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May 2011 Archives

WASHINGTON--Watch for the Democratic drawn Illinois congressional map--the one that screws Republicans to be passed by the Illinois Senate today--to be challenged in federal court by the GOP or a front group representing their interests.

THE POTENTIAL BASIS FOR A LEGAL CHALLENGE: A second Hispanic district should have been created and not doing so violated civil rights provisions in the Voting Rights Act.

HOW DOES THIS HELP THE ILLINOIS GOP MEMBERS OF CONGRESS, SINCE A SECOND HISPANIC DISCTRICT WOULD LIKELY ELECT A DEMOCRAT? It would force the redrawing of district lines--and a court ordered map, the reasoning goes, could not be worse than the partisan, gerrymandered plus Democratic map.


Here's what I have been hearing for 2012:

*Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) may run from a northern Illinois district, in territory now represented by Rep. Don Manzullo. Will Manzullo retire?

*Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) may do well anchoring herself in the new 11th District. Former Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.) who in 2010 lost a re-election bid in the present 14th district on Tuesday said he will run from the new 11th.

*Rep. Bob Dold, (R-Ill.) who represents the present 10th District has little choice but to stay in the new 10th, enriched with more Democratic turf.

*Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) at present in the 8th District under the Democratic map likely would run from the new 14th District, and be pitted in a primary against present 14th DistrictRep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.)

*The three best Illinois GOP districts: Rep. Peter Roskam, Rep. Tim Johnson, Rep. Aaron Schock.

WASHINGTON--President Obama's best fund-raisers--members of his National Finance Committee--are meeting in Chicago today and tomorrow to map strategy to raise north of $750 million for his re-election bid. Chicago business mogul Penny Pritzker, who chaired Obama's 2008 fund-raising drive, is hosting a dinner tonight, which Mayor Rahm Emanuel is expected to attend. Campaign manager Jim Messina and deputy campaign manager Julianna Smoot--who oversees 2012 Obama fund-raising will be huddling with the NFC members.

WASHINGTON--Former Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.) comeback bid, announced on Monday, is in the a new Democratic vote friendly 11th District--in a seat currently held by Rep. Kinzinger, Adam [R-Ill.] The Illinois Senate votes on the newly remapped congressional districts--designed to pit six of the 11 Illinois incumbent Republicans against each other--today.

Foster, defeated in 2010 by Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.)--after being elected twice in the heavily GOP 14th District--said in a statement that parts of the new 11th were in his old 14th district.


"Illinois working families fired Bill Foster last fall because of his unwavering support for reckless spending, higher taxes and bigger government. Illinois voters understand that Bill Foster's tax and spend record was part of the problem and are unwilling to foot the bill again for his big spending agenda." - NRCC Spokeswoman Andrea Bozek


below, Foster announcement...

Bill Foster Announces Candidacy for Congress

Businessman and scientist Bill Foster announced his campaign to return to Congress in the Illinois' 11th Congressional District that contains Aurora, Joliet, Lisle, Montgomery and Naperville.

"I am running to return to Congress because there are important things left to accomplish, and important accomplishments that must be defended," said Foster. "Our fragile economic recovery must be sustained, and the long-term fiscal problems that we face must be solved without breaking promises to our seniors or dismantling Medicare. Reforms to our financial and healthcare systems must continue so that they work well for both businesses and ordinary people."

"I started off as a small businessman, so I know how to create jobs and how much it means to families. As a scientist, I've learned to take a practical, thoughtful approach to solving problems - examining the facts and bringing people together towards solutions. And I believe that's the approach we need in Washington," said Foster.

"The new 11th District is wide open and I think Bill Foster would be a great candidate," said Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner. "He has the practicality of a small businessman, but also a scientist's vision of the future . . . and he worked hard for Aurora as its congressman."

Aurora is the largest city in the new 11th District, and the largest city Foster represented in Congress. Foster also represented Montgomery, Oswego, and parts of Joliet among other areas in the new 11th.

When he was 19, Bill Foster and his brother started a business from scratch. That company now manufactures over half of the theater lighting equipment in the U. S. and still employs hundreds of people with good manufacturing jobs in the Midwest. For 25 years after that, Foster was a scientist at Fermi National Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois--where he participated in leading-edge scientific research, designed and built state-of-the-art physics experiments, and led teams of people to help build Fermilab's giant particle accelerators. Foster served in Congress for nearly three years after winning the special election to fill Dennis Hastert's seat in March 2008, serving on the Financial Services Committee where he played an important role in crafting the Wall Street reform bill to crack down on abuses and stabilize our economy following the financial crisis.


Obama May 30 week ahead

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Former Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.), defeated by Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.) in 2010, is going to run for Congress again in 2012--though perhaps not in the same district. Sun-Times political reporter Abdon M. Pallasch has the story about how some non-incumbent congressional Democrats, including Foster, are mulling their 2012 moves under the new Illinois redistricting plan state Democrats unveiled on Friday. The Democratic mapmakers drew new congressional districts on blatant partisan lines--all designed to reduce the chances of GOP incumbents from districts anchored in suburban Chicago of retaining their seats.

WASHINGTON--Illinois Democrats control the remap process and the congressional map made public on Friday is designed to protect Democratic incumbents and force Republican incumbents to run against each other in 2012. The stakes are high: Illinois will have to drop one House seat in 2012 because of population losses found in the 2010 Census. Illinois Republicans in 2010 won the most seats they have had in years: Illinois sends 11 Republicans and eight Democrats to Washington. I'm working with Springfield Bureau Chief Dave McKinney on the story--click here to read it here.

All 11 Illinois GOP House members are howling and said in a joint statement: "This proposal appears to be little more than an attempt to undo the results of the elections held just six months ago and we will take whatever steps necessary to achieve a map that more fairly represents the people of Illinois - they deserve nothing less."

(entire statement below)

My first take: Illinois Democrats in 2012 House races have a head start in reclaiming seats lost to Republicans in 2010 because:

1. Having President Obama at the head of the ticket in his adopted home state in 2012 will bring out voters who sat out House races in 2010.

2. The Democrats designed maps that pit too many Republicans against each other--at least for now.

3. The newly created 10th District is designed to yield a Democratic win.

Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) is the only Democratic double dipper: He not only gets to keep a solid Democratic district, but the house of the Democratic who is already running against him, John Atkinson, was drawn out of the district. Atkinson is weighing his options.


Statement of the Republican U.S. House Members from Illinois on Democrats' Proposed Redistricting Map

The Republican members of the Illinois Congressional delegation today issued the following statement in response to the release of a proposal to re-draw the boundaries of Congressional districts in Illinois.

"Under the cover of darkness, the Democrats in Springfield proposed a new Congressional map that was drawn without any input from Republicans or any consideration for the hours of testimony offered at public hearings this spring. We are very concerned that this proposal does not fairly represent the significant growth that has occurred in the Hispanic community. The proposed map carves up towns and communities with little regard to the values and beliefs of the people who live there.

"This proposal appears to be little more than an attempt to undo the results of the elections held just six months ago and we will take whatever steps necessary to achieve a map that more fairly represents the people of Illinois - they deserve nothing less."

Rep. Judy Biggert (Il-13) Rep. Peter Roskam (Il-6)

Rep. Robert Dold (Il-10) Rep. Bobby Schilling (Il-17)

Rep. Randy Hultgren (Il-14) Rep. Aaron Schock (Il-18)

Rep. Timothy Johnson (Il-15) Rep. John Shimkus (Il-19)

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Il-11) Rep. Joe Walsh (Il-8)

Rep. Don Manzullo (Il-16)

Sam Kass is a White House chef and top food policy honcho who works closely with First Lady Michelle's "Let's Move" healthy food drive. He's a Chicagoan who was the Obama family chef when President Obama was an Illinois senator. Kass picked his favorite Chicago restaurants during a WBEZ interview highlighted by Obamafoodorama.

Kass was in Chicago to speak Monday at the World Culinary Showcase at the National Restaurant Association's 2011 Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show at McCormick Place.

Sam Kass' picks...

Avec, where he once worked.
Nuevo Leon

Finally, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich testifies under oath about the criminal corruption charges he is facing. The Chicago Sun-Times Natasha Korecki, Abdon M. Pallasch and Lark Turner are at the retrial in a federal courtroom in Chicago and have the story here

WASHINGTON--As we head to the Memorial Day weekend--with U.S. troops involved in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya--let's remember the holiday marks a time to honor our nation's soldiers.

Carl Cannon, the Washington editor of RealClearPolitics in his daily note about stories on the site briefs us on the history of Memorial Day.

From Carl Cannon: "Good morning. It's Friday, the beginning of a long weekend - but not just any holiday. Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a time we pay homage to Americans who died while serving in the U.S. military.

It was first proclaimed officially in 1868, three years after the end of the Civil War, by Army Maj. Gen. John A. Logan, who ordered that on May 30 "the choicest flowers of springtime" be placed at the gravesites on the posts he commanded. "Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners," Logan decreed. "Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic."

WASHINGTON--Democratic National Committee chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz on Thursday said President Obama will retain Jewish support--even as he faces criticism of his approach to Israel/Palestinian peace talks.

Defending Obama, at a breakfast session with reporters hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, Wasserman Schultz said, "At the end of the day, the natural home for the Jewish voter is the Democratic Party." Any suggestion Obama--who earned more than 70 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008--is hurt is a "gross overstatement," she said.

Obama triggered questions about his Israel policy when in a speech last Thursday he called for stalled Israeli/Palestinian negotiations to start at the 1967 borders--a non-starter for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said it to Obama's face--and in a speech to Congress.

A new movie about Sarah Palin is fueling more speculation she is thinking more about a 2012 presidential bid. Scott Conroy over at Real Clear Politics has the scoop.

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is expected to testify today at his federal criminal corruption retrial in Chicago, the Sun-Times is reporting. Blagojevich never took the stand in his first trial last summer--despite repeated comments outside of court that he could not wait to testify.

Follow the trial at the Blago Blog.

Mitt Romney brings his 2012 exploratory campaign to Chicago and Champaign Thursday for fund-raising and a press hit at Gino's East in Chicago. I posted Wednesday that Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford will be his Illinois chairman. Romney's presser is just a few blocks from the Obama 2012 headquarters.

I've learned that Romney will host two fund-raisers in Illinois, always a big source of GOP money for national candidates: in the morning at the Chicago Hilton and Towers and in the afternoon at the corporate headquarters of Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches in downstate Champaign.

Romney statement on Rutherford:"As a longstanding and important part of the political and business community in Illinois, Treasurer Rutherford understands the challenges facing our country," said Governor Romney. "He realizes that in order to jump start our economy and create jobs, we need to cut spending, lower taxes and reduce government. I am grateful for his support and look forward to working with him in the future."

Visiting a school in London, First Lady Michelle Obama is asked by a student about when the U.S. have its first female president. A problem: more women have to "step up and grab that ring" Here is the exchange:

Q Okay. We waited too many years for the first black President. Considering how far women have come, how long do you think it will be -- take before we have the first female President?

MRS. OBAMA: Excellent question. I think we're there. I think that the United States, I think many countries around the world are ready. So now the challenge is our preparation as women and our desire and willingness to step up and grab that ring, because we're at a time when so many people just want good leadership. They want people, number one, who have good character, who are open, who are -- especially young people, because you all see the world in such broader terms, particularly students at Oxford, students who get to travel and experience the world. Their limits just continue to expand.

So our job as women is to envision ourselves as leaders, and then to prepare and be ready for a good fight and a good battle, because one thing about our success is that no one feels sorry, is going to take it easy on us, right?

Hillary Clinton is a fabulous leader. My husband had a formidable opponent in her in the primaries. She is a phenomenal Secretary of State. We have examples of outstanding women like her in leadership all over the world.

So it's completely there. The question is, are we ready? Are we, as young women, are we ready to take that responsibility on and go after it and take the risk that go with stepping out there and being judged? And I think sometimes as women we can step back, but we can start pushing ourselves now, so --

Q Thank you.

From the White House:

The President and Mrs. Obama gave the Prime Minister a custom-made pair of White House Magnolia wood and sterling silver cufflinks engraved on the reverse with the President's signature, as well as a first edition of President John F. Kennedy's book, Profiles in Courage.

The President and Mrs. Obama gave Mrs. Cameron a custom-designed sterling silver cuff bracelet adorned with a White House Magnolia wood cabochon center, which was presented together with the cufflinks in a hand-carved Magnolia wood valet tray crafted specially for this occasion. The Magnolia wood gifts were fabricated from the Magnolia trees that fell on the grounds of The White House during the snow storm of February 2009.

Each of Prime Minister and Mrs. Cameron's children received a signed, personalized copy of President Obama's book Of Thee I Sing. Nancy and Elwen also received classic American kid toy scooters, and Florence received a handcrafted wooden jigsaw puzzle of Bo Obama, the First Family's dog, and a stuffed animal of Bo.

WASHINGTON--Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney--a 2012 GOP presidential hopeful-- hits Chicago on Thursday for a fund-raiser and an event at Gino's East on Wells St. to, according to his campaign, "discuss jobs and the economy with business owners."

I've learned that Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford will be Romney's Illinois campaign chairman. END UPDATE

Romney is making his first Chicago public splash since the Obama campaign opened its 2012 re-election headquarters in the Prudential Building, a few blocks from Gino's East.

(Gino's is one of the great Chicago deep dish pizza joints, along with Uno's and Due's.)

WASHINGTON--Rep. Jesse Jackson (D-Ill.) testified Wednesday at the corruption retrial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and issued a statement through his attorney, Reid Weingarten--from the DC office of Steptoe & Johnson --after he stepped down from the stand. Mayor Rahm Emanuel also testified today. Both Emanuel and Jackson were called by the Blagojevich defense to bolster their claim that Blagojevich did not try to sell the Senate senate seat Barack Obama vacated after he won the 2008 election. Neither men testifed at the first Blagojevich trial last summer, where the jurors deadlocked on the selling of the Senate seat charge.

JACKSON STATEMENT: "As you can imagine, I have many strong feelings about this entire matter. My strongest feeling, however, is respect for our judicial system. Therefore, I will have no further comment about the case or how it has affected me until there is a verdict."

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) testified for the defense on Wednesday in the corruption trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Emanuel testifed only for a few minutes.

The lede from the Sun-Times Natasha Korecki and Abdon M. Pallasch trial story:

Testifying Wednesday at the retrial of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said that no one ever asked him for anything in exchange for his request to have presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett appointed to fill the senate seat formerly held by President Barack Obama.



Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) are expected to be called to testify in former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's corruption retrial, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

From the Sun-Times federal court reporter Natasha Korecki/Lark Turner story:

The latest game-plan hatched Tuesday was to have the two sitting politicians on deck Wednesday morning -- both of whom were contacted by the defense team late last week about testifying this week, sources said.

...Blagojevich wants to explore discussions Emanuel had regarding a potential deal to name Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to the U.S. Senate seat. vacated by Barack Obama.

william kate.jpgPresident Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle on Tuesday talk with newlyweds William and Kate--the newly dubbed Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in the 1844 Room at Buckingham Palace (White House Photo by Pete Souza)

WASHINGTON--Queen Elizabeth is hosting a white tie dinner for President Obama and First Lady Michelle in London. Mrs. Obama's dramatic white gown is by U.S. designer Tom Ford, an East Wing spokesman told me. The website Obamafoodorama is posting extensively on the banquet Chicago's Lou Sussman, the U.S. ambassador to Great Britain is at the dinner, of course, as well as senior adviser Valerie Jarrett.

Click below for the menu, the music, the guest list. For more, go to Obamafoodorama.


Office of the Press Secretary
May 23, 2011

TUESDAY, MAY 24, 2011

In the afternoon, the President and the First Lady will participate in an arrival ceremony at Buckingham Palace. The arrival ceremony is open press.

The President and the First Lady will then have lunch with Her Majesty the Queen at Buckingham Palace. This lunch is closed press.

Later in the afternoon, the President and the First Lady will view the Portrait Gallery at Buckingham Palace. There will be travel pool coverage.

Later, the President and the First Lady will tour Westminster Abbey and the President will participate in a wreath laying ceremony. There will be travel pool coverage.

Later in the afternoon, the President and the First Lady will arrive at 10 Downing Street. There will be pool coverage.

Later, the President will meet with Opposition Leader Miliband at Buckingham Palace. There will be a stills only pool spray at the bottom of the meeting.

In the evening, the President and the First Lady will attend a dinner hosted by Her Majesty the Queen at Buckingham Palace. There will be print pool coverage.

Out-of-Town Travel Pool
Wires: AP, Reuters, Bloomberg
Wire Photos: AP, Reuters, AFP
TV Corr & Crew: FOX
Print: Tribune
Radio: VOA


12:20PM THE PRESIDENT and THE FIRST LADY participate in arrival ceremony at Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace, London, United Kingdom
Open Press

12:25PM THE PRESIDENT and THE FIRST LADY have lunch with Her Majesty the Queen
Buckingham Palace, London, United Kingdom
Closed Press

2:00PM THE PRESIDENT and THE FIRST LADY view the Portrait Gallery
Buckingham Palace, London, United Kingdom
Travel Pool Coverage

3:00PM THE PRESIDENT and THE FIRST LADY tour Westminster Abbey; THE PRESIDENT participates in a wreath laying ceremony
Westminster Abbey, London, United Kingdom
Travel Pool Coverage

3:45PM THE PRESIDENT and THE FIRST LADY arrive at 10 Downing Street
10 Downing Street, London, United Kingdom
Pool Coverage

5:00PM THE PRESIDENT meets with Opposition Leader Miliband
Buckingham Palace, London, United Kingdom
Stills Only Pool Spray at the Bottom

8:30PM THE PRESIDENT and THE FIRST LADY attend dinner hosted by Her Majesty the Queen
Buckingham Palace, London, United Kingdom
Print pool coverage


White House chief of staff Bill Daley talks about President Obama's Irish roots in an interview with Susan Falvella Garraty of the Irish Echo


Daley said upfront that Barack Hussein Obama is not exactly the prototype Irish-American trampling through birth certificate records in the parish church to find his long lost relatives.

"It's a different model than the Irish are used to - being primarily African American and mixed blood, but the heritage passed through his grandfather is something he's curious about," said Daley in his office in the West Wing.

Bill Daley is himself a scion of a storied Irish-American family steeped in Chicago politics. His father, the late Richard Daley, was the grandson of Irish immigrants from County Waterford and was Chicago's mayor from 1955 to 1976. Bill Daley's brother, also named Richard, also became mayor and just stepped down this week after governing the city, also for 20 years.

WASHINGTON--At the end of a breakfast with reporters on Monday former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said he thought it went well, that is, if one sees an upside to a presidential hopeful starting the session with the news that his campaign is not dead.

He paraphrased Mark Twain: reports of his campaign demise are "highly exaggerated. "

Gingrich lectured the reporters at the breakfast, hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, that he was not going to entertain "gotcha" questions, a tactic he used to try to pre-empt questions about his affairs, that Tiffany bill and the disrespect he showed to the Republican Party's biggest rising star, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), the Budget Committee Chairman by referring to the House GOP Medicare plan as "right wing social engineering."

"Not going into secondary issues," Gingrich declared.

A Gingrich presidential campaign could surmount questions about his personal life and his wife at one time owing money to Tiffany's. Insulting the popular Ryan? That created a problem for Gingrich he is trying to will and work away. Washington based analysts and columnists spent last week writing Gingrich's campaign obit.

"I can't thank the Washington press corps enough," Gingrich said. "Last week has convinced voters that I'm an outsider. I will clearly be the most change oriented, most fundamental reform candidate in this race."

I asked Gingrich if voters would care about his personal life.

He replied, "Of course they well. And I have been very clear and very direct about the fact that I've made mistakes, that I've had to go to God and ask for forgiveness, that I've had to seek reconciliation....They are going to judge the whole person. I'm not going to spend half of the campaign answering questions about it."

Some thoughts as Gingrich is moving ahead with a 2012 presidential run:

*Gingrich may drown in his paper trail.

President Obama was an inexperienced Illinois senator when he jumped in the 2008 contest, in part because he did not have much of a record to comb through.

Gingrich is proud of his stats, which he shared: 23 books--the 24th will be published in June--some 7,300 votes, 5,000 speeches, given over 10,000 interviews and co-hosted with his wife seven documentary films. That's a bonanza for opposition researchers.

*Gingrich is not a sunny personality, compared to Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama. He comes across as grim.

*I took a look at Gingrich's talking points.

Gingrich's biggest asset is his big ideas; his main challenge is message discipline. He brought his large-type talking points to the breakfast and kept them in front of him. I had a good view.

"Two key questions," the sheet said. "1. Is America on the wrong track? 2. What will it take to change Washington." His qualifications? One is his "ability to articulate the large differences with President Obama and win the debates in 2012."

President Obama, in Ireland on Monday, after a visit to his maternal grandfather's grandfather's town, praised Chicago's Irish and said it would have been "handy" earlier in his political career to have known about his Irish roots.

"My name is Barack Obama --of the Moneygall Obamas. And I've come home to find the apostrophe that we lost somewhere along the way," Obama said in Dublin.

Obama and First Lady Michelle hoisted a pint of Guinness during a visit to the village of Moneygall--the home of Falmouth Kearney, Obama's great-great-great grandfather until he left for the United States in 1850.

In a Dublin speech, Obama played up his Irish roots--and said he would have probably had a better spot in Chicago's St. Patrick's Day parade if he could have claimed Irish ancestory--and marched as O'Bama. Chicago's Irish political clans--Daley, Hynes and Madigan--were a powerful political force when Obama came on the political scene.
Obama only confirmed his Irish roots during his run for president.

"Until recently, I could not unequivocally claim that I was one of those Irish-Americans."

He thanked the genealogists who traced his family tree.

"There's no one more Irish than me," said Obama, next alluding to the birthers in the U.S. who claimed Obama was not born in America. With Donald Trump pumping up the issue, Obama in April released his long form birth certificate from Hawaii.

"It turns out that people take a lot of interest in you when you're running for president. They look into your past. They check out your place of birth -- -- things like that.
"Now, I do wish somebody had provided me all this evidence earlier, because it would have come in handy back when I was first running in my hometown of Chicago because Chicago is the Irish capital of the Midwest.

"A city where it was once said you could stand on 79th Street and hear the brogue of every county in Ireland.

"So naturally a politician like me craved a (spot) in the St. Patrick's Day parade. The problem was, not many people knew me or could even pronounce my name. I told them it was a Gaelic name; they didn't believe me.

"So one year a few volunteers and I did make it into the parade, but we were literally the last marchers. After two hours, finally it was our turn. And while we rode the route and we smiled and we waved, the city workers were right behind us cleaning up the garbage."

President Obama in Ireland on Monday paid tribute to his Irish roots--in a visit to Moneygall--his mother's relatives Irish home--and during a speech in Dublin, where he talked about his grandfather's grandfather, Falmouth Kearney.

"Today the 44th American president comes home!," Obama said.

"Well, when Falmouth Kearney started out on his long Atlantic crossing, he might have dreamed but hardly imagined that one day his great, great, great grandson would return as president of the United States.

"That boy said goodbye to a ravaged island. Millions had died or were leaving, packing their hopes and their dreams in beside the remnants of a life, stepping onto ships, which for some was like stepping into space.

The Sun-Times Scott Fornek wrote about Falmouth Kearney in his 2007 series about Obama's roots. Read Fornek's story here.

Newt Gingrich says his campaign is not dead.

Newt Gingrich talks about being an outsider.

WASHINGTON--Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich had some business to take care of as he started his breakfast Monday with reporters. His GOP 2012 presidential primary campaign is not dead, he said at the session hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. Gingrich imploded last week when he said the Republican Medicare proposal, devised by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), was "right-wing social engineering."

-Gingrich-who has lived and worked in Washington for decades--is casting himself as an outsider in his 2012 GOP presidential campaign. The strategy worked for President Obama, who as a U.S. senator ran against Washington all the way to the White House.

"I'm not a Washington figure, despite the years I've been here," Gingrich said. I'm not sure what gray area Gingrich is seeing here. He is a former Speaker, for goodness sake and has been a guest at this breakfast--a Washington institution--36 times. "I'm essentially an American whose ties are across the country and is interested in how you change Washington, not how you make Washington happy."

President Obama explores his Irish roots on Monday morning in Moneygall, the Irish town where his mother's family came from. With First Lady Michelle, he stops at a bar.

"You look a little like my grandfather," Obama said to one man.

"We may be related to him as well. I'll have to check it out when I get back."

"What's your name?"

"We got to get a good picture with everybody. Michelle squeeze in here."

Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown has the pool report at the click.

Stephen Colbert wants to form ColbertPAC political action committee and is asking the Federal Election Commission if he can promote it on his show. Variety's Ted Johnson's Wilshire and Washington blog has a complete story here. Colbert--a commencement speaker at Northwestern's upcoming graduation in June (He's NU '86)--has his attorney, former FEC chief Trevor Potter, write a letter explaining his SuperPAC to the FEC,

Johnson reports Potter writes: "Colbert SuperPAC will also pay usual and normal administrative expenses, including but not limited to. luxury hotel stays, private jet travel, and PAC mementos from SAKS Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus," he writes, adding that the committee will "maintain a website, on which it will discuss political events, solicit contributions and offer opinions on political matters." And of course, it will accept "unlimited" contributions from corporations, individuals, unions and other committees --- which is its satirical purpose. The PAC will not make any contributions to other political committees."

Read Colbert's entire request for a FEC advisory opinion here.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the congressional remap, are topics on Bill Cameron's "Connected to Chicago" on WLS-AM. Guests: Lynn Sweet, Chicago Sun-Times; Ray Long, Chicago Tribune and Greg Hinz, Crain's Chicago Business.

Listen to the show here.

obama netanyahu.jpg(White House photo by Pete Souza)

WASHINGTON--Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels will fuel speculation about a 2012 White House run when he travels here Wednesday for a one-day forum on the U.S. fiscal future, a fertile topic for a presidential hopeful. Revving up the engine, perhaps before the Indianapolis 500.

On Wednesday Daniels "will participate in the Peter G. Peterson Foundation's 2011 Fiscal Summit: Solutions for America's Future 2 p.m. at the Mellon Auditorium."

WASHINGTON--President Obama will explore his Irish roots while visiting Ireland next week; his great-great-great grandfather on his mother's side is Irish.

At a briefing on the trip Ben Rhodes, deputy National Security Advisor was asked about Obama's mother's side of the family.

Said Rhodes, "The President, researching his background, was able to trace his mother's side of the family back to Ireland, and specifically to Moneygall. I believe that it is -- we could confirm this -- but I believe it's a great-great-grandfather -- three greats.

"So he has roots in Ireland and in Moneygall. Moneygall is a town of under 300 people in Ireland. It's -- I've seen reports about the bloodlines that extend across the town and people who may be related to the President. So it's certainly quite likely that in a town of that size that is so deeply rooted in that part of Ireland that there are people who share those ties. I couldn't say with certainty who -- the nature of those relations, but we certainly expect it to be a robust topic of discussion with the residents of Moneygall when the President is able to stop by and pay a visit."

Mayor Emanuel has no public events on May 20, 2011.

West Wing Week

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WASHINGTON--GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney is the target of the first spot--a negative hit--produced by a new group, Democratic "Priorities USA," run by two former Obama White House staffers, Bill Burton, who was a deputy press secretary and Sean Sweeney, who was chief of staff for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, former White House Chief of Staff.

From the release: "Priorities USA Action today launched the first advertisement of the 2012 presidential campaign focusing on the issue of Medicare and Mitt Romney's visit to South Carolina this weekend. In the ad, Romney is pressed on whether he stands with Newt Gingrich - who called Congressman Ryan's plan to essentially end Medicare "radical" - or Governor Nikki Haley, who said that Gingrich was cutting Ryan "off at the knees."

I asked Burton about the ad buy and who made the spot. His reply did not include the size of the ad buy:

"Global Strategy Group made it. Statewide, election-year level buy over the course of his short trip. If you are watching the news this weekend in SC, you will see this ad. "

During a conference call, Burton and Begala were asked about the size of the buy. They declined to offer a number.

Illinois Democrats--who control the remapping process, going on now, following the 2010 Census--have to draw new district lines for Congress--taking into account the loss of one House seat. The Sun-Tiimes political writer, Abdon M. Pallasch, reports on map-making efforts in Springfield aimed at diluting GOP strength and insuring the political survival of the Democratic incumbents.

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama is finally starting to raise money for President Barack Obama's re-election, with an event in Atlanta on Sunday and a keynote here Thursday at a forum for women contributors.

With both Obama's speaking at the Democratic National Committee's Women's Leadership Forum--the president addressed the group in the evening--I was told team Obama raised $2 million to help bankroll the second term campaign.

Mrs. Obama speech at the Atlanta reception and here provided the first look at her re-election pitch. In Washington, she did not name any Republican potential rivals--(that would be news and off message) but did bring up the May 1 death of Osama bin Laden in a raid led by U.S. special forces in Pakistan.

Said Mrs. Obama before a crowd of about 550--almost all women-- at the Washington Grand Hyatt, "Now, more than ever before, we need to finish what we've started and we need your help. We need all of you to be with us for the next phase of our journey.

"And I am not going to kid you, because I never do, I said this in the first campaign it is going to be long. It is going to be hard. It's designed that way. And there will be plenty of twists and turns along the way."

Without using bin Laden's name, Mrs. Obama said,"Thanks to the tireless work of our intelligence and counter-terrorism communities and the heroic efforts of our troops, the man behind the 9/11 attacks and so many other horrific acts has finally been brought to justice."

Obama was far more direct when he talked about bin Laden at a May 10 fund-raiser in Austin, Texas., "Osama bin Laden will never again threaten the United States of America."

Updated with full transcript

WASHINGTON--President Obama pushed Israel and the Palestinian Authority to return to the negotiating table in a speech Thursday where he called for democratic reforms in North African counties--such as Tunisia and Egypt--undergoing revolutionary change

Obama's address comes the day before he meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu--Netanyahu also speaks to Congress--at a time where negotiations have stalled.

Calling the parties back to the table, Obama said, "Palestinians should know the territorial outlines of their state; Israelis should know that their basic security concerns will be met. I know that these steps alone will not resolve this conflict. Two wrenching and emotional issues remain: the future of Jerusalem, and the fate of Palestinian refugees. But moving forward now on the basis of territory and security provides a foundation to resolve those two issues in a way that is just and fair, and that respects the rights and aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians."

Obama also address the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden, saying he was "no martyr. He was a mass murderer who offered a message of hate - an insistence that Muslims had to take up arms against the West, and that violence against men, women and children was the only path to change. He rejected democracy and individual rights for Muslims in favor of violent extremism; his agenda focused on what he could destroy - not what he could build."

Click below for prepared text of Obama's speech....

WASHINGTON--While Newt Gingrich spends the week digging out of the hole he dug himself slamming fellow Republican Rep. Paul Ryan's Medicare overhaul plan--he deplored "right wing" social engineering--the Democratic National Committee released a web spot on Thursday to rub it in.

From DNC National Press Secretary Hari Sevugan: "If there's one lesson we learned from the ferocity with which Republicans attacked their supposed 'ideas man' and the speed with which he caved, it's that dismantling Medicare is the new litmus test for any would-be Republican presidential nominee."

WASHINGTON--Democracy Partners is the name of a new Democratic progressive political consulting firm with offices in Chicago and seven other cities. Partners include veteran organizers Robert Creamer and Heather Booth, both with strong Chicago ties.

"Democracy Partners will focus much of its energy on progressive issue campaigns, civic engagement programs, and campaigns to elect Democrats to public office," the group said in a release.

WASHINGTON--With President Obama visiting CIA headquarters on Friday to thank the agency for helping to track down Osama bin Laden, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) used the announcement to call on Obama to end probes of CIA interrogators.

Said Kirk,"When the President visits the CIA on Friday, he should announce the end of the Justice Department's unwarranted investigations of CIA interrogators. These Americans did their jobs at the direction of the President of the United States and this politically motivated investigation will have a chilling effect on the work of their colleagues and other national security professionals in the U.S. Government."

White House press secretary Jay Carney on Wednesday said Obama will make the trip to the Langley, VA. CIA headquarters. Said Carney, "Friday President Obama will visit CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, to meet with a broad range of the intelligence community, to thank them for the work they do every day to keep America safe and specifically for their excellent work in tracking down Osama bin Laden."

obama mug birth certificate.jpg

WASHINGTON--The Obama 2012 team is selling mugs and t-shirts with Obama's long form birth certificate, fund-raising off the release of a book by Jerome Corsi raising questions about whether the document is real. If the "birthers" will never believe Obama was born in the U.S. the Obama re-election campaign figures it may as well make some money off of them.

Obama 2012 deputy campaign manager Julianna Smoot said in an e-mail Wednesday morning, "There's really no way to make this stuff completely go away. The only thing we can do is laugh at it -- and make sure as many other people as possible are in on the joke." With that, she offered a "limited edition" Obama birth certificate mug to folks who contribute at least $15 to the campaign. One side of the mug has the long form certificate, the other a picture of Obama with the words "Made in the USA." The t-shirt version goes for a $30 donation.

Corsi's new book is titled "Where's the Birth Certificate? The Case that Barack Obama is not Eligible to be President" and his publisher said in a press release that he has found flaws in the long form certificate Obama released after Donald Trump revived the "birther" issue in his short exploratory GOP White House 2012 run.

Smoot said of Corsi, his "work is a greatest-hits reel of delusions, ranging from 9/11 conspiracies to claiming that there is an infinite supply of oil in the Earth's core. In 2008, he published a book about Barack Obama claiming, among other things, that he (a) is a secret Muslim; (b) is secretly anti-military; (c) secretly dealt drugs; and (d) secretly supported terrorist actions when he was eight years old. So many secrets!

" called Corsi's work "a mishmash of unsupported conjecture, half-truths, logical fallacies and outright falsehoods."

"There's really no way to make this stuff completely go away. The only thing we can do is laugh at it -- and make sure as many other people as possible are in on the joke."

WASHINGTON--President Obama is adding a visit to the CIA on his schedule, hitting the Langley, Va. headquarters on Friday to thank the agency for their work leading up to the Bin Laden raid on May 2.

From White House press secretary Jay Carney: "Friday President Obama will visit CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, to meet with a broad range of the intelligence community, to thank them for the work they do every day to keep America safe and specifically for their excellent work in tracking down Osama bin Laden. That will be I think expanded pool coverage, is my understanding."

WASHINGTON--Air Force One--the plane with President Obama on board-- aborted an attempted landing at a Connecticut airport. The plane landed at Bradley International Airport after a second attempt, according to pool reports.

from White House Spokesman Nick Shapiro:

AF1 did a go-round at Bradley Intl Airport this morning because of weather. They circled around and landed safely a few minutes later, at 10:05 a.m.

The pilot was in the process of landing but due to weather the pilot decided to circle around and then landed the plane, this is a standard and safe procedure.

Maria Shriver, stunned to discover her husband, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger fathered a love child--is close friends with Oprah Winfrey and was one of the stars who appeared at the Tuesday taping of two of her last shows at Chicago's United Center, with 20,000 in the audience. >>The Sun-Times report on the show is here.

Among the stars at the tapings (the shows will be broadcast May 23 and 24) to mark Winfrey's last season--she closes the show after 25 years at the end of this month:

Tom Hanks, Jerry Seinfeld, Tom Cruise, Queen Latifah, Madonna, Beyonce, Halle Berry, Aretha Franklin, Maya Angelou, Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, Michael Jordan and more.


May 18, 2011

Mayor's Press Office


Tomorrow morning, Mayor Emanuel will preside over the Chicago City Council
meeting and address Council members.

WHEN: Wednesday May 18, 2011
10:00 AM

WHERE: City Hall
121 N. LaSalle Street

*Questions will be taken after the meeting.


WASHINGTON---President Obama announced more assistance for Jordan--money and wheat--after meeting Tuesday with King Abdullah at the White House. The efforts to bolster the Jordanian leader--friendly to Israel and the U.S.-- comes before Obama's major speech Thursday on the Mideast and North Africa at the State Department, where he is expected to talk about the "Arab Spring."

Obama is to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday and to address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee--AIPAC-- on Sunday.

Said Obama during a joint press availability with King Abdullah: "I'm pleased to announce that we have mobilized several hundreds of millions of dollars through OPIC, and that will leverage ultimately about $1 billion for economic development inside of Jordan. In addition, because of the huge spike in commodity prices throughout the world, we are going to be providing 50,000 metric tons of wheat to Jordan. All of this will help to stabilize the cost of living and day-to-day situation of Jordanians and will provide a foundation so that these economic reforms can move forward and long-term development can take place. So we're very happy to be partnering with His Majesty on that issue.

"We also discussed the situation with respect to Israel and the Palestinian conflict. And we both share the view that despite the many changes, or perhaps because of the many changes that are taking place in the region, it's more vital than ever that both Israelis and Palestinians find a way to get back to the table and begin negotiating a process whereby they can create two states that are living side by side in peace and security."

Congrats, Sam.

rahm inauguration front page.jpg

below, from Emanuel.....

Excerpts from Rahm Emanuel's Inaugural Address

When Richard M. Daley took office as mayor 22 years ago, he challenged all of us to lower our voices and raise our sights. Chicago is a different city today than the one Mayor Daley inherited, thanks to all he did.
New times demand new answers; old problems cry out for better results. This morning, we leave behind the old ways and old divisions and begin a new day for Chicago. I am proud to lead a city united in common purpose and driven by a common thirst for change.

To do that, we must face the truth. It is time to take on the challenges that threaten the very future of our city: the quality of our schools, the safety of our streets, the cost and effectiveness of city government, and the urgent need to create and keep the jobs of the future right here in Chicago.
From the moment I began my campaign for mayor, I have been clear about the hard truths and tough choices we face: we simply can't afford the size of city government that we had in the past. And taxpayers deserve a more effective and efficient government than the one we have today.
All of us have a role to play in writing Chicago's next chapter. And anyone open to change will have a seat at the table.
None of what we must overcome will be easy, but in my heart I know this: The challenges for the city of Chicago are no match for the character of the people of Chicago.


WASHINGTON--Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, viewed pictures of Osama bin Laden at CIA Headquarters on Friday and said the photos of his shot-in-the face corpse while gruesome, left no doubt about his identify.

President Obama has declined to make public pictures of bin Laden taken after U.S. special forces killed him in his Abbottabad compound in Pakistan on May 1, because they could be used for propaganda purposes and because, Obama said, he did not want to "spike the football."

However, members of Congress on Intelligence and Armed Services panels are being allowed to view pictures at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., a Washington suburb.

"It was very easy to see who he is," she told me.

Schakowsky said she viewed about 15 photos--some repeats--put in a binder. The photos--including close-ups of bin Laden's face-- reminded her of a crime scene and were, she said, "pretty grisly, pictures of a person shot in the head." Most of the photos were in color.

She said she had "no doubt" the body was bin Laden. In order to aid identification, the binders included side-by-side photos of bin Laden alive and dead--with arrows and lines---showing measurements of and between key facial features.

Schakowsky, who had not advocated for the release of the photos, said the viewing confirmed for her Obama was right in not wanting them released. Release of the pictures, she said, could result in posters "paraded around and on various web sites" and put "Americans and others" in "greater danger."

WASHINGTON--Samantha Tubman, one of the first Obama 2008 campaign hires--who has been in the Social Office since the Obamas moved to the White House, is the new Deputy Social Secretary. In other East Wing news, Semonti Stephens steps up to deputy communications director and Hannah August becomes press secretary for First Lady Michelle.

Both moves were announced Friday by Kristina Schake, communications chief for First Lady Michelle Obama. Tubman's promotion comes in the wake of the departure of Erinn "Ebs" Burnough from the Social Office.

WASHINGTON--Right after running into Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) at the reception the Israeli Embassy hosted Thursday night to mark Israel's 63rd year, I spotted Joel Pollak, the Republican who ran against Schakowsky last year and was trounced almost two-to-one in their November contest. Turns out, Pollak told me, he moved from Skokie to Los Angeles to work for Andrew Breitbart over at his conservative web site. Pollak told me he was associate in-house counsel and does some writing and editing for the site.

WASHINGTON--Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel, as viewed by Politico's Ben Smith, who journeyed to Chicago for an interview at Emanuel's transition headquarters. At the end of Smith's piece--where he notes Emanuel wanting to be seen as a policy guy more than a political operative--Smith floats Emanuel as a 2016 White House contender.

Israel Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren; OMB chief Jack Lew, Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi, Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) (Photo by Lynn Sweet)

WASHINGTON--When Israeli Amb. Michael Oren got a call from the White House to tell him Osama bin Laden was killed, Oren replied to his caller, "Mazel Tov." He told the story on Thursday night, at a celebration to mark Israel's 63rd birthday.

The reception comes before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's May 20 meeting with President Obama at the White House; he addresses Congress on May 24, where he is expected to discuss a new Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.

The embassy booked the Andrew Mellow Auditorium near the National Mall for the event, drawing about 1,000; remarks were also delivered by White House budget chief Jack Lew, Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi, Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.)

Also present: Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.)

Pelosi told the crowd she was just back from a visit to Israel; when flying there from Qatar, Kuwait denied her aircraft permission to land, forcing the plane to touch down in Jordan instead.

And Pelosi did mention as she was wrapping up--her father was a shabbos goy--a term used to describe a non-Jew who helped Jews do tasks on Saturday--Shabbos--they would not be permitted to do.

Napolitano also had been in Israel, she said.

KIrk talked about the "great democracy from across the sea" ..."wrapping its arms around Israel."

WASHINGTON--The White House announced Thursday that Vice President Biden and Jill, his wife, will attend Rahm Emanuel's inauguration as Chicago mayor on Monday.

WASHINGTON--As the CEOs of the five largest oil companies testify Thursday before the Senate Finance Committee--having to defend why they need tax breaks in the wake of giant profits--the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is sending out a fund-raising appeal blasting GOP support for "corporate welfare."

This is a coordinated one-two punch by Senate Democrats, who control the chamber. The Senate hearing sets up the problem--and gets publicity at a time gas prices are near highs--while the small dollar donor is getting a pitch to throw in some cash--to help keep the Senate majority--at least sign an e-mail petition--bolstering the DSCC mailing list.

DSCC executive director Guy Cecil said in a Thursday e-mail, "Republicans insist the oil companies need taxpayer subsidies. So Big Oil gets you twice - once at the pump, and again in the paycheck. This corporate welfare has got to end. Now.

"Just a few days from now the Senate will vote to cut off the taxpayer cash flow. Republicans will try to defend their petroleum pals, so we need you in this fight."

WASHINGTON--President Obama is asking Congress to extend the term of FBI Director Robert Mueller for two more years. Mueller--originally appointed by former President Bush--is near the end of a ten-year appointment to have ended this September.

Click below for Obama statement....

WASHINGTON--Mayor Daley, winding up a 22-year City Hall stint on Monday, when Rahm Emanuel gets sworn-in, was saluted Thursday from the Senate floor by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)

Said Durbin, "Richard Daley's vision has been clear--to make Chicago one of the best cities in the world and he pursued that goal with fierce determination," said Durbin. "His leadership transformed Chicago from a Rustbelt manufacturing center to a cultural center that is called the sixth-most global city in the world, alongside New York, London and Hong Kong. He has worked relentlessly to make Chicago the most livable big-city in America and the most environmentally friendly city in the world. Thank you, Mayor Daley."

Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's re-trial focused on his attempts to "sell" the senate seat President Obama held before winning his 2008 election. Testimony on Wednesday in a Chicago federal courtroom features a parade of names of public officials--most centrally Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) with mentions of Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel and Senate President Harry Reid (D-Nv.) For the Sun-Times story by Natasha Korecki and Lark Turner click here.

WASHINGTON--Mayor Daley's life-after-City Hall is taking shape, with his trip here Tuesday for a meet of a State Department panel he co-chairs dealing with Chinese-U.S. Relations.

I ran into Daley Tuesday night at the Hay-Adams Hotel, where he was visiting with a group of executives from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

The reason for Daley's visit--it was not on any public schedule--was "for the inaugural meeting of the Advisory Committee on the 100,000 Strong Initiative," his City Hall press office told me. Daley was named co-chair last month with former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) by the U.S. State Department to the panel advising the program created by President Obama.

WASHINGTON--Mayor Daley was spotted here Tuesday night with his son, Patrick.

I ran into Daley--who ends his term as mayor on Monday, when Rahm Emanuel is sworn-in--at the Hay-Adams Hotel down the block from the White House.

Daley was huddled in the downstairs bar of the hotel with his son and a group from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, in D.C. for a meeting. Daley and Patrick were chatting with, among others, CME executive chairman Terrence Duffy, CME senior policy advisor Leo Melamed and former CME chairman Jack Sander.

Daley did not have any events on a public schedule for Tuesday.

White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley was not spotted at the Hay-Adams.

DREAM Act: Durbin backgrounder

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WASHINGTON--President Obama, in Austin on Tuesday to scoop up millions of dollars for his 2012 re-election bid is putting more fund-raising dates on his calendar as Vice President Biden hits Minneapolis today to headline an event. First Lady Michelle lands in Atlanta on Sunday to be the fund-raising draw.

Obama's National Finance Committee--top donors and raisers--meet in Chicago, the headquarter city for Obama 2012-- on May 31-June 1. US Ambassador to Sweden Matthew Barzun has been tapped to be the NFC chief, taking on the role played by business mogul Penny Pritzker in 2008. He will resign his ambassadorship at the end of the month. Deputy Campaign Manager Julianna Smoot will be overseeing the fund-raising drive.

I'm told upcoming dates for events with Obama and Mrs. Obama include:

May 15, Michelle, Atlanta
May 16, Obama, D.C.
May 18-19, Obama, Michelle at the DNC's Women Leadership Forum in D.C.
May 18, Obama, Boston
June 13, Obama, Miami
June 23, Obama, New York at a lesbian, gay event

At the click: Obama transcript at mega donor Austin dinner, where he is fine-tuning his pitch for a second term. He needs more time, he said.

Said Obama, "So I'm realty proud of what we've gotten done. But we've got so much more to do. We have so much more to do. And in an era where everybody wants instant gratification and people are very, very impatient, the fact of the matter is that some of these changes are going to take time. Right now probably the thing that folks are most worried about around the country -- and rightfully so because it directly hinges on every aspect of our lives -- are gas prices.

We don't have a silver bullet for gas prices. The way we're going to bring gas prices down is do some of the things that we've already done -- increasing fuel-efficiency standards on cars and trucks, and start developing new sources of energy and promoting electric vehicles. But it's going to take some time. We're going to have to be able to sustain that effort over the next several years."

WASHINGTON--Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is trying again to get the DREAM Act passed, re-introducing the measure on Wednesday to let some immigrant students in the U.S. illegally stay in the country. Durbin, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and others will be on the bill.

Last December, after passing the House (then under Democratic control) the measure fell five votes short in the Senate and Durbin vowed to keep trying. The Durbin press conference comes a day after President Obama boosted the DREAM Act in an immigration speech in Texas, along the U.S./Mexico border where he called for various reforms.

When Durbin starts an issue, he stays with it. On Sept. 10, 2001, Durbin launched his fight to allow students of illegal immigrants to stay in the U.S. at a press conference in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood. The DREAM Act became part of a larger national debate on the hot button, divisive immigration issue.

obamahq_1.JPGWASHINGTON--The Obama 2012 re-election campaign has moved from interim space in the Prudential Building into its permanent space in the skyscraper--some 50,000-square feet.

WASHINGTON---While the GOP tries to repeal President Obama's health care law, on the other side of the political spectrum Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) and some unions are pushing again for a single-payer health care system, introducing bills in the Senate and House.

Obama rejected single-payer plans for his health care over-haul because he could not find political support for the measure.

WASHINGTON--Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) on Monday said they would push Congress to restore the "honest services" law," struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and former Sun-Times owner Conrad Black both were at one time charged under the honest services provision.

Blagojevich is undergoing a retrial now in a Chicago federal courtroom; Black is scheduled to appear in a Chicago courtroom today.

From Kirk/Quigley.....

"The statute, known as the "honest services provision," addresses two forms of fraud by public officials: (1) bribes and kickbacks, and (2) undisclosed conflicts of interest resulting in personal financial gain. However, last year the United States Supreme Court narrowed the scope of the statute, wiping out the second category. Former Governor Rod Blagojevich was charged under the provision, but it was dropped following the Court's ruling."

WASHINGTON--The killing of Osama Bin Laden on Sunday by U.S. special forces in Pakistan triggered concerns about whether his death will spawn attacks by homegrown jihadist terrorists.

That's one finding in a report just issued by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, "Osama bin Laden's Death: Implications and Considerations."
Read the report, a compelling overview of policy questions raised by the attack here:
crs report bin laden.pdf

It is unknown how OBL's death will affect (al-Qaida) AQ-inspired homegrown jihadist terrorists targeting the United States. On May 2, 2011, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI, the Bureau) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a joint bulletin indicating that OBL's death may motivate revenge or publicity seeking homegrown jihadists to attack the United States. However, it is unlikely that his death will significantly change the counterterrorism investigative efforts of the FBI, the lead agency for investigating the federal crime of terrorism.

Homegrown Jihadists

Possible Questions
Regarding the nature of homegrown jihadist terrorism, at least four issues may emerge from OBL's death:

• Will homegrown jihadist plotting increase?

• How will his death affect the radicalization of people interested in violent jihad
who live in the United States?

• How will it shape the popularity of surviving key jihadist intermediaries who
inspire U.S. residents to radicalize and turn to jihadist terrorism? Intermediaries
such as Anwar al-Aulaqi have allegedly influenced people involved in a number
of recent homegrown terrorist plots.

• Finally, because OBL's death potentially affects the radicalization process, it may
be of value to assess the Administration's progress toward developing and
implementing a domestic counter-radicalization strategy. It has not been entirely
settled which agencies have what responsibilities when it comes to identifying
domestic radicalization and interdicting attempts at terrorist recruitment.

WASHINGTON--Katie McCormick Lelyveld, First Lady Michelle Obama's Press Secretary, is stepping down on May 27 to return to Chicago.

McCormick Lelyveld grew up in Lincoln Park, is a product of Chicago's Latin School, Saint Ignatius College Prep '97 and in D.C., Georgetown University '01.

Mrs. Obama said in a statement released Friday, "Katie has been with me since the very beginning and I've relied on her intelligence, grace, quick wit, humor and friendship through the campaign and at the White House. I will always be grateful for her hard work and dedication," said First Lady Michelle Obama. "She will be missed, but I know she will do great things in Chicago."

McCormick Lelyveld was Mrs. Obama's second hire and served as the First Lady's Communications Director during the 2008 Presidential campaign.

She has not confirmed her next steps but told me this morning she is "excited about the possibilities." She said she will not be joining the Obama 2012 re-election campaign.

An eventful West Wing Week

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WASHINGTON--After wrapping up a stint as interim Democratic National Committee chair, Donna Brazile hits Springfield on Friday to address the Illinois Democratic Women's convention.

Brazile stepped in as interim DNC chair after Tim Kaine stepped down to run for a Senate seat from Virginia. On Wednesday, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Scultz (D-Fl.) officially took over as DNC chair; she was feted at a reception on Thursday night here attended by White House chief of staff Bill Daley, Brazile and White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett. Jarrett introduced Wasserman Schultz.

WASHINGTON--Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel, sworn-in on May 16, starts his tenure with high approval ratings, according to a poll conducted by Anzalone Liszt Research for Teamsters' Joint Council 25.

I did not see the entire poll; I was sent a copy of a polling memo prepared for the Teamsters, who backed Emanuel during the mayoral campaign. A PDF of polling memo is here. ALR_POLLING_SUMMARY_--_TEAMSTERS_JOINT_COUNCIL_25_POST_ELECTION_ASSESSMENT_POLL_MAY_2011.pdf

Excerpt from memo....

Does the following phrase describe Rahm Emanuel?
􀂾 Strong leader 75% Describes Well / 13% Does NOT Describe
􀂾 Can get results 74% Describes Well / 11% Does NOT Describe
􀂾 Is an effective manager 71% Describes Well / 11% Does NOT Describe
􀂾 Can represent all neighborhoods 62% Describes Well / 26% Does NOT Describe
􀂾 Is a reformer 61% Describes Well / 22% Does NOT Describe

situation room.jpg(White House photo by Pete Souza)

WASHINGTON--White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, pictured in what seems a dramatic photo taken in the Situation Room on Sunday as the raid on Osama Bin Laden was unfolding, said the moment that stayed with him from that historic day was when President Obama said "We got him."

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday from Rome there may be "no great meaning whatsoever" to the photo, taken as Obama and top staffers were watching a live video feed of the operation.

I asked for Daley's reaction to what has quickly become an iconic photo and was sent a statement from Daley: "I was with the President Obama as we monitored events throughout that day. To borrow a phrase, what happens in the situation room, stays in the situation room. But I will never forget the moment when the President said those three simple words: "We got him."

Daley made the comment originally at the Arab American Institute Wednesday night.

Clinton was pictured with her hand in front of her face. One could surmise she was reacting to something she was watching--or the more mundane explanation she was covering her mouth while coughing, offered while in Rome for a conference.

"Those were 38 of the most intense minutes. I have no idea what any of us were looking at that particular millisecond when the picture was taken," Clinton said of that moment in the Situation Room. "I am somewhat sheepishly concerned that it was my preventing one of my early spring allergic coughs. So, it may have no great meaning whatsoever."

WASHINGTON--The controversial levee breach to prevent Mississippi River flooding in southern Illinois was the major topic Thursday at the Illinois delegation lunch in the Capitol hosted by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)

Durbin has been receiving briefings on the Southern Illinois flooding situation by the Director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA), Jonathan Monken and the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard Major General William Enyart.

Said Durbin in a statement: News has been promising since the breach of the levee at Birds Point by the Army Corps of Engineers. In Cairo, the Ohio River has dropped to 60 feet, more than a foot and a half lower than it was at the time of breach. This morning, in Metropolis where sandbagging continues, the river measured 54.7 feet. Without that breach, the river was forecast to have steadily crept up to a crest of more than 58 feet in Metropolis.

At the lunch: Mark Kirk (R-IL) and seven members of the Illinois Congressional Delegation attended today's luncheon including: Representatives Jerry Costello (D-IL), Danny Davis (D-IL), Bob Dold (R-IL), Randy Hultgren (R-IL), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Don Manzullo (R-IL), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Bobby Schilling (R-IL).

situation room.jpg(White House photo by Pete Souza)

WASHINGTON--Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday there may be "no great meaning whatsoever" to the photo of President Obama and top aides in the White House Situation Room Sunday watching a video feed of the Osama Bin Laden raid in Pakistan.

Clinton was pictured with her hand in front of her face. One could surmise she was reacting to something she was watching--or the more mundane explanation she was covering her mouth while coughing, offered while in Rome for a conference.

"Those were 38 of the most intense minutes. I have no idea what any of us were looking at that particular millisecond when the picture was taken," Clinton said of that moment in the Situation Room. "I am somewhat sheepishly concerned that it was my preventing one of my early spring allergic coughs. So, it may have no great meaning whatsoever."

WASHINGTON--Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) holds a Thursday hearing on U.S.-Pakistan relations after the U.S. discovered Osama Bin Laden hiding in a Pakistan city.

From Kerry's opening statement:

Osama bin Laden's hideout in Abbottabad, a garrison city not far from Islamabad, perhaps 35 miles as the crow flies, raises serious questions for all of us. What did Pakistani's military and intelligence services know and when did they know it? Who did they think was living behind those 15-foot walls? Was there a level of curiosity? How could Bin Laden have gone undetected living next-door to Pakistan's equivalent of West Point, where just last week General Kayani gave a speech celebrating the Pakistani military "breaking the back" of terrorism?

It is simply honest to say that we are all troubled by these questions, and Pakistan has promised an investigation and answers. Like every other American, I want to know whether the Pakistani military or its intelligence services, or some component of either, was somehow unaware of its infamous neighbor or knowingly protected him.

WASHINGTON--Lawmakers receiving classified briefings on the raid from CIA Chief Leon Panetta were told that U.S. Navy Seals had extra minutes to collect material from the Osama Bin Laden compound when they did not encounter any authorities--local police or military--during the operation, lasting about 40 minutes.

The raid was supposed to take about 30 minutes; some extra time was needed because one of the two helicopters at the scene broke down and a back-up chopper was flown in. But it seems there is more to the story, I've learned. Despite the noise from the gun fire and the helicopters, no Pakistan authorities rushed to the scene. Lawmakers were told about 20 minutes into the raid the U.S. forces realized they could take extra time and they used it scoop up computers, DVD's thumb drives and notebooks from the compound.

obama prince charles.jpeg(AP photo)

WASHINGTON--Days after the Kate and Will wedding, Prince Charles visited President Obama at the White House on Wednesday and hit Capitol Hill.

Obama congratulated Prince Charles on the wedding:

Statement by the Press Secretary on the President's Meeting with the Prince of Wales

The President welcomed His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales to the White House today, affirming the strength and depth of the alliance between the United States and the United Kingdom. The President thanked His Royal Highness for the important contributions that British forces are making in Afghanistan and Libya. During the meeting, President Obama warmly welcomed the Prince's work over three decades on environmental issues, halting deforestation and encouraging sustainable food production. The President also congratulated the Prince on the wedding of his son, Prince William, to Catherine Middleton and extended his best wishes to the newlywed couple. The President looks forward to visiting the United Kingdom at the invitation of Her Majesty the Queen during his State visit later this month.

WASHINGTON--Illinois Republicans Sen. Mark Kirk and Bob Dold addressed Iranian human rights violations.

Said Kirk at a press conference here, "today we're introducing the Iran human rights and democracy promotion act in both the House and the Senate. Our legislation would make it the policy of the U.S. to deny the Iranian regime the ability to oppress the people of Iran, to fully support democratic activities inside Iran, and to help the Iranian people freely and safely with access to information.

"Our legislation would impose new sanctions on companies that empower the Iranian government's human-rights violations, would force the administration to investigate the individual human-rights abusers of Iran, like President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and to help create a comprehensive strategy to promote Internet freedom and access to information inside Iran. We would also create a new special representative on human rights and democracy in Iran to coordinate U.S. funding on this issue."

Said Dold, "Certainly the protests that have gone on throughout the Arab world in the past few months have captivated our attention. And as the momentum of the democratic protests continues to build in the Middle East, we are compelled to confront the Iranian regime's willingness to brutally crack down on its own people."

Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel named his cultural affairs team on Wednesday and it includes Mayor Daley's daughter, Nora.


WASHINGTON--President Obama will not release pictures of the body of Osama Bin Laden he has viewed because he did not want to risk creation of a "propaganda tool" and saw no need to "spike the football" following the Sunday killing by U.S. forces in Pakistan.

"It is important for us to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence or as a propaganda tool. That's not who we are. We don't trot out this stuff as trophies," Obama told the CBS show, "60 Minutes."

Press Secretary Jay Carney read excerpts from the CBS "60 Minutes" interview during his Wednesday briefing.

Asked why the photos would not be released, Obama said, "We discussed this internally. Keep in mind that we are absolutely certain that this was him. We've done DNA sampling and testing, and so there is no doubt that we killed Osama bin Laden.

"It is important for us to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence or as a propaganda tool. That's not who we are. We don't trot out this stuff as trophies.

"The fact of the matter is, this was somebody who was deserving of the -- of the justice that he received, and I think Americans and people around the world are glad that he is gone.

"But we don't need to spike the football. And I think that given the graphic nature of these photos, it would create some national security risk. And I've discussed this with Bob Gates and Hillary Clinton and my intelligence teams, and they all agree," Obama told CBS.

Asked about people in Pakistan who would say "this is another American trick.
Osama is not dead," Obama said, "the truth is that we were monitoring world --
that we are monitoring world -- that we are monitoring -- we were monitoring, rather, worldwide reaction.

"There is no doubt that Osama bin Laden is dead. Certainly there is doubt -- no doubt among al-Qaida members that he is dead. And so we don't think that a photograph in and of itself is going to make any difference. There are going to be some folks who deny it. The fact of the matter is, you will not seen bin Laden walking on this Earth

"The president has made the decision not to release any of the photographs of the deceased Osama bin Laden," Carney said. The pictures "are graphic photographs," Carney said and it was not in the "national security interests" of the U.S. to release them. Obama saw no "compelling reason to release them," Carney said.

There has been debate in Congress--and within the Obama administration-- over whether a picture showing Osama's corpse--earlier called "gruesome" by Carney--should be released to prove his death.

The U.S. has photos of Bin Laden's body and also of his burial-at-sea off the deck of a U.S. battleship in the Arabian Sea.

CIA director Leon Panetta told NBC News on Tuesday, that "I don't think there was any question that ultimately a photograph would be presented to the public."

CBS said Obama made his comments in an interview with Steve Kroft for this Sunday's 60 Minutes.

Obama visits Manhattan on Thursday for a ceremony at "Ground Zero," the site where the World Trade Center Towers were destroyed on 9-11.

WASHINGTON--In the wake of the Osama Bin Laden killing, President Obama heads to New York for a ceremony at the 9-11 Memorial. He will also meet with 9/11 Families and First Responders.

WASHINGTON--President Obama's job approval numbers increased after the killing of Osama Bin Laden, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll taken May 2 and 3, the days after the Sunday raid.

In the poll, 85 percent approved of the way Obama handled the pursuit of Bin Laden. Some 62 percent think the Bin Laden killing will increase the terrorism threat against the U.S. A new Rasmussen poll finds 86 percent approve of Obama's decision to kill Bin Laden.

Check out a wrap-up of the latest Obama polling--and whether he gets an "Osama bounce"--and if so, how long will it last--over at Bruce Drake's PollWatchDaily.

Michelle Obama dance video

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WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama motorcaded to the Alice Deal Middle School here on Tuesday to show off some muted, well done dance moves to a Beyonce tune, "Move Your Body." The event was designed to publicize Mrs. Obama's "Let's Move" anti obesity campaign with a tie in to Beyonce's newly released music video.

michelle deal school5.JPGMichelle Obama at Alice Deal School (photo by Lynn Sweet)

michelle deal school3.JPG
Michelle Obama at Alice Deal School (photo by Lynn Sweet)

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama motorcaded to the Alice Deal Middle School here on Tuesday to show off some muted, well done dance moves to a Beyonce tune, "Move Your Body." The event was designed to publicize Mrs. Obama's "Let's Move" anti obesity campaign with a tie in to Beyonce's newly released music video.

Click below for pool report...

Updated twice....

WASHINGTON--Osama Bin Laden was not armed during the raid by U.S. forces where he was shot and killed, a woman was not exactly used as a human shield to protect him and his wife was not killed Sunday, White House officials said, correcting the record.

The Defense Department released a narrative on Tuesday--White House Secretary Jay Carney read much of it aloud at his briefing--that was different from the versions put out by administration officials on Monday, the day after the raid in Pakistan.

"In the room with bin Laden, a women - bin Laden's wife - rushed the U.S. assaulter and was shot in the leg but not killed. Bin Laden was then shot and killed. He was not armed," the Defense Department narrative stated.

What gives, Carney was asked.

Carney replied, "Well, what is true is that we provided a great deal of information in a -- with great haste in order to inform you, and through you the American public, about the operation and how it transpired and the events that took place there in Pakistan. And obviously some of the information was -- came in piece by piece and is being reviewed and updated and elaborated on. So what I can tell you, I have a narrative that I can provide to you on the raid itself on the bin Laden compound in Pakistan."

That narrative was provided by the Defense Department. Here it is:

Narrative of Events
Osama Bin Laden Compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan

On orders of the President, a small U.S. team assaulted a secure compound in an affluent suburb of Islamabad to capture or kill Osama bin Laden.

The raid was conducted with U.S. military personnel assaulting on two helicopters. The team methodically cleared the compound moving from room to room in an operation lasting nearly 40 minutes. They were engaged in a firefight throughout the operation and Osama Bin Laden was killed by the assaulting force.

In addition to the bin Laden family, two other families resided in the compound: one family on the first floor of the bin Laden building and one family in a second building. One team began the operation on the first floor of the bin Laden house and worked their way to the third floor; a second team cleared the separate building.

On the first floor of bin Laden's building, two Al Qaeda couriers were killed along with a woman who was killed in cross-fire. Bin Laden and his family were found on the second and third floor of the building. There was concern that bin Laden would oppose the capture operation and indeed he resisted.

In the room with bin Laden, a women - bin Laden's wife - rushed the U.S. assaulter and was shot in the leg but not killed. Bin Laden was then shot and killed. He was not armed.

Following the firefight, the non-combatants were moved to a safe location as the damaged helicopter was detonated.

The team departed the scene via helicopter to the USS Carl Vinson in the North Arabian Sea.

Aboard the USS Carl Vinson, the burial of bin Laden was done in conformance with Islamic precepts and practices. The deceased's body was washed and then placed in a white sheet. The body was placed in a weighted bag; a military officer read prepared religious remarks, which were translated into Arabic by a native speaker. After the words were complete, the body was placed on a prepared flat board, tipped up, and the deceased body eased into the sea.

On Monday, Obama Homeland Security Advisor John Brennan during a briefing twice addressed the detail of Bin Laden hiding behind a woman.

Updated with Sen. Kerry opening statement from his Pakistan hearing....

WASHINGTON--What did Pakistan know? Before he was killed by U.S. forces on Sunday, Osma Bin Laden was living in a compound near Islamabad for as long as six years, according to Obama national security advisor John Brennan.

Democrats and Republicans in Congress will be re-examining the Pakistan-U.S. relationship--and the millions of dollars sent to Pakistan each year.

On Tuesday, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.)
chairs a hearing, "Assessing U.S. policy and its limits in Pakistan."
(Kerry's opening statement at the click)

Earlier, Kerry told NPR Bin Laden hiding in plain sight in a Pakistan city "raises very, very serious questions about a number of things, not least of which is how much effort from their own intelligence was putting in to try and find him -- if indeed they were trying to do that at all.

"It is possible if they weren't doing that, that someone could have located a particular house and at some point he could have moved in. And indeed, you can stretch to find some sort of argument. But it's very, very hard if given the things they said they were doing and they were trying to do and all the misdirects that we've had along the way, it raises some very serious questions."

The U.S.-Pakistan relationship is complicated.

Said Kerry, "I mean, look, I think we have to be honest with ourselves as we evaluate this. We have big questions that have come out of the facts that -- as we know them. But we also have developed this situation partly by virtue of the fact we've been able to operate on the ground, that we've had people in their country on the ground who are doing some of this sleuth intelligence work. They have permitted us to engage in a pretty robust campaign in the western part of their country with drones. A lot of civilians have been killed in their country by virtue of that. That makes their own politics very complicated.

"So it's not been without a price paid on their part too. And I think we have to be careful as we look at this going forward so that we don't just go off on a kneejerk, quick reaction that belies some of our own interests here."

The retrial of former former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on criminal corruption charges started Wednesday in a federal courtroom in Chicago. The Chicago Sun-Times federal court reporter Natasha Korecki has the story of opening day here.

WASHINGTON--Osama bin Laden is killed in a daring raid by U.S. forces. Does the death of the terrorist -- hunted by Presidents Clinton, Bush 43 and Obama -- help Barack Obama's 2012 re-election bid?

Yes it does, though the national unity of Monday -- even Oliver North on Fox News said Obama's order for U.S. Special forces to invade bin Laden's Pakistan compound was a "courageous decision" and "one of the finest operations you could ever expect" -- may not last long.

situation room.jpg
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011. Please note: a classified document seen in this photograph has been obscured. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)


Update2....adding ID's below.

WASHINGTON--During a briefing on Monday, Homeland Security Advisor John Brennan talked about the tension and anxiety in the White House Situation Room during the 40-minute raid where U.S. forces killed Osama Bin Laden.

A dramatic photo by White House photographer Pete Souza catches the drama in the Situation Room on Sunday, as President Obama and his war cabinet watch what a Defense Department official told me was a live feed of the operation.

Seated, from left, are: Brigadier General Marshall B. "Brad" Webb, Assistant Commanding General, Joint Special Operations Command; Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough; Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Standing, from left, are: Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; National Security Advisor Tom Donilon; Chief of Staff Bill Daley; Tony Binken, National Security Advisor to the Vice President; Audrey Tomason Director for Counterterrorism; John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism; and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

WASHINGTON--Osama Bin Laden was buried at sea on Monday, tipped off the deck of the USS Carl Vinson in a white weighted body bag with Islamic religious rites, a senior Defense Department official said.

At the White House briefing, Obama Homeland Security Advisor John Brennan declined to offer any information about the burial at sea, but the Defense Department offered an official who was not allowed to be identified but who did provide the first details.

Bin Laden's body received religious rites on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson, which is located in the North Arabian Sea. Bin Laden's body was flown to the Vinson from Pakistan. The official said "Preparations for at-sea burial began at 1:10 a.m. Eastern Standard Time and were completed at 2:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time.

The details, from the official:

"Traditional procedures for Islamic burial were followed. The deceased's body was washed and then placed in a white sheet. The body was placed in a weighted bag, a military officer read prepared religious remarks, which were translated into Arabic by a native speaker. After the words were complete, the body was placed on a prepared flat board, tipped up, whereupon the deceased body eased into the sea."

Updated with Clinton, more Brennan remarks....

WASHINGTON--U.S. Special Forces were prepared to take Osama Bin Laden alive; the most tense moment of the Sunday raid where he was killed was when a malfunctioning helicopter was forced to land. And U.S. officials are wondering what the Pakistan government really knew about his hideout.

Those are some of the highlights of a briefing Monday from White House Homeland Security advisor John Brennan.

"If we had the opportunity to take bin Laden alive, if he didn't present any threat, the individuals involved were able and prepared to do that." Brennan said.

"We had discussed that extensively in a number of meetings in the White House and with the president. The concern was that bin Laden would oppose any type of capture operation. Indeed, he did. There was a firefight. He therefore was killed in that firefight, and that's when the remains were removed. But we certainly were planning for the possibility, which we thought was going to be remote, given that he would he likely resist arrest but that we would be able to capture him."

The city where Bin Laden was hiding was 35 miles from Islamabad, the capital--a city with a national military academy and retired military personnel. There is an open question, Brennan said, of whether Bin Laden received any Pakistani help.

"People have been referring to this as hiding in plain sight. Clearly, this was something that was considered as a possibility. Pakistan is a large country. We are looking right now at how he was able to hold out there for so long and whether or not there was any type of support system within Pakistan that allowed him to stay there."

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was very careful in her response when she was asked, at a separate press conference call how could there be any confidence now in Pakistan's commitment to fighting terrorism. While the U.S. raid was unilateral, the Pakistani's were helpful with gathering intelligence that was helpful.

"As the president made clear, it's important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation over a number of years now with Pakistan has contributed greatly to our efforts to dismantle al-Qaida. And in fact, cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound in which he was hiding," Clinton said.

"You know, going forward, we are absolutely committed to continuing that cooperation. And it's not just cooperation between governmental agencies, it's cooperation between the people of the United States and the people of Pakistan. "

Brennan described the high tension in the White House Situation Room, where the participants were following the raid in real time.

"It was probably one of the most anxiety-filled periods of time, I think, in the lives of the people who were assembled here yesterday. The minutes passed like days, and the president was very concerned about the security of our personnel. That was what was on his mind throughout, and we wanted to make sure that we were able to get through this and accomplish the mission," Brennan said.

Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel introduced Newark, N.J., police chief Garry McCarthy on Monday as Chicago's new police superintendent and Chicago Sun-Times Fran Spielman and Frank Main have the story.

Updated with transcript...

WASHINGTON--Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had a strong message Monday to any doubters the U.S. would not be able to hunt down Osama Bin Laden: "Now I know there are some who doubted this day would ever come, who questioned our resolve and our reach. But let us remind ourselves, this is America. We rise to the challenge, we persevere and we get the job done."

The U.S. had been trying for more than 10 years to track down Bin Laden, the 9-11 mastermind who was behind the 1993 New York World Trade Center bombing, embassy bombings in Africa and the 2000 bombing of the U.S. warship Cole in Yemen.

Other Clinton points:

To the Taliban: "Our message to the Taliban remains the same, but today it may have even greater resonance: You cannot wait us out. You cannot defeat us. But you can make the choice to abandon al-Qaida and participate in a peaceful political process."

Without mentioning specific countries, the peaceful uprisings of the Arab Spring are a rebuke to Al Qaeda

She hopes Bin Laden victims find comfort in his death.

Clinton underscores close cooperation with Pakistan in the hope the raid does not further erode the relationship. Pakistan leaders were not told of the raid.

Sens. Joe Lieberman (DI-CT.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) chairs of Homeland Security Committee will talk on "next steps" post Bin Laden death at noon est.

Click below for Clinton transcript...

WASHINGTON--In the end, Osama Bin Laden was discovered not in a cave tucked in an isolated mountain area, but in a mansion in a heavily secured affluent compound in Abbotabad, Pakistan, a populous city near Islamabad, the capital.

Bin Laden was killed Sunday in an early morning raid was the result of years of intelligence work. The initial tip that led to locating him came from detainees taken into custody after the 9-11 attacks about a courier in Bin Laden's inner circle, Obama administration officials told reporters in a briefing just after midnight.

The U.S. learned four years ago that Bin Laden was hidden with the help of the courier and his brother. It took two more years for the intelligence community to get the couriers names, senior administration said--and where they lived. One of the couriers was a "protégé" of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a mastermind of the 9-11 attacks. He is being held in the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

WASHINGTON--The killing of Osama Bin Laden by U.S. Special Forces on Sunday will set Al Qaeda on a "path of decline," a senior Obama administration said in a briefing just after midnight, leading the the "eventual destruction" of the terrorists.

"There's also no doubt that the death of Osama bin Laden marks the single greatest victory in the U.S.-led campaign to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda. It is a major and essential step in bringing about al Qaeda's eventual destruction," the official said.

obl dead.jpg


Bin Laden, found in a mansion, not a cave. Click here for details.

WASHINGTON -- President Obama on late Sunday night announced the death of Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9-11 attacks that triggered the U.S. global war on terror. Obama declared, "Justice has been done."

"Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who's responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children," Obama said, announcing that Bin Laden was dead from the White House at 11:35 p.m. est.

Osama Bin Laden is dead

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WASHINGTON--President Obama on late Sunday night will announce the death of Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9-11 attacks triggering the U.S. global war on terror.

WASHINGTON--President Obama is making a surprise statement on Sunday night at about 10:30 p.m. est. Obama's remarks can be seen livestreamed here.

WASHINGTON--Obama White House Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske has taken himself out of the running to become Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel's choice as the next Chicago Police Superintendent.

The Chicago Sun-Times on Saturday reported that Garry McCarthy -- the director of the Newark, N.J., police department -- emerged as the favorite to become Chicago's next top cop.
The Sun-Times reported earlier last week that Emanuel's three front-runners were McCarthy, Kerlikowske and Chicago police deputy chief of detectives Al Wysinger.

Chris Mather, Emanuel's spokesman said on Sunday Kerlikowske "withdrew before he knew whether or not he was on" a short list. He is the Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Kerlikowske "told the Mayor-elect "[he] weighed the importance of serving the President in the important area of drug policy and believe that [he] need[ed] to continue in this important effort," Mather said.

"He said that he knew Rahm would understand the difficult decision he made and he wished Rahm, the City of Chicago, and (the Chicago Police Department) the very best. "

WASHINGTON--President Obama took aim at Donald Trump, Matt Damon--and himself--during his speech at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner, with Trump's chest thumping over the release of Obama's "long form" birth certificate fodder for jokes.

Obama addressed Trump's supposed big decision on "Celebrity Apprentice" was whether to fire Gary Busey or Meatloaf.

Quipped Obama, "You fired Gary Busey. And these are the kind of decisions that would keep me up at night. Well handled, sir. Well handled."

Obama closed on a serious note, noting the service of U.S. soldiers and the devastation in tornado-stricken Alabama.

Here are some of Obama's best lines:


I've even let down my key core constituency: movie stars. Just the other day, Matt Damon -- I love Matt Damon, love the guy -- Matt Damon said he was disappointed in my performance. Well, Matt, I just saw "The Adjustment Bureau," so -- (laughter) -- right back atcha, buddy. (Laughter and applause.)


And where is the National Public Radio table? (Cheering.) You guys are still here? (Laughter.) That's good. I couldn't remember where we landed on that. (Laughter.) Now, I know you were a little tense when the GOP tried to cut your funding, but personally I was looking forward to new programming like "No Things Considered" -- (laughter) -- or "Wait, Wait...Don't Fund Me." (Laughter.)


Michele Bachmann is here, though, I understand, and she is thinking about running for President, which is weird because I hear she was born in Canada. (Laughter.) Yes, Michele, this is how it starts. (Laughter.) Just letting you know. (Laughter and applause.)


And then there's a vicious rumor floating around that I think could really hurt Mitt Romney. I heard he passed universal health care when he was governor of Massachusetts. (Laughter.) Someone should get to the bottom of that.


And I know just the guy to do it -- Donald Trump is here tonight! (Laughter and applause.) Now, I know that he's taken some flak lately, but no one is happier, no one is prouder to put this birth certificate matter to rest than the Donald. (Laughter.) And that's because he can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter -- like, did we fake the moon landing? (Laughter.) What really happened in Roswell? (Laughter.) And where are Biggie and Tupac? (Laughter and applause.)

But all kidding aside, obviously, we all know about your credentials and breadth of experience. (Laughter.) For example -- no, seriously, just recently, in an episode of Celebrity Apprentice -- (laughter) -- at the steakhouse, the men's cooking team cooking did not impress the judges from Omaha Steaks. And there was a lot of blame to go around. But you, Mr. Trump, recognized that the real problem was a lack of leadership. And so ultimately, you didn't blame Lil' Jon or Meatloaf. (Laughter.) You fired Gary Busey. (Laughter.) And these are the kind of decisions that would keep me up at night. (Laughter and applause.) Well handled, sir. (Laughter.) Well handled.

WASHINGTON--President Obama lampooned Donald Trump at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner on Saturday and his release this week of his "long form" birth certificate (Trump claimed Obama caved under his pressure) provided great material for jokes. Trump watched the president mock him from the audience.

Here are my pictures and more from the evening.....(thanks to Craig Newman for compiling)

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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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