effectiveness. I think any suggestion there is any split between Emanuel and Axelrod is silly. They were friends before they met the Obamas and that trumps whatever problems the Obama White House is facing.

The latest on Emanuel from the New York Times reporter Peter Baker in the Times Magazine, out this weekend in print but posted online today. Read "The Limits of Rahmism" here.

The paradox of the current situation for Obama and Emanuel has not been lost on Washington. A visionary outsider who is relatively inexperienced and perhaps even a tad naïve about the ways of Washington captures the White House and, eager to get things done, hires the ultimate get-it-done insider to run his operation. Obama was enough of a student of history to avoid repeating the mistakes of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, who came to reform the capital and installed friends from home who did not truly understand it as their top White House aides. But if picking the leading practitioner of the dark arts of the capital was a Faustian bargain for Obama in the name of getting things done, why haven't things got done?

David Corn, over at Politics Daily, ponders Rahm-as-scapegoat angle.

Practically every popcorn movie about the White House features a diabolical chief of staff. And Emanuel seems well cast for the part: the drama, the cursing, the bird of prey looks. There's also his politics. Ever since his service in the Clinton White House, Emanuel, a former investment banker, has been regarded (fairly or not) as a foe of progressive policy moves that don't have an obvious and immediate political gain.
So he's a natural scapegoat for frustrated Democrats. A

Very witty and spot on from New York Magazine, "How to Write a Rahm Profile."

Moving on from Emanuel, Mark Leibovich, in a front page Sunday New York Times story, dissects senior advisor David Axelrod, in a piece headlined, "Message Maven Finds Fingers Pointing at Him."

No one has taken the perceived failings of the administration more personally or shown the strain as plainly as Mr. Axelrod, who as White House senior adviser oversees every aspect of how Mr. Obama is presented. As such, Mr. Axelrod, the president's mustachioed message maven, has felt the brunt of criticism over what many view as the administration's failure to clearly define and disseminate Mr. Obama's agenda and accomplishments for the country.

"The Obama White House has lost the narrative in the way that the Obama campaign never did," said James Morone, a political scientist at Brown University. "They essentially took the president's great strength as a messenger and failed to use it smartly."

easter egg design.jpeg

Click below for details....

WASHINGTON--Vice President Biden and his wife Jill landed in Israel on Monday, for a Middle East swing taking them to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Jordan and Ramallah and Bethlehem on the Palestinian West Bank. The Biden plane landed at 4:08 p.m. Israeli time.

The vice president and Dr. Biden have busy schedules; click below for details.

On Thursday, from the White House Biden "will a deliver a speech at Tel Aviv University entitled "The Enduring Partnership Between the United States and Israel." Afterwards, the Vice President will answer questions from university students in the audience."

Rahm Emanuel's Obama drama


WASHINGTON--"I am not like carving out little pieces of his presidency to get my agenda done," Rahm Emanuel told me when we talked about his year as President Obama's chief of staff. He knew exactly why he was in the White House and what his job was. Emanuel added, "This is all his presidency, his agenda, and that is who I am serving."

I pulled out my Jan. 11 interview with Emanuel as recent stories and columns in the Washington Post triggered snowballing pundit chatter about the tenure of Emanuel, a former Chicago congressman. This is a new narrative, and it is frustrating the Obama White House, which is not used to such drama.

WASHINGTON--Illinois Democratic Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias will attend, his campaign confirmed to me, a White House reception Tuesday night hosted by President Obama and First Lady Michelle to mark Greek Independence day.

Earlier Tuesday, Obama meets with Prime Minister Papandreou of Greece at the White House.

Obama March 8, 2010 week ahead

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From the White House....

Steven Koch, Appointee for Member, Recovery Independent Advisory Panel

Steven Koch is a Vice Chairman and Co-Chairman of Credit Suisse's Mergers and Acquisitions Group. He joined Credit Suisse in 1985. Mr. Koch also teaches in the Director's Consortium, a semi-annual seminar he helped to organize, that is sponsored by the Amos Tuck School of Business Administration at Dartmouth, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Stanford Law School. He serves as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Sinai Health System in Chicago and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Greater Chicago Food Depository, The Board of Trustees of the Francis W. Parker School and the Green Ribbon Committee of the Chicago Climate Action Plan. Mr. Koch received his J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School, his M.B.A. from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and his B.A. from Hampshire College.

WASHINGTON--Politico's Mike Allen is running excerpts from Karl Rove's new book, out next Tuesday: Now White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett and Rove were at the same table during the 2008 White House Correspondents Dinner.

Rove passage, via Allen:

From Rove: On April 26, 2008, I attended the White House Correspondents' Association dinner as a guest of Newsweek editor Jon Meacham. At the dinner, Jon sat between me and Valerie Jarrett ... During the dinner, Jarrett e-mailed Obama on her BlackBerry to let him know she was breaking bread with Satan himself. He e-mailed her back and Jarrett made the mistake of showing Jon and me his reply, which was 'Rove hates me.' I knew Senator Obama was alluding to our run-in over the passage in his book. I asked Jarrett to tell him I wasn't in the habit of hating people.' (p. 514-5)

WASHINGTON--White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel at the Thursday briefing and gave him a big vote of confidence: "The President greatly values the skills that Rahm brings to the job of White House Chief of Staff. I don't think there's anybody better suited in this job right now as we're trying to get health care reform through Congress," Gibbs said.

Q With all the stories leaking from the White House, is the President or Rahm Emanuel on the skids?

MR. GIBBS: No, the President -- (laughter) -- the President has --

Q What does the President think about all this?

MR. GIBBS: Well, look, the President has -- the President believed this in the campaign, the President believes this in the White House, that we all work together as a team, that we rise and fall together as one team. The President greatly values the skills that Rahm brings to the job of White House Chief of Staff. I don't think there's anybody better suited in this job right now as we're trying to get health care reform through Congress. And I don't think anybody that works in this building would say that there's anybody that works harder at getting -- at implementing the President's decisions than does the Chief of Staff.

Q So what's the problem?

MR. GIBBS: I think the problem is that right now we're in a very tough environment. Governing is hard because unemployment is way up. We have two wars. We have a lot of big things on our plate that we're trying to change on behalf of the American people.

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama discusses Desiree Rogers, Rahm Emanuel and President Obama's struggle to quit smoking in an interview with Politico's Nia-Malika Henderson.


"What the president struggles with is what every smoker struggles with, it's a difficult habit to break. It's understandable that he struggles with it. Do I want him to stop completely? Absolutely. And I will push him to do so, but it's a process," Mrs. Obama tells Politico.

"I've never been a smoker so I can't relate, but people who've smoked say like anything, you have dips and valleys, and to try to quit smoking in one of the most stressful times of the nation's history is sort of like, you know, OK, he's going to struggle a little bit. This may be the year he'll struggle," she said.

Mrs. Obama makes her first comments about Chicago friend Rogers, the departing White House Social Secretary:

"If you look at this year, this has been a phenomenal year, starting a year in a White House where nobody even knows where the bathrooms are, and then right away you have to start delivering great events, and every single event we have had at the White House has been stellar, and it's been because of the teamwork that has included Desiree. You can't look back on this year and be disappointed. She's done a great job. She came into this with a shorter-term perspective. Leaving the corporate world, she was always sort of ambivalent," Obama said.

"She is leaving us with a solid foundation. ... That's a decision that she had to make; ... she's been a terrific resource," Obama told Politico.

Mrs. Obama makes her first comments on the flurry of speculation--mostly in the Washington Post--about the role and tenure of Obama White House chief of staff Emanuel"

"Fortunately, Barack, he's a steady kind of person. He doesn't react drastically one way or the other to criticisms, or even to compliments, so he is able to maintain an important equilibrium with regard to a lot of things that are important in times of trouble, and he stands by his entire staff, including the chief of staff, because he is proud of the work that everyone has done," Mrs. Obama said.

Democratic Illinois Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias spent 10 hours on Wednesday in eight interviews with Chicago print and broadcast outlets, taking questions about his family owned Broadway Bank. Giannoulias, 33, was a loan officer at the bank before he was elected treasurer in November, 2006. The community bank is likely to fail and GOP Illinois Senate contender Rep. Mark Steven Kirk (R-Ill.) is making a major issue of Giannoulias tenure at the bank.

Sun-Times political writer Abdon Pallasch Giannoulias and Broadway Bank news story is here.

Giannoulias at the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board audio is here.

Sun-Times real estate writer David Roeder's primer on Broadway Bank is here.

Sun-Times editorial is here.

Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown on Giannoulias is here.

Giannoulias at WTTW-TV with Carol Marin, below.

WASHINGTON--Now David Broder, the sage Washington Post poltiical columnist, is weighing in on Obama White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel in a Thursday column titled "The Fable of Rahm the Great," the latest installment of the Emanuel saga.

Broder's lede: "In the space of 10 days, thanks in no small part to my own newspaper, the president of the United States has been portrayed as a weakling and a chronic screw-up who is wrecking his administration despite everything that his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, can do to make things right."

Background on Rahm Emanuel Obama Drama:

My Wednesday post summary to date...

WASHINGTON--The Rahmologists get another fix on Wednesday, this time via a story in the New Republic by Noam Scheiber about White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel titled, "The Chief. You think it's so great being Rahm Emanuel?"

This follows two stories in the Washington Post that have now spawned a narrative the White House can live without--whither Rahm? Read my Tuesday post, "Rahm Emanuel Obama Drama" for more background and links.

WASHINGTON--President Obama on Wednesday called for Democrats to pass health care with the controversial legislative manuever known as reconciliation. That means in the Senate a simple majority, 51 votes would be needed instead of a filibuster-proof 60 votes and the Democrats could move a bill without needing any GOP support.

Patricia Murphy over at explains how reconciliation tactics could work. Read her report here.



Democratic Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias appeared before the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board on Wednesday morning to talk about his role as a loan officer in the troubled family-owned Broadway Bank. GOP rival Rep. Mark Steven Kirk is making the bank a central issue in the campaign. The story by Chicago Sun-Times political writer Abdon Pallasch is here. Giannoulias is also meeting with the Chicago Tribune editorial board this morning.

The Giannoulias campaign on Wednesday morning sent out a release taking note of Giannoulias meetings at the two papers and the launching of a website named, to" fight the lies being circulated by Republicans and their surrogates."

WASHINGTON--The Rahmologists get another fix on Wednesday, this time via a story in the New Republic by Noam Scheiber about White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel titled, "The Chief. You think it's so great being Rahm Emanuel?"

This follows two stories in the Washington Post that have now spawned a narrative the White House can live without--whither Rahm? Read my Tuesday post, "Rahm Emanuel Obama Drama" for more background and links.

WASHINGTON--While it looks like President Obama will not get a free standing consumer financial products safety commission, the Senate at least is poised to fold it into the Federal Reserve. Americans for Financial Reform--led by former Chicagoan Heather Booth--worked with the comedy teams over at Funny or Die to enlist a cadre of Saturday Night Live current and former actors--who portray living and dead presidents--in a funny skit about the need for Congress to pass financial reform legislation. The cast, in a historic reunion, includes Will Ferrell, Chevy Chase, Ron Howard, Jim Carrey, Fred Armisen, Darrell Hammond, Dan Aykroyd, Maya Rudolph, Dana Carvey and Antonio Scarlata.

WASHINGTON--Last year President Obama signed an executive order creating a task force on Puerto Rico's status. The group is meeting in San Juan on Wednesday.

Click below for opening statement from the Justice Department

Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, awaiting trial this summer on federal corruption charges, and in the meantime appearing on "Celebrity Apprentice," appeared at Northwestern University on Tuesday to talk about ethics. He was invited by a Northwestern student who is part of the Young Democrats club. Here is the report by my Sun-Times colleague Natasha Korecki on how Blagojevich was greeted with laughs and boos--and told the kids he never cheated in school.

WASHINGTON--Ways and Means Committee Chair Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), under ethics probes, announced Wednesday morning that he will take a leave of absence as chairman until the House ethics committee finish its investigation.

WASHINGTON--Illinois Democratic Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias will face the editorial boards of the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune on Wednesday to answer questions about his connections to his family-owned troubled Broadway Bank.

Giannoulias, the state treasurer, has to factor into his campaign the potential for the bank to fail in the coming weeks as his GOP rival Rep. Mark Steven Kirk (R-Ill.), makes the Giannoulias tenure at the bank as a loan officer a central part of his campaign. On Tuesday, the Kirk campaign sent out a memo titled, "Mounting questions surrounding Alexi Giannoulias' risky lending practices take center stage in Illinois Senate race."

My Chicago Sun-Times colleague Abdon Pallasch points out that Giannoulias has been answering questions about the "the loans for four years, ever since his first run for office. Never gleefully or enthusiastically. He often tries to beg off questions by noting he has not been at the bank in four years. But over the years, when pressed, he has admitted he made loans to mobsters and said if he had known they were mobsters he would not have made the loans. Watch video of Giannnoulias answering questions in December before the Sun-Times editorial board at the bottom of the Pallasch report.

WASHINGTON--White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel huddled with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the Capitol on Tuesday afternoon, I've learned. Emanuel met with congressional leaders in advance of President Obama on Wednesday unveiling his latest health care push, to come at 1:45 p.m. eastern time in the East Room of the White House. Emanuel also met with Pelosi in her office on Friday.

Obama on Tuesday sent a letter to GOP and Democratic House and Senate leaders telling them he will back four GOP ideas offered at the bipartisan summit he organized last week at the Blair House. Obama and the Democrats are moving forward without GOP backing, but do want to be in the position of saying they are folding Republican concepts in the bill-which has not yet been finalized.

Here's guidance from the White House on the Wednesday event:

Tomorrow afternoon at the White House, the President will deliver remarks about moving forward into the final stage of the health insurance reform debate. He'll reiterate why reform is so crucial and what it will mean for American families and businesses: they'll have more control over their own health care, they'll see lower costs , and they'll see an end to insurance company abuses. He'll note that his proposal includes the best ideas from both parties, and he'll restate his preference for a comprehensive bill that will reduce premiums and end discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions. He'll urge Congress to move swiftly toward votes on this legislation.

In the East Room, Obama will be joined by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will attend and a group of health professionals.

Updated Wednesday with video....

WASHINGT0N--On Sunday, President Obama was told by his doctor after his annual physical to watch his cholestrol. On Tuesday, in Savannah, Ga. Obama stopped at a restaurant for a full plate of Southern cooking. He joked to the press, "I don't want any
lectures about my cholesterol. Don't tell Michelle".

The menu, according to the pool report: fried chicken, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, cream corn, biscuits, corn bread, macaroni salad, turnips, green beans, BBQ pulled pork, blueberry pudding and banana pudding.

WASHINGTON--Look for Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) getting active on the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" issue. On Wednesday, Burris will be at a press conference with other Senators who are taking a lead on gays serving openly in the military: Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Carl Levin, Mark Udall and Kirsten Gillibrand.

Rahm Emanuel Obama drama

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WASHINGTON--Would President Obama be better off if he listened more to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel's advice? Are there rifts in the Obama White House? Triggered by two stories in the Washington Post about Emanuel, these questions are hanging out there. The front page above the fold Washington Post on Tuesday was headlined, "Hotheaded Emanuel may be White House voice of reason." But the latest Emanuel narrative was started on Feb. 21 with a Dana Milbank column, "Why Obama needs Rahm."

Excerpt from March 2 Washington Post story on Rahm Emanuel:
Hotheaded Emanuel may be White House voice of reason
"But a contrarian narrative is emerging: Emanuel is a force of political reason within the White House and could have helped the administration avoid its current bind if the president had heeded his advice on some of the most sensitive subjects of the year: health-care reform, jobs and trying alleged terrorists in civilian courts.

It is a view propounded by lawmakers and early supporters of President Obama who are frustrated because they think the administration has gone for the perfect at the expense of the plausible."

Marc Ambinder over at, puts a lot of this together in his analysis, "Rahmology: The Chief Of Staff Seeks Cover."

Milbank, by the way, said"> Emanuel was not a source for his column.

The Emanuel "toxic meme," Dan Froomkin's take at the Huffington Post: Here's an excerpt: The latest toxic meme to spread across the pages of my once-beloved Washington Post is that President Obama's Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, is the one reasonable man in the White House. [...]

But Emanuel is not the would-be savior of this presidency. For one thing, there really isn't that much daylight between him and his boss, or between him and his top White House colleagues. Had things gone even more his way, it's possible that he would have squelched a few more of what few bursts of idealism and principle survived Inauguration. But people looking for the reasons why the Obama presidency has not lived up to its promise won't find the answer amid the minor rifts between key players. Nor will they find the answer in how well or poorly this White House has played the game of politics. The fact is that after a campaign that appealed so successfully to idealism, Obama hired a bunch of saboteurs of hope and change. ...


WASHINGTON--Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is in New York City on Monday, hosting a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee fund-raiser at noon. While in Manhattan, Durbin dropped in at MSNBC's "Morning Joe" show where he discussed the health care bill prospects andsaid it was hard to see how Sen. John McCain (R-Az.) was "brainwashed" over the bank bailout deal.

WASHINGTON--Canada's hockey victory over the U.S. in a 3-2 overtime win for the gold was viewed by President Obama, reported White House press secretary Robert Gibbs via Twitter.

"Wow unreal game...POTUS watched OT in his office right off the Oval Office - all of us are so proud of our great team," Gibbs wrote.

The win, which handed Canada a record 14 gold winter Olympic medals--though the U.S. had more overall medals, a record 37, a storyline that should make everyone happy---means Obama owes Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper a case of beer.

Harper bet if the U.S. won, Harper would send Obama some Yuengling beer. Obama now owes Harper some bottles or cans of Molson Canadian

gold silver bronze total
1. United States 9 15 13 37
2. Germany 10 13 7 30
3. Canada 14 7 5 26

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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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