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April 2010 Archives


WASHINGTON -- Admitting he had no evidence, Sen. John Cornyn, who runs the Senate GOP political operation, suggested Thursday that the White House may try to force Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias out of the race -- speculation that was flatly denied by White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod.


WASHINGTON -- In the wake of a new Arizona law aimed at illegal immigrants, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) on Saturday is going to join demonstrators at the White House who will likely be arrested for their protests.

He expects to be booked and released. Gutierrez will be a guest on "Face The Nation" on CBS this Sunday morning

Gutierrez -- arrested twice in 2001 protesting the Navy's use of the Puerton Rican island of Vieques for bombing practice -- will take part in civil disobedience "to keep the pressure up on President Obama and the leaders of the Democratic party," said Gutierrez spokesman Doug Rivlin.

Gutierrez has been outspoken in his criticism of the White House for not moving faster on a comprehensive immigration bill. "When you don't keep the pressure on and you sort of lose hope that we are going to have a bill this year, things like Arizona happen, and you are reminded why we need to keep moving forward," Rivlin said.

Last Sunday, Gutierrez was in Phoenix at a rally objecting to the new law that would allow police, in certain circumstances, to ask people for papers showing they are in the U.S. legally.

WASHINGTON--President Obama gave Democratic Illinois Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias a shout out while in Quincy, Ill. to deliver a speech on Wall Street greed and the need for the GOP to help pass his package of financial system reforms.

Giannoulias, attending in his official roll as the Illinois state treasurer was called a
a "soon-to-be senator" by Obama while making introductions in his speech. This morning, White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton said not to expect a shout-out because the event was governmental, not political.

WASHINGTON--Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine said Wednesday there is a "civil war" within the GOP.

Kaine made his remarks at a lunch sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, where he discussed the new DNC program to energize for the November mid-term elections some 15 million first time voters the Obama campaign recruited in 2008.

Republicans are wrestling with Tea Party activists, an "energy" Democrats take seriously, Kaine said. Unlike Republicans, Democrats, Kaine said are unified.

"We don't have a civil war going on within the Democratic Party. You know, we know who our leader is, it is the President. The other side has a civil war, that is 'who is our leader, which faction are we going to follow' and the other side tends to have a little more of a litmus test- 'if you are not with us, we are going to throw you out.'


WASHINGTON--President Obama is in Quincy, Ill. today to deliver a speech on Wall Street reform--where he will probably beat up Senate Republicans for blocking the Democratic financial reform bill. To push back, Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) who represents a neighboring district, will be part of a conference call to comment on Obama's Illinois visit.

Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee on Wednesday released an Illinois-specific memo (click below) slamming the impact of Obama policies.

WASHINGTON--All Illinois House members--not being loony in an election year--did not support Congress getting a cost of living raise in fiscal year 2011 in a Tuesday vote. The pay raise measure failed on a 402-15 vote.

Click below for the names of the 15....

OFA wall street.jpg

WASHINGTON--Senate Democrats--for a second time--on Tuesday could not muster enough votes to debate their Wall Street reform measure--with every Republican voting no. Democrats are using the GOP no votes to rally their troops. A third vote is set for Wednesday and Senate Republicans are expected to again vote no.

No matter the GOP reasons for voting no--the White House and the Democrats are using the no votes to hit the GOP as being out of touch after the worst financial meltdown since the Depression.

The Democratic National Committee's Organizing for America operation--(the DNC absorbed the Obama for President campaign, which is why OFA uses the Obama campaign logo)---- on Tuesday night started sending e-mails to the millions on its mailing list. "OFA is taking an aggressive stance -- calling out the opponents of Wall Street reform by name in each state -- and ramping up grassroots pressure nationally," I was told. Also: OFA is planning a Day of Action on financial reform next week.

And on Wednesday morning, the Democratic National Committee released a spot titled "Risky Business" slamming Republicans for "taking the side of big Wall Street banks over the Main Street families."

The ad runs in Washington and on national cable outlets.

This comes as President Obama on Wednesday delivers a speech on the need for Wall Street reform in Quincy, Ill., the last leg on a "Wall Street to Main Street" Midwest swing-- that took him to Iowa and Missouri.

The Tuesday 57-to-41 roll call was not enough to block a filibuster. Democrats needed 60 votes to start floor debate.

WASHINGTON--Don't expect President Obama to give a campaign-related shoutout to Illinois Democratic Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias when Obama delivers a speech in Quincy on Wednesday because it is a government, not a political event, White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton said Tuesday.

Obama flew to the Midwest on Tuesday on a swing to include stops in Quincy and events in Iowa and Missouri.

Burton, during a briefing, was asked about Giannoulias, an Obama friend who is the Illinois state treasurer. Giannoulias will be in Quincy in his role as an elected official--not a candidate. All statewide elected officials in the states were invited.

Burton was asked, "Do you think the President is going to acknowledge his presence and talk a little bit about his campaign, which is sort of having some trouble at the moment," a reference to the failure last week of the family controlled Broadway Bank.

Replied Burton, "I don't think it would be appropriate for the President to talk about anybody's campaign at what are all official events."


In Chicago on Tuesday, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel tells the Chicago press corps, 'You guys gotta start drinking decaf,' after reporters asked him about his admission last week that one day he want to be Chicago mayor. Below, my Sun-Times colleagues report on Emanuel at the Richard J. Daley Global Cities Forum at the University of Illinois in Chicago.

BY ABDON M. PALLASCH AND FRAN SPIELMAN
Chicago Sun-Times Staff Reporters
CHICAGO--President Obama's Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel tried to tamp down talk about him running for Mayor of Chicago as he appeared Tuesday at the Richard J. Daley annual Global Cities Forum at UIC.

At the same time, Emanuel gave what might be construed as a window into how he would govern as mayor, advocating a regional approach, cooperating with suburbs to tackle problems. Emanuel shared the stage with mayors of Paris and Philadelphia.

"Emanuel has recently expressed an interest in being mayor of the city of Chicago AFTER Mayor Daley steps down," moderator Judy Woodruff said. "But the consensus is that before that happens he's going to have to get some real experience."

As laughter broke out, Emanuel said, "I'm smiling."

When reporters pressed him on the issue, Emanuel told them to calm down, implying it was their questions -- not his statement of interest in running for mayor on Charlie Rose' national talk show last week -- driving the discussion.

"You know we have our home here," Emanuel said, trying to beg off questions. "I can't wait. At some point in the future... Don't over-interpret anything. Don't everybody get excited. At some point, when we come back, which is always our goal, which is why we rented the house. ... You guys are way too excited. You guys gotta start drinking decaf."

for the rest of the story...

NBCChicago's Ward Room transcript of Emanuel exchange with reporters:


Reporter: "So is, is Mayor Emanuel something that sounds good to you?"

Rahm: "You guys are way too excited. You guys gotta start drinking decaf."

Reporter: "Has Blago subpoenaed you yet?"

Rahm: "Huh? No."

WASHINGTON--Greta Van Susteren talked to former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich about his defense strategy to try to subpoena President Obama for his criminal trial. Van Susteren interviewed Blagojevich at his North Side Chicago home.

Click below for transcript.

WASHINGTON--White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel--whose ambition is to one day be Chicago mayor--will be in Chicago Tuesday to appear on a panel for the Richard J. Daley Global Cities Forum, named for the late Chicago mayor who is the father of the current Chicago Mayor, Richard M. Daley.

Setting the record straight: Emanuel's Chicago homecoming--taking place a week after his first public admission of interest in a mayoral bid--is a coincidence. Emanuel was booked for the panel months ago, I'm told by his spokesman--long before Emanuel said, on the record last week to Charlie Rose that one day he wanted to run City Hall.

The global cities forum is co-sponsored by Chicago Sister Cities International and the University of Illinois at Chicago in conjunction with the World Organization of United Cities and Local Governments.


WASHINGTON-- Setting the record straight: Democratic Illinois Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias--the Illinois treasurer was invited--in his official role as a statewide elected official--to join President Obama at his Wednesday afternoon event in Quincy.

The Quincy stop--where Obama will deliver a speech on Wall Street reform--is on Obama's Illinois, Missouri and Iowa swing on Tuesday and Wednesday. Giannoulias will attend.

The invitations to all the Illinois statewide elected officials, from Gov. Quinn on down, came from the White House on Monday morning, sent by Chelsea Kammerer, Special Assistant to the Director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs ( a shop that at the top is overseen by White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett.)

The White House also invited Iowa and Missouri statewide elected officials to Obama stops in their states.

I know there is chatter out there that Giannoulias was somehow snubbed by the White House over the Quincy event that started last week, when Giannoulias said Quincy was not on his schedule. The chatter was fueled by the failure last week of his family-controlled Broadway Bank.

Obama is visiting Illinois, Missouri and Iowa on a government, not a political trip--though the White House will distribute some VIP tickets for local politicos.

Guidance from the White House: On Tuesday, the President will continue the White House to Main Street tour with stops in Iowa. In the early afternoon, he will tour Siemens Energy Inc Facility in Fort Madison and then share ideas with workers for continuing to grow the economy and to put Americans back to work. He will then make a stop in Mt. Pleasant. Later in the afternoon, President Obama will hold a town hall meeting in Ottumwa at Indian Hills Community College. On Wednesday, the President will hold events in Macon, Missouri and Quincy, Illinois. He will return to Washington, DC on Wednesday night.


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(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle, according to the White House on Friday, "have a chance encounter with other hikers while walking along a trail off the Blue Ridge Parkway outside of Asheville, N.C." Pete Souza, the White House chief photographer, only posted this photo at Whitehouse.gov and did not offer a wide shot that might have shown other people or security with the First Couple.

Below, the AP photo which shows all the support personnel on the hiking trail with the Obamas. While the White House official photo gives a close up of the First Couple, the news photo shows the context of the scene. Two pictures, two stories.

obama asheville2.jpeg

WASHINGTON--White House senior advisor David Axelrod in Los Angeles, was Jay Leno's guest Friday on NBC's "The Tonight Show." Leno flies to Washington to headline Saturday's White House Correspondents Association Dinner.

Axelrod on SEC porn

Axelrod on Biden using the F word

Axelrod calls President Obama

Broadway Bank closed

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In the wake of Rahm Emanuel eyeing City Hall one day, retiring Cook County Assessor James Houlihan talks to Carol Felsenthal about one day running for mayor over at Felsenthal Files at Chicago Magazine

As predicted in this blog, the White House on Friday confirmed President Obama will visit Quincy, Ill. next week.

Blagojevich subpoenas Durbin

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Mayor Daley has no problems with Rahm Emanuel's ambition to one day be Chicago mayor, my Chicago Sun-Times colleague Fran Spielman is reporting after Daley spoke to reporters on Friday.

"No, he's not stepping on my toes," Daley says. "He's a good friend of mine. I think it was something that he should be proud of, that someday he would like to be mayor. I didn't give him any advice. I don't give people advice. I don't advise people. I'm not their advisor. But there's nothing wrong with people having a commitment to public service."

Video courtesy NBCChicago's Ward Room


WASHINGTON--Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) who has been quarterbacking the Illinois Senate bid of Democratic nominee Alexi Giannoulias, asked White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel for help and did not get any promise of assistance.

That's according to a Politico story by Glenn Thrush and Manu Raju. Excerpt:

"At the moment, the White House seems open to the idea of losing Obama's old seat rather than putting the president's prestige on the line for Giannoulias, the brash and boyish Illinois state treasurer -- and onetime Obama basketball buddy -- whose campaign has been rocked by the financial meltdown of his family's bank."

Read the rest here.


By NATASHA KORECKI and CHRIS FUSCO
Chicago Sun-Times Staff Reporters

CHICAGO--Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's lawyers asked a federal judge today to force President Obama to testify at Blagojevich's upcoming corruption trial, asserting that Obama played more of a role in the process of selecting someone to replace him in the U.S. Senate than Obama has acknowledged.

On the day before he was elected president, then-Sen. Obama personally called a union official about his desire for Blagojevich to appoint Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett to replace him in the Senate, according to Blagojevich's defense filing in U.S. District Court in Chicago.

grove park inn resort and spa.jpg (photo: Grove Park Inn)

The Obama family is headed to the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, N.C.

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich wants to subpoena President Obama to testify at his June criminal corruption trial, my Chicago Sun-Times colleague Natasha Korecki is reporting over at her Blago Blog.

WASHINGTON--White House executive chef Christeta Comerford keynotes an evening of culinary mastery and healthy living" at Northwestern University on Friday, hitting the Evanston campus. Obamafoodorama explains more over here; Northwestern provides details of the Comerford event, sponsored by NU's Filipino Student Association; co-Sponsored by Multicultural Student Affairs, ECO, Food Health Initiative (FHI), One Book One Northwestern, SEED.

WASHINGTON -- Two more contenders with Chicago ties surfaced Wednesday on President Obama's Supreme Court nominee short list: federal appeals Judge Ann Williams and Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

Of the 10 leading potential nominees to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens -- a Chicago native -- five have significant Chicago links: Williams, on the Chicago-based U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals; Diane Wood, also on the 7th Circuit; Solicitor General Elena Kagan, a former professor at the University of Chicago Law School; the Lincolnwood-raised Merrick Garland on the D.C Court of Appeals, and Minow, a New Trier East graduate, class of 1972.

WASHINGTON--President Obama pressures Wall Street Thursday on his financial reform package.

Obama is expected to say in his speech: "I believe in a strong financial sector that helps people to raise capital and get loans and invest their savings. But a free market was never meant to be a free license to take whatever you can get, however you can get it. That is what happened too often in the years leading up to the crisis. Some on Wall Street forgot that behind every dollar traded or leveraged, there is family looking to buy a house, pay for an education, open a business, or save for retirement. What happens here has real consequences across our country."

WASHINGTON---President Obama on Wednesday tapped a Chicago federal prosecutor, Edmond E. Chang, for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.


"Edmond Chang is an excellent candidate," said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who as senior senator from the state established a bipartisan screening judicial panel to evaluate potential judges.

"Throughout his career, Chang has demonstrated an exceptional commitment to public service, and if confirmed will become the first Asian-American federal judge in Illinois. I was honored to recommend his name to President Obama. His extensive experience and distinguished record will be an asset to the Northern District of Illinois' bench," Durbin said.

Chang is now Chief of Appeals for the the U.S. Attorney's Criminal Division. The Northwestern Law School graduate earlier was an associate in the Chicago office of Sidley Austin.



from the White House...


Edmond E. Chang: Nominee for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois

Edmond E. Chang is an Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, Chicago office, where he has represented the government in criminal cases at the trial and appellate levels since 1999. Since 2005, he has served as Chief of Appeals for the Criminal Division, and he previously served as Deputy Chief of the General Crimes section. From 1997 to 1999, he was an associate in the Chicago office of Sidley Austin LLP, where he practiced in labor and employment litigation. After law school, Chang was a law clerk to the Honorable James L. Ryan of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and then for the Honorable Marvin E. Aspen of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Since 1996, he has served as an adjunct professor of law at Northwestern University School of Law teaching civil rights litigation. Chang received his B.S.E. in Aerospace Engineering (cum laude) in 1991 from the University of Michigan, and his J.D. (cum laude) in 1994 from Northwestern University School of Law.

##

A federal judge in Chicago on Wednesday nixed a request from indicted former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to play all 500 hours of wiretaps at his corruption trial. The Chicago Sun-Times Natasha Korecki has the latest Blagojevich story.


Video courtesty NBC Chicago

WASHINGTON--Chicago Olympian speed skating star Shani Davis and other Olympians visit the White House and Capitol Hill on Wednesday. Davis--a Chicagoan who trained in Evanston will be meeting with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and wil be at events with First Lady Michelle Obama.

Click below for details.

WASHINGTON -- Chicago political tea readers were pondering on Tuesday what was behind the timing of White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel's admission to PBS' Charlie Rose that he wants to run for mayor of Chicago when Mayor Daley quits.

After all, Emanuel tried mightily in January to douse chatter about his mayoral ambitions when such talk first surfaced. The staunch Daley loyalist said then he hoped Daley would run for another term in February 2011.

WASHINGTON--White House Deputy spokesman Bill Burton, reacting to Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel saying that he wants to run for Chicago mayor when Mayor Daley quits during a gaggle on Air Force One:

Q What is your reaction to Rahm running for mayor?

MR. BURTON: Look, we all serve at the pleasure of the President, and Rahm very much enjoys the work that he does as Chief of Staff. He was talking about a scenario where if Mayor Daley doesn't run for reelection, but we all know that Mayor Daley is running for reelection. It's something that many kids in Chicago dream of growing up to be a mayor, so it's one of the great jobs in American politics. But it's just an ambition -- when I was a kid I wanted to be an astronaut. Gibbs probably wants to ride in the Tour de France. That doesn't mean we're all leaving the White House to go and do --

Q Does the President think that Rahm Emanuel would be a good mayor of Chicago?

MR. BURTON: I think the President thinks that Rahm Emanuel is a great chief of staff and enjoys having him in that job right now. Maybe "enjoy" is the wrong word. (Laughter.)

Okay, thanks.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn in Chicago on Rahm Emanuel running for mayor of Chicago

>

Video courtesy of NBC Chicago "Ward Room."

WASHINGTON--White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel--who wants to run for Chicago Mayor when Mayor Daley quits--has more than a million dollars in a political warchest he could use for an election bid.

Upon becoming chief of staff, Emanuel never dissolved his "Friends of Rahm Emanuel" fund created to bankroll his House campaigns and related political activities. As of the last filing--Aprl 15, 2010--Emanuel's fund had $1,175,109.76 in it. Under federal rules, the money could be transferred to a mayoral campaign.

Obama hitting Illinois next week

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WASHINGTON--President Obama will return to Illinois for a brief visit next week, on an April 27-28 swing to include Missouri and Iowa. The Obama stop will be in a rural, not urban part of the state, perhaps the Quincy area.

Here's the White House guidance:

"During the visit, President Obama will meet with workers, farmers, small business owners, and local leaders to share ideas for continuing to grow the economy and to put Americans back to work. President Obama will spend time in these areas to hear about the challenges rural Americans face and to listen to their ideas for working together to turn the economy around."

WASHINGTON -- White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who in January tried to quash stories about a future Chicago mayoral bid, on Monday put his interest in City Hall on the record: "One day I would like to run for mayor of the city of Chicago."

Emanuel made his comment on the ''Charlie Rose'' show, taped in Manhattan.

After damping talk about a mayoral run in January, Rose resurrected the issue when he asked Emanuel what other government jobs he would be interested in if he left the White House.

"I hope Mayor Daley seeks re-election. I will work and support him if he seeks re-election," said Emanuel, 50. "But if Mayor Daley doesn't, one day I would like to run for mayor of the City of Chicago. That's always been an aspiration of mine even when I was in the House of Representatives."

Sarah Palin in Peoria

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WASHINGTON--Sarah Palin spoke Saturday in Washington, Ill., a small town near Peoria. The Peoria Journal Star Sarah Palin story is here.

Lynn Sweet column on Sarah Palin's first Illinois public appearence is here.

Excerpt of Feb. 21 column: Will Sarah Palin play in Peoria? Except for a brief stop in Chicago to tape an Oprah Winfrey show last November, Palin's first public appearance in Illinois will be April 17 in Washington, a town of about 14,000 near Peoria.

WASHINGTON--The Securities and Exchange Commission sued Goldman Sachs and one of its vice presidents for allegedly misstating and omitting key facts about a financal instrument called a collateralized debt obligation.

Here's what I wrote on Oct. 8, 2008 about a 2007 private dinner then Sen. Barack Obama had with Goldman Sachs executives with Tom Brokaw:

WASHINGTON--On May 3, 2007, Barack Obama attended an event at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan that was not on his public schedule and is only now surfacing--a private dinner for Goldman Sachs traders with a discussion on issues moderated for the Wall Street firm by NBC's Tom Brokaw.

Brokaw is the moderator of Tuesday's second presidential debate between Obama and John McCain at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn.

The dinner was not a fund-raiser for Obama, then in the early stages of his Democratic primary campaign launched February, 2007. Brokaw interviewed Obama for about 45 minutes on mostly international issues. Brokaw received an honorarium, donated to charity. The Obama campaign called the event a "moderated conversation" when I inquired on Monday.

Brokaw's appearance was arranged through Goldman Sachs--not the Obama campaign. It was the only session Brokaw did for Goldman. Brokaw's honorarium was given to a charity.

The employees of Goldman Sachs collectively would go on to become the top contributors to the Obama campaign.

For Goldman Sachs and Obama complete post, click here.

WASHINGTON--Oprah Winfrey biographer Kitty Kelley, who lives here, hits Oprah's town on Monday for a series of interviews and book signings.

Her sked:

--CBS-2 "Monsters and Money" WBBM-TV 6:15am
--"Don Wade & Roma" WLS Radio-890AM 7:00am
--"Mancow Muller Show" 8:00-9:00am
--WGN-TV 9 Midday News 11:30AM
--ABC-7 Noon WLS-TV
[Borders Book Signing 12:30-2:00, 150 North State St]
--Chicago Tonight WTTW-TV 4pm
[Borders Book Signing 7-9pm, 1500 16th Street

Obama week ahead

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michelle mex13.jpg

michelle mex14.jpg

(Official White House Photos by Samantha Appleton)
MEXICO CITY--First Lady Michelle Obama was the guest of honor in a dinner Wednesday night hosted by Mexican First Lady Margarita Zavala and husband, Mexico President Felope Calderon at Los Pinos, the presidential residence.

This was the third outfit of the day for both women.

michelle mex10.JPGFirst Lady Michelle Obama boarding aircraft Thursday at Mexico City (photo by Lynn Sweet)

Pool report by Lynn Sweet

MEXICO CITY--First Lady Michelle Obama wrapped up her first solo international official trip on Thursday, with wheels up from Benito Juarez International Airport at 12:01 p.m. local time, en route to San Diego, Calif.

Mrs. Obama's motocade zipped from La Hacienda de los Morales to the airport on empty highways, arriving at 11:30 a.m. and proceeding to the Presidential Hangar.

A few minutes later, at 11:36 a.m., Mrs. Obama emerged from the terminal, accompanied by a Mexican protocol deputy, to be serenaded by a waiting group of boys and girls. She was wearing the same white pants and ivory jacket she had on during her morning roundtable with a group of a dozen Mexican youth leaders. She listened with cupped hands and clapped when the kids were done with two songs, in English and Spanish.

The songsters waving U.S. and Mexican flags were members of the Christel House choir, called the Polyphonic Chorus, a U.S. Embassy official told your pooler. The adorable children wore uniforms--blue jumpers and tan shirts for girls, blue sleeveless sweaters, blue pants and tan shirts for boys. Christel House was founded to help impoverished children.

President Obama and First Lady released their 2009 federal and State of Illinois income tax returns on Thursday; they reported adjusted gross income of $ 5,505,409 out of $6,114,931 total income. They donated $329,100 to 40 different charities.

Their return was prepared by the Chicago firm of Wineberg Solheim Howell & Shain, PC and signed by the Obamas on April 7.

Main link to the returns is here,where you can find links to the charities Obama donated his $1.4 million Nobel Peace Prize to.

michelle mex 8.JPG (photo by Lynn Sweet)

MEXICO CITY--First Lady Michelle Obama on Thursday morning hosted a roundtable discussion with a dozen young Mexicans from around the country, each telling their own personal, passionate story about how they are trying to help their communities.

Mrs. Obama was seated around a long table at the historic La Hacienda de los Morales, a restaurant and event venue dating back to the Spanish here in the 16th century. A U.S. State Department translator perched next to Mrs. Obama translated as the "stories" were told in Spanish. The press was provided simul-cast translations via a woman sitting at a table in a glass booth; transmitted via wireless devices with ear phones.

Said Mrs. Obama, who seemed taken with the personal stories: There is "power in their voices," she told the group. The U.S. Embassy in Mexico assembled the panel.

The don't need Bill Gates, they don't need Michelle Obama, Mrs. Obama said in praise.

Mrs. Obama, who flew from Washington to Haiti on Tuesday in her first solo international swing to tour the destruction from the Jan. 12 earthquake, said her parting thought to young people: learn the virtue of patience.

"When I went to Haiti, the only thing that happens in an instant is destruction."

MEXICO CITY--First Lady Michelle Obama debuted on Wednesday her international "youth engagement" agenda during a speech to college and high school students here. In an interview with six print reporters--counting me--Mrs. Obama said she wasn't sure how her youth agenda will develop. Read my column on Mrs. Obama's appeal to Mexico's youth here.


MEXICO CITY -- On her first trip to Mexico, first lady Michelle Obama on Wednesday talked about Chicago's Mexican-American communities in Pilsen, Little Village and the Southeast Side.

"Growing up in Chicago on the South Side, I lived next to one of the largest Mexican-American communities in the city," Mrs. Obama said in a session with six print journalists following her in Mexico.

MEXICO CITY--President Obama tapped Darryl McPherson to be U.S. Marshal for the Chicago-based Northern District of Illinois federal court. McPherson was the lead deputy Marshall for Judge Joan Lefkow after her husband was killed.

below, from the White House....

Darryl K. McPherson: Nominee for United States Marshal, Northern District of Illinois

Darryl McPherson is currently employed by the Department of Justice working for the U.S. Marshals Service in Chicago as Judicial Security Inspector. He has been with the Marshals Service since 1997. Mr. McPherson started as Deputy U.S. Marshal out of the Mobile, Alabama office until 1999 when he was promoted to his current position in Chicago. Mr. McPherson received his Bachelor of Science in Political Science from Spring Hill College in 1997.

michelle mex7.JPG Michelle Obama at the Universidad Iberamericana (photo by Lynn Sweet)

MEXICO CITY--At a university here, First Lady Michelle Obama on Wednesday urged a group of Mexican students to "ensure that other young people have the opportunities they deserve," a variation of a theme that is a standard in most of her speeches.

She spoke at the Universidad Iberamericana in the Santa Fe area of the city, near high rises housing corporate headquarters, condos and a U.S-style shopping mall. About 2,000 invited students--from a variety of high schools and other universities-- crowded into courtyard at the Jesuit School, decorated with giant Mexican and U.S. flags.

developing...more to come...check back....

michelle mex6.JPG (photo by Lynn Sweet)
Mrs. Obama delivering speech at Universidad Iberoamericana

Click below for prepared remarks...

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Michelle Obama with children in the schoolyard of the Jan. 7 school in the Alvaro Obregon neighborhood in Mexico city. (photo by Lynn Sweet)

michelle mex4.JPGU.S. First Lady Michelle Obama and Mexican First Lady Margarita Zavala in the courtyard of the National Museum of Anthropology (photo by Lynn Sweet)


MEXICO CITY--The kids in the yard of an elementary school here chanted First Lady Michelle Obama's name "Mi-che-elle," as a big banner with red letters welcomed here, Bienvenida Sra. Obama."

The kids danced, sang and played games for the first lady, who at one point joined in. Near the end, she said she was not "leaving withouth a hug" and the kids flocked to oblige.

Updated with statements from Los Pinos, the Mexican presidential residence....

MEXICO CITY--U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama met for about 45 minutes Wednesday morning with Mexican First Lady Margarita Zavala to talk about drug treatment. This is a sensitive area, since the Mexican government blames the U.S. drug market--the customers--for fueling drug cartel wars in Mexico. The Obama administration will soon be releasing a new policy outlining specific proposals to reduce drug demand in the U.S.

East Wing statement: "The First Lady met with Mrs Margarita Zavala, First Lady of Mexico this morning at Los Pinos, the Mexican presidential residence and offices. The First Ladies discussed a series of issues of importance to young people in both the United States and Mexico, including drug addiction treatment and early prevention programs and the importance of the humane treatment of unaccompanied migrant children. Mrs Obama and Mrz Zavala underscored the importance of engaging families and communities in tackling the challenges facing young people in both countries as a key to helping build a better future for the United States and Mexico."

MEXICO CITY--First Lady Michelle Obama will take some time during her trip here to give interviews to the reporters covering her visit.

Here is a part of the Mrs. Obama media plan. Later today, Mrs. Obama will do a group interview with the print reporters trailing her, after a speech on "youth engagement" at a university. I'll be in the gang.

She will also be doing one-on-ones with three English U.S. networks. On Thursday, she will talk to Spanish language outlets. The interviews will be in English but I'm told Mrs. Obama will have a translator with her to translate her answers into Spanish.

PRINT AND BROADCAST OUTLETS COVERING MRS. OBAMA IN MEXICO

Chicago Sun-Times/Politics Daily
Chicago Tribune
Washington Post
New York Times
AP
Reuters
NBC
ABC
CBS
CNN
Univision
Telemundo
Not here: Fox News

Updated....

MEXICO CITY--First Lady Michelle Obama, making her diplomatic debut on this solo Haiti-Mexico City swing, brought East Wing staff along, plus folks from the West Wing who work in "advance," helping set up the visit and run it while in progress. Here's the roll call.

Chief of Staff Susan Sher
Deputy Chief of Staff Melissa Winter
Communications director Camille Johnston
Press Secretary Semonti Stephens
Press Secretary Katie McCormick-Lelyveld
National Security Council advisor Dan Restrepo
Personal assistant Kristen Jarvis
Director of Scheduling Franny Starkey
Trip Director Alan Fitts
Hair stylist
Make up artist

Plus
White House advance staffers detailed to this trip
White House new media team
White House stenographer
White House communications equipment staffers
Secret Service personnel, uniform and plain clothes
U.S. Embassy in Mexico staffers


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Outside of Los Pinos (photo by Lynn Sweet)

MEXICO CITY--I'm in a van with other print reporters holding on a street outside of Los Pinos, the Mexican presidential residence. Our van is one of 11 vehicles on the brick road. We are on an edge of Chapultepec Park. It's a lovely day. The motorcade zipped from the hotel to Los Pinos ("The Pines") and what was kind of strange--there were almost no people on the street.

First Lady Michelle Obama is scheduled to be meeting with Mexican First Lady Margarita Zavala right now but I'm not going to kid you---we don't know if Mrs. Obama is there.

Click below for a pool report from the Washington Post's Robin Givhan, who I am sitting next to in the van now.

MEXICO CITY--First Lady Michelle Obama may well fill in some blanks to her image on her solo diplomatic swing to Haiti and Mexico. Her agenda here is designed to avoid the controversial aspects of the U.S.-Mexico relationship. My report on how this trip will help define her international image--beyond someone who loves clothes--is here.

IMG00225-20100413-2131.jpg (Photo by Lynn Sweet)

MEXICO CITY--First Lady Michelle Obama just touched down here after a flight from Haiti. She greeted officials and a large group of youths after she stepped down from the plane. Motorcading to hotel now...

MEXICO CITY--First Lady Michelle Obama and Second Lady Jill Biden said a reason for their Haiti trip--unannounced--was to keep attention on the plight of earthquake striken Haiti. \

At a press conference in Haiti Mrs. Obama said she came because, "I think it was important for Jill and I to come now because we're at the point where the relief efforts are underway but the attention of the world starts to wane a bit. And as we enter the rainy season and the hurricane season, you know, the issues are just going to become more compounded. And I think it was important for us to come and shed a light."

MEXICO CITY--First Lady Michelle Obama's Tuesday visit to earthquake devastated Haiti denied Mexico a coveted place in history: being the first official foreign destination of the first lady.

The White House and Mexican government officials used the "firstness" to underscore the close relationship between the two nations in briefing about the trip in the past weeks. But with the stop of Mrs. Obama and Second Lady Jill Biden gives Haiti, not Mexico the honor.


With Haiti and Mexico, the number of foreign countries Mrs. Obama has visited as First Lady--and with President Obama-- now numbers 11. She has been to the United Kingdom, France, Russia, Ghana, Denmark, Norway, Czech Republic, Italy and Germany. Mrs. Obama traveled to England and France last summer with daughters Malia and Sasha, but the trip was billed as a vacation.

Updated with White House statement....Second update; Mrs. Obama, Dr. Biden meet Haiti First couple. Third update, 1 p.m. central time, Mrs

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First lady Michelle Obama, fourth from right, and Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, second from right, stand with Haiti's President Rene Preval, waving, and Haiti's first lady Elisabeth Debrosse, left, at the damaged presidential palace in Port-au-Prince. (AP)

MEXICO CITY--First Lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, the wife of the vice president landed in Port-au-Prince, Haiti Tuesday morning, in a surprise trip the White House kept secret until their arrival. Mrs. Obama is making the brief stop en route to Mexico City to support humanitarian efforts there, I was told.

The White House released this statement after they landed: "First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden are visiting Haiti to underscore to the Haitian people and the Haitian government the enduring U.S. commitment to help Haiti recover and rebuild, especially as we enter the rainy and hurricane seasons, and to thank the women and men across the whole of the U.S. government for their extraordinary efforts in Haiti during the past three months. They will also reach out to the UN and international relief communities in recognition of the truly global effort underway to help Haiti."

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First lady Michelle Obama and Haiti's first lady Elisabeth Debrosse greet children at a center for displaced children in Port-au-Prince. (AP)

Mrs. Obama's plane landed at 10:40 a.m. local time; Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden took a helicopter to Haiti's capital. The US Army helicopter with Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden landed at 11:17 am. President Rene Preval and his wife, Elisabeth Delatour Preval appeared two minutes later, according to the pool report.The president is wearing a black suit, his wife a pant suit.

Mrs. Obama stepped off the chopper at 11:21 am wearing grey slacks, and a blue shirt with black flats. Her cropped hair was straight. Dr. Biden has on khaki pants and white shirt along with white tennis shoes.

Mrs. Obama greeted Preval, first, and then the Haitian First Lady both kisses on the cheek. As she walked around the corner, speaking with Mrs. Preval, Mrs. Obama said of her first impressions: "It's powerful. The devastation is definitely powerful".

In the wake of the air crash that killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife and others, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel went to the Polish embassy on Sunday before the nuclear security summit to pay his respects and sign a book of condolences.
I'm told Emanuel did it more as a Chicagoan--and Chicago has a vast Polish population--that as a White House official.

A few years ago a young journalist looking for a job knocked on the door of the Chicago Sun-Times Washington Bureau, then in the National Press Building. I had nothing for the cold-calling Dan Gilbert, but once he said he attended the University of Chicago (class of 2005) the Chicago connection kicked in. I agreed to review his resume and make some suggestions, impressed by his determination to be a reporter who burned shoe leather and his fluency in Spanish. Turned out I mentored him through the years and I am just bursting with pride to say that the Pulitzer Prize for public service on Monday was given to the Bristol, Va. Herald Courier "for the work of Daniel Gilbert."

Here's the citation:

For a distinguished example of meritorious public service by a newspaper or news site through the use of its journalistic resources which, as well as reporting, may include editorials, cartoons, photographs, graphics, video and other online material, presented in print or online or both, a gold medal.

Awarded to the Bristol (VA) Herald Courier for the work of Daniel Gilbert in illuminating the murky mismanagement of natural-gas royalties owed to thousands of land owners in southwest Virginia, spurring remedial action by state lawmakers.

Giannoulias at City Club lunch

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Democratic Illinois Senate hopeful Alexi Giannoulias is the keynoter at the City Club Monday lunch. From Giannoulias campaign: "Giannoulias will highlight the sharp contrast between himself and his opponent, Republican Congressman Mark Kirk, in an address to the City Club of Chicago at the group's Public Policy Luncheon."



First lady Michelle Obama lands in Mexico City Tuesday evening on her first solo official international trip, partnering for much of her short stay with Mexican first lady Margarita Zavala -- who, like Mrs. Obama, is a lawyer with small children.

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"I think she will bowl Mexico and Mexicans over," Mexican Ambassador to the U.S. Arturo Sarukhan told me. This will be Mrs. Obama's first time in Mexico and Sarukhan predicts enormous interest: "It will be on the front pages of every newspaper in Mexico."

Mrs. Obama's Mexico visit was described by one of her White House advisers on Friday as the "kick off" of her "international agenda" that will include more solo foreign travel in the months ahead with a focus on developing youth leadership, "part of the president's broader vision around global engagement and the United States."

Listen to Lynn Sweet on the BBC "Americana" show discuss famous U.S. presidential debates--as Britian hold its first ever televised debates with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown facing his major rivals

A primer on why United Kingdom voters will see three debates-- from Foreign Policy magazine--- is here.

excerpt from FP:

Gordon Brown, Britain's embattled prime minister, announced Tuesday that he will hold the country's most hotly contested general election in a generation on May 6, four weeks from now. Before then, the Labour leader will face off in a contest of a very different sort: three televised debates against the heads of the two other major parties, the Liberal Democrats' Nick Clegg and the Tories' David Cameron. The debates -- set for April 15, 22, and 29 -- are the first such events in British history.

WASHINGTON--Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who told President
Obama on Friday he will retire this summer, is a Chicago native with longtime ties to the city.

I asked Bill Barnhart, a Chicago journalist who is co-author with Gene Schlickman of the biography John Paul Stevens: An Independent Life, to be
published next month by Northern Illinois University Press, to provide highlights of Stevens' connections to the city for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Here they are:

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WASHINGTON--The Obama White House learned of Justice John Paul Stevens decision to retire in a letter the White House received at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, giving President Obama his second appointment to the court. Stevens, a Chicago native, signaled his impending resignation in recent interviews. A senior administration official tells me Obama is expected to address Stevens departure when he returns from Prague this afternoon. Stevens will turn 90 on April 20.

Stevens one paragraph letter started, "My dear Mr. President:"

"Having concluded that it woul be in the best interests of the Court to have my successor appointed and confirmed well in advance of the commencement of the Court's next Term, I shall retire from regular active service as as Associate Justice....effective the next day after the Court rises for the summer recess this year."

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said in a statement, "Justice John Paul Stevens, a native Chicagoan, is widely seen as one of the wisest and most accomplished jurists of our time. The fourth-longest-serving Justice in U.S. history, Justice Stevens' judicial philosophy may be hard to label but his integrity is rock solid. A lifetime in the law and the courage to speak his mind (see Bush v. Gore and Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission) make him a national treasure on our highest court."

"In the tradition of the President who nominated him, Gerald Ford, Justice Stevens has been a moderate, independent voice on a Court now dominated by conservative ideologues. Justice Stevens' commitment to expanding freedom, safeguarding our rights and liberties, and understanding the challenges faced by ordinary Americans will be his legal legacy. He has had no judicial agenda other than fidelity to the law and the Constitution."

"Now the President and the Senate must work together to honor his service with a justice who can honestly aspire to the high standard of public service Justice Stevens set."


WASHINGTON--With unconfirmed reports that Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens is stepping down coming out on Friday, speculation rises on who will be President Obama's second Supreme Court nominee--with Chicago's Diane Wood one of the contenders. Wood has been a judge of the Chicago based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit since 1995 and was in the running for the seat Obama tapped Justice Sonia Sotomayor to fill. A Wood bio is here.

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama hits Mexico City on Tuesday for her first solo international trip. She will be spending a lot of time with Mexico's First Lady, Margarita Zavala--like her a lawyer with young kids. The visit underscores the important U.S.-Mexico relationship. My story on Mrs. Obama's visit to Mexico--coming amidst growing concern about drug use and violence related to drug trafficking--is here.

On Friday morning, the White House released Mrs. Obama's schedule. Click below for the details. The East Wing added a Thursday stop in San Diego, Calif. for Mrs.Obama after she leaves Mexico City to make a West Coast swing to discuss the Obama White House anti-childhood obesity programs.

White House videographer Arun Chaudhary highlights here.


WASHINGTON--President Obama, in Prague to sign the anti-nuclear START treaty, brushed aside Sarah Palin's criticism that he was soft-on-nukes during an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos. "Sarah Palin's not much of an expert on nuclear issues," Obama said.


On Wednesday on Fox News, Palin compared Obama to a kid in a playground who is asking for a punch in the face.

"It's unbelievable. Unbelievable," said Palin told Fox New's Sean Hannity. "No administration in America's history would, I think, ever have considered such a step that we just found out President Obama is supporting today. It's kinda like getting out there on a playground, a bunch of kids, getting ready to fight, and one of the kids saying, 'Go ahead, punch me in the face and I'm not going to retaliate. Go ahead and do what you want to with me.'"

Here's the exchange about Palin:

STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to get to some of those broader issues. Because you're also facing criticism on that. Sarah Palin, taking aim at your decision to restrict the use of nuclear weapons. Your pledge not to strike nations, non-nuclear nations, who abide by the nonproliferation treaty. Here's what she said. She said, "It's unbelievable, no other administration would do it." And then she likened it to kids on the playground. She said you're like a kid who says, "Punch me in the face, and I'm not going to retaliate." Your response?

OBAMA: I really have no response. Because last I checked, Sarah Palin's not much of an expert on nuclear issues.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But the string of criticism has been out there among other Republicans as well. They think you're restricting use of nuclear weapons too much.

OBAMA: And what I would say to them is that if the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff are comfortable with it, I'm probably going to take my advice from them and not from Sarah Palin.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But not concerned about her criticisms?
OBAMA: No.

Click below for transcript

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First Lady Michelle Obama hits the cover of Conde Nast's Traveler talking about living in Washington. Where are Mrs. Obama's favorite places? Click below.

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First Lady Michelle Obama hits the cover of Good Housekeeping's 125th anniversary issue.

WASHINGTON--Last August, President Obama tapped Martha Minow and John G. Levi, two lawyers with Chicago ties--and personal connections to the president and First Lady Michelle--as board members of the Legal Services Corporation. On Wednesday, they were sworn into office and Levi was elected board chair and Minow vice chair.

Read my August report here.

Minow, the dean of Harvard Law School, is the daughter of Newton Minow, the former chair of the Federal Communications Commission, who is senior counsel at Chicago's Sidley Austin. When Obama was at Harvard Law School, Minow recommended that Sidley hire him for a summer job.

Levi was the Sidley partner who actually hired Obama--and also another attorney at the firm, one Michelle Robinson. Obama met Michelle at Sidley Austin, when she was assigned to be his advisor.


WASHINGTON--GOP Illinois Senate nominee Rep. Mark Steven Kirk (R-Ill.) is reporting $2.2 million in first quarter 2010 fund-raising.

from the campaign...

* $6.6 million for the 2010 cycle with over $3 million in the bank at the close of the first quarter.

*As of April 1st, the Kirk campaign received contributions from more than 9,000 individual contributors (80% from Illinois). More than 4,200 people (85% of all contributions) donated to the campaign in the last three months alone.

WASHINGTON--Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), in a GOP primary battle, told Newsweek he was a not a "maverick" a word his own presidential campaign and biographer used to describe him. PolitiFact has the "maverick" McCain history.

WASHINGTON--Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin hits Minneapolis on Wednesday, headlining a rally and fund-raisers for Rep. Michele Bachmann and the Minnesota Republican Party. More here.

WASHINGTON--New Yorker editor David Remnick talks about President Obama and his new biography on him, "The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama." Remnick recounts the impact Chicago had on Obama's life and political career in the book, out this week.

WASHINGTON--The house next to President Obama's home sold for $1.4 million and my Chicago Sun-Times colleague Mark Konkol has the story here, at his blog, Konkol's Korner. The buyer is not known. The sale closed Wednesday for the 6,000-square foot home of Bill and Jacky Grimshaw, friends of the Obama's who lived on Greenwood near 51st since 1973--when they bought the house for $35,000.

9-11_Jackson_house_6.jpg Bill Grimshaw in the house.

WASHINGTON--GOP Illinois Senate nominee Rep. Mark Steven Kirk (R-Ill.) edges past Democratic rival Alexi Giannoulias in a poll released Tuesday. Read about it here.

Click below for links to poll and cross tabs.


WASHINGTON--Another Chicagoan, Donald Stewart, former CEO of the Chicago Community Trust, was tapped Tuesday for the Obama administration.

from the White House....


Donald M. Stewart, Appointee for Member, Commission on Presidential Scholars

Donald M. Stewart is currently a Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago's Harris School of Public Policy Studies where he has taught since 2005. He previously served as CEO and President of the Chicago Community Trust. Prior to joining the Trust, Stewart was a Senior Program Officer and Special Advisor to the President at the Carnegie Corporation of New York. For over 12 years, Mr. Stewart was President and CEO of the College Board, which provides SAT and Advanced Placement assessments to help students make the transition from high school to college. Stewart is also former President of Spelman College, the 129 year old historically black women's college in Atlanta. Stewart was a program officer in the Overseas Development Division of the Ford Foundation serving in Nigeria, Egypt and Tunisia. He is currently a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He earned a B.A. from Grinnell College and a M.A. from Yale University as well as Master and Doctoral degrees in Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He also completed the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School.

WASHINGTON--Who is the president who never tossed out a pitch on a baseball opening day? That would be Jimmy Carter. President Obama on Monday threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Nationals home opener. Click below for every stat dealing with presidents and baseball.

updated with filing date from Cook County Clerk's office..

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White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel shares the cover of Washington Life with actor Michael Douglas in the mag's issue on who--besides Rahm-- is on the "A" list.
(hat tip, Patrick Galvin, Politico.)

Read the argument and graphs here.

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WASHINGTON--President Obama, a diehard White Sox fan, wore a Nationals windbreaker when he walked out on the field on Monday, to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the home opener. When he put on a White Sox cap, the crowd booed.

Obama threw the pitch--he deemed it a "little high and outside" and motorcaded back to the White House, making the trip from Nationals Park--about a mile south of the Capitol-- in a remarkable seven minutes.

FASHION NOTE: Obama wore khaki pants to the Nationals mound; he wore jeans--criticized as nerdy and frumpy--when he tossed out the first pitch at the All Stars game last year, wearing a White Sox jacket.

For the pool report, click below.....

easter1 2010 .jpeg President Obama at the Easter Egg Roll. (photo courtesy Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obamafoodorama

easter3 2010 sweet photo.jpegWhite House basketball court (photo by Lynn Sweet)

easter5 2010 sweetphoto.jpg The White House Easter Egg Roll featured booths with healthy foods. (photo by Lynn Sweet)

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J.K. Rowling reading from Harry Potter book at the White House Easter Egg roll. Photo by Lynn Sweet

The Sarah Palin brand

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David Carr at the New York Times reports on how former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has made herself a successful--and wealthy-- brand since the 2008 presidential campaign--when know-it-all pundits told her to go back to Alaska and study up on the issues.

WASHINGTON--Former White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers will make her first public appearance since leaving the White House April 29 in Chicago, at a Chicago Advertising Federation lunch at the Palmer House. Some of the proceeds will help benefit Chicago's Off The Street Club, which helps boys and girls who live on the West Side.

From CAF: "Gloria Scoby, senior vice president/ group publisher, Crain Commu-nications, Inc., will moderate the conversation with Rogers who will address several topics, including her role as Special Assistant to the President and White House Social Secretary."

The public can purchase tickets. For information: http://www.chicagoadfed.org

WASHINGTON--President Obama, First Lady Michelle, Malia, Sasha and First Gram, Marian Robinson, attended Easter Sunday services at Allen Chapel AME.

The church is in a part of the city a few miles from a recent shooting spree that left four dead. This is the fifth time Obama has attended church in Washington since becoming president. My report on the church service is here.

From the White House....

Update: The Easter Egg Roll livestream schedule for Monday, April 5, 2010 has been added below. Watch the events live on WhiteHouse.gov/live

The President and First Lady Speak at the 2010 Easter Egg Roll: 10:45 AM EDT
Rock 'n' Egg Roll Stage:
Little Beat Music Performs: 7:45 AM EDT
Cast of Glee Performs: 8:35 AM EDT, 11:10 AM EDT
Sara Bareilles Performs: 9:25 AM EDT, 1:25 PM EDT
Yo Gabba Gabba Performs: 10:00 AM EDT, 12:00 PM EDT
Justin Bieber Performs: 12:35 PM EDT, 2:35 PM EDT
Sesame Street Performs: 2:00 PM EDT, 4:00 PM EDT
Billy Jonas Performs: 3:25 PM EDT, 4:35 PM EDT, 5:25 PM EDT
Story Time Stage:
Elmo and Maria Read: 8:00 AM EDT
Shellie Pfohl Reads: 8:30 AM EDT
Marian Robinson Reads: 9:00 AM EDT, 12:30 PM EDT
Reese Witherspoon Reads: 9:30 AM EDT, 10:00 AM EDT
Special Guests Read: 11:10 AM EDT, 4:00 PM EDT
Betty DeGeneres Reads: 11:30 AM EDT, 1:00 PM EDT
Mariska Hargitay Reads: 12:00 PM EDT
JK Rowling Reads: 1:30 PM EDT, 2:00 PM EDT
Cole Sprouse Reads: 2:30 PM EDT
Apolo Ohno Reads: 3:00 PM EDT, 4:30 PM EDT
Dylan Sprouse Reads: 3:30 PM EDT
DJ Lance Reads: 5:00 PM EDT
Art Smith Reads: 5:30 PM EDT


WASHINGTON--The White House Friday said that actor Kal Penn is still on the job as an associate director in the White House Office of Public Engagement, even as a report surfaced that he is departing.

One year ago--April, 2009-- Penn, the star of "House" had his character killed off and announced he would be going to work in the Obama White House. Penn made the move to Washington from Los Angeles last July and went to work using his real name--Kalpen Modi.

On Friday, Entertainment Weekly said he was leaving the White House to return to acting

A White House spokesman, Shin Inouye, told me Friday, "Mr. Modi is honored to serve in this Administration and has no announcements to make about his tenure here at this point."

WASHINGTON--There are a lot of stars booked for Monday's White House Easter Egg Roll, where 30,000 folks are expected on the South Lawn, including Billy Jonas, a Hyde Park native who grew up across the alley from the Obama family.

Among the names:

J.K. Rowling, Reese Witherspoon, Apolo Ohno, Mariska Hargitay, Dylan and Cole Sprouse, Elmo and Maria of Sesame Street and Betty DeGeneres
will read on the Storytime Stage

Former Chicagoan Billy Jonas, a native Hyde Parker who lived across the alley of the Obama family when they lived in their condo at 5450 S. East View will be performing on the Ellipse. The invitation to the Billy Jonas Band came from a staffer--not the Obama's--but that was just fine for Jonas now based in Asheville, N.C. Jonas is a graduate of Kenwood High School.


Chef Art Smith--another Chicagoan who lives in Hyde Park-- plus Chef José Andrés, Chef Cliff Wharton, Chef Nora Poullion, Chef Robert Wiedmaier, Chef Susan Limb, Chef Victor Albisu, and the White House Chefs
will prepare healthy eating demonstrations.


Tennis great Billie Jean King--who lives part time in Chicago-- plus sports figures Gigi Fernandez, Ilana Kloss, Delaney Rudd, Liezel Huber, Katrina Adams, Anna Rawson, Jane Geddes, Kris Tschetter, Martin
Gramatica, Michele Smith, Al Bumbry and Earl Boykins will help organize games.

click below for a lot more information..


From the Bureau of Labor Statistics on the March jobless rate released Friday morning--unchanged at 9.7 percent:

"Nonfarm payroll employment increased by 162,000 in March, and the unemployment rate held at 9.7 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.Temporary help services and health care continued to add jobs over the month. Employment in federal government also rose, reflecting the hiring of temporary workers for Census 2010. Employment continued to decline in financial activities and in information."

WASHINGTON--New White House Social Secretary Julianna Smoot's first big event is Monday--the massive Easter Egg Hunt on the South Lawn of the White House. Smoot was spotted Wednesday at the planting of the White House Garden with First Lady Michelle Obama.

She's been on the job since March 22, taking over from now former Social Secretary Desiree Rogers. The first event of Smoot's tenure was President Obama's March 23 signing of the health care bill. The Social Office oversees every event in the White House, from bill signings to dinners and receptions.

Much of the planning for the Easter Egg Hunt--which brings thousands of people to the White House--was done under Rogers watch.

WASHINGTON--Arun Chaudhary, the official White House videographer, debuts Friday a new feature over at www.whitehouse.gov "West Wing Week," complete with never before seen behind-the-scene clips and even a PSA by Ray LaHood, the Transportation Secretary

Obama calls Hu

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Updated with full transcript

Updated Thursday afternoon....

Here's the link for the Health and Human Services health reform website, with FAQ's and a webcast from Secretary Sebelius.

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama, speaking Wednesday at a White House conference on workplace flexibility, recalled the day she interviewed for a job as an executive at the University of Chicago Medical Center--and how she breastfeed her daughter.

The mother of a newborn, Sasha, now eight years old, Mrs Obama could not find a babysitter so she took her baby along to the meeting.

Mrs. Obama: "In fact, in the last job I had before coming to the White House -- I remember this clearly -- I was on maternity leave with Sasha, still trying to figure out what to do with my life, and I got a call for an interview for this position, a senior position at the hospitals. And I thought, okay, here we go. So I had to scramble to look for babysitting, and couldn't find one.

"So what did I do? I packed up that little infant, and I put her in the stroller, and I brought her with me. And I prayed that her presence wouldn't be an automatic disqualifier. And it was fortunate for me that, number one, she slept through the entire interview. And I was still breastfeeding -- if that's not too much information. And I got the job."

Seder 2010.jpg(White House photo)The White House 2010 Seder. From right to left, Jen Psaki, deputy communications chief; President Obama, Lisa Kohnke, deputy director of White House advance, Eric Lesser, assistant to White House senior advisor David Axelrod; his mother, Joan Lesser, and Joanna Cohen, step-daughter of Susan Sher, chief of staff for First Lady Michelle Obama and White House liaison to the Jewish community.


WASHINGTON--It's Passover, and President Obama hosted his second White House seder. I wrote about the 2009 White House seder here. My report with details on the 2010 seder is here.

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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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