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November 2010 Archives

WASHINGTON--Freshman Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.)--a Navy reserve officer who has declined to give his views on gays serving openly in the military--waiting for a Defense Department survey to be completed--will study the report released on Tuesday. Defense Sec. Robert Gates on Tuesday called for the Senate to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," ban, based on the report.

"Senator Kirk will read every page of the DoD/Joint Chiefs of Staff report and will seek a meeting with the Chief of Naval Operations to discuss his findings before making a decision on this issue," his spokesman, Lance Trover, said in a statement.

Here's what we know: The Obama White House wants the lame duck Senate to consider repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" because repealing it in the new Senate, seated in January will be difficult. Kirk, sworn-in on Monday, has said the Senate should not, with a few exceptions, take up substantive issues during the lame duck session.

WASHINGTON--Gays should be allowed to openly serve in the military, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday, urging the Senate to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" during the lame duck session this year. The Pentagon released the long-awaited survey and report on gays serving in the military on Tuesday--with the issue dominating the Defense Department home page.

Gates on repeal: " I would ask, as Congress takes on this debate, for all involved to resist the urge to lure our troops and their families into the politics of this issue. What is called for is a careful and considered approach. An approach that, to the extent possible, welcomes all who are qualified and capable of serving their country in uniform, but one that does not undermine - out of haste or dogmatism - those attributes that make the U.S. military the finest fighting force in the world. The stakes are too high - for a nation under threat, for a military at war - to do any less.

Click below for Gates remarks. Click here for links to DADT report and troop survey.

WASHINGTON--White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod hits CNN, PBS' "Newshour" and MSNBC's "Hardball" on Tuesday night what with WikiLeaks fallout, a big meeting with congressional leaders on Tuesday and a lame duck congressional session.

WASHINGTON--The Senate on Tuesday passed Sen. Dick Durbin's food safety bill on a 73-25 roll call. The Illinois senior senator worked on the bill--food safety is one of Durbin's signature issues-- for more than a decade. Freshman Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), sworn-in on Monday, voted for the measure.

Click below for summary of the food safety legislation....

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), sworn in on Monday, has resumed his Navy Reserve duty, after taking time off for his Senate election campaign. Kirk is now one of three Senators who drill regularly in the reserves: Kirk, in the Navy; Sen. Lindsey Grahm (R-N.C.) in the Air Force and Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) in the Army.

Kirk usually spends a weekend a month and two weeks a year on active duty. For the past two years, Kirk traveled to Afghanistan at the end of December for his two weeks. This year, Kirk told me, he is staying in the U.S. to be with his mother, Judy over Christmas and will go off for two weeks of active duty during some time when Congress is on recess.

Kirk went back to reserve duty--at the Pentagon--about a week after the November election. He worked a 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. shift and still owes eight or nine days.


At a reception following his swearing-in, Kirk honored the Arlington Heights family of Lance Corporal James Stack, 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment, 1 Marine Division.

Stack was killed in action the week after the November election in Sangin, Afghanistan. Stack's wife, Katie, his parents Robert and Linda and his sister Megan were at the reception.

Mark Kirk, new Illinois Senator


Mark Kirk took the Senate oath of office on Monday, sworn in by Vice President Biden and flanked by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and former Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.) the last Illinois Republican in the Senate, to fill in the weeks left to President Obama's Senate term.

WASHINGTON--Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and UN Amb. Susan Rice on the defensive Monday over Wikileaks revelations.

Click below for Clinton, Rice discussing diplomatic damage from Wikileaks with reporters.

President Obama on Monday is calling for a two-year pay freeze for civilian federal workers in order to reduce the deficit. Obama already imposed a pay freeze on White House staffers.

Vice President Biden will swear-in Rep. Mark Kirk as Illinois' newest senator at 5:30 p.m. eastern time on Monday. Kirk talked to Sun-Times political reporter Abdon Pallasch about his new job. Today marks the end of Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) tenure in the Senate.

Obama Nov. 29 week ahead

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Chicago mayorail hopeful Rahm Emanuel starts televising his second ad on Monday, titled "Tenacity."

Burt Odelson, the lawyer who filed a residency challenge to knock Chicago mayoral hopeful Rahm Emanuel off the ballot predicted Friday the case will end up in the Illinois Supreme Court as Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) said the challenge is "frivolous."

In terms of the brewing legal fight against President Obama's former White House Chief of Staff, "this is a case where either side is going to go all the way," Odelson told me.

The challenge will first go to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners; the loser will appeal to the Cook County Circuit Court, an Illinois Appeals court and eventually the Illinois Supreme Court. The Emanuel team did not want to comment on any potential appeals. But it is routine in a case like this for the courts to be asked to handle all appeals on an expedited basis.

Odelson filed a motion Friday before the city election board asking that the case be expedited "so that the voters of the City of Chicago know who the candidates will be for the February 22, 2011 election

Odelson wants the Emanuel case to go directly to the election commissioners and skip the hearing officer phase. On that front, Odelson asked that Langdon Neal, the Chairman of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners recuse himself from the case 'due to statements that he has made to the press concerning his interpretation of what residency means in relation to qualifications to run for elective office in the City of Chicago."

Under state law, candidates must clear a series of hurdles to win a place on a ballot--collecting the right number of valid signatures on nominating petitions, having the people who pass the petitions follow the rules and fulfilling residency requirements.

Knocking rivals off ballots because they have not cleared all those legal hurdles is routine in Chicago. President Obama got his start in politics winning a state senate seat when his allies forced his rivals off the ballot, including his most formidable opposition, now former state Sen. Alice Palmer (D-Chicago).

Odelson defended Palmer in the Obama challenge. (Palmer went on to support Hillary Rodham Clinton's Democratic presidential primary bid over Obama; memories are long in Chicago.)

As my Sun-Times colleague Abdon M. Pallasch noted in an earlier story, Emanuel once used the very tactics he now deplores.

Wrote Pallasch, "Emanuel's attorney on the residency challenge, Mike Kasper, filed a challenge against Emanuel's sole opponent in the 2004 Democratic primary, Mark A. Fredrickson. The challenge -- alleging Fredrickson started gathering signatures too early -- failed but Emanuel beat Fredrickson in the primary."

The Emanuel camp argues that Emanuel always intended to return to Chicago and he left only to serve Obama. Schakowsky said in a conference call organized by the Emanuel campaign, "Rahm should not be punished for responding to the call of the president."

Odelson argues that the law will weigh physical presence--not intent. Emanuel rented out his Chicago home when he moved to Washington, with a lease running to next June.

Schakowsky said she was trying to "stop the efforts to hijack the election" from a group of "insiders" who she did not name.

All of a sudden Emanuel is not an insider in the political world he inhabits in Chicago?

President Obama was hit in lip during a Friday basketball game, the White House said, and needed 12 stitches. Obama was playing with aide Reggie Love and members of his family.

According to a statement from White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, "After being inadvertently hit with an opposing player's elbow in the lip while playing basketball with friends and family, the President received 12 stitches today administered by the White House Medical Unit. They were done in the doctor's office located on the ground floor of the White House."

The pool report noted that "the medical unit that treated Obama used a smaller filament than typically used, which increases the number of stitches but makes a tighter stitch and results in a smaller scar. Obama was given a local anesthetic while receiving the stitches."

WASHINGTON--President Obama and his family are spending Thanksgiving at the White House with a traditional dinner; the 2010 menu features six kinds of pies--the same as the Obama 2009 Thanksgiving menu.

Below, the Obama 2010 Thanksgiving menu:

Cornbread Stuffing
Oyster Stuffing
Sweet Potatoes
Mashed Potatoes
Green Bean Casserole
Macaroni and Cheese
Dinner Rolls

Apple Pie
Pumpkin Pie
Sweet Potato Pie
Banana Cream Pie
Cherry Pie
Huckleberry Pie

Click here for the Obama 2009 Thanksgiving menu.

WASHINGTON--President Obama, with daughters Malia and Sasha pardoned two Thanksgiving turkeys on Wednesday, Apple and Cider. Joked Obama," feels pretty good to stop at least one shellacking this November," a reference to the shellacking--the word Obama used--Democrats suffered in the mid-term November elections.

With Jennifer Grey beating Bristol Palin on "Dancing with the Stars," Obama made a reference to the show in his remarks:

Now, Apple and Cider came to us from the Foster Farms Wellsford Ranch, just outside of Modesto, California. Out of about 20,000 turkeys born at Foster Farms this summer, 25 were selected for a final competition that involved strutting their stuff before a panel of judges with an eclectic mix of music playing in the background. (Laughter.) It's kind of like a turkey version of "Dancing With the Stars" -- except the stakes for the contestants was much higher.

The latest Chicago mayoral poll out Wednesday by the Chicago Retail Merchants Association has hopeful Rahm Emanuel ahead. Read Chicago Sun-Times political writer Abdon M. Pallasch story about the poll here.

The Horserace so far:

Overall Poll Findings (in alphabetical order)
Carol Moseley Braun: 12.33%
Roland Burris: 2.40%
Gery Chico: 8.86%
Danny Davis: 7.29%
Miguel Del Valle: 4.78%
Rahm Emanuel: 39.00%
James Meeks: 5.16%
All others: 1.47%
Unsure: 18.72%

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WASHINGTON--Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) hits Los Angeles and Brooklyn in the coming days to rally support for congressional passage of the DREAM Act, the student immigration measure.

WASHINGTON--White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod will be returning to Chicago after President Obama's State of the Union speech--moving up his departure date that was once pegged as no later than Memorial Day.

Axelrod is leaving sooner than originally planned in order to get the "re-elect geared up pretty soon and to get some rest," a White House source told me. Obama's 2012 re-election campaign will be run mainly out of Chicago--and starting sooner than some thought.

The date of the State of the Union has not been set--but it is expected to be late January or early February.

Axelrod's departure has long been expected. He had been telling people earlier this year that he would be gone by Memorial Day. His new departure timeline was scooped by CNN's Ed Henry.

Leaving the White House earlier will give Axelrod--who has worked steadily since Obama announced for president in 2007--a solid chunk of time to recharge. For the Obama re-elect, Axelrod is expected to resume the role he had in 2008--that of overall strategist.

David Plouffe, Obama's 2008 campaign manager--and Axelrod's former business partner at the Chicago based firm he founded, now called AKPD--is expected to join the White House as a top strategist. Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina is expected to move to Chicago to run the campaign.

Chicago mayoral hopeful Gery Chico picked up a high profile endorsement on Tuesday--former Chicago Public Schools chief Paul Vallas. Vallas is currently Superintendent of the Recovery School District of Louisiana, rebuilding its school system destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

Video courtesy NBC Chicago5

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs at the Monday briefing provided a partial list of what President Obama will try to do in the lame duck session--while Democrats still have control of the House and more Democrats in the Senate.

The Obama to do list:

Taxes.... the Bush era income tax cuts expire at the end of the year. Obama wants to extend them for earners of above $250,000

Unemployment insurance.....Congress needs to act by Nov. 30 for an extension of benefits

START Treaty.....dealing with nuclear weapons

Don't Ask, Don't Tell ....legislation dealing with letting openly gay soldiers serve in the military....

DREAM Act immigration measure to provide a path for students in the U.S. illegally to stay in the country

Chicago mayoral hopeful Rahm Emanuel will have to fight a challenge to his city residency, in an attempt to knock him off the ballot, reports Chicago Sun-Times political writer Abdon M. Pallasch.

WASHINGTON--There will be no blacks in the U.S. Senate when he leaves office at the end of the month, a fact outgoing Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) called "unacceptable" and "troubling" in his farewell speech Thursday.

Burris, the only African American in the Senate, will be replaced on Nov. 29 by Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), who won election earlier this month to a six-year term starting next year and also for the several weeks remaining of Barack Obama¹s original Senate term.

In Burris' remarks, delivered at noon to a nearly empty Senate chamber--at the most there were four senators plus Burris and Senate staffers, including an old friend from Illinois, Terrance Gainer, the former director of the Illinois State Police, who is the Senate Sergeant at Arms.

Burris did not mention the controversy surrounding his appointment by the impeached and now convicted former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. And while he thanked Senate Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and senate staff down to the waiters, Burris made no mention of Illinois' senior Senator, Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). Because of the uproar surrounding his appointment from the tainted Blagojevich, Durbin and Burris never became close.

Durbin was not present for the speech.

When Burris was done, two senators came up to hug him--New Mexico Democrats Sen. Tom Udall, like Burris a former state Attorney General and Sen. Jeff Bingaman--plus Gainer and Nancy Erickson, the secretary of the Senate.

Burris wore a red tie and red handkerchief for his last Senate speech after
22 months and a few weeks in office, sworn in on Jan. 15, 2009.

"Throughout 220 years of Senate history and 111 Congresses, only six black
Americans have been able to serve," Burris said. "This is troubling in its own right."

Of the six, three are from Illinois and all are Chicago Democrats: former
Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, Obama and Burris.

"When the one hundred and twelfth Congress is sworn in this coming January, there will not be a single black American who takes the oath of office in this chamber," Burris said.

"This is simply unacceptable. We can - and we will-- and we must do better.

"In this regard, and in any other, our political progress has proven less accessible - and less representative - than it ought to be, and although I have never allowed my race to define me, in a sense, it has meant that my constituency as a United States Senator has stretched far beyond the boundaries of Illinois," he said

"Letters, emails, telephone calls have poured into my office from black Americans from all across the country. And at times, as I have tried to bring their voices into this chamber, I have acutely felt the absence of any other black person to represent them," Burris said.

Burris also took aim at the partisanship that has gridlocked the Senate.

"Our government hardly resembles the diverse country it was elected to
represent. Partisan bickering has driven moderates out of both parties, and
made principle compromise more difficult for those who remain.

"Too often, our politics seems to have become a zero-sum game.

"It's easy for people to feel that the best argument, or the plainest truth,
won't necessarily win the day any more. And such a destructive political
environment, people are often left wondering who will speak up for them," he said.

Burris also urged passage of the controversial, "Don¹t Ask, Don¹t Tell¹¹
(DADT) legislation to allow gay men and lesbians to openly serve in the

Burris, who can vote until he leaves the Senate at the end of the month,
said he very much wanted to support DADT as one of his last votes. Burris
quipped that he was so in favor of the measure to let soldiers serve no
matter their sexual orientation, he just might come back.

Joked Burris, "Don¹t be surprised if I don't come back, because I'm from Chicago, and I'll vote twice."

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen.-elect Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) have their first meeting Thursday morning to discuss issues where they can work together. Kirk, who will be sworn in on Nov. 29 to fill the unexpired weeks left of President Obama's Illinois senate term, has vowed to stop several Democratic measures Senate leadership--that includes Durbin--want to push in the lame duck session. Though there is an ideological divide between Durbin and Kirk, I think there are a variety of Illinois matters--such as issues dealing with Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes--where they may find agreement.

Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.), who had been serving as an appointee of former, impeached and convicted Gov. Rod Blagojevich, makes his farewell speech from the Senate floor at about 11 a.m. Chicago time on Thursday.

House and Senate Democrats and Republicans vote today on their leaders--and despite GOP big wins--the leaders on both sides are expected to be the same: In the House: John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi for the Republicans and Democrats. In the Senate, Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell for the Democrats and Republicans.

Republican Joe Walsh beat Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.) in the photo-finish contest in Illinois eighth congressional district--the vote counting was completed on Tuesday. Bean holds a press conference Wednesday in Schaumburg to discuss the race and Walsh has one in Washington at the Republican National Committee headquarters.

First Lady Michelle Obama's Chief of Staff Susan Sher will be stepping down next year and returning to Chicago, I've learned.

Another Chicagoan, Tina Tchen, who is the White House Director of Public Engagement, has been mentioned as a potential replacement but I am told that absolutely no decisions have been made--and others may be in the mix.

Mrs. Obama's Deputy Chief of Staff Melissa Winter--the first staffer she hired in the 2008 presidential campaign--is happy where she is and wants to stay put.

There is no specific departure date for Sher.

Sher had been telling friends she was planning to move back to Chicago--where her husband, Neil Cohen is a Cook County Circuit Court Judge at the Maywood courthouse. Sher, a longtime friend of Mrs. Obama and Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett--was Mrs. Obama's second chief of staff, joining the East Wing last June.

Sher, a former executive at the University of Chicago Medical Center, where Mrs. Obama once worked, joined the Obama administration at the beginning, in January, 2009. Sher was also the administration's liasion with the Jewish community.

"Susan has been both a colleague and a dear friend for decades, and I have been grateful every day for her leadership and wise counsel in Washington," said First Lady Michelle Obama in a statement. "I also very much appreciate her generosity in staying longer than she initially planned - spending so many months away from her family in Chicago - to help me build my office in the East Wing. I wish her all the best."

"Susan has brought tremendous skill and dedication to the First Lady's office, as well as my Administration's outreach to the Jewish Community and our efforts to pass health care reform, and I thank her for her service," President Obama said in a statement.

No replacement has been named. Mrs. Obama will consider a new chief of staff from internal and external applicants. Mrs. Obama has another top spot vacant--her first communications chief left earlier this year and has yet to be replaced.

Sher had made clear when she joined the Obama White House she was no planning on staying forever.

Her ties with Jarrett and the Obamas go back years. She served as Mayor Daley's Corporation Counsel between 1993 and 1997, where she worked in City Hall with Jarrett and Mrs. Obama.

The winner of the cliff-hanger Illinois eight House race between Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.) and Republican Joe Walsh will be known later today, when all the votes in the northwest suburban district will have been counted. Bean was behind by 347 votes, but there were enough uncounted votes--absentee, military and overseas ballots--outstanding to throw the contest either way.

Bean and Walsh were both in Washington on Tuesday, Bean here for the lame duck session and the optimistic Walsh for freshman orientation. Bean will fly back to the district for a Wednesday press conference at the Hyatt Regency Woodfield-Schaumburg to discuss the results.

Last week Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, co-chairs of the non-partisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform caused a stir when they suggested curbing Social Security benefits.

The co-chairs jumped the gun in their announcement--they pre-empted their own bipartisan commission--facing a Dec. 1 deadline for making recommendations.

Commission member Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and other progressives were not pleased with the Social Security suggestion. On Tuesday Schakowsky unveils her own comprehensive deficit reduction plan.

"Contrary to the proposal issued by Commission Co-Chairs Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson last week, Schakowsky closes the deficit by 2015 without doing so on the backs of America's middle class, seniors, the poor and people with disabilities," Schakowsky's office said in announcing the press conference.

A poll conducted for Chicago Teamsters Joint Council 25 in the upcoming Chicago mayoral race shows former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel far ahead of his rivals--both for the Feb. 22 primary and the April 5 run-off.

The survey of likely voters was conducted for the Teamsters council--representing 22 locals in the Chicago area-- by Anzalone Liszt Research between Nov. 8--14 with a 3.7 percent margin of error. The Teamsters have a lot of members in the city and wanted a poll for guidance, I was told. I did not see the whole poll but did get a detailed memo--and other information about the survey.

In polling for city contests--where politics play along race, ethnic and regional lines--knowing the racial makeup of the sample is important. The respondents were 44 percent White, 38 percent African American, 14 percent Hispanic and four percent other.

Former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun had the highest name identification--but also the highest unfavorables. "Emanuel's lead is not purely a function of high name recognition," the poll concluded.

The head to head:
36 Emanuel
14 Rep. Danny Davis
13 Moseley Braun
10 Attorney Gery Chico
7 State Sen. James Meeks
4 City Clerk Miguel Del Valle

The presence of three African American candidates also seems to have splintered an important city potential voting bloc. Among African Americans surveyed, 29 percent were for Emanuel to 22 percent for Davis, 18 percent for Moseley Braun, 14 percent for Meeks, 2 percent for Chico, 1 percent for Del Valle and 14 percent undecided.

Click below for the polling memo.

Mark Kirk during campaign at Navistar headquarters town hall event. (Photo by Lynn Sweet)

Illinois senator-elect Mark Kirk will be sworn in on Nov. 29, starting his new Senate career early to fill the remainder of President Barack Obama's original Senate term. Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) tenure ends when Kirk is sworn in. Kirk sent out a save-the-date on Monday:

Please Save the Date
For a Reception Celebrating the Swearing-In of:
Mark Steven Kirk
United States Senator
Monday, November 29, 2010
Washington, DC
Invitation and Details to Follow

Emanuel boosted by pal LaHood

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Video courtesy of NBC5

Sen. Roland Burris ends his Senate career at the end of the month, and despite controversy surrounding his tenure, he told me in a farewell interview last week he has had a great time since he was sworn in Jan. 15, 2009.

Burris, it turns out -- and this is the first complete list -- saw a lot of the world in less than two years on the job: In 2009, he was part of official congressional delegations visiting London between Sept. 1 and 6 and Iraq Nov. 19-25, where he met with members of the Illinois National Guard. In 2010, Burris traveled to China, Jan. 12-14, and Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti between April 4 and 10. The government of Taiwan paid for a Burris trip Aug. 16-20.

A member of the Armed Services and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committees, Burris, on official business, inspected the U.S.-Mexico border near San Diego, flew to Fort Hood, Texas, for a memorial service after the 2009 murders there, and checked out military installations in Colorado and Nebraska.

"I mean it is a great group, Lynn. I found it just so, something that I really wanted to do and really had a chance to do, and I am so thankful to God I had a chance to do it, spend time in the United States Senate," Burris told me.

Chicago mayoral hopeful Rahm Emanuel on Monday throws a fundraiser with $50,000 raise or contribute the top price and $1,500 the cheapest admission to the event, hosted by corporate executives downtown. Click for the list of hosts.

White House senior advisor David Axelrod, on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday was asked by host David Gregory if Obama will campaign for Chicago mayoral hopeful Rahm Emanuel.

Said Axelrod, "Well, the president has made clear what his view of Rahm is. He said he was an excellent chief-of-staff, thought he would be an excellent mayor. Whether he involves himself actively in this campaign is a matter that we haven't yet decided. But I think his view of Rahm is very clear."

Mayoral hopeful Rahm Emanuel made his bid for Chicago mayor official on Saturday; my report on his launch--a formality since he has been campaigning for weeks--is here. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) and state Sen. James Meeks (D-Chicago) make official announcements of candidacy on Sunday. Former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun (D-Ill.) campaign manager has an availability on Sunday to presumably comment on all this. Meanwhile, Emanuel starts his first television spot on Monday.

Jon Stewart on Rachel Maddow


Did Chicago mayoral hopeful Rahm Emanuel have it out for Attorney General Eric Holder? Or was he just trying to protect the Obama White House? The December issue of GQ has a story by Wil S. Hylton about the relationship of Holder and the former White House chief of staff.

GQ excerpts...

"A few days after Rahm Emanuel resigned as White House chief of staff in October, I stopped by the Justice Department to see Eric Holder. I had been meeting with the attorney general periodically for about a year (since he was named one of GQ's Men of the Year last December), and I knew from our conversations, as well as from Holder's friends and family, that the last few months had been a bumpy ride. But I also knew that many of Holder's frustrations on the job could be linked to his thorny relationship with Emanuel. I wondered if things were looking up."

"...Inside Obama's West Wing, Emanuel's hostility toward Holder has become so pitched at times that the president has had to intervene. "Occasionally, Rahm would cross the line about Eric," says a source with access to White House deliberations, "and the president would tell him, 'Rahm, knock it off.' " Inside Holder's circle of advisers, the frustration with Emanuel has been equally palpable."

Presumptive House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his team are talking a good game about making the workings of the House of Representative more transparent. I report on what needs to be done --and what Rep.-elect Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), who is on the Boehner transition team thinks--here.

Alexi Giannoulias is NOT running for Chicago mayor--despite some aldermen trying to woo the Illinois Democratic Senate nominee who lost to Republican Mark Kirk into the contest as part of their scheming to stop mayoral hopeful Rahm Emanuel.

Ginnoulias spokesman Kathleen Strand said in a statement issued on Friday: "To put all rumors to rest, before they get out of hand, Alexi is not running for Mayor. He didn't get into public service to just run for office. He believes in public service, and his plans are to faithfully serve out the remainder of his term as Treasurer and then pursue other opportunities. Alexi loves this City and will provide whatever assistance he can now or in the future to Mayor Daley, the City Council and the next Mayor."

On Thursday I reported how Giannoulias was going to meet Friday with some anti-Emanuel aldermen to at least hear them out and learn more about a poll commissioned by a labor union not enamored with the notion of a Mayor Emanuel.

State Sen. James Meeks (D-Chicago) and Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) make their bids official on Sunday. Attorney Gery Chico and former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun are also running in the Feb. 22 non-partisan mayoral primary. Candidates need to file 12,500 valid signatures by Nov. 22 to get on the ballot so as a practical matter, anyone not in by now--is probably not really in at all. If no one gets more than 50 percent of the vote on Feb. 22, the top two finishers face an April 5 run-off.

Democratic Illinois Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias--who last week lost to challenger Republican Mark Kirk--will meet on Friday with a group of about six Chicago aldermen who are looking for a Chicago mayoral candidate up to thwarting hopeful Rahm Emanuel--who so far has put together the strongest campaign for the February mayoral primary.

Others already in the contest: Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.), attorney Gery Chico, former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun (D-Ill.) and state Sen. James Meeks (D-Chicago).

I don't think Giannoulias is that interested in jumping in the mayor's race, but his approach, I gather is this: it doesn't hurt to listen to the aldermen to see what they have to say.

One line of thinking I've heard: While Emanuel is expected to have millions of dollars for his mayoral race to bankroll television spots, Chicagoans just coming off the Nov. 2 elections--where they were bombarded with political ads--may just be sick and tired of commercials.

I've heard that the presentation Giannoulias is supposed to get will include findings from a poll paid for by union interests who are not enamored with Emanuel--who makes his "official" announcement on Saturday. Meeks and Davis announce on Sunday.

Gery Chico Nov. 11 public schedule

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below, from the White House....

Roberto R. Herencia, Nominee for Member, Board of Directors of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation

Roberto R. Herencia serves as an independent director of SKBHC, a bank holding company focused on acquisitions and assisted deals, and is a consultant to a number of clients, including several community banks and private equity funds. Between 2009 and 2010, Herencia was the President and CEO of Midwest Banc Holdings Inc. and Midwest Bank and Trust. Previously, he spent 17 years with Popular Inc. as its Executive Vice President and as President of Banco Popular North America. He is a Trustee of the Museum of Science and Industry, DePaul University, and Northwestern Memorial Foundation in Chicago, and serves on the Board of Directors of Junior Achievement of Chicago, Operation Hope in Los Angeles, the Economic Club of Chicago, and New America Alliance. Herencia graduated Magna Cum Laude and received his B.S.B.A. in Finance from Georgetown University. He received his M.B.A. from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

The photo finish House race in Illinois 8--between Rep. Melissa Bean and GOP challenger Joe Walsh--is still not resolved. There are still uncounted ballots. Walsh right now is a few hundred votes ahead and is headed to Washington next week for freshman orientation.

Bean said through a spokesman, Gabby Adler,"Every single day that ballots have been counted following Election Day, the margin of votes separating Congresswoman Melissa Bean and Mr. Walsh has continued to shrink.

"Now, more than ever, this race remains too close to call. While we wait for additional ballots to be counted, we remain encouraged by the favorable results we've seen in suburban Cook County. In fact, nearly 70 percent of the absentee ballots counted since Election Day in Cook County were cast in support of Congresswoman Bean, which suggests that similar absentee numbers will be reported in Lake and McHenry between now and November 16th."

President Obama is visiting Indonesia for the first time since he was a boy, when he lived there for several years with his mother and Indonesian step-father and half sister Maya Soetoro-Ng. In the world's largest Muslim country, Obama will be delivering another major speech aimed at the Muslim world, a follow up to his June, 2009 address in Cairo.

At a press conference in Jakarta with Indonesian President Yudhoyono (Wednesday in Indonesia, Tuesday in the U.S.) Obama was asked how he assess his "outreach to the Muslim world at this point in your presidency, particularly in light of some of the controversies back home? And if you could, give us some of your thoughts on what it's like to return here as President of the United States.

Obama reply on his YOUTH IN INDONESIA: Well, I'll take the second question first. I think it's wonderful to be here -- although I have to tell you that when you visit a place that you spent time in as a child, as President it's a little disorienting. First of all, as I said before, the landscape has changed completely. When I first came here it was in 1967 and people were on becaks -- which for those of you who aren't familiar, is sort of a bicycle rickshaw thing. And if they weren't on becaks, they were on bemos, which were -- -- they were sort of like little taxis but you stood in the back and it was very crowded.

And now as President, I can't even see any traffic because they block off all the streets -- although my understanding is that Jakarta traffic is pretty tough. But I feel great affection for the people here. And obviously I have a sister who's half Indonesian. My mother lived and worked here for a long time. And so the sights and the sounds and the memories all feel very familiar. And it's wonderful to be able to come back as President and hopefully contribute to further understanding between the United States and Indonesia.

One of the things that's striking is because it's almost on the exact opposite side of the world, I think not enough Americans know about this great country. And hopefully my visit here will help to promote additional interest and understanding. People have heard of Bali and they've heard of Java, but they don't always know how to locate it on a map back home. And I think that increasing awareness of Indonesia is something I'm very much looking forward to doing.

Obviously this is a short visit. It's a shorter visit than I would like. My hope is, is that we're going to be able to come back and maybe bring the kids and visit some places outside of Jakarta. When you go to -- inland, further into Java, there are just incredible places like Yogya, old ancient temples, and places that I have very fond memories of visiting when I was a kid. I'd love to do that.

Obama on MUSLIM OUTREACH: With respect to outreach to the Muslim world, I think that our efforts have been earnest, sustained. We don't expect that we are going to completely eliminate some of the misunderstandings and mistrust that have developed over a long period of time. But we do think that we're on the right path.

So whether it's our more active communications to press in Muslim countries, or exchange programs in which we're having U.S. scientists and other educators visit Muslim countries, or that entrepreneurship summit that we had in Washington in which we invited young business leaders from Muslim countries all across -- all around the world -- what we're trying to do is to make sure that we are building bridges and expanding our interactions with Muslim countries so that they're not solely focused on security issues.

Because you come to a place like Indonesia, which is the largest Muslim population in the world, but people here have a lot of other interests, other than security -- that security is important, but I want to make sure that we are interacting with a wide range of people on a wide range of issues. And I think by broadening the relationship, it strengthens it, it builds trust, creates more people-to-people contact. That will be good for our security but it will also be good for the larger cause of understanding between the United States and the Muslim world.

So I think it's an incomplete project. We've got a lot more work to do. And it's not going to eliminate some -- or replace some tough dialogue around concrete policy issues. Those are going to continue. There are going to be some policy differences that we can't avoid. But I do think it's helping.

Illinois Democrats lost the Senate seat and three, possibly four of the big House races but kept Gov. Quinn and both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly. The Democratic win for Quinn is due in part to the get-out-the-vote effort Illinois Democratic Coordinated Campaign led by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and state Senate president John Cullerton (D-Chicago.) Dems tell me it was the biggest GOTV effort since 1962. Illinois Republicans fielded their largest ground game ever.

Some statistics from the Illinois Democratic Coordinated Campaign:

*Across Illinois, over 23,200 people knocked on doors and made phone calls over the final four days, many of them filling multiple volunteer shifts.There were 8,000 people on the street on election day alone

*They knocked on over 975,000 doors and made over 380,000 phone calls over the last four days.

*More than 50 percent of these voter contact efforts were concentrated in Cook County. These efforts resulted in higher than expected voter turnout within Chicago (over 50%). African American turnout was up from 2006 in many south side neighborhoods and southern Cook County townships.

In the last four days, President Obama and Vice President Biden recorded robocalls called Illinois voters.

*80,000 Biden
*240,000 Obama Vote tomorrow
*240,000 Obama Vote today

A group of African American political activists in Chicago got together to try to find one strong African American candidate to back for mayor. The process--a bit drawn out--did not yield that result.

Chicago Sun-Times report on the coalition deciding to back Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.) after announcing a few days before their top two finalists--former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun (D-Ill.) and Board of Tax Review's Larry Rogers.

Meanwhile, state Sen. James Meeks (D-Chicago), is running for mayor no matter what. Rogers is the least known of the four and its not known if he would have the resources to run on his own.

Moseley Braun is running no matter what.

So instead of one African American candidate, there are at least three. That's now how Harold Washington won election as Chicago's first African American mayor.

Sun-Times reporter Natasha Korecki story is here about Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and his purchase of a townhouse from Tony Rezko, now a convicted political fixer.

GOP Illinois mayoral candidate Bill Brady concedes Friday to Democrat Gov. Pat Quinn: read the Sun-Times report here.

Did Chicago mayoral hopeful Rahm Emanuel drop the f-bomb at a Hollywood fund-raiser his brother Ari--the Hollywood superagent--hosted for him in Beverly Hills Thursday night? Variety's Ted Johnson has a scoop from the inside. Read it here.

Chicago mayoral hopeful Carol Moseley Braun went on the attack Thursday, slamming rival Rahm Emanuel for "abandoning" President Obama after "pushing policies that [led] to the biggest Democratic Party political loss in 27 years."

"He left the president holding the bag," Braun asserted in a statement that also claimed Emanuel "cut and ran" on Obama when he left his chief of staff job to return to Chicago for a mayoral run.

"If Rahm abandoned the president of the United States, what makes anybody think he'll stick by regular Chicagoans?" Braun asked.

The former U.S. senator and ambassador lobbed the broadside at Emanuel on the day he flew to Los Angeles for a major fund-raiser hosted by his brother Ari, the Hollywood super agent, and entertainment industry moguls David Geffen, Bob Iger, Peter Chernin and Haim Saban. The event was in Saban's Beverly Hills home, with tickets ranging from $1,000 to $5,000.

Braun slammed Emanuel's fund-raiser, too.

"On this day when President Obama and Illinois Democrats are still recovering from the painful political debacle that he was the architect of, Rahm Emanuel is off in Hollywood hanging out with bankers and billionaires. But maybe Hollywood is where he belongs because the story of how he 'helped' the Obama administration when he was chief of staff is indeed fiction."

Emanuel's spokesman, Ben LaBolt, issued a statement rejecting Braun's assertions.

"Rahm disagrees with Sen. Moseley Braun's statement -- he doesn't think that the president ushered in a 'debacle,' he thinks that preventing another Depression and passing health care and financial reform will help countless Americans," LaBolt said.

"While Rahm has spent the last several weeks talking with Chicagoans about plans for the city's future -- safe streets, strong schools and stable finances -- Sen. Moseley Braun's statement says nothing about her own plans for the city at this critical juncture for Chicago."

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn won the Illinois governor race, beating GOP rival Bill Brady by about 19,400 votes, according to an analysis Thursday of uncounted votes by the Associated Press.

Quinn stopped by Manny's Deli off Roosevelt Road south of the Loop and declared at the corn beef palace that his lead was "insurmountable."

The Sun-Times political writer Abdon M. Pallasch reports that Quinn said,
"I think our lead is insurmountable -- I think it may grow a little bit. The numbers are basically there. The basic laws of arithmetic are on our side. Those wondering about the results of the election, they just have to look at the count right now and that will tell them the results right there."

Quinn/Simon campaign manager Ben Nuckels in an e-mail to supporters. "While we will wait for every vote to be counted, our current lead is more than 19,000 votes. We don't see a path to victory for Senator Brady, and we believe we have won."

Quinn's lieutenant governor running mate is Sheila Simon, the daughter of the late Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.)

Chicago mayoral hopeful Carol Moseley Braun, the former senator and ambassador, slammed rival Rahm Emanuel's Hollywood fund-raiser on Thursday--but perhaps more telling, hit his tenure as chief of staff for President Obama. That Emanuel helped Obama in the White House is "fiction," Moseley Braun asserted.

Said Moseley Braun in a statement, "On this day when President Obama and Illinois Democrats are still recovering from the painful political debacle that he was the architect of, Rahm Emanuel is off in Hollywood hanging out with bankers and billionaires. But maybe Hollywood is where he belongs because the story of how he "helped" the Obama
administration when he was chief of staff is indeed fiction.

"Rahm Emanuel cut and ran after pushing policies that lead to the biggest Democratic Party political loss in 27 years.

"He left the President holding the bag. If Rahm abandoned the President of the United
States, what makes anybody think heʼll stick by regular Chicagoans?" Moseley Braun said.

Blaming Emanuel for Obama's political woes following Tuesday's Democratic thumping-- ups the ante. Emanuel did not exactly cut and run. He said--starting last January--that he was only going to stay on for about two years. That Emanuel departed when he did was triggered by Mayor Richard Daley's surprise September announcement that he would not seek a seventh term next year and the need to pull together a campaign from scratch since nominating petition are due later this month.

Emanuel stepped down as chief of staff to run for mayor with a tremendous White House send-off--an East Room ceremony headlined by Obama

Another mayoral candidate, Gery Chico, is also poking at Emanuel for the Thursday fund-raiser in Los Angeles, hosted by his brother, Hollywood superagent Ari Emanuel and other entertainment industry moguls: David Geffen, Bob Iger, Peter Chernin and Haim Saban. The event will be in Saban's Beverly Hills home.

Chico's campaign is planning an event tonight at the Hollywood Grill in Chicago.

Petitions to get on Chicago's ballot for the February primary--with at least 12,500 valid signatures-- are due on Nov. 22. The primary is non-partisan; if no candidate gets more than 50 percent, then the top two vote getters advance to an April run-off election.

White House executive chef Cristeta Comerford hit Chicago on Wednesday to pick up an honor: being named 2010 Chicago Chef of the Year. Obamafoodorama has the story here.

Chicago mayoral hopeful Rahm Emanuel jets from O'Hare to Los Angeles on Thursday for a Hollywood fund-raiser hosted by his brother, Ari, the Hollywood superagent while rival Gery Chico, poking at Emanuel, has a campaign party tonight at the Hollywood Grill, 1601 W. North Ave.

Other major Democratic donors in the entertainment community are co-hosting the Emanuel funder: David Geffen, Bob Iger, Peter Chernin and Haim Saban. The event is at Saban's Beverly Hills home, where the donation ask is $5,000 to $1,000. Chicagoans flying out for the Emanuel funder include Judd and Katherine Malkin and Obama interior designer Michael Smith.

(Sun-Times photo by Scott Stewart)

Sen-elect Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Democratic Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias hoisted beers over at the Billy Goat saloon on Thursday, after a bitter Illinois Senate contest. The Sun-Times Abdon M. Pallasch has the report here.

The Democratic slaughter Tuesday will make it harder for President Obama to govern -- but might make it easier for him to win re-election in 2012.

The Obama White House will shift into re-election mode in a few months, and the 2012 presidential campaign headquarters will be Chicago again, if all goes as planned. But for now, a lot of attention on the political front will have to be on dealing with a GOP-controlled House and a Senate where Republican gains will make it harder to get the 60 votes needed to get anything done. Obama will reach out to Republicans during his press conference today.

Chicago mayoral hopeful Rahm Emanuel was the architect of the House Democrats 2006 victories which resulted in Nancy Pelosi becoming Speaker of the House. Emanuel, then the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Commitee on Tuesday night saw his work undone, as CNN predicted that the Republicans will retake the House. So what is Emanuel doing Tuesday night? Quipped an aide: "He's with friends and a bottle of Jack Daniels."

After keeping a low profile in Illinois contests, Sarah Palin in the closing days of the campaign cut a robocall for the Faith & Freedom Coalition sent to 500,000 to Illinois homes with conservative voters.

Palin's Illinois script:

Hello Illinois, this is Sara Palin urging you to go to the polls on Tuesday or even better vote early.

We have some simple choices this year. America needs to return to conservative, common sense and time tested truth. We need leaders who believe in smaller government, lower taxes, stronger families and a robust unapologetic national defense.

The momentum is on our side but it isn't over until the polls close. So please go to the polls and vote for the candidates who share your value. Urge your friends and family to vote too.

Thank you and God bless you.

Chicago mayoral hopeful Rahm Emanuel, the former White House chief of staff who was an architect of the 2006 Democratic House sweep, is using his e-mail list to spur Democratic turn out.

Emanuel earlier sent out an appeal for Democrat Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias; today's appeal if for the ticket.

sweet-kirk.jpg(photo by Lynn Sweet)

Illinois GOP candidate Mark Kirk voted a little after 10 a.m. Tuesday morning in Highwood, not far from his north suburban home in Ft. Sheridan. He said hi to some kids playing in the gym of the community center on Green Bay Road en route to the room where the election was being held.

Talking to reporters afterwards, a chipper Kirk said "Well, I voted twice for Senate," a reference to the Illinois quirk where voters are filing the regular six-year term and the unexpired term of President Obama of just a few weeks.

President Obama will get a lot of the blame if the top of the Democratic ticket loses in his home state of Illinois -- it won't all be fair, but that's what pundits and Republicans will do.

But let's not forget who got the ball rolling to get the Illinois Democrats in this pickle in the first place: former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, convicted earlier this year of lying to federal agents and looking forward to a second trial next year on a series of corruption charges, including trying to sell Obama's old Senate seat.

FOX News poll tracks with the latest PPP poll, predicting GOP wins in Illinois on Tuesday, with third party candidates maybe spoilers for Democrats Alexi Giannoulias running for Senate and Gov. Quinn.

FOX ILLINOIS SENATE Republican Mark Kirk, 46 to Giannoulias, 42, to Green Party LeAlan Jones, 6

FOX ILLINOIS GOVERNOR Republican Bill Brady, 44 percent to Quinn 38 percent. "In this race, the Democrat is suffering at the hands of two minor candidates, the Green Party's Rich Whitney and independent Scott Lee Cohen," Fox found.

A poll by has a split result for the top of the Illinois ticket: In the hotly contested Senate contest, Democrat Alexi Giannoulias is at 47 to 44 for Republican Mark Kirk. In the race for governor, Bill Brady is at 47 to 40 for Gov. Quinn.

From YouGov: Interviews with 1000 registered voters, including 784 likely voters, were conducted October 25-30, 2010

PPP poll released on Monday morning. In the Illinois Senate, Mark Kirk is over Alexi Giannoulias 46-42 and Bill Brady is ahead of Pat Quinn 45-40 for Governor--results outside the margin of error.

PPP surveyed 814 likely Illinois voters on October 30th and 31st. The margin of error for
the survey is +/- 3.4%.

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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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