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June 2010 Archives

Updated....

The House on Wednesday passed on a 237-192 mainly party line roll call President Obama's Wall Street reform bill. On Tuesday, I asked Illinois GOP Senate nominee Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) his position on the bill and he said he needed to study the final wording of the measure. On Wednesday, Kirk joined other Republicans in voting no.

Democratic candidate Alexi Giannoulias would have voted yes on the bill, his spokesman, Kathleen Strand, said.

"Yes. Hands Down. Mark Kirk voted against Wall Street reform once again showing he is a wholly owned subsidiary of corporate special interests," Strand said.

"After Broadway Bank's $394 million bailout from the FDIC, it's no wonder Alexi Giannoulias supports legislation that opens the door to endless government bailouts," said Kirk spokesman Kirsten Kukowski.


The bill now faces an uncertain future in the Senate, hobbled with the loss of a vote with the death of Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.).

The vote

yes
234 Democrats
3 Republicans

no
19 Democrats
173 Republicans

obama-kringle-sweet.JPGPresident Obama, in Racine, Wi. for a speech about the economy on Wednesday, stopped to buy some Kringles at a Racine bakery en route from the airport in Milwaukee. Starting a speech at a town hall meeting in Racine, Obama told the crowd, "It is great to be back home in the Midwest" and shared a secret: maybe he would on the way back to the airport,"get a brat and some cheese curds while I'm here. Just don't tell Michelle."

According to the pool report, Obama's motorcade "stopped at O&H Danish Bakery, a popular bakery and Kringle maker in the area. A Kringle is a Danish pastry and is quite popular in the region. Racine, by the way, has a Danish community, which would explain the Kringle.

"POTUS entered the store, coat off, sleeves rolled up and in a very good mood. He greeted workers and was met by Racine mayor John Dickert. Along one counter, Dickert showed POTUS various kinds of Kringles. ...POTUS, after some consultation with workers and Dickert, decided he would buy pecan, cherry and cheese Kringles. Secret Service said the Kringles cost $7.45 a package."

Obama in Racine: Background

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BY ABDON M. PALLASCH
Chicago Sun-Times Political Reporter

The second part of Rep. Mark Kirk's one-two punch on overcoming the embarrassment of misstating his military record is a TV ad campaign that starts today.

One ad, "Risky," slams his Democratic opponent, Alexi Giannoulias, for approving loans to mobsters when he was senior loan officer at his family bank and for losing $73 million in college savings funds at state treasurer.

Another, "Stand," portrays Kirk as a more committed environmentalist than Giannoulias because Kirk spoke out against BP's plan to discharge more into Lake Michigan while Giannoulias has a top aide who worked as a lobbyist for BP.


Environmental groups The Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters, both have endorsed Giannoulias in this race, saying Kirk exaggerated his role in stopping BP's proposal to dump more discharge into Lake Michigan.

The new ad buy starts on broadcast television in the Chicago area today and cable television Thursday.

A little-noticed federal appellate panel ruling may trigger two elections for an Illinois Senate seat on Nov. 2 -- one to fill a new six-year term and, in a stunning development, another to elect someone to finish the remaining days of Barack Obama's original Senate term.

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's federal corruption trial jury hears more wiretaps on Day 17; read Chicago Sun-Times federal courts reporter Natasha Korecki's recap and look ahead, as the prosecutors continue to show the backstage machinations of Blagojevich as he runs through self serving schemes as he ponders a replacement for Barack Obama's Senate seat.

A stream of political names are marching through the trial at this stage; here's today's news story with all the juicy details, from a phone call from President-elect Obama about his successor, to a meeting Alexi Giannoulias set up with Valerie Jarrett and SEIU leader Tom Balanoff.

Check out the transcripts of the Blagojevich wiretaps.

Keep clicking the Chicago Sun-Times Blago Blog for reports throughout the day on the trial.

Video courtesy of NBC Chicago...


The corruption trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich in a Chicago federal courtroom reached the White House on Tuesday, touching on a potential contradiction over whether then President-elect Obama was involved in choosing his replacement.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked at Tuesday's briefing to confirm testimony from SEIU leader Tom Balanoff. Balanoff said he had a phone conversation with then President-elect Obama about appointing Valerie Jarrett to the Senate seat he vacated when he was elected.

SEIU leader Tom Balanoff testifying at former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's corruption trial on Tuesday, said Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, (now the Illinois Democratic Senate nominee) a friend of then President-Elect Barack Obama, raised himself as a possibility to be tapped for the newly vacant Obama senate seat.

The conversation came on Nov. 24, 2008, after Valerie Jarrett removed herself from contention for the slot, instead taking a job as a senior White House advisor.


Kirk apologizes for military misstatements

Vows to be 'much more available' to answer questions in the future


BY ABDON PALLASCH Political Reporter
In his first news conference in weeks, U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk apologized for misstating his military record and for dashing out of his last appearance through a kitchen to avoid questions -- and promised to be "much more available" in the future.

Asked what he was thinking when he claimed he won an "Intelligence Office of the Year" award -- which was actually awarded to the entire group he worked with as a member of the Navy reserves -- Kirk said: "Most importantly I wasn't thinking. This was a carelessness that did not reflect well upon me and this is a high office. Going forward, you have to speak with great precision and detail.''

Sen. Oprah Winfrey (D-Ill.)? The federal corruption trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, in Day 16 on Tuesday, reveals that the ousted governor was running through many names to fill the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama when he was elected president, including Winfrey, Sun-Times federal courts ace Natasha Korecki reports.

The Sun-Times team covering the Blagojevich trial is filing reports throughout the day over at the Blago Blog, including links to wiretap transcripts.

Illinois Senate GOP nominee Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) holds a press event on Tuesday, the first since he was hit with stories about embellishing his military record. According to the notice about the session, at a Northbrook hotel near his campaign headquarters, Kirk will "discuss the U.S. Senate race Tuesday, highlighting his vision for creating jobs, renewing economic growth and tackling the important issues facing our state."

As the Senate started Elena Kagan's Supreme Court confirmation hearing on Monday, Chris Kang, from the Obama White House legislative affairs office sent some talking point ammunition to Senate staffers:


from Kang....

As you know, today, the confirmation hearings for Elena Kagan to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court will begin. I wanted to pass along some information that might be helpful: 1) Excerpts of her opening statement; 2) a letter of support by all 10 Solicitors General since 1985; 3) a letter of support by the National District Attorneys Association; 4) a bipartisan letter of support by her fellow Supreme Court clerks from 1987-88; and 5) a letter of support signed by nearly a third of all law school deans in the nation.

Please let me know if you have any questions or need anything with respect to this nomination.


Kirk ducking press coverage

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Last Monday, a group of Chicago reporters chased Illinois GOP Senate nominee Rep. Mark Kirk through a hotel kitchen. They never caught up with him after he left the stage at a public policy Senate forum sponsored by the Metropolitan Planning Council. He did not want to stop to take questions because most of them would probably have been about why he embellished his record as a Navy reserve officer.

The first of several stories about Kirk's exaggerations on his military and teaching careers broke May 29; Kirk made a few comments at a Memorial Day parade in Arlington Heights. He met on June 3 with the editorial boards of the Sun-Times and Tribune as his campaign was dealing with its first crisis, and that's been pretty much it. But the issue of Kirk avoiding the press goes deeper than the last few weeks.

Kirk has been ducking routine press coverage since he jumped into the Senate race. He refuses to release, when asked, his government or his political schedules. He also declines to volunteer where he is going to raise campaign cash and who hosts the events.

The Supreme Court on Monday--on the last day of its term--ruled on the long-running McDonald vs Chicago, the gun rights case. Read the decision here. The decision casts doubts on Chicago's gun law.

Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W. Va.), the longest serving senator, died early Monday; Patricia Murphy at Politics Daily has an obit that looks at the sweep of his career.

Below, statements from Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.)....

"Senator Byrd carried a copy of our Constitution close to his heart every day. It was a constant reminder of his life's mission to honor the values which gave us this great nation.

No one in the history of the Senate could match Byrd's thunderous oratory; his sense of history; his determination to teach every President the limits of his power and his lifelong passion to fight for West Virginia.

Daniel Webster, set another chair at Heaven's table, Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia has arrived."

Burris Statement on the Passing of Senator Robert C. Byrd


"Early this morning, our nation lost an icon and a national treasure. I was deeply saddened to hear of Senator Robert C. Byrd's passing, and offer my heartfelt condolences to his friends and loved ones in this difficult time. For decades, Sen. Byrd faithfully served the people of West Virginia. He became a legend in his own time, and in many ways came to embody the institution of the United States Senate. As a leader, and as guardian of this chamber's procedure and tradition, Sen. Byrd was without equal. His legacy of public service, and his remarkable journey from West Virginia coal country into the annals of history, should serve as an inspiration to us all."

###



The federal corruption trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich hits Day 15 on Monday, as the prosecution continues on the "selling" of the Senate seat once held by President Obama charge. Sun-Times federal courts reporter Natasha Korecki has a look at Day 15 and a guide to last weeks highlights--with links to the wiretap transcripts over at her Blago Blog.

For riveting coverage of the trial as it happens by the Chicago Sun-Times Blagojevich trial coverage team, keep on clickin' at the Blago Blog.

Updated

Illinois Democratic Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias said Sunday he was subpoenaed by former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's defense lawyers to testify at his corruption trial. Giannoulias name surfaced last week during the trial, where prosecutors were focusing on the charges dealing with Blagojevich trying to sell the Senate seat Barack Obama was vacating after winning the presidential election.

The jury heard a lot about Blagojevich mapping strategy to see what he could get in return for appointing Valerie Jarrett to the Senate. Blagojevich learned, the jury heard on wiretaps, that all Blagojevich would get is "appreciation." Jarrett is now a Senior White House advisor.

Giannoulias told me in an interview on Sunday he reached out to Blagojevich former chief of staff John Harris to promote Jarrett for the Senate. Giannoulias said he never talked to Blagojevich or Obama about Jarrett and the Senate. He also told me he helped set up a meeting between Jarrett, at the time a close friend and top presidential campaign aide and Illinois labor leader Tom Balanoff to discuss the Senate spot.

Giannoulias name came up last week in the trial, when prosecutors played for the jury a secretly recorded November, 2008 wiretap of a conversation between Blagojevich and Harris, where Harris is heard saying, "Alexi called me."

Harris said Giannoulias "wants to meet with me a few minutes this afternoon. He says it's . . . I said what's it about? He says the (Senate) seat 'but not for me, for someone else.' " Blagojevich never connected with Giannoulias.

Because of the Senate race, where Giannoulias faces Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), the GOP nominee, Republicans are trying to drag Giannoulias into the Blagojevich mess, but this seems like a molehill.

"Despite what the Republicans are trying to say," Giannoulias told me, "I am really not a part of this circus. I think you know I have always thought very highly of Valerie," Giannoulias said. After the election, Giannoulias told me he "reached out to Harris to give him my thoughts and at a certain point, Tom Balanoff reached out to me to get in touch with Valerie; he did not know how to get ahold of her. I put the two together in the meeting."

The meeting was held in the office of John Rogers, a close friend of then President-elect Barack Obama, wife Michelle and Jarrett. Giannoulas was at the meeting. He said Jarrett was not aggresively pushing for the seat but she wanted to "hear Tom out."

Balanoff, President of both SEIU Local 1 and the SEIU Illinois State Council, a politically powerful union--and major Blagojevich backer--is expected to take the stand on Monday. It has been known that Balanoff had discussed the Senate appointment with both Obama and Jarrett in addition to having met with Blagojevich.

Giannoulias and Blagojevich were not close; Blagojevich backed a rival in the Democratic primary when Giannoulious ran for treasurer. Giannoulias also called Blagojevich the "anti-Obama" after his 2008 budget address.

Giannoulias disclosed that he was supboenaed during our conversation. A supboena means only that a person may end up testifying at a trial. Monday starts Day 15 of the trial, with the prosecution continuing to make its case, expecting to last about three months.

Giannoulias, the state treasurer, joins a string of other prominent officials Blagojevich's defense team is lining up as potential witnesses to address the selling of the Senate seat charge--Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nv.) and Jarrett.

UPDATE...
As soon as news of the Giannoulias subpoena broke, GOP local and national operatives were e-mailing it around.

Kirk spokesman Kirsten Kukowski said in a statement, "Today's news developments further emphasize the troubling pattern that has emerged concerning Alexi Giannoulias. As state treasurer, Giannoulias lost more than $70 million in Bright Start college savings
funds and his family's bank cost the FDIC nearly $400 million in losses. Now we've learned Giannoulias' name has come up on federal wire taps talking about the Illinois Senate seat and he has been subpoenaed in former and disgraced Governor Rod Blagojevich's public corruption trial. This revelation raises additional questions about Alexi Giannoulias that he needs to answer.

President Obama paid off a World Cup bet with British Prime Minister Cameron on Saturday with Goose Island 312 beer from Chicago. Though the U.S.-England game ended up in a tie, both leaders paid off their respective bets. Obama and Cameron mentioned the beers after a joint meeting in Toronto, where they are attending the G-8 and G-20 economic summits.

"We are exchanging -- and paying off our debts at the same time -- this is Goose Island 312 beer from my hometown of Chicago," said Obama. Cameron showed off his local brew. "This is Hobgoblin from the Wychwood brew in Witney, in my constituency," he said.

Obama said "so I advised him that in America we drink our beer cold. So he has to put this in the refrigerator before he drinks it, but I think he will find it outstanding. And I'm happy to give that a shot, although I will not drink it warm."

BEERNOTE: The complete name of the beer Goose Island brewery sells is 312 Urban Wheat Ale, described by Goose Island as "Densely populated with flavor, 312's spicy aroma of Cascade hops is followed by a crisp, fruity ale flavor delivered in a smooth, creamy body. This gives 312 a balance of flavor and refreshment that never fills you up and won't let you down."

Obama June 28 week ahead

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WASHINGTON -- What exactly does Chicago's ShoreBank have to do to survive?

The future of the community bank, headquartered in South Shore, hinges on getting a precise answer from the federal government regulators weighing its fate.

And soon.

Rod Blagojevich's criminal corruption trial takes Friday off. Sun-Times federal court reporter Natasha Korecki over at the Blago Blog looks ahead to Day 15 on Monday.

For the story on Day 14, click hereto read about Blagojevich's disappointment at realizing that then President-elect Obama was not going to give him a big appointment--or anything except appreciation--in exchange for appointing Valerie Jarrett to fill his Senate seat.

WASHINGTON--In 2007, then Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) a presidential candidate, took a walk when it came to a Senate vote on a GOP measure to condemn a MoveOn ad blasting Gen. David Petraeus; here's my report from that day. Obama on Thursday tapped Petraeus to replace Afghanistan commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal in the wake of his intemperate Rolling Stone interview.

Wiretaps a federal jury is hearing Thursday in the former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's corruption case reveal a variety of schemes Blagojevich is dreaming up to leverage an appointment of Valerie Jarrett to the Senate (it never happened) to replace Barack Obama.

WASHINGTON--President Obama is taking Russian President Dmitri Medvedev out to lunch at Ray's Hell Burger in Arlington, Va.

Sam Kass, the White House chef and food Initiative coordinator, was a judge Wednesday on a Bravo "Top Chef: D.C." episode; here's my profile of Kass, a Chicago native. Obamafoodorama has details about the show.


WASHINGTON -- As Chicago's ShoreBank struggles to survive, the Obama White House issued a strong statement Wednesday denying that it is interfering in any way with federal regulators or influencing financial institutions willing to pump money into the bank.

Day 14 at the federal corruption trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich trial and a recap of Day 13 from Sun-Times federal courts reporter Natasha Korecki.


Day 13, tracked at www.blogs.suntimes.com/blago included a lot of testimony dealing with the selling of the Senate seat charge--and about Blagojevich's musings, caught on wiretaps over what he could get if he tapped Valerie Jarrett---now a senior White House advisor.

Keep on clickin' to track Day 14.

WASHINGTON--President Obama accepted the resignation Wednesday of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, saying his conduct--a reference to a critical Rolling Stone article--merited someone else conducting the Afghanistan war. Obama tapped Gen. David Petraeus as his replacement.

"This is a change of personnel but not a change of policy," Obama said.

Obama said he and McChrystal were in "full agreement over Afghanistan war strategy and, in a reference being referred to in an unflattering way in the article said "nor do make this decision out of any sense of personal insult."

Over at the federal corruption trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, more testimony on Day 13 from former chief of staff John Harris, pressing the prosecution case. Sun-Times federal court reporter Natasha Korecki recaps Day 12 which featured playing of tapes of Blagojevich musing just what high level job he would get in exchange for the Senate appointment.

Listen to the secret tapes over here.

Keep track of the trial today and everyday with the Sun-Times reporting team over at blogs.suntimes.com/blago

WASHINGTON--President Obama is hauling Gen. McChrystal to the White House for a face to face meeting to explain the comments--inflammatory at the least, insubordination at the worst--he made to Rolling Stone magazine in a story headlined, "The Runaway General."

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said he gave Obama a copy of the article on Monday night and he was angry about McChrystal's remarks about him and his Afghanistan policies. Gibbs made no assurances about McChrystal's future.

Just how, Gibbs was asked, did he know the usually even and cool Obama was "angry?"

Said Gibbs, "You would know it if you saw it."

From the briefing:

MR. GIBBS: We look forward to -- the president looks forward to speaking with him tomorrow about what's in that article.

We owe -- every member of this team, from the commanding general to anybody that works in this building, to anybody that works in the State Department or throughout the Pentagon -- we owe it to, as I said earlier, the men and women that are fighting there to implement the policy that each agree to.

Without a doubt, General McChrystal, as Secretary Gates has said,has made an enormous mistake, a mistake that he'll get a chance to talk about and answer to tomorrow, to both officials in the Pentagon and to the commander in chief.

Q Does the president still have confidence that General McChrystal can run this war?

MR. GIBBS: We should wait and see what the outcome of that meeting is.

WASHINGTON--More testimony on Tuesday involving White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel at the Blagojevich corruption trial in Chicago. This time about efforts to fill the seat then Sen. Barack Obama would be vacating on his presidential election. Lots of names rolling through the Sun-Times Blago blog, including White House senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, White House senior advisor David Axelrod and more.

WASHINGTON-- Former Blagojevich chief of staff John Harris continues on the stand on Day 12 of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich corruption trial. For a look ahead of Day 12 and a recap of a very busy Day 11 in a federal courtoom in Chicago, check out Sun-Times federal courts reporter Natasha Korecki's updates.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel figured heavily in day 11. Former deputy Bradley Tusk
testified about pressure Blagojevich was putting on Emanuel to have his Hollywood superagent Ari hold a fund-raiser for him. Emanuel, a House member at the time, in turn was pressuring Blagojevich to release funds already granted to a school in his district.

For must read rolling reports on the best reality show in Chicago, click early and often to check out the Sun-Times Blagojevich trial coverage team over at the Blago Blog.


White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had this to sat about a story in a British paper speculating on his leaving the Obama administration: "This is B.S. And if you need it for translation, it is baseless."

Emanuel issued the statement after the Daily Telegraph's suggesting he was out the door. Actually, Emanuel may well be staying in Washington longer than thought. Emanuel promised Obama to stay for two years (so did senior advisor David Axelrod) but now I'm told he has made family plans to remain in Washington next year, a signal he's not moving back to Chicago any time soon.

With one exception: Emanuel has been open about wanting to be mayor one day. If Mayor Daley decides not to run next year--and he has not made public yet his decision --folks I've talked to think he's in for another term--then watch for an Emanuel return.

Vice President Biden hits Michigan on Monday to discuss the Recovery Act and then heads to Chicago to headline back-to-back fundraisers at the Union League Club for Democrats Dan Seals, running for the open 10th district House seat and Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias, the state treasurer. Here's my wrap up and overview on the Illinois Senate race--and the challenges facing Kirk and Giannoulias. Today in Chicago, the two rivals--in separate sessions-- talk about environmental and planning issues at a forum sponsored by the Metropolitan Planning Council.


below, from the White House....

DAILY GUIDANCE FOR THE VICE PRESIDENT

Monday, June 21, 2010

In the morning, the Vice President will travel to Midland, Michigan, to discuss how Recovery Act investments are strengthening communities in Michigan and creating jobs across the country. At 10:30 AM ET, the Vice President will visit the site where Dow Kokam is breaking ground on a new advanced battery manufacturing facility funded, in part, by the Recovery Act. Dow Kokam received a $161 million Recovery Act advanced battery grant from the Department of Energy. This investment will help Dow Kokam manufacture advanced and highly-efficient batteries for the emerging electric-vehicle industry, create jobs in Midland, and stimulate economic activity across Michigan. The Vice President will be joined by Governor Jennifer Granholm, Senator Carl Levin,
Senator Debbie Stabenow, and officials from Dow Kokam and The Dow Chemical Company. This event is open press.


Afterwards, the Vice President will travel to Chicago, Illinois. At 12:30 PM CT, the Vice President will attend an event for Congressional candidate Dan Seals. At 2:00 PM CT, the Vice President will attend an event for Senatorial candidate Alexi Giannoulias.


The Vice President will then return to Washington, DC.

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich trial, day eleven and a recap of last week, plus upcoming witnesses from Chicago Sun-Times federal courts reporter Natasha Korecki, in the courtroom.

For compelling updates during the trial day by the Sun-Times team go to blogs.suntimes.com/blago

Obama June 21 week ahead

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obama marovitz.jpegPresident Obama at the White Sox-Nationals game; to his right, in sports coat, former Illinois State Sen. William Marovitz.


Updated....


WASHINGTON--President Obama, a diehard Chicago White Sox fan, watched his South Siders play the Nationals Friday night--star Stephen Strasburg pitching--taking in the game with White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, Senior Advisor David Axelrod, pal Eric Whitaker and former Illinois State Sen. William Marovitz (D-Chicago).

Others mingling with Obama included Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) Obama daughters Sasha, 9 and Malia, 11--she will be 12 on July 4--and brother-in-law Konrad Ng.

Update: Obama did not stay for the entire game, which ended with the Sox beating the Nationals 2-1 in an 11-inning game. According to the pool report, Obama left in the ninth inning--and also sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." Obama's motorcade left the stadium at 9:18 p.m. est and arrived back at the White House at 9:31 p.m. est)

Obama was wearing a White Sox cap and a white shirt, enjoying a beer during the game. When South Sider Obama tossed out the first pitch at the Nationals opening in April, he wore his Sox cap and a Nationals jacket. First Lady Michelle Obama, back from her vacation with her girls in California, did not attend the game.

Reinsdorf, as a visiting owner, was provided a box by the team, a courtesy the White Sox give to visiting owners when they are home.

The White Sox are making their debut at Nationals Stadium in cross-league action, playing as standout Strasburg is making his third start for the Nationals. The three-game White Sox-Nationals Series runs through Sunday.

Chicago Sun-Times White Sox writer Joe Cowley is at the game; follow his Twitter, blog and other reports at http://blogs.suntimes.com/whitesox/

OBAMA CALLS LAKERS (AND FORMER BULLS) COACH PHIL JACKSON


This from the White House: Earlier today, President Obama called Phil Jackson, head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, to congratulate him and his team on winning the NBA Finals for the second year in a row and on Jackson's 11th championship as a head coach. The President said that it was a great series, worthy of the rivalry and noted that in last night's game, Derek Fisher had yet another huge postseason shot. The President said he looked forward to congratulating the team in person at the White House.

WHITE SOX-- NATIONALS GAME NOTES

below, from the NATIONALS...
First Pitch: 7:05 p.m. Game-Time Temp.: 81 degrees Time of Game: 2 hours, 55 minutes Attendance: 40,325

Nationals
Stephen Strasburg struck out 10 and allowed 4 hits in 7.0 innings of 2-run ball but received a no-decision...in 3 starts, he is 2-0
with a 1.86 ERA (4 ER/19.1 IP)...Strasburg has 32 strikeouts and just 5 walks (6.4 strikeout-to-walk ratio) in his 3 starts...he is averaging 14.8 strikeouts per 9.0 innings, and has posted double-digit strikeout totals in 2 of his 3 starts.
ONE FOR THE RECORD BOOKS: With his strikeout of Alexei Ramirez in the fifth inning, Stephen Strasburg established an MLB record for most strikeouts in first 3 games of a career (since 1900) with 32...Strasburg shattered the previous record of 29 set by J.R. Richard (1971).
WELL DUNN: Adam Dunn's RBI double in the 7th inning off Gavin Floyd tied the game at 1-1...in 37 games dating to May 9, Dunn is hitting at a
.329 (46-for-140) clip with 14 doubles, a triple, 10 home runs, 26 RBI, 23 runs and 10 walks.

White Sox
EXTRA, EXTRA: With tonight's 2-1 triumph, Chicago tallied their 4th victory in a row and their 9th in the last 11 contests...it was their 2nd
extra inning victory of the year (April 12 at Toronto).
START ME UP: Gavin Floyd tossed 8.0 strong innings, allowing just 1 run on 4 hits, while walking 1 and striking out 5...he retired 9 in a row at
one point...including tonight's effort, Floyd boasts a 1.23 ERA (3 ER/22 IP) with 22 strikeouts in his last 3 starts.

WASHINGTON--New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is hosting a fund-raiser for GOP Illinois Senate candidate Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) in his home in July, reports Politico's Maggie Haberman over at her New York blog.

Obama first pitch 2010.jpegObama, Nationals Park, April, 2010


WASHINGTON--Will diehard White Sox fan President Obama be at the White Sox-Nationals game Friday night, or if not, any of the three-game weekend series? The South Siders face National pitching superstar Stephen Strasburg Friday, his third start for the Nationals.

White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf is here with his team, the Sun-Times sports staff tells me. I've heard that First Lady Michelle Obama--back from California--is not going to the game on Friday.

In April, wearing a White Sox cap and a Nationals jacket, Obama threw out the first pitch at the Nationals opener.

6-17_hale_senate_2966.JPG(Chicago Sun-Times Photo by Keith Hale)

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Mark Kirk, the GOP U.S. Senate nominee who admitted he embellished his military record in recent weeks, has also, it turns out, exaggerated his experience as a teacher.

Meanwhile, Democratic Senate contender Alexi Giannoulias, the state treasurer, got a boost from Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who made four appearances Thursday with Giannoulias in Chicago, three of them at fund-raisers.


In Thursday developments in the fight for the Senate seat once held by President Obama, a New York Times story recounted how Kirk has talked about his experience as a "former nursery school and middle school teacher" over the last decade.

However, Kirk was only a part-time nursery school teacher while at Cornell University, the New York Times said. Kirsten Kukowski, a Kirk campaign spokeswoman, said Kirk worked as a nursery school teacher while in college; the New York Times could not independently confirm where Kirk taught.

At day ten of the corruption trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, on Thurday, prosecution witness Joe Cari, a former top Democratic fund-raiser who is testifying as part of his own plea deal, talked about Blagojevich's presidential ambitions.

There is no court session on Friday. On Thursday, jurors learned how donors were rewarded with state jobs and business.

Keep up on the trial and all things Blagojevich at
blogs.suntimes.com/blago


WASHINGTON--Republican leaders could not run away fast enough from Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) apology to BP CEO Tony Hayward during the House hearing on the Gulf coast oil spill. Barton was threatened with loss of his spot as the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

from Barton....

"I apologize for using the term 'shakedown' with regard to yesterday's actions at the White House in my opening statement this morning, and I retract my apology to BP. As I told my colleagues yesterday and said again this morning, BP should bear the full financial responsibility for the accident on their lease in the Gulf of Mexico. BP should fully compensate those families and businesses that have been hurt by this accident. BP and the federal government need to stop the leak, clean up the damage, and take whatever steps necessary to prevent a similar accident in the future.

"I regret the impact that my statement this morning implied that BP should not pay for the consequences of their decisions and actions in this incident."


WASHINGTON--In comments slammed by the White House, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) on Thursday apologized to BP CEO Tony Hayward for the $20 billion deal the White House worked out with BP on Wednesday to compensate people whose lives and businesses were ruined by the oil spill.

Vice President Biden, asked about Barton during a White House briefing on the Recovery Act, said Barton was "insensitive" and "out of touch." Said Biden, "There was no shake down."

Asked about other Republicans who called the BP deal part of-and this is a paraphrase---a Socialist plot, White House, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs asked "what world are they living on" and suggesting it is a "delusional thing."

Gibbs is also questioning whether Barton--what with his apology to BP-- should even be the ranking member on the House panel dealing with the BP oil spill disaster.

At the beginning of a House hearing where Hayward was in the hotseat, Barton said:

I'm speaking this totally for myself. I'm not speaking for the
Republican Party. I'm not speaking for anybody in the House of
Representatives but myself, but I'm ashamed of what happened in the
White House yesterday.

I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private
corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a
shakedown, in this case, a $20 billion shakedown, with the attorney
general of the United States who is legitimately conducting a criminal
investigation and has every right to do so to protect the interests of
the American people, participating in what amounts to a $20 billion
slush fund that's unprecedented in our nation's history, that's got no
legal standing, and which sets, I think, I terrible precedent for the
future.

If I called you into my office and I had the subcommittee
chairman, Mr. Stupak, with me who was legitimately conducting an
oversight investigation on your company and said, if you put so many
millions of dollars in a project in my congressional district, I could
go to jail and should go to jail.

Now, there is no question that British Petroleum owns this lease.
There is no question that BP -- I'm sorry, it's not British Petroleum
anymore -- that BP made decisions that objective people think
compromised safety. There's no question that BP is liable for the
damages. But we have a due process system where we go through
hearings, in some cases, court cases, litigation and determine what
those damages are when those damages should be paid.

So I'm only speaking for myself. I'm not speaking for anybody
else, but I apologize. I do not want to live in a country where any
time a citizen or a corporation does something that is legitimately
wrong is subject to some sort of political pressure that is, again, in
my words, amounts to a shakedown.

So I apologize. But on this hearing today, I am with Mr. Waxman,
with Mr. Stupak. There are answers that need to be -- questions that
need to be asked that are legitimate because we don't want another oil
spill of this magnitude -- or of any magnitude in the Gulf of Mexico.
And if this subcommittee can do things that make it much more
difficult for this type of an incident to occur in the future, then we
will have done our work for the American people.

WASHINGTON--Education Secretary Arne Duncan hits Chicago Thursday for three fund-raisers for Illinois Democratic Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias and the two ace basketball players may play some hoops with kids at a gym.

The main event for Duncan, the former Chicago Board of Education Chief, is an Old Town reception in the late afternoon; names of hosts below. Duncan is also doing smaller events for Giannoulias during a lunch at the Chicago Club and at a meet and greet in the Willis Towers.
em>

Click below, the Duncan invite for the Old Town event.....


Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich trial, day ten
and an assessment of how day nine went, plus today's witness from Chicago Sun-Times federal courts reporter Natasha Korecki, in the courtroom.

For compelling updates during the trial day by the Sun-Times team go to blogs.suntimes.com/blago

The Sun-Times trial round-up for Wednesday is here and explains how a donation to then Senate hopeful Barack Obama figures in Blagojevich trial.


A Day 9 highlight.....

MUZZLE BLAGOJEVICH?: The federal prosecutors want Blagojevich to be banned from post trial session statements.

And Lynn Sweet on MSNBC's "Hardball" discusses the trial and the Blair Hull connection.

michelle glasses.jpg

NBA Finals Celtics Lakers B.jpg


WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama remained in Los Angeles in Tuesday night, taking in the Lakers-Celtics game in a box at the Staples Center. That's Mrs. Obama wearing glasses, something different.

Her entourage on this vacation trip to Los Angeles--tacked on to an official visit to Camp Pendelton, the Marine Corps base near San Diego-- included daughters Malia, 11 and Sasha, 9, her mother, Marian Robinson and her deputy chief of staff Melissa Winter. Winter is the woman sitting to the left of Mrs. Obama.

The Obama women hit Los Angeles on Sunday night; for my other columns on their Los Angeles activities, click here and my first piece on the L.A. trip here


Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich trial, day nine and an assessment of how day eight went, plus today's witness from Chicago Sun-Times federal courts reporter Natasha Korecki, in the courtroom.

For compelling updates during the trial day by the Sun-Times team go to blogs.suntimes.com/blago

The Sun-Times trial round-up for Tuesday is here.

The Blagojevich trial involves two men with national political reputations: Democrat Joe Cari, who is scheduled to testify on Wednesday and Republican Robert Kjellander, a lobbyist who is a figure in one of the pay-to-play schemes jurors are hearing about.

Cari is a former Democratic National Committee Finance Chairman.
Kjellander is a former Republican National Committee Treasurer.

WASHINGTON -- President Obama addressed the ongoing BP oil spill catastrophe from the Oval Office on Tuesday night, using that particular venue for the first time of his presidency because, well, he's trying everything.

No matter what Obama says, as long as the deep-water well is still gushing, his administration is going to be on the defensive.

As time passes, the Obama presidency may be defined more on the long-term cleanup than on the immediate containment of the underwater spill, which Obama called "the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced."

For now, the Obama White House is looking reactive because the underwater well is not capped. People are looking at Obama to lead as if we are at war, but at the beginning of the crisis, the Obama White House seemed very dependent on the help of the company that caused the problem in the first place -- BP. That's a reason, I suspect, Obama was defensive early in his speech, aiming at the history books when he said, "from the very beginning of this crisis, the federal government has been in charge."

What Obama may do well -- what government is needed for -- is setting up systems during and in the wake of a catastrophe. Obama's presidency will be judged by the overall response, by the swiftness and amounts of money paid to people who have suffered from the underwater oil spill, and first off, how long it takes to stop the flow of oil that is frighteningly mesmerizing to watch on that underwater camera.

Just last week, Obama was brushing aside a suggestion made during an interview on NBC's "Today" show that he should talk directly to BP CEO Tony Hayward because "I'm not interested in words, I'm interested in actions," arguing that a session would be just for show.

But this is no time to be stubborn, and Obama and his advisers know it. He does not have to prove he's in charge. What Obama has to do is deliver.

Obama will meet with BP's top brass today. On Tuesday night, he sounded as if he were, well, king, making demands on BP.
"I will meet with the chairman of BP and inform him that he is to set aside whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and business owners who have been harmed as a result of his company's recklessness. And the fund will not be controlled by BP," Obama said in his speech.

A federal agency that was once obscure -- the Minerals Management Service in the Interior Department -- has gotten a lot of heat from Obama, in the days leading up to his Oval Office speech and during it: "Over the last decade, this agency has become emblematic of a failed philosophy that views all regulations with hostility; a philosophy that says corporations should be allowed to play by their own rules and police themselves."

I would have left that lecture for another day, especially because Obama only appointed the new director, Michael Bromwich, after the BP catastrophe.

Obama talked a lot about what he wanted to do in the future -- he created a national commission to "understand the causes of this disaster" at a time when people affected probably just want some upfront cash.

There were two audiences for Obama's speech Tuesday night: those who were directly impacted and want to know where to go to get their claims settled and their water cleaned up, and the rest of us who have the luxury of getting a lecture from Obama on weaning ourselves from oil.

I can't think of another time I have seen Obama deliver a speech from behind a desk, and he looked awkward and robotic -- but seriously, who cares about the optics in the midst of this catastrophe. Obama said the right things for the situation -- but deeds and accomplishments matter, not words. For starters, the underwater gusher is either contained or it is not. And right now it is not.


WASHINGTON--President Obama, in his first Oval Office address on Tuesday night castigated BP oil's chief for his "recklessness," and said the crisis is far from over.

ON BP: "Tomorrow, I will meet with the chairman of BP and inform him that he is to set aside whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and business owners who have been harmed as a result of his company's recklessness."

ON THE DAMAGE: And sadly, no matter how effective our response is, there will be more oil and more damage before this siege is done. That's why the second thing we're focused on is the recovery and restoration of the Gulf Coast."

above, updated

Here's the transcript:

Good evening. As we speak, our nation faces a multitude of challenges. At home, our top priority is to recover and rebuild from a recession that has touched the lives of nearly every American. Abroad, our brave men and women in uniform are taking the fight to al Qaeda wherever it exists. And tonight, I've returned from a trip to the Gulf Coast to speak with you about the battle we're waging against an oil spill that is assaulting our shores and our citizens.

On April 20th, an explosion ripped through BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, about forty miles off the coast of Louisiana. Eleven workers lost their lives. Seventeen others were injured. And soon, nearly a mile beneath the surface of the ocean, oil began spewing into the water.

Because there has never been a leak of this size at this depth, stopping it has tested the limits of human technology. That is why just after the rig sank, I assembled a team of our nation's best scientists and engineers to tackle this challenge - a team led by Dr. Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and our nation's Secretary of Energy. Scientists at our national labs and experts from academia and other oil companies have also provided ideas and advice.

As a result of these efforts, we have directed BP to mobilize additional equipment and technology. In the coming days and weeks, these efforts should capture up to 90% of the oil leaking out of the well. This is until the company finishes drilling a relief well later in the summer that is expected to stop the leak completely.

Already, this oil spill is the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced. And unlike an earthquake or a hurricane, it is not a single event that does its damage in a matter of minutes or days. The millions of gallons of oil that have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico are more like an epidemic, one that we will be fighting for months and even years.

But make no mistake: we will fight this spill with everything we've got for as long it takes. We will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused. And we will do whatever's necessary to help the Gulf Coast and its people recover from this tragedy.

Tonight I'd like to lay out for you what our battle plan is going forward: what we're doing to clean up the oil, what we're doing to help our neighbors in the Gulf, and what we're doing to make sure that a catastrophe like this never happens again.

First, the cleanup. From the very beginning of this crisis, the federal government has been in charge of the largest environmental cleanup effort in our nation's history - an effort led by Admiral Thad Allen, who has almost forty years of experience responding to disasters. We now have nearly 30,000 personnel who are working across four states to contain and cleanup the oil. Thousands of ships and other vessels are responding in the Gulf. And I have authorized the deployment of over 17,000 National Guard members along the coast. These servicemen and women are ready to help stop the oil from coming ashore, they are ready to help clean the beaches, train response workers, or even help with processing claims - and I urge the governors in the affected states to activate these troops as soon as possible.

Because of our efforts, millions of gallons of oil have already been removed from the water through burning, skimming, and other collection methods. Over five and a half million feet of boom has been laid across the water to block and absorb the approaching oil. We have approved the construction of new barrier islands in Louisiana to try and stop the oil before it reaches the shore, and we are working with Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida to implement creative approaches to their unique coastlines.

more to come....

WASHINGTON-- GOP Illinois Senate nominee Rep. Mark Kirk (D-Ill.) is taking a hit from disclosures he embellished his military record, the first polling since the controversy broke shows. A survey by Public Policy Polling shows the contest between Kirk and Democratic nominee Alexi Giannoulias in a deadlock with 45 percent polled saying that Kirk lied about his record. The poll also shows a new problem for Giannoulias: Green Party candidate LeAlan Jones could be a factor, draining votes from Giannoulias; he is getting 26 percent of the black vote, which usually is heavily Democratic.

Both Kirk and Giannoulias are now unpopular with voters. Kirk's favorability rating dived nine points in the poll of 552 Illinois voters taken from June 12th- 13th with a 4.2 percent margin of error.

If the election was today, who would you vote for?
31 Giannoulias
30 Kirk
14 Jones
24 Undecided

Do you think Mark Kirk has been truthful about
his military record?

10 Kirk yes
45 Kirk no
45 Unsure

How closely have you been following the
recent news about Mark Kirk's military record?
22 Very closely
35 Somewhat closely
43 Not very closely

WASHINGTON--Illinois GOP Senate candidate Rep. Mark Kirk, a Navy Reserve officer already in political trouble for embellishing his military career, also was warned by the Pentagon not to mix politics with his reserve duty.

Over at the Nitpicker.blogspot.com, site founder Terry Welch had the Pentagon scoop:

"In a statement released today in response to Nitpicker queries, Pentagon spokesperson Air Force Major April Cunningham confirmed that Rep. Mark Kirk had taken part in partisan political activities while on active duty.

From the statement:
"In December 2008, Commander Kirk, while on active duty, participated in video discussions in the media about the unfolding situation involving then-Governor Blagojevich of Illinois. Members of the Armed Forces on active duty may not participate in television discussions as an advocate for or against a partisan political party, candidate, or cause.

"In July 2009, while on active duty in the Washington area, either Commander Kirk or a staff member posted a "twitter" to his Senate campaign web site that indicated he was on duty at the National Military Command Center. At the time, Commander Kirk was a candidate for the Senate. Candidates for political office may not participate in any campaign activities while on active duty. They may not update or revise their websites, and they must inform their campaign staff of the applicable restrictions."


"...Commander Kirk was counseled about each of his violations after they occurred and signed a statement acknowledging the limitations on his ability to participate in campaign activities while on active duty. He was required to complete this acknowledgement before being allowed to begin active duty in December 2009."

WASHINGTON--Both Illinois Senate nominees, Republican Rep. Mark Kirk and Democrat Alexi Giannoulias, the state treasurer, will appear at a Monday forum in Chicago sponsored by the Metropolitan Planning Council.

The candidates will each address questions dealing with, according to the MPC, "achieving livable communities, improving coordination among federal agencies, maximizing the next federal surface transportation bill, and implementing the region's 2040 growth and development plan."

The event, at the Hyatt Regency Chicago is not a debate. Kirk and Giannoulias will each discuss the sustainable communities issues in separate conversations. I will be the moderator at the first forum of the general election 2010 cycle where both Kirk and Giannoulias will be on the same stage (not at the same time) focusing on a specific set of issues. (After he speaks, Giannoulias has to dash off for his fund-raiser with Vice President Biden.)

From the MPC: "In Illinois -- which has a structural deficit estimated at $12.8 billion, among the highest foreclosure rates in the nation, and an infamous reputation for political shenanigans -- voters are weary and wary. They have the opportunity, in 2010, to elect both a new U.S. Senator and Governor. Before they do, they want to know where the candidates stand on the issues that are essential to the ongoing economic and environmental health of our state and country."

WASHINGTON--President Obama delivers his first Oval Office address on Tuesday night, at 8 p.m. eastern time ( 7 p.m. Chicago time) as the BP oil spill continues, now in its ninth week. The speech is expected to last 15-20 minutes.

In the wake of the worse environmental disaster in the nation's history, Obama and his administration have been struggling to find ways to contain the gusher and clean up the mess. How Obama handles this may well define his presidency. My column previewing Obama's Oval Office address and an interview with presidential historian Douglas Brinkley is here.

BP chairman and chief executive Carl-Henric Svanberg and other BP officers are being hauled in the White House on Wednesday; on Thursday the House energy committee questions BP chief executive Tony Hayward. Patricia Murphy over at Politics Daily has the overview on Washington's response to the BP oil disaster here.

Rod Blagojevich Trial Day 8

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Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich trial, day eight
: and an assessment of how day seven went, plus today's witness from Chicago Sun-Times federal courts reporter Natasha Korecki, in the courtroom.

For compelling updates during the trial day by the Sun-Times team go to blogs.suntimes.com/blago

Tuesday update:

First Lady Michelle Obama another Los Angeles eaterym dining n Monday night, TMZ reported, at Osteria Mozza.


WASHINGTON--After speaking at Camp Pendleton on Sunday, First Lady Michelle Obama flew to Los Angeles for dinner with daughters Malia, 11, and Sasha, who celebrated her 9th birthday on June 10. Obamafoodorama has the scoop: "Accompanied by daughters Malia and Sasha, and four other adults, Mrs. Obama dined at Lucques, a restaurant that's beloved in town not only for its excellent, ever-changing menu, but also for its commitment to sustainable sourcing. An employee who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed the visit," Obamafoodorama reported.

And more from Obamafoodorama, the web site of record when it comes to the Obama White House and food: "After dinner, Chef Goin also got a special hello and thank you from Mrs. Obama."She stopped by the kitchen on her way out to say thank you and speak with the chef," Secret Ops noted of the First Lady. "The whole party was very gracious, just very, very gracious."

Mrs. Obama is off for the week; daughters Malia and Sasha ended school for the year last week.

WASHINGTON--Vice President Biden will headline a fund-raiser for Democratic Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias in Chicago on June 21, the strongest show of support so far by the Obama White House. It is, as Biden might say, a BFD.

The Biden event was announced Monday by Giannoulias to his supporters via his Twitter account. "Very excited to announce that Vice President Biden will be coming to Chicago for a special campaign event!" Giannoulias said on Twitter.

Biden's fund-raiser is not a big surprise; Biden was already scheduled to be in Chicago on June 21 for a fund-raiser to benefit Tenth District Democratic House nominee Dan Seals at the Union League Club in the Loop.

Biden's coming signifies to the Democratic donor community that Giannoulias is worth investing in his contest against GOP nominee Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) badly wounded in recent weeks with stories about his embellishments about his career as a Navy reserve officer.

The Obama team is sending significant fund-raising help to Giannoulias: Education Secretary Arne Duncan hits Chicago on Thursday; Deputy White House Chief of Staff Jim Messina on Saturday and former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe on June 30, the last day of the second quarter of fund-raising for the November contests.

Rod Blagojevich Trial Day 7

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Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich trial, day seven: today's witness and updates from Chicago Sun-Times federal courts reporter Natasha Korecki, in the courtroom.


Korecki's scoop about jurors ignoring judge and reading about the trial is here.

Welcome back, Roger Simon

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WASHINGTON--Former Chicago Sun-Times columnist Roger Simon, now the chief political columnist for Politico, is back after being out of commission since October.

Simon explains what happened to him--his double loss of his leg and foot--with amazing grace and wit in his Politico column here.

Simon has known White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod, a former Chicago Tribune political writer, for more than 30 years. When Simon was ready to come back to work, he told Axelrod he wanted to kick off his return with an exclusive interview with President Obama. Simon talked to Obama in the Oval Office and you can read "Obama talks of oil spill, frustration and 2012" here.

Writes Simon: "In late April, my wife and I went to a reception hoping to run into Axelrod, and when we did, I invoked the "no good deed goes unpunished" rule. I told him that I would be returning to work in a few weeks and would like to interview Obama for my first column.

"If this seems grossly unfair -- staring up at a guy from a wheelchair and imposing on years of friendship -- there is a name for it: journalism. Axelrod said he would make it happen, and two days later when I ran into Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, Gibbs said Axelrod had talked to him about it, but that there was one condition. I knew then it was all over; I don't do interviews with conditions.

"And the condition is," Gibbs said with a broad grin, "that it take place in the Oval Office." This meant it would not just be an interview, but an Interview, taking place in the innermost of the White House's inner sanctums."

Axelrod and Simon were both guests on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday. Read the transcript of the show here.


Fujisaki_Ichiro_WEB.JPG.jpeg
WASHINGTON--Japan's Ambassador to the U.S., Ichiro Fujisaki hits Chicago on Sunday for his first official visit to the city. He's coming to deliver a speech Monday to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.


fujisaki.jpg (photo, left, by Lynn Sweet)


I chatted with Fujisaki on Saturday at a barbeque the Ambassador to Japan hosts each year at the ambassador's residence in northwest Washington. Fujisaki told me his speech will touch on Iran, North Korea and the economy. The title of his speech is "Challenges facing the U.S. and Japan in the coming years," and it will be delivered at a lunch gathering at The Fairmont Chicago.

Fujisaki flies to Chicago Sunday with his wife, Yoriko Fujisaki. Former White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers, back home in Chicago, will host a dinner for him on Sunday night, the ambassador told me. I asked him what he wanted to see in Chicago and he told me he is going to take a tour of historic Frank Lloyd Wright homes in the area. He also has a meeting planned with Gov. Quinn.

WASHINGTON--White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod said Sunday President Obama, under fire for the administration response to the BP oil spill disaster, will speak to the nation from the White House onTuesday, following a two day swing to the Gulf region.

On NBC's "Meet the Press," Axelrod said, "Well, the president's going down to the Gulf on Monday and Tuesday to the states that he hasn't visited--Alabama, Mississippi and Florida--and when he returns, he's going to address the nation from the White House. We're at a kind of inflection point in this saga because we now know that what--essentially what we can do and what we can't do in terms of collecting oil and, and what lies ahead in the next few months, and he wants to lay out the steps that we're going to take from here to get through this, through this crisis."

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

And to underscore the point I made about Jerry Brown, the Democratic nominee for governor in California, here's a campaign video for him below, rebutting Palin on several fronts:

WASHINGTON--Chicago's Printers Row book festival is hosting not only authors this weekend, but C-SPAN's new digital multi-media platform bus. C-SPAN is doing live interview shows, taking calls and taping several panel discussions.


About the bus, from C-SPAN: "Partnering with cable affiliates in communities across America, C-SPAN's new 45' customized Prevost coach will engage visitors of all ages through interactive multimedia. Digital Bus visitors will experience C-SPAN's unique public affairs content across high-tech platforms such as HD-TV, the Internet, and radio, encouraging customers to follow "Washington, your way."

I asked whya new bus for C-SPAN and co-president Susan Swain answered: "We knew it was time for more than an oil change and our Board agreed that C-SPAN needed a new vehicle showcasing cutting edge technologies to update our community outreach. The new C-SPAN Digital Bus reflects the latest in media and educational technologies." Swain added, "We promise that when this Bus comes to town, it will be noticed. It's got a 'wow' factor, inside and out."

On deck for Sunday from the festival in the South Loop:

10-11am ET INTERVIEW & CALL-IN with Wes Moore, author of "The Other Wes Moore"

11:45-Noon ET INTERVIEW with James Nowlan, co-author of "Illinois Politics: A Citizen's Guide"

1:45-2pm ET INTERVIEW with Alan Maass, author of "The Case for Socialism"

5:45-6:30pm ET INTERVIEW & CALL-IN with Lee Walker, "Rediscovering Black Conservatism"


WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama delivered an inspirational graduation address on Friday to a Washington high school. She told the students, "maybe you feel like your destiny was written the day you were born and you ought to just rein in your hopes and scale back your dreams," Mrs. Obama said. "But if any of you are thinking that way, I'm here to tell you, stop it."

Excerpt from Mrs. Obama speech: Maybe you feel like your destiny was written the day you were born and you ought to just rein in your hopes and scale back your dreams.

But if any of you are thinking that way, I'm here to tell you, stop it. Don't do that. Don't ever scale back your dreams. And don't ever set limits on what you can achieve. And don't think for one single moment that your destiny is out of your hands, because no one's in control of your destiny but you. And it is never too late. You can do anything you put your minds to -- and I mean absolutely anything. It's important for you all to know this.

WASHINGTON--Vice President Joe Biden right now is the Democrats most available big draw to headline fund-raisers for November contenders. Biden hits Chicago on June 21 for a funder at the Union League Club to help Dan Seals, running for open seat in the north suburban 10th congressional district. Biden lands in Milwaukee on June 25 for a funder to help the re-election bid of Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.)

Bow tie Obama.jpg
from the White House: President Barack Obama, wearing a bow tie similar to Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, tapes a message regarding the justice's retirement in the Map Room of the White House, May 14, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

WASHINGTON--As the BP oil spill crisis deepens, the Obama White House is calling in top BP officials for a meeting June 16 to discuss how to "stop the leak and contain the damage." The letter was sent to BP Board Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg in London. He was told to send the appropriate officials to meet with senior White House officials. Obama will "participate in a portion of the meeting, BP was told." Obama had said earlier he didn't call the BP brass because he thought they would just tell him what he wanted to hear.

I guess that changed.

The letter--an invitation that BP would find hard to refuse--was sent by National Incident Commander Thad Allen.

WASHINGTON--In the wake of the Blackhawks Stanley Cup victory, President Obama on Thursday called Head Coach Joel Quenneville to congratulate him and invite the team to the White House. Obama asked Quenneville to "let team owner Rocky Wirtz and President John McDonough know how impressed he was with their ability to turn the team around so quickly."

Obama watched some of the playoffs, I was told. The Blackhawks bested the Philadelphia Flyers; Obama and Quenneville joked that Obama has some "bragging rights" over Vice President Biden, a Flyers fan.

Here's the briefing about the phone call I just got from the White House:

President Obama today called Chicago Blackhawks Head Coach Joel Quenneville to congratulate him on the team's Stanley Cup victory. The President asked Coach Quenneville to pass onto the team his congratulations and that, as a Chicagoan, he was proud of them. The pair joked that the President would now have bragging rights over Vice President Biden, a Philadelphia Flyers fan. President Obama also asked Coach Quenneville to let team owner Rocky Wirtz and President John McDonough know how impressed he was with their ability to turn the team around so quickly. He reiterated that the Blackhawks' victory was great for the city of Chicago and said he looked forward to welcoming the team at the White House.


Quigley_Cup.JPGRep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) was at the Blackhawk game in Philadelphia and is hoisting the Stanley Cup.


WASHINGTON -Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) super hockey fan--and a player--was at the Blackhawk championship game in Philadelphia on Wednesday night and praised the team from the House floor on Thursday.

"Madam Speaker, you have no idea how much I'm going to enjoy this, but sometime late last night, Patrick Kane slipped a puck past a Philadelphia goaltender in overtime and the Chicago Blackhawks became the Stanley Cup Champions.

"Congratulations to the team for their great season. Many of these players have played over 120 games this season, including the Olympics, to achieve their One Goal.

"A special thanks to the owner of the Blackhawks, Rocky Wirtz. While hockey never left Chicago, he brought it back. The management team of John McDonough, Jay Blunk, Stan and Scotty Bowman, Coach Quenneville, and Dale Tallon.

"Madam Speaker, today, for all of us, with apologies, Chicago is (Quigley sings) 'My Kind of Town.' Thank you and I yield back."

WASHINGTON--In the wake of the Chicago Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup, Illinois Senators Dick Durbin and Roland Burris introduced a Senate resolution on Thursday praising the team.


Here are excerpts; full resolution at the click:

Whereas, on June 9, 2010, the Chicago Blackhawks hockey
team won the Stanley Cup;
Whereas the 2010 Stanley Cup win is the first Stanley Cup
win for the Blackhawks since 1961, when John F. Kennedy
was president and the Peace Corps was first established;
Whereas the Blackhawks joined the National Hockey League
in 1926 and have a rich history in the League;
Whereas the Blackhawks were 1 of the original 6 teams in
the National Hockey League;
Whereas, during a very difficult period for the National
Hockey League, the Blackhawks remained a strong and
2
CEL10415 S.L.C.
competitive team, winning the Stanley Cup in 1934,
1938, and 1961;
Whereas the Stanley Cup championship appearance in 2010
is the first for the Blackhawks since 1992;
Whereas the Blackhawks posted a regular season record of
52-22-8, and the team dominated opponents during the
playoffs, with 12 wins and only 4 losses, including a
sweep of the number 1-seeded San Jose Sharks to win
the Western Conference championship and advance to the
Stanley Cup finals;
Whereas General Manager Stan Bowman, Head Coach Joel
Quenneville, President John F. McDonough, and owner
Rocky Wirtz have put together and led a great organization;
Whereas several Blackhawks players competed in the Olympic
games and faithfully returned to the Blackhawks to help
secure a championship, including--
(1) Patrick Kane, who played for the United States;
(2) Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook, and Duncan
Keith, who played for Canada; and
(3) Tomas Kopecky and Marian Hossa, who played
for Slovakia;
Whereas all 34 active players, whose shared goal was to end
the 49-year championship drought, collectively contributed
to a victorious season, including Kyle Beach, Bryan
Bickell, Dave Bolland, Nick Boynton, Troy Brouwer,
Adam Burish, Dustin Byfuglien, Brian Campbell, Brian
Connelly, Corey Crawford, Jassen Cullimore, Jake
Dowell, Ben Eager, Colin Fraser, Jordan Hendry, Niklas
Hjalmarsson, Marian Hossa, Cristobal Huet, Kim
Johnsson, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Tomas Kopecky,
3
CEL10415 S.L.C.
Andrew Ladd, Shawn Lalonde, John Madden, Antti
Niemi, Danny Richmond, Brent Seabrook, Patrick
Sharp, Jack Skille, Brent Sopel, Jonathan Toews, Hannu
Toivonen, and Kris Versteeg;
Whereas the 2010 Blackhawks players follow in the giant
footsteps of the great players in Blackhawk history who
have had their numbers retired, including Glenn Hall
(#1), Keith Magnuson (#3), Pierre Pilote (#3), Bobby
Hull (#9), Denis Savard (#18), Stan Mikita (#21), and
Tony Esposito (#35);
Whereas the city of Chicago welcomes the first championship
in the city in 5 years with open arms;
Whereas a new generation of young fans in Chicago and
around the State of Illinois are discovering the joy of
championship hockey; and
Whereas the Nashville Predators, Vancouver Canucks, San
Jose Sharks, and the Philadelphia Flyers proved to be
worthy and honorable adversaries and also deserve recognition:


"The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the state finds Brady with 47% of the vote, while Quinn chalks up 36% support. Eight percent (8%) prefer some other candidate in the race, and 10% remain undecided.
"The numbers have scarcely budged since early March when Brady was declared the winner of the GOP Primary by 193 votes out of 750,000 cast. In the first Rasmussen Reports survey after the state election board's decision, Brady posted a 47% to 37% lead over Quinn. In late April, the Republican was ahead 45% to 38%."

Giannoulias corrects his resume

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In the wake of stories about GOP Illinois Senate candidate Rep. Mark Kirk embellishing his military resume, "his camp in the last few days have offered up stories of resume-embellishment Giannoulias has engaged in: Giannoulias had made two changes to his resume in response. Giannoulias now says he "was" founder and chair of the AG Foundation, a not-for-profit charity that donated money to treat child-related illnesses, curb poverty and assist disaster relief organization. He had previously said he "is" involved with the now defunct group. And Giannoulias admits he was not a "director" of the Community Bankers Association of Illinois. He served on the group's Committee on Legislation and Regulation."

Click below for the full story...

WASHINGTON--House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hits Chicago on June 27 for a high dollar fund-raiser to benefit the House Democratic political operation at Gibson's Steak House, 1028 N. Rush. Tickets slide from $30,400 per couple to $1,000 for a solo guest.

Click below for copy of invite with names of hosts.

WASHINGTON--Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup, bringing home a championship to Chicago. Can't wait they get their trip to the White House; President Obama has been meeting with all the championship teams. The team arrived back home in Chicago early Thursday; big parade on Friday.

Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) plays hockey and his statement came "live from Philadelphia", where the Blackhawks clinched: "It hasn't sunk in yet, because I didn't see the puck go into the net. But we exorcised the demons of Lemaire in 1971 tonight, and I'm the happiest guy in Philadelphia right now. 49 years of frustration are gone, just like that. Congratulations to all the guys on and off the ice who made this happen. This is the greatest game in the world.

"Let's Go Hawks."

Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.) last night posted on her Facebook page, "I'm inviting over other Members of Congress from Illinois and Pennsylvania to my Congressional office to watch Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals tonight. Let's see if any of our Flyers friends are willing to show up to watch the Hawks put it away."

Blagojevich Trial Day 6

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By Lynn Sweet and Abdon M. Pallasch
Chicago Sun-Times

In another embarrassing revelation for Illinois GOP Senate candidate Rep. Mark
Kirk, a commander in the Navy reserves caught embellishing his military record, a Department of Defense document surfaced Wednesday showing his superiors expressed "concerns arising from his partisan political activities during his last two tours of active duty."

The Kirk campaign said in a statement that Kirk never violated any Defense Department rules, and suggested that the Defense Department memo was dug up by the Obama White House and/or Democratic operatives.

However, the web-based researcher who posted the memo on Wednesday said he obtained the document from someone who got it from inside Kirk's campaign.


By Lynn Sweet and Abdon M. Pallasch
Chicago Sun-Times

In another embarrassing revelation for Illinois GOP Senate candidate Rep. Mark
Kirk, a commander in the Navy reserves caught embellishing his military record, a Department of Defense document surfaced Wednesday showing his superiors expressed "concerns arising from his partisan political activities during his last two tours of active duty."

The Kirk campaign said in a statement that Kirk never violated any Defense Department rules, and suggested that the Defense Department memo was dug up by the Obama White House and/or Democratic operatives.

However, the web-based researcher who posted the memo on Wednesday said he obtained the document from someone who got it from inside Kirk's campaign.


By Lynn Sweet and Abdon M. Pallasch
Chicago Sun-Times

In another embarrassing revelation for Illinois GOP Senate candidate Rep. Mark
Kirk, a commander in the Navy reserves caught embellishing his military record, a Department of Defense document surfaced Wednesday showing military officials expressed "concerns arising from his partisan political activities during his last two tours of active duty."

The Kirk campaign said in a statement that Kirk never violated any Defense Department rules, and suggested that the Defense Department memo was dug up by the Obama White House and/or Democratic operatives.

However, the web-based researcher who posted the memo on Wednesday said he obtained the document from someone who got it from inside Kirk's campaign.

WASHINGTON--In the first poll since stories have come out about Illinois GOP Senate nominee Rep. Mark Kirk embellishing is military record, 63 percent surveyed by Rasmussen Reports said the news may impact their vote in November. Kirk is ahead, at 42 percent to 39 percent for Democratic contender Alexi Giannoulias, the state treasurer.

Their April poll put Kirk 41 percent to Giannoulias at 37 percent.

"The latest Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey of Likely Voters shows Kirk barely ahead of Giannoulias 42% to 39%. Seven percent (7%) would prefer another candidate, and 12% more are undecided at this point," Rasmussen found.

"Sixty-two percent (62%) of Illinois voters say they've been following news stories about Kirk and his military service, and 63% say this news is important in terms of how they vote this November. Thirty-two percent (32%) say Kirk's misstatements about his military record are not important in how they vote. These numbers include 27% who say the misstatements are Very Important to how they vote and 11% who say they are Not At All Important."


hot dog.jpgMike Payne, owner of Byron's Hot Dogs in Chicago, wife Ann and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)

WASHINGTON--With all the Chicagoans in the Obama White House, you'd think someone would know off the bat who to call to steam up some Chicago-style hot dogs for the White House annual congressional picnic on Tuesday. Instead, the White House phoned the offices of Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) for assistance and as a result Mike Payne, the owner of Byron's Hot Dogs in Chicago was recruited to help.

Payne sells Vienna hot dogs from two locations on the North Side, 1017 W. Irving Park near Wrigley Field and 1701 W. Lawrence. On June 6, Payne had to close the Byron's in west suburban Forest Park.

Payne, with his wife, Ann, worked alongside of White House chief chef Cristeta Comerford in the White House kitchen on Tuesday, from 7 a.m. to close to 10 p.m. for the event, which featured food from various regions of the U.S. The steamed Chicago Vienna Hot Dog represented the Midwest.

The official White House call to Payne came from Ebs Burnough, a deputy White House Social Secretary. Since outside supplies cannot be brought in, Payne sent Comerford a shopping list in order to make an authentic Chicago hot dog with all the traditional fixings. Comerford found an East Coast Vienna Hot Dog distributor; other items included yellow mustard (the greatest of mustards), shredded lettuce, diced onions sliced cucumbers, green peppers and tomatoes. Plus peppers, celery salt and dill pickles. The only ingredient Comerford could not find was the specific day glow green relish featured at Byron's; she found something close, though.

Chicago-style hot dogs are steamed; Payne showed Comerford how to steam them in the White House kitchen, where he worked for the day prepping.

"Everybody there was really really nice," Payne said, "Like they were treating us like a guest."

Payne, who opened the first Byron's in 1975, also met President Obama and First Lady Michelle in the White House.

Said Payne, "a little bit of home cooking came all the way to the White House"


The president and Mrs. Obama and her mom, Marian Robinson, did send in a "to go" order for four hot dogs. Payne prepared them extra special and sent them up to the Obama residence.

On a silver platter.

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich can't tweet from the Chicago courtroom where his federal trial is taking place. Before court on Wednesday morning, Blagojevich messaged "Amy's graduation last night was beautiful," a reference to the eighth grade graduation of his daughter. Patti Blagojevich, his wife filed last night--just after hearing opening statements outlining corruption charges against her husband--and herself, though she is not charged with anything. "Getting to graduation with not a moment to spare. Just relieved to get here at all," Patti tweeted.

Blagojevich trial coverage at blogs.suntimes.com/blago

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich witness list for Wednesday includes his former chief of staff Lon Monk, who turned into a major snitch. Chicago Sun-Times federal courts reporter Natasha Korecki has the exclusive scoop here on how the Blagojevich defense thought opening statements on Tuesday went.

By Abdon M. Pallasch
Chicago Sun-Times Political Reporter
Sun-Times Blagojevich coverage at blogs.suntimes.com/blago

CHICAGO--Presidential Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had agreed to be an "intermediary"between former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his rivals Mike and Lisa Madigan, as Blagojevich tried to give Lisa Madigan Barack Obama's old senate seat, Blagojevich's lawyer told jurors in the opening statement of the former governor's corruption trial.

Lawyer Sam Adam Jr. dragged out as many big names as you'd expect: Emanuel, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nv.) and Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), who had been lobbying Blagojevich for appointment to the seat Obama held at the time of Blagojevich's December, 2008 arrest.

WASHINGTON-- The Obama White House, yet to find a way to cap the BP oil spill gusher, moved ahead Wednesday on something they have more control over: pressuring BP to quickly pay claims made by Gulf Coast victims. Adm. Thad Allen, the overseer of the U.S. response to the man-made disaster, wrote BP's chief executive calling for more transparency, more information about how quickly claims are being paid and how the payments are being calculated. President Obama said BP should not "nickel and dime" people who lost their living because of the catastrophe.

WASHINGTON--Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln wins a run-off, handing a thumping to big labor; two female former CEO's lead the California ticket; and Sarah Palin gets some bragging rights. That and more winners and losers from Tuesday's primary elections in an analysis by Jill Lawrence of Politics Daily.

WASHINGTON-- As the oil spill crisis deepens, President Obama heads to the Gulf again, this time for two days next week, to Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, the White House announced on Tuesday.

Rachel Maddow on Mark Kirk

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Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Click to www.blogs.suntimes.com/blago for Chicago Sun-Times Blagojevich federal corruption trial coverage.
Below, Blagojevich on Tuesday before court from NBC5

WASHINGTON--Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush hits Illinois on June 16 and 17 for three fund-raisers for GOP Illinois Governor nominee Bill Brady, the state senator.

Bush, the brother and son of former presidents--who may be mulling a White House bid himself at some point-- headlines a funder in Bloomington on June 16; the next day he's the draw at a breakfast in Chicago's Loop and a lunch in Peoria.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


WASHINGTON--President Obama said on Tuesday he is looking for some "ass to kick" in the ongoing BP oil spill catastrophe. Obama's reply to critics to how he is handling the crisis: "I don't always have time to perform for the benefit of the cable shows."

In an NBC "Today Show" interview with host Matt Lauer, Obama defended his administration--and his personal--response to the inability to cap the deepwater gusher. Obama does not like being portrayed as emotionally detached from the situation.

Said Obama, "And I understand. And here's what -- I'm going to push back hard on this, because I think that this is just an idea that got in folks' heads and the media has run with it. I was down there a month ago, before most of these talking heads were even paying attention to the Gulf. A month ago I was meeting with fishermen down there standing in the rain talking about what a potential crisis this could be.

"And I don't sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar. We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers so I know whose ass to kick, right?

"So, you know, this is not theater. Most of the decisions that I make on a day-to-day basis, I make because I have gathered the best information possible in very difficult situations, and my job is to figure out how can I move the federal government, the private sector, all the various players who are involved, to perform some very, very difficult tasks?

"And I don't always have time to perform for the benefit of the cable shows. What I do have is dedication and commitment to make sure that the people who are actually being affected by this are going to get the best possible service from me. And as long as I'm president, that's the approach that I'm going to take to this job."

BY ABDON M. PALLASCH
Chicago Sun-Times Political Reporter

CHICAGO--The Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters -- both of which have endorsed Republican Rep. Mark Kirk in the past -- will announce today they are endorsing his rival for Barack Obama's old Senate seat, Democrat Alexi Giannoulias.

"Mark Kirk stood up to Big Oil when he stopped BP from polluting Lake Michigan," Kirk boasts on his website. But the environmentalists say Kirk may be exaggerating a bit when he says "he stopped" BP.

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich federal corruption trial moves on to opening arguments on Tuesday, with U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel expected to finalize the jury panel this morning. For updates from inside the Dirksen Federal Building courtroom, check out the Chicago Sun-Times Blago Blog, presided over by Federal Courts reporter Natasha Korecki, who has been on this case since the beginning. Korecki is also Tweeting @NatashaKorecki.

Blagojevich and wife Patti are also Tweeting, though nothing from Blagojevich or Patti yet this morning. Check out my overview column on the Blagojevich trial--where the most sensational charge is the selling of President Obama's Illinois Senate seat--here.

WASHINGTON--Eleven states hold primary contests on Tuesday; for an overview on the races, check out Carl Cannon's piece at Politics Daily. Illinois voters went to the polls on Feb. 2, for the first-in-the-nation primary of the 2010 mid-term cycle. For a lot of other states, nominees for the November mid-terms will be determined today.

Most important, says Cannon: "The most crucial contests Tuesday are statewide gubernatorial and Senate races in South Carolina, Arkansas, Nevada, and California. The rest of the Tuesday calendar, looking at the map east to west, features elections in Virginia, New Jersey, and Maine; Iowa and the Dakotas in the Midwest; and the mountain state redoubt of Montana."

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama zinged her mother, Marian Robinson, for the way she cooked broccoli when Mrs. Obama was a kid growing up on the South Side of Chicago. Mrs. Obama made her comment on Friday, at a White House event on the South Lawn intended to encourage chefs to volunteer in local schools to help improve the quality of school meals; my report on the initiative is here.

"Let me tell you something. My mother didn't know how to cook broccoli," Mrs. Obama said. "It was watery and mushy, and that's what we thought broccoli was. We thought you could eat it with a spoon and cut it with a knife. And I know a lot of parents out there cooking broccoli like that. It makes it hard to like broccoli if that's how you're cooking it."

WASHINGTON--In announcing her retirement on Monday, White House reporting legend Helen Thomas, 89, said "I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians.

"They do not reflect my heart-felt belief that pace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance. May that day come soon."


Thomas turns 90 on Aug. 4.

UPDATE TUESDAY, JUNE 8 - 12:38 p.m. Chicago time
Last month, Thomas spoke at a fund-raiser for Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) in Chicago and this blog covered the event.

In the wake of the controversy, Schakowsky issued this statement:

Schakowsky: "I was appalled at Helen Thomas' statement that Jews should leave Israel and "go home" to Germany, Poland, America and elsewhere. Her comment was inappropriate and highly offensive. Helen Thomas has had a long and pioneering career - one that has been uplifting for women in journalism. But that in no way excuses such an insensitive and reprehensible remark."

WASHINGTON--Columnist Helen Thomas, a trailblazer for women journalists, is retiring in the wake of a controversy triggered by comments she made about Jews and Israel last week.


"I think those remarks were offensive and reprehensible," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday, at a briefing where Thomas was absent from her front row seat in the briefing room.

"I think she should and has apologized, because, obviously, those remarks are -- do not reflect, certainly, the opinion of -- I assume, most of the people in here, and certainly not of the administration."


WASHINGTON--Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele attacked White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel on Saturday in the weekly Republican address, turning up the heat on the Obama White House on the Joe Sestak and Andrew Romanoff job offers made to steer then out of Senate races.

"Enough is enough. If Rahm Emanuel has been offering government goodies to inconvenient politicians threatening Democrat incumbents, then it's time for him to resign," Steele said.

BY ABDON M. PALLASCH Political Reporter
Chicago Sun-Times
CHICAGO--Illinois GOP Senate nominee Rep. Mark Kirk's problems with exaggeration or "casualness . . . with details," as he described it last week, go beyond his military record to his comments about foreign policy issues that are supposed to be his strong suit, a Sun-Times look at the record has found.

WASHINGTON--Former White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers is joining Chicago based Johnson Publishing as a consultant, TheRoot.com scooped on Friday.

From TheRoot: "Linda Johnson Rice is finally bringing in the big guns to turn around the battle to save Johnson Publishing. Former White House social secretary and longtime friend Desiree Rogers is working in a consultancy position with the company "to assist with corporate strategy," says Wendy Parks, a spokeswoman for the publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines. JPC's president and COO Anne Sempowski Ward is on maternity leave, according to Parks."

Watch live streaming video from chicagosuntimeslive at livestream.com

WASHINGTON--GOP Illinois Senate nominee Rep. Mark Kirk, a commander in the Navy reserves, is under fire for embellishing his military record. Kirk, to try to contain the fallout of revelations about his service, met Thursday with the editorial board of the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune.


WASHINGTON--More examples are surfacing of GOP Illinois Senate nominee Rep. Mark Kirk--a commander in the Navy reserves-- embellishing his military record, as recently as in an ad for his Senate race. Facing a major campaign crisis, Kirk met Thursday in separate sessions with the editorial boards and reporters from the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune.

Kirk, an intelligence officer, told the Sun-Times he was never fired on as he flew over Iraq or Kosovo. He never said he was fired on, he said in reply to a question from the Sun-Times. "No, no. There's no contradiction. I remember being illuminated by air defense."

Contrary to his claim to the Sun-Times, Kirk did talk about being shot at, on Oct. 1, 2003, from the House floor. Kirk spoke so imprecisely as to be misleading. "I just returned from Iraq and the trend is for the better," Kirk said, with his comments captured on C-SPAN. He goes on to say, "the last time I was in Iraq I was in uniform, flying at 20,000 feet and the Iraqi Air Defense network was shooting at us. That force is now gone."

Kirk did not mention that was three years earlier, when he flew missions over Iraq in March and April of 2000.

.

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama will ask chefs around the nation on Friday to adopt schools and work with parents, teachers and students develop healthy eating habits. Big name chefs from Chicago coming to the White House are Koren Grieveson, Paul Kahan, Art Smith and Bruce Sherman plus others.

Blagojevich goofy video clips

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WASHINGTON-- Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) hits Chicago on Thursday to headline a fund-raiser for Democratic Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias, the Illinois state treasurer.

On Wednesday, the Chicago law firm of Much Shelist hosted a funder for Giannoulias.


BY NATASHA KORECKI AND SARAH OSTMAN

Chicago Sun-Times Reporters
For Blagojevich updates click www.suntimes.com/blago

Six years after the investigation began, 18 months after his arrest, and 17 months after he launched a national media blitz that included everything from "The View" to Donald Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice," the day is finally upon us.

Rod Blagojevich, the former governor of our state -- and his brother -- arrive today in federal court to face extensive corruption charges.

Jury selection is set to begin this morning as Blagojevich becomes the second Illinois governor in four years to face trial on misconduct allegations. Former Gov. George Ryan is still serving a 6.5 year sentence in federal prison.

WASHINGTON--Sir Paul McCartney crooned "Michelle" to First Lady Michelle Obama on Wednesday night, during a White House concert full of stars honoring the former Beatle for winning the Library of Congress Gershwin award.

The Jonas Brothers, favorites of the Obama girls, Malia, 11 and Sasha, 8, performed with a lot of other stars on the program: Corinne Bailey Rae, Elvis Costello, Dave Grohl, Herbie Hancock, Emmylou Harris, Faith Hill, Lang Lang, Jack White and comedian Jerry Seinfeld. The video above is of the gang--with the First Family singing "Hey, Jude."

OBAMA DAUGHTERS BIRTHDAY ALERT: Sasha turns 9 on June 10 and Malia turns 12 on July 4.

The McCartney guests were mainly White House and administration officials and some members of Congress.

At the click: pool report on concert, President Obama's tribute to McCartney transcript, guest list.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

WASHINGTON--GOP Illinois Senate nominee Rep. Mark Kirk campaign on Wednesday said an internal scrub of what Kirk has said about his military record started after a story appeared about Connecticut Democratic Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal claiming to have served in Viet Nam when he did not.


By Natasha Korecki and Lynn Sweet

Chicago Sun-Times
Blagojevich trial coverage at www.blogs.suntimes.com/blago


Updated 2:35 p.m.Chicago time with Valerie Jarrett subpoena

President Obama's chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett were subpoenaed by the defense to testify in Rod Blagojevich's upcoming trial, a Blagojevich attorney told the Chicago Sun-Times.

"Yes, he's been subpoenaed by the defense," one of Rod Blagojevich's lawyers, Shelly Sorosky told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Sorosky described Emanuel as a "critical" witness because: "he's the supposed victim of an extortion." One of the charges against Blagojevich accuses him of attempting to extort Emanuel while he was a congressman.

The White House this afternoon confirmed Emanuel and Jarrett were subpoenaed. The subpoenas were accepted, the Sun-Times was told by a White House source,


Sorosky said there are two areas of interest involving Emanuel: the alleged attempted extortion of Emanuel by then-Gov. Blagojevich and the U.S. senate seat selection concerning now-White House Senior Adviser Jarrett.

Jarrett was initially interested in the Senate seat post after Obama was elected president in 2008 and Emanuel had some discussions with both Blagojevich and his staff about the open seat.

Blagojevich had the sole power to appoint a replacement to Obama's vacant seat. He's charged with trying to extract a personal benefit from his potential nominees in exchange for an appointment.

The defense in Blagojevich's case has already subpoenaed three Democratic lawmakers: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid from Nevada and Sen. Dick Durbin and Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. from Illinois

Sorosky acknowledged that Emanuel, and many others who have been subject of subpoenas, might not actually be called to testify.

"We served a lot of these people just in case they were needed," Sorosky said.
"We don't know if we're going to call them or not. It depends on what happens at trial."
.

WASHINGTON--Paul McCartney gets the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular song Wednesday night at the White House, hosted by President Obama and First Lady Michelle. McCartney will perform as will other stars: Stevie Wonder, Elvis Costello, Jonas Brothers, Herbie Hancock, Corinne Bailey Rae, Dave Grohl, Faith Hill, Emmylou Harris, Lang Lang and Jack White. Jerry Seinfeld will deliver remarks.


jarrett browner.jpg
From the White House..."President Barack Obama is briefed by Carol Browner, assistant to the President for energy and climate change, on the response to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, during a meeting in the Oval Office, June 1, 2010. Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett is pictured at right. "(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Adm. Thad Allen BP oil spill briefing at the click.


WASHINGTON----GOP Illinois Senate candidate Rep. Mark Kirk did not tell the whole story--was not candid--about how he discovered he never won a Navy "Intelligence Officer of the Year" award. It turns out the Navy tipped off Kirk¹s House staff that news outlets were asking questions about his military record.

Last week, Kirk, a commander in the Naval Reserves, said his staff called the false claim to his attention as if they discovered it themselves. What actually happened was that after his staff got the heads-up from the Navy, Kirk¹s team scrambled a damage-control operation, wanting to put a statement on his website correcting the record before a story came out.

Navy Cmdr. Danny Hernandez told the Chicago Sun-Times on Tuesday that after his office received calls from news outlets "inquiring about [Kirk¹s] service" -- and who won the Intelligence Officer of the Year Award in 1999--the Navy¹s Office of Legislative Affairs on Capitol Hill was notified so it could pass the information to Kirk¹s office, and it did.

That is a Navy courtesy, Hernandez said, for all congressmen who are the subject of media questions. He said Kirk¹s office was told that the 1999 winner of the reserve officer¹s award was not Kirk.

"Upon a recent review of my records, I found that an award listed in my official biography was misidentified as 'Intelligence Officer of the Year.' In fact . . . I was the recipient of the Rufus Taylor Intelligence Unit of the Year award for outstanding support provided during Operation Allied Force," Kirk said in that Web posting. Asked by the Sun-Times on Saturday night what prompted Kirk to make the change, a Kirk spokesman said "we noticed that it was misidentified and we corrected it."

The news about the false claim has put Kirk on the defensive for the first time in his campaign against Democratic nominee Alexi Giannoulias, the state treasurer. Kirk, a Navy reservist since 1989, has made his military record a centerpiece of his Senate campaign.

KIRK'S PENTAGON ARRANGEMENT

Kirk has an unusual arrangement with the Pentagon when it comes to serving his reserve duty.

"Our regular practice is to not call up for deployment sitting members of Congress who are in the reserves, but we have faced this question a number of times and have made case-by-case exceptions in a few instances, Rep. Kirk being one of them," Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell told the Sun-Times.

KIRK'S CONFLICT RECORD


On the campaign trail and through his career in Congress, Kirk often boasts about his duty in conflict zones, which raises the question of where he served and for how long. The Kirk campaign gave the Sun-Times some details on Tuesday.

Iraq: Kirk, in an electronic intelligence squadron, "flew missions
patrolling Iraqi airspace during March and April 2000," when the U.S. was
enforcing a no-fly zone.

Afghanistan: Kirk served reserve duty in Kandahar from Dec. 15, 2008, through Jan. 2, 2009. He returned a second time between Dec. 19, 2009, and Jan. 4, 2010.

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich trial starts this month, with jury selection on Thursday. For all of the Sun-Times Blagojevich stories, click here for the archive and latest news. Federal Courts reporter Natasha Korecki has been following the Blagojevich saga since he was arrested in December, 2008; she presides over the Sun-Times Blago Blog here.

A variety of outlets are reporting on Tuesday that former Vice President Gore and wife Tipper are separating.

BY DAVID ROEDER
Chicago Sun-Times Staff Reporter

Republican Senate candidate Mark Kirk took the blame Monday for embellishing a military award he received, while his Democratic opponent said it was part of a pattern of fabrication.

Kirk for years has said he was named "Intelligence Officer of the Year" as part of his service in the Naval Reserve.

In reality, an intelligence unit he commanded won the award in 1999, and Kirk accepted it.

WASHINGTON--After being rained out at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Ill., President Obama finally delivered his Memorial Day speech on Monday night. He flew from Chicago to Andrews Air Force Base and gave his address to a quickly assembled group.

After leaving the cemetery, Obama made an unscheduled stop.

From the local pool report, by Abdon M. Pallasch of the Chicago Sun-Times:

President Obama visited with veterans at the Hines Veterans Administration Hospital just west if Chicago for half an hour from 1:45 CST to 2:15 CST.

"You guys dry off yet?" Obama asked still-drenched reporters as he bounded out of the Hines VA. He posed for pictures with veterans and their kids and enjoyed a brat with mustard and baked beans, Obama's press office said of the event which was closed to the press.

On the rainy drive up from Elwood minor drama as one of the SUVs got a flat tire.

....The president stopped back home to pick up the family, including Bo. A few friends of Obama's and the girls' carrying umbrellas, came to see them off.

Wheels up from O'Hare at 4:09 pm CST


Memorial Day speech transcript at the click.

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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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