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August 2010 Archives

Obama Aug. 30 week ahead

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WASHINGTON-- Sen. Scott Brown, the Massachusetts Republican who won the election to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, the Democratic liberal lion---headlines fund-raisers Thursday for Rep. Mark Kirk's Illinois GOP Senate campaign.

Brown hits Chicago for a morning fund-raiser followed by an evening fund-raiser in DuPage County; the two events are expected to bring in $200,000. The campaign also likes the Brown story line--a Republican winning in a Democratic state.

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

WASHINGTON -- Independent and undecided voters in Illinois -- who may make the difference in the closely contested Senate contest between Republican Mark Kirk and Democrat Alexi Giannoulias -- say in a new poll that President Obama's backing of a candidate may not influence them.

The automated phone survey of Obama's coattails in his adopted home state by Public Policy Polling included 576 likely Illinois voters who were called Aug. 14 and 15, with a margin of error of 4.1 percentage points.

Abdon M. Pallasch report on GOP Day at the State Fair in Springfield is here.

WASHINGTON--Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich--convicted of lying to federal agents, with jurors deadlocked this week on 23 other charges--is launching another big media blitz.

Blagojevich is scheduled to appear on NBC's "Today Show" on Friday, Fox News Sunday and Jon Stewart.

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
_______________________________________________________________________________________
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 19, 2010

President Obama Signs Illinois Disaster Declaration

The President today declared a major disaster exists in the State of Illinois and ordered Federal aid to supplement State and local recovery efforts in the area struck by severe storms and flooding during the period of July 22 to August 7, 2010.

The President's action makes Federal funding available to affected individuals in the counties of Carroll, Cook, DuPage, Jo Daviess, Ogle, Stephenson, and Winnebago.

Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.

W. Craig Fugate, Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security, named Gregory W. Eaton as the Federal Coordinating Officer for Federal recovery operations in the affected area.

FEMA said additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the State and warranted by the results of further damage assessments.

FEMA said that residents and business owners who sustained losses in the designated counties can begin applying for assistance tomorrow by registering online at http://www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA(3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (local time) seven days a week until further notice.


FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: FEMA (202) 646-3272.

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WASHINGTON--Former Illinois Rod Blagojevich--convicted of lying to federal agents--but having the jury deadlocked on 23 other counts--flies here to appear on "Fox News Sunday" hosted by Chris Wallace.

Gov. Quinn comes out against mosque at Ground Zero; read Abdon M. Pallasch story here.

Sun-Times political writer Abdon M. Pallasch report on Dan Rostenkowski's funeral is here.

WASHINGTON--Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was nailed for the cover-up--not the underlying crimes in his criminal corruption trial. My column on the irony of a jury convicting Blagojevich for making false statements about his political fund-raising--where he denied doing a perfectly legal activity candidates do all the time.

WASHINGTON--Another poll puts the Illinois Senate race in a tie.

Public Policy Polling head to head:

Democrat Alexi Giannoulias .............................................. 31%
Republican Mark Kirk......................................................... 30%
Green Party LeAlan Jones ................................................ 14%
Undecided.......................................................................... 24%

"Voters in Illinois are tuning into a soap opera not an election," said Dean Debnam,
President of Public Policy Polling. "The Senate election is about scandals not issues. The
candidate who can turn the focus of the race from their personal issues to the real issues
will have the best chance of winning over undecideds."

June 12-13, 2010
survey of 552 Illinois voters
margin of error 4.2 %

Click here for complete poll.

Blagojevich slams prosecutor. Video

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View more news videos at: http://www.nbcchicago.com/video.

WASHINGTON--Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was found guilty on only one count on Tuesday--of making a false statement to a federal agent, with jurors not reaching agreement on 23 other counts. FOR FULL UPDATES, CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES BLAGO BLOG.

The jury was also deadlocked on the four counts Robert Blagojevich was charged with.

The federal prosecutors said they would seek a retrial.

WASHINGTON--President Obama triggered a controversy with his comments about a mosque near ground zero in Manhattan. Chicago attorney Dan Lauber posed this question: Why would "Republicans opposing the mosque near Ground Zero... Break (a) federal law they passed in 2000?"

Lauber, a land use and zoning expert with offices in suburban River Forest, wonders why the White House has not "bothered to mention that a federal law that's just adored by the Republicans (who wrote it) makes it illegal to deny the requested zoning for the proposed Muslim mosque near Ground Zero? You've got to wonder, doesn't anybody there have any institutional history? For heavens sake, as I write this, the Justice Department is pursuing lawsuits based on this law."

WASHINGTON--Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), out of the hospital following surgery to remove a stomach tumor, will stump statewide with Illinois Democratic Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias. Durbin blitzed Illinois in 2004 with another Senate candidate--one Barack Obama--and the two often told the story of their trip to Cairo, Illinois at the tip of the state.

They kick off the tour Wednesday, at Democratic Day at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield.

WASHINGTON--Kimberly Vertolli, the ex-wife of Illinois Senate nominee Mark Kirk -- who recently called a top Kirk consultant, Dodie McCracken, a "kind of Svengali figure in his life" -- will begin advising his campaign.

Vertolli's role is being worked out. Vertolli said Monday that Kirk told her "he wants her to be a close adviser" and "that he trusts and respects my judgment."

A former Navy officer -- an Annapolis graduate -- and an attorney who worked for the CIA, Vertolli has the credentials to be an important surrogate to the Kirk campaign, vouching for him in the wake of what became a series of stories about Kirk embellishing his Navy and teaching resume. Though she differs with Kirk on some issues, Vertolli could help with fund-raising and appeal to swing independent voters and young suburban females who are on the fence between Kirk and his rival, Democrat Alexi Giannoulias.

This comes after Vertolli gave an interview to Chicago Magazine's Carol Felsenthal, posted Aug. 4, that pulled back the curtain in the Kirk campaign, a closely held enterprise that circled the wagon even tighter after the first report surfaced over Memorial Day weekend about Kirk exaggerating his military record.

Vertolli, in that interview, also blamed McCracken for breaking up their marriage. "I think if Dodie McCracken had not continued to be in our lives, we probably would still be married," she told Felsenthal.

Kirk and Vertolli divorced in 2009, after eight years of marriage. Still, Vertolli was at Kirk's Senate campaign kickoff last year. Vertolli, 37, told Felsenthal that she supports Kirk, wants him to win and loves him.

Tuesday marks Day 14 of jury deliberation in the Rod Blagojevich criminal corruption trial. Keep up with developments at the Sun-Times Blago Blog.

On Day 13--Monday--the jury wanted transcripts of testimony from Bradley Tusk--who testified about an alleged Rahm Emanuel shakedown: release of a grant in Emanuel's then House district for a fund-raiser hosted by Ari Emanuel, the Hollywood superagent who is his brother. Click here for the Sun-Times report from Natasha Korecki, Dave McKinney and Sarah Ostman.

The Blago Blog latest: The Blagojevich jury wants transcripts dealing with alleged shakedown of Rahm Emanuel.

President Obama, First Lady Michelle and Sasha, 9 traveled to Panama City, Fl. over the weekend to encourage tourists to visit areas where travelers are staying away, fearing the beaches spoiled because of the BP oil spill. Sasha got a hole-in-one playing miniature golf. For a photo gallery, click here.

The Rod Blagojevich jury returns to the courthouse on Monday for Day 13 of deliberations. The jury told U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel they are deadlocked on 11 of the 24 counts against the former Illinois governor, have agreement on two counts (we don't know what they are) and have yet to tackle 11 other counts. Keep clicking on the Sun-Times Blago Blog for developments from the Sun-Times team: Natasha Korecki, Sarah Ostman, Dave McKinney, Chris Fusco and Abdon M. Pallasch.

WASHINGTON--Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) was released from the hospital following surgery to remove a tumor in his stomach, his spokesman said Saturday.

below, statement from Durbin spokesman Joe Shoemaker.....

At approximately 7pm last night, Sen. Dick Durbin was discharged from University of Chicago Medical Center where he was recovering after having a small tumor removed.

Durbin expects to resume a light scedule in a few days and a full schedule next week.

My story on the surgery is here.

WASHINGTON--President Obama and First Lady Michelle make a rare joint appearance on Saturday, both part of a round table discussion at Panama City, Fl. on efforts to recover from the BP Gulf oil spill.

The Obamas, traveling with Sasha, 9--oldest daughter Malia, 12, is still at camp--will spend a few minutes short of 27 hours on the Florida coast, with the trip designed to drum up tourism in areas not spoiled by the oil disaster.

The short overnight Florida trip comes as Mrs. Obama comes off a much criticized vacation last week to the beaches of southern Spain. On Thursday, the First Family departs for ten days of vacation on Martha's Vineyard.

Click below for pool report on Florida arrival and background briefing on the round table.

Even before the deadlock was announced, the Blagojevich jurors had told the judge they wanted to be off on Friday. On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel told the deadlocked jurors to keep trying when they get back to deliberations on Monday, as mistrial speculation grows, reports the Sun-Times trial team led by Natasha Korecki with Dave McKinney and Sarah Ostman and Abdon M. Pallasch.

On Thursday, waiting at the courthouse in Chicago's Loop for the verdict, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich played a trivia game with reporters and did pretty well. Wife Patti was knitting in the background and chimed in with an answer too. The Sun-Times trial team has this and more.

Keep up with developments at the Sun-Times Blago Blog.


WASHINGTON--Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) had surgery Thursday to remove a small tumor from his stomach. He is awaiting a biopsy result to determine if the tumor was cancerous. A preliminary biopsy showed no signs of a malignancy and surgeons found no cancer in the rest of Durbin's body, his spokesman said.

Durbin, 65, was resting after minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery at the University of Chicago Medical Center to have what is called a GIST-- "gastro-intestinal stromal"-- tumor removed from his stomach.

Durbin spokesman Joe Shoemaker said, "These types of tumors are medically defined as cancer, but the one removed showed no sign of being maligant," according to a preliminary biopsy.

According to Shoemaker, the tumor had not spread to stomach lining cells and doctors found no evidence the tumor had spread to other sites. He said Durbin discovered the problem "a few weeks ago" in a routine medical exam.

"Subsequent examinations of Durbin's esophagus and stomach showed no cancer," Shoemaker said in a statement announcing the surgery.

The American Cancer Society, at its cancer.org website states, "not all GISTs are cancerous. Some are benign (not cancerous) -- they don't grow into other areas or spread to other parts of the body."

Durbin, said Shoemaker, is expected to resume a "light schedule" in a few days and a full schedule as soon as next week.

By Sarah Ostman, Natasha Korecki, Dave McKinney and Abdon Pallash
Chicago Sun-Times BLAGO BLOG

11:28 a.m. Chicago time

The Blagojevich jury has reached a unanimous decision on only two of counts before them.

"Your Honor," their note reads. "In response to your communication of 11 August, 2010, we've deliberated on all acts and counts with the exception of the wire fraud counts. We have reached unanimous agreement on two counts. We have been unable to agree on any of the remaining counts."

Judge James Zagel wants to send jurors a note telling them to go back and deliberate on the ones they haven't even talked about. There are 11 wire fraud counts, and they largely have to do with the Senate seat sale.

The judge proposed responding with a note that says, in part:

"You should deliberate on the wire fraud counts to the extent necessary to enable you to vote on those counts. We recognize that your stated inability to reach agreement on other counts may have established to your satisfaction that you would be similarly unable to reach unanimity on some or all of the wire fraud counts. Nonetheless, a deliberative decision by you on each of those counts should be made, even if it is a decision that you cannot reach unanimity on any of those counts."

Zagel has given attorneys 10 minutes to mull this over.

The jury in the Rod Blagojevich criminal corruption trial on Thursday starts Day 12 of deliberations--though that may be the wrong word to use at this point. On Wednesday, the jury told U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel they were deadlocked. Zagel wanted more specifics on if they were deadlocked on everything or just some of the counts. The Sun-Times Natasha Korecki over at the Blago Blog analyzes the cliffhanger.

The Sun-Times Blagojevich trial team story on the deadlock is here.


Statement by President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the Passing of Former Representative Dan Rostenkowski

August 11, 2010

"We are deeply saddened by the passing of our friend Dan Rostenkowski. Dan was a great chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, whose ability to get things done in Congress was indispensable in balancing the budget, while investing more in better education and in getting our economy on the right course at the end of the 20th century. We were also glad to work closely with him on health care reform, welfare reform, and crime prevention. He was a tireless advocate for the people of Chicago and a true patriot who served our country well. Our thoughts and prayers are with LaVerne and their three daughters."

Blagojevich jury deadlocked

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The Rod Blagojevich jury is deadlocked

By Natasha Korecki, Dave McKinney and Abdon Pallasch
Chicago Sun-Times

FROM THE SUN-TIMES BLAGO BLOG:
Jurors told Judge James Zagel in a note that they have been unable to reach a unanimous decision on some or all counts and asked for guidance on how to proceed.

Zagel read the note aloud in court with a nervous-looking Rod Blagojevich looking on.

"We have gone beyond reasonable attempts" to reach a unanimous decision and "now ask for guidance," the note said.

Zagel said he was unclear on whether the jury had been able to reach a unanimous decision on some counts, and wanted to respond in writing asking them for clarification.

WASHINGTON--If former House Ways and Means Committee Chair Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.) who died Wednesday at the age of 82 did not get defeated in 1994, we may not be waiting for a verdict in the Rod Blagojevich trial today and Rahm Emanuel likely would not be White House Chief of Staff.

After Rostenkowski lost his seat--the fallout from a scandal that eventually sent him to prison--a one term Republican, Michael Patrick Flanagan was elected for a term from the Democratic fifth congressional district, anchored on Chicago's North Side. He lost a re-election bid to Rod Blagojevich, moving up from the Illinois State House. Blagojevich gave up his safe seat to run for governor; Emanuel ran and won for the open spot.

Emanuel on Wednesday remember Rostenkowski: "I was saddened to learn of Dan Rostenkowski's passing. He was a master of the House and a master of the art of legislation. He was a major part of legislation for a generation and he left a large imprint on American history.

"I called Dan a few weeks ago and we reminisced about national and local politics and shared our war stories from our times in Congress. In our last conversation, he was honest and upfront about his condition -- but he still had the same enthusiasm for politics and our country that I saw all the years I knew him," Emanuel said.

WASHINGTON--The Illinois Senate is tied, according to a Rasmussen poll taken on Aug. 9. The automated poll put both Republican Rep. Mark Kirk and Democrat Alexi Giannoulias, the state treasurer, at 40 per cent. The number of people who are unsure of either candidate had basically stayed the same since the February primary, ranging between 10 percent and 12 percent.

Click below for Rasmussen polling history on the Illinois Senate race since February.

WASHINGTON--Former House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Rostenkowski, who represented Chicago's fifth district for 18 terms, died on Wednesday. He was 82.

Rostenkowski obit by the Chicago Sun-Times Neil Steinberg,who charts the highs and lows of his career.


Click here for my Rostenkowski obit about an old-style Chicago pol, a man from a blue collar Polish neighborhood in Chicago who loved to tell stories about his dealings with Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

Update:

From White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who as a House member represented Rosty's district: "I was saddened to learn of Dan Rostenkowski's passing. He was a master of the House and a master of the art of legislation. He was a major part of legislation for a generation and he left a large imprint on American history.

"I called Dan a few weeks ago and we reminisced about national and local politics and shared our war stories from our times in Congress. In our last conversation, he was honest and upfront about his condition -- but he still had the same enthusiasm for politics and our country that I saw all the years I knew him," Emanuel said.

From Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) "Dan Rostenkowski was one of the most powerful leaders ever to serve in U.S. Congress. He came from a working class Polish community on the north side, and had a long history of standing up for working people and the City of Chicago. He was a big D Democrat, but always able to work across the aisle to get things done. He and I didn't always agree, but I always admired his effective leadership. My heart goes out to his family, and my hope is that his many accomplishments and his "larger than life" role in the Congress will overshadow and outlive the later problems he faced."

"Dan Rostenkowski was one of the most powerful leaders ever to serve in U.S. Congress. He came from a working class Polish community on the north side, and had a long history of standing up for working people and the City of Chicago. He was a big D Democrat, but always able to work across the aisle to get things done. He and I didn't always agree, but I always admired his effective leadership. My heart goes out to his family, and my hope is that his many accomplishments and his "larger than life" role in the Congress will overshadow and outlive the later problems he faced."

From Rep. Mike Quigley, the current 5th district lawmaker: "Today, I offer my deepest condolences to the Rostenkowski family. Dan served the 5th District of Illinois for three and a half decades, and I join with his former and now my constituents in thanking him for his public service. Chicago and the nation have lost a political giant."


Funeral information:

The wake will be held from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, 1351 West Evergreen Avenue. Funeral services are scheduled at the church at 10 a.m. Tuesday. Interment will follow at St. Adalbert Cemetery in Niles.

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama on Wednesday took daughter Sasha, 9, sister-in-law Maya Soetoro-Ng, President Obama's maternal half sister and others on a sightseeing tour of Annapolis, including the Maryland State House and the U.S. Naval Academy.


"She took tours of both places as part of a historical and educational visit of Annapolis. At the statehouse she met with the governor and the speaker of the house. At the naval academy she met the superintendent and the commandant," said Semonti Stephens, a spokesman for Mrs. Obama.

From the Baltimore Sun:

"First Lady Michelle Obama, 9-year-old daughter Sasha, a young niece and other relatives toured Maryland's historic State House on Tuesday.

"Gov. Martin O'Malley greeted the family, said O'Malley spokesman Shaun Adamec, and gave Sasha, the niece and a 2-year-old girl in the group Salisbury Pewter pill boxes engraved with the state seal. Obama's sister-in-law was also in attendance.

"Maryland State Archivist Edward C. Papenfuse led a 45-minute private tour of the capitol and grounds. Secret Service restricted access to the capitol building during the event, from 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and kept media and passers-by at a distance."

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama on Wednesday took daughter Sasha, 9 and some relatives on a sightseeing tour of Annapolis, including the Maryland State House and the U.S. Naval Academy.


"She took tours of both places as part of a historical and educational visit of Annapolis. At the statehouse she met with the governor and the speaker of the house. At the naval academy she met the superintendent and the commandant," said Semonti Stephens, a spokesman for Mrs. Obama.

From the Baltimore Sun:

"First Lady Michelle Obama, 9-year-old daughter Sasha, a young niece and other relatives toured Maryland's historic State House on Tuesday.

"Gov. Martin O'Malley greeted the family, said O'Malley spokesman Shaun Adamec, and gave Sasha, the niece and a 2-year-old girl in the group Salisbury Pewter pill boxes engraved with the state seal. Obama's sister-in-law was also in attendance.

"Maryland State Archivist Edward C. Papenfuse led a 45-minute private tour of the capitol and grounds. Secret Service restricted access to the capitol building during the event, from 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and kept media and passers-by at a distance."

The jury in the Rod Blagojevich trial deliberate for day 11 on Wednesday.

Follow the Sun-Times Blago Blog for developments when they happen.

WASHINGTON--White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs seemed to bite the hand that feeds--or at least fed--in an interview over at The Hill with Sam Youngman, where Gibbs dismissed liberals who criticized the Obama White House as the "professional left."
Gibbs did not host the White House briefing on Tuesday--Bill Burton did--and as Politics Daily's Alex Wagner reports, he had a lot of explaining to do.

Sam Stein at the Huffington Post
analyzes what Gibbs said and why.

WASHINGTON--The Illinois delegation divided on party lines Tuesday in the vote for a $26 billion emergency jobs bill to benefit teachers and others from lay-offs. The measure passed on a 247-161 roll call and will become part of the November campaigns in contested Illinois House contests. It already is a factor in the Illinois Senate contest, where Rep. Mark Kirk, the GOP nominee faces Democrat Alexi Giannoulias. The Democratic Senatorial campaign and Giannoulias is already slamming Kirk for voting no.



THE ILLINOIS ROLL CALL

Democrats - Bean, Y; Costello, Y; Davis, Y; Foster, Y; Gutierrez, Y; Halvorson, Y; Hare, Y; Jackson, Y; Lipinski, Y; Quigley, Y; Rush, Y; Schakowsky, Y.

Republicans - Biggert, N; Johnson, N; Kirk, N; Manzullo, N; Roskam, X; Schock, N; Shimkus, N.

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama on Wednesday took daughter Sasha, 9 and some relatives on a sightseeing tour of Annapolis, including the Maryland State House and the U.S. Naval Academy.


"She took tours of both places as part of a historical and educational visit of Annapolis. At the statehouse she met with the governor and the speaker of the house. At the naval academy she met the superintendent and the commandant," said Semonti Stephens, a spokesman for Mrs. Obama.

From the Baltimore Sun:

"First Lady Michelle Obama, 9-year-old daughter Sasha, a young niece and other relatives toured Maryland's historic State House on Tuesday.

"Gov. Martin O'Malley greeted the family, said O'Malley spokesman Shaun Adamec, and gave Sasha, the niece and a 2-year-old girl in the group Salisbury Pewter pill boxes engraved with the state seal. Obama's sister-in-law was also in attendance.

"Maryland State Archivist Edward C. Papenfuse led a 45-minute private tour of the capitol and grounds. Secret Service restricted access to the capitol building during the event, from 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and kept media and passers-by at a distance."

By SANDRA GUY
Chicago Sun-Times

CHICAGO--Desiree Rogers, former White House social secretary and Illinois Lottery director, has been named chief executive officer of Johnson Publishing Company, the Chicago-based publisher of Ebony and JET magazines, the company announced today.

Rogers had been working as a consultant to the company since June 5.

Linda Johnson Rice, daughter of the company's founder who held the title, will remain as chairman.

The Rod Blagojevich jury continues deliberations for the tenth day on Tuesday.

Keep tabs on developments on the Chicago Sun-Times Blago Blog.

Blagojevich having trouble paying legal bills story here.


Kirk tries to link Giannoulias to Saddam Hussein


BY ABDON M. PALLASCH

Sun-Times Political Writer

CHICAGO--On a day that Democrat Alexi Giannoulias released a new commercial slamming him as a liar, Republican Mark Kirk tried to shift the focus back onto Giannoulias' family bank, saying the bank gave a loan to Nadhmi Auchi, who Kirk said sold arms to Saddam Hussein.

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama will hit the campaign trail, White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod said Monday, the first time the Obama team said Mrs. Obama will help Democrats on the ballot in November.

Mrs. Obama--the current flap over her Spain trip aside--is the most popular figure in the Obama orbit and candidates in Illinois and across the country have been asking the White House for her fund-raising help. Mrs. Obama has done just one event--for the Democratic National Committee--since becoming first lady.

Up until Monday, the White House has been punting when asked about Mrs. Obama's 2010 campaign plans. As President Obama has been ramping up his fund-raising activities in August--he's in Austin and Dallas today for fund-raisers--Mrs. Obama is taking August off.

CNN's Wolf Blitzer, in an Axelrod interview asked " Will the first lady, Michelle Obama, be on the campaign trail between now and November 2nd?

"I'm sure that she will, Wolf. She -- I think she feels strongly about the affirmative things that this administration has done. She's been a leader on some of them. Just last week, the United States Senate passed a bill on child nutrition.

"And, as you know, that's been a great focus of hers. We've got a huge problem in this country in terms of child nutrition, childhood obesity. And this would be a big step forward in making sure that schools across the country are feeding kids in a nutritious way -- a healthier way.

These kinds of things are advances that we've made over the last 18 months. I think she wants to go out and talk about those."

Mrs. Obama's Spain trip controversy


Turning to Mrs. Obama five-day Spain vacation, Axelrod was asked, if "the criticism of her vacation in Spain with her daughter fair?

Axelrod said, "Look, here's my view, yes, she is the first lady of the United States. She's also a mom. She wanted to take her daughter on a trip. They went with some friends of the family to celebrate another little girl's birthday.

"There aren't all that many places to go where you get privacy. Wherever you go, security is going to come, not because she asked for it, but because that is a nature of her -- of her position in life. And so, you know, I think people would judge it in that way. She's a very good mom. She's very committed. And I think she wanted to do something with her -- with her daughter."

So do I think it's unfair?

" I'll let other people judge. But I think -- I think that she's entitled to -- to -- to do those kinds of things, as anyone else would be."


WASHINGTON--Michelle Obama and daughter Sasha returned from Spain on Sunday, a vacation at a lavish hotel on the Mediterranean coast that triggered her first controversy since becoming first lady. I'm told she made the trip because she promised one of her closest friends, a longtime Chicago pal who just lost her father, she would spend time with her.

The Rod Blagojevich criminal trial jury deliberations continue on Monday for the nine day.

Keep up with developments at the Sun-Times Blago Blog.


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

WASHINGTON--President Obama is having an extended birthday weekend with the boys while First Lady Michelle and daughter Sasha are having a girls vacation in Spain.

Obama played golf at Andrews Air Force Base on Saturday with longtime buddies and on Sunday will continue celebration of his 49th Aug. 4 birthday with a barbeque at the White House.

The Saturday golf group included Chicagoans Marty Nesbitt, who is the treasurer of Obama's presidential campaign and Eric Whitaker; from Obama's Occidential College days, Wahid Hamid; Punahou School classmates Michael Ramos, Bobby Titcomb and Greg Orme; staffer Marvin Nicholson and Laurent Delanney, a pro tennis executive.

Obama turned 49 on Wednesday, with Mrs. Obama in Spain and daughter Malia, 12, at overnight camp.

Obama had a birthday dinner that night in Chicago at the graham elliot restaurant
with Nesbitt, Whitaker, Senior Advisor and pal Valerie Jarrett, Oprah Winfrey and her friend Gayle King.

Obamafoodorama reports that the East Wing confirmed that Mrs. Obama is expected back from Spain in time to make the belated birthday celebration
. On Sunday, Mrs. Obama and Sasha lunched with Spain's King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia at their Majorca summer palace before heading back to the U.S.

I talked to Don Wade and Roma over at WLS radio in Chicago on Friday about President Obama's Chicago visit and the Rod Blagojevich trial; listen here.

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama is facing criticism for her lavish trip to Spain's Mediterranean coast.

Read my report about the lavish Spain trip and the number of vacations Mrs. Obama has taken here and here and here.

Let's get some facts straight:

* I've seen reports that Mrs. Obama brought 40 friends on the trip. The East Wing has told me earlier in the week that is not true. On Saturday, the East Wing confirmed that Mrs. Obama is traveling with two female friends and four of their daughters.


*On Saturday, Mrs. Obama and Sasha were in the southern Spanish city of Ronda.

The Daily Mail, quoting a paper in the resort city where Mrs. Obama is staying said, "The Obama party is due to attend a charity event hosted by actors Antonio Banderas and Eva Longoria on Saturday night, Marbella newspaper La Tribuna said.

The East Wing told me Saturday, "They are not hosting or attending a charity event. There is an unrelated event taking place at their hotel with some big movie stars expected, but the first lady is not going, nor is she on any host committee."

*Mrs. Obama's total entourage is larger, with staff and security. The East Wing will not say how many staffers are with Mrs. Obama. I've seen deputy chief of staff Melissa Winter and another staffer in photos.

*Mrs. Obama always travels--domestic and international--with an around the clock security force--uniform and in plain clothes. Taxpayers pay their salary and travel expenses.


WASHINGTON -- Demand will remain high for President Obama -- and first lady Michelle and other honchos in the Obama administration -- to help Democrats in Illinois, even though Obama sprinted through three Chicago fund-raisers Thursday, hauling in about $1 million for Democratic Senate contender Alexi Giannoulias and $1.5 million for the Democratic National Committee.

"We would love for the president just to do an event, either a fund-raiser or a public event," said Brandon Pinett, campaign manager for Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.).

"We've asked for Michelle Obama, [White House chief of staff] Rahm Emanuel and other Cabinet secretaries as possibilities," said Travis Worl, the campaign manager for Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-Ill.), who served in the Illinois Senate with Obama.

The jury in the Rod Blagojevich criminal corruption trial debates his fate; Friday is Day Eight in their deliberations.

Keep up with developments at the Sun-Times Blago Blog.

WASHINGTON--On the day that President Obama touted the confirmation of a woman--Elena Kagan--to the Supreme Court--one of the top femaies in the Obama White House, Christina Romer, announced her resignation as Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers.

The White House on Thursday night said she will step down on Sept. 3 "to resume her position as professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley," where her son will start high school.

Romer is the advisor who during the Obama presidential transition--in December 2008--gave Obama and his team an economic briefing that underscored the severity of the financial crisis ahead for the incoming president.

Her departure comes as reports have been surfacing of tensions with National Economic Council Chair Lawrence Summers.

Click below for White House statement.

WASHINGTON--Elena Kagan was confirmed for the Supreme Court on Thursday afternoon with a Senate 63-37 vote, with an assist from five Republicans. She is making history: Kagan will be only the fourth female in the history of the nation to join the highest court in the land.

Kagan, a former University of Chicago law school professor, becomes the third female sitting on the current court and the 112th person to serve on the Supreme Court. This is the first time one-third of the court is comprised of women. Kagan will serve with Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Obama appointed Sotomayor last year. Kagan will replace retired Justice John Paul Stevens, a Chicago native.

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) gaveled the vote to a close at 3:49 p.m. eastern time, declaring "the nomination is confirmed." Click here for the roll call vote.

Illinois Democratic Senators Dick Durbin and Roland Burris voted for Kagan.

The only Democrat to vote against Kagan was Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.).

Five Republican senators voted for Kagan: Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)

Durbin said in a statement, ""Today's confirmation of Elana Kagan to the Supreme Court is an historic achievement. For the first time in our nation's history, three women are serving together on the highest court in the land."

"Ms. Kagan is a remarkable lawyer who has worked in private practice, clerked for Illinois' own Judge Abner Mikva and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, served as a Senate staff member and worked in the Executive Branch. She has also blazed a trail for women in America - not only as the first woman to serve as Dean of the Harvard Law School but also as the first woman to serve as our nation's Solicitor General. I'm proud to have supported her nomination."

The other female justices:

Sonia Sotomayor
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Sandra Day O'Connor, retired.

By Abdon M. Pallasch
Chicago Sun-Times Political Reporter

CHICAGO--President Obama sought to remove all doubt Thursday that the White House is 100 percent behind his old friend, Democrat Alexi Giannoulias, to take Obama's old Senate seat.

"Alexi is my friend. I know his character. I know how much he loves this country," Obama told 400 supporters who paid $1,000 to $2,400 at the Palmer House Hilton. "I know how committed he is to public service for all the right reasons. I appreciate his strong sense of advocacy for ordinary Americans."

WASHINGTON--While President Obama in Chicago Thursday helped fill Democratic Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias campaign warchest, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce jumped in the Illinois contest with an ad calling Giannoulias "anti-business."

I was told the Chamber spot--its first in the Illinois race--will run in Chicago and other markets around the state.

In the 12 plus weeks leading up to the November election, third party outside interest groups will flood Illinois with ads designed to help elect either Giannoulias or his rival, Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.)

By Abdon M. Pallasch
Chicago Sun-Times Political Reporter

CHICAGO--President Obama toured a South Side Ford assembly plant Thursday, calling it evidence that his plan of investing federal money in the auto industry was working.

"To All those nay-sayers in Washington, what we call the 'Just Say No' crowd, who said that investing in you would guarantee failure, who said we should just walk away from this industry, who said that standing by America's auto-makers was, quote, "The worst investment we could make, I wish they were standing here today and saw what I see."


WASHINGTON -- First lady Michelle Obama may catch some flak for vacationing at an expensive luxury hotel on Spain's Mediterranean coast. By the end of the summer, Mrs. Obama will have taken eight vacation trips -- including her visit to Marbella, staying at the five-star Hotel Villa Padierna with daughter Sasha and some pals.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked at a Wednesday briefing if there was any concern about "the appearance" of Mrs. Obama's overseas jaunt.

The Rod Blagojevich jury continues on Day Seven of deliberations. If they reach a verdict today, the news will collide with President Obama's Chicago visit.

If convicted, Blagojevich could forfeit his Chicago home and Washington condo.

Keep up with the details at the Sun-Times Blago Blog.


Keep up with developments on Obama at the Sweet blog

Click here to follow Lynn Sweet on Twitter

Chicago Sun-Times political writer Abdon M. Pallasch, on pool duty this morning in Chicago, reports that at 7:30 a.m. Chicago time Obama left his Kenwood home for a workout at the nearby Regents Park high rise. The pool, at the Obama home at 5:30 a.m., enjoyed a sunrise over Lake Michigan. Last night pooler Pallasch reported on the Obama birthday dinner at the graham elliot restaurant, where the guests included Oprah Winfrey, her pal Gayle King, White House Senior Advisor and pal Valerie Jarrett and buddies Marty Nesbitt and Eric Whitaker.


Obama will raise about $2.5 million for Democrats during his Chicago visit. That's about $1 million expected for the Alexi Giannoulias Democratic Senate campaign from an event at the Palmer House and $1.5 million for the Democratic National Committee from a reception at Chicago's Cultural Center (I worked at the bindery on top floor one summer when the building was still the main Chicago Public Library; it was so hot up there that after three people fainted--at least this is how I remember it--we were allowed to go home) and a $30,400-per-person dinner at the home of developer Neil Bluhm.

Click below for the Pallasch roundup on the Obama Chicago trip.

Chicago Sun-Times reporter Sandra Guy has the context behind President Obama's visit to Chicago's thriving Ford plant on Thursday.

Click below for news about new loan guarantees for Ford Obama will announce at the plant on Thursday morning.

UPDATE: Add Oprah Winfrey and Gayle KIng to the list of pals celebrating President Obama's birthday at a restaurant in Chicago's River North neighborhood.

WASHINGTON-- President Obama is celebrating his 49th birthday with a small group of longtime close friends at a trendy Chicago restaurant, graham elliot. The gang: Valerie Jarrett, Marty Nesbitt and Eric Whitaker. Jarrett is a White House senior advisor; Nesbitt was treasurer of Obama's presidential campaign. But on Wednesday night, their role was that of long-time buddies.

On the day Obama was elected president in 2008, he flew to Indiana--the last stop on his campaign plane--with Jarrett, Nesbitt and Whitaker.

. First Lady Michelle Obama is in Spain with Sasha, 9. Malia is at overnight camp. The Obama women earlier phoned in their birthday greetings while Obama was on Air Force One en route to Chicago.

The graham elliot (lower case preferred) restaurant at 217 W. Huron St. specializes in "new American" cuisine by chef Graham Elliot Bowles.

Pool Report:

Guests having birthday dinner with Obama at Graham Elliot include Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, University of Chicago Hospital Vice-President Dr. Eric Whitaker and The Parking Spot President and CEO Marty Nesbitt, White House Press Office told us.

Abdon Pallasch
Chicago Sun-Times

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President Barack Obama leans down to pick-up a gift box he dropped, given to
him by Illinois Gov. Patrick Quinn, right, while being greeted upon his arrival at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2010. From left, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and Quinn. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)


WASHINGTON--President Obama was met at O'Hare Airport on Wednesday, his 49th birthday, by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.). Quinn brought Obama a birthday gift--and the box dropped to the tarmac. What was the gift?

A spokesman for Quinn's office told me Quinn gave Obama a set of State of Illinois cuff links.

WASHINGTON-- President Obama is celebrating his 49th birthday with a small group of friends at a trendy Chicago restaurant, Graham Elliot, I'm told.

The graham elliot (lower case preferred) restaurant at 217 W. Huron St. specializes in "new American" cuisine by chef Graham Elliot Bowles.

Obama at AFL-CIO. Transcript

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WASHINGTON---First Lady Michelle Obama occasionally goes on what she calls a "cleanse" to purge her body of certain foods, she told Ladies Home Journal.

Don't confuse a "cleanse"--to get certain foods out of your system-- with other techniques to detox, such as colonic irrigation.

Mrs. Obama, in an interview given to promote her "Let's Move" anti-obesity campaign talked about the "cleanse" and the dislike, which she shares with President Obama, of beets.

"Neither the President nor I have the beet gene," Mrs. Obama said. But talking about healthy foods when she was interviewed in June in the White House led her to disclose her internal purification routine.

"Recently I was on a sort of cleanse and I was just eating vegetables," she said.

Asked how it worked out, Mrs. Obama said, "The cleanses are good for a short period of time. I can't live my life on a cleanse. But they help me clean out my palate. Because when you start adding things like sugars into your diet, you start craving them.

"And the more you eat, the more you crave. . . . So maybe I'll do a cleanse for two days. It isn't a way of life, because I like food too much. But it is good to break your mind-set," she said.

Mrs. Obama, in her many speeches on diet made this year in connection with her anti obesity campaign--where she often talked about her own experiences in getting her family to eat healthy--has never mentioned a "cleanse" before.

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama and daughter Sasha, 9 landed in Malaga, Spain, according to EFE, the Spanish news agency.

Alicia Villapadierna, the wife of the co- owner of the swank hotel in Marbella, where Mrs. Obama was headed gave CNN an interview--in English--talking about Mrs. Obama's arrival.

Jurors in the Rod Blagojevich corruption trial continue their sixth day deliberations on Wednesday. What are the jurors sorting through? Sun-Times Natasha Korecki and Sarah Ostmanrecap the major charges.

The government wants Blagojevich to forfeit his home and condo in Washington if he is found guilty. Read about it and other developments as they happen in the Blago Blog.

WASHINGTON--The Senate on Tuesday started debating Elena Kagan's Supreme Court nomination. She'll get confirmed--but not with as many votes as Sonia Sotomayor, reports Patricia Murphy of Politics Daily.

WASHINGTON--President Obama turns 49 on Wednesday, flying to Chicago in the afternoon and planning to celebrate over dinner with friends, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday.

"I think his plans for tomorrow are dinner with some friends in Chicago. And I think he is looking forward to spending the night in his house for a change," Gibbs said.

I'm told that Obama will likely dine at a Chicago restaurant he's been to before with some of his closest pals.

Obama will be coming home solo: First Lady Michelle Obama departs for Spain this week with daughter Sasha, 9 and Malia, 12, is at overnight camp. On Thursday, Obama tours the Ford Plant on the South Side to tout the rebound of the U.S. auto industry and later headlines three fund raisers, one for Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias and two for the Democratic National Committee. In all Obama will draw in millions of dollars of contributions in the three stops.

Meanwhile, Republicans are gearing up for Obama's homecoming. On Wednesday, Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) quarterbacks a press conference call for the Republican National Committee to slap "Obama's visit to Illinois and the Obama Administration's "Recovery Summer" tour."

The RNC is also trying to inject convicted fixer Tony Rezko and Obama into the political conversation in the Illinois Senate race--for the seat once held by Obama--following a Sun-Times story headlined, " A new headache for Giannoulias? Another Rezko loan His family bank lent $22.75 million, in newly uncovered deal."

"Mr. President, do you think a $23 million loan to Tony Rezko and Nadhmi Auchi is a "sound loan" too, just as Giannoulias does," the RNC said in a release, trying to whip up some controversy.

The Giannoulias campaign, in reply to the RNC, said in a statement about Giannoulias' rival, "Congressman (Mark) Kirk seems to have misremembered that he is the only candidate in this race to take contributions from Rezko and his convicted associates, and that he also failed to return the donations until late 2006."

On the birthday itself, Gibbs was asked about Obama talking about his hair turning gray.

Said Gibbs, "I can't imagine that the weight of the job doesn't take a toll physically and mentally on anybody that does it. But at the same time, I think he's still -- I would say he's still in pretty good shape and is having -- is enjoying the job even with its many challenges. He knew what he was getting himself into in deciding several years ago to undertake this.

"There's no doubt that it takes an enormous physical and mental strain on making the decisions that you make, on sending young men and women off to war or tackling the greatest economic calamity our country has faced since the Great Depression. But I know he greatly enjoys it, and it will just require him to get more frequent haircuts."

WASHINGTON--President Obama signed into law on Tuesday a bill renaming the Lakeview post office for folksinger and songwriter Steve Goodman, a North Side Chicago native.

Goodman died in 1984 at the age of 36 from leukemia after a string of songs that became classics: "City of New Orleans," "Lincoln Park Pirates" and "Go Cubs Go."

Though Goodman's family moved to the suburbs--he graduated Maine East High School--Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) honored Goodman's North Side roots in pushing for Goodman to be honored at the post office at 1343 W. Irving Park. A musical celebration and a plaque to mark the renaming will take place this fall, Quigley said.


"While most Chicagoans know him for the song we sing after every Cubs' win, Steve Goodman's contributions reach far beyond the ivy-covered walls of Wrigley," said Quigley in a statement. "Goodman was one of the most prolific American songwriters and performers of our time whose songs have been played by Willie Nelson, Jimmy Buffett, and John Denver and whose short but tremendous life reminds us how one person can impact so many others. I'm happy to see the President sign this bill into law and I look forward to this fall's musical celebration."

The Rod Blagojevich jury wrapped up Day Four of deliberations.

Keep up with the Blagojevich news at the Sun-Times Blago Blog.

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photo by Lynn Sweet

WASHINGTON--Taking a break from the usual Lynn Sweet blog fare to deliver this report: Great year for my garden; photo above, of Best Boy tomato just after it was picked Monday morning.

WASHINGTON---Ending the Iraq war was a centerpiece of Barack Obama's presidential campaign; on Monday President Obama said the combat troop drawdown will take place on schedule--"Promise kept," he said. Soon after, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a release stressing the same point.

Obama: So I'm grateful for that symbol of our partnership, and I'm proud of the progress we've achieved together. But as one of your outstanding DAV members from Illinois just reminded me, this is a promise I made during the campaign -- it was a promise made and it was a promise kept. And I intend to keep on keeping my promises to the veterans of America.

Pelosi statment headline: Our Nation Will End Soon Combat Operations in Iraq, on the Schedule President Obama Promised

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WASHINGTON--This is a bit inside baseball, but for those who follow who sits where in the White House briefing room.....

In the wake of the Helen Thomas departure, her front row center seat went to AP. Fox News moved from the second row to the first row, replacing AP in the second seat from the wall.

Among the other moves:

NPR gets the old Fox seat, better real estate than it had. The Chicago Sun-Times happily remains in its aisle seat, by the door (no climbing over people!), in row five.

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WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama, who never went up to Capitol Hill to lobby for the school lunch bill, on Monday penned an op ed in the Washington Post urging lawmakers to reauthorize the measure that would help kids deal with obesity, her signature issue.

Mrs. Obama has spoken out for the past year on the need for the legislation. Both the House and the Senate passed versions of the bill, but the two chambers have to reconcile their different versions. With Congress taking most of August off, and then faced with November elections, there are concerns the final work on the bill-which is not particularly controversial--will not get done.

The Rod Blagojevich jury returns Monday for their fourth day deliberations.

Keep up with developments at the Chicago Sun-Times Blago Blog.

Obama Aug. 2 week ahead

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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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