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June 2011 Archives

Chicago South Sider First Lady Michelle Obama honors the military at the July 5 Cubs vs Nationals game in Washington. Who will she root for?


WASHINGTON--GOP presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman--President Obama's former ambassador to China--hits Chicago on Wednesday for a fund-raiser a short distance from Obama 2012 national headquarters. Huntsman lined up at least two big name Illinois Republicans-- former Gov. James Thompson and Illinois Manufacturers' Assn. President and CEO Greg Baise--to co-host his fund-raising lunch at Chicago Q, 1160 North Dearborn.

The price tag...$250 to $2,500, raise or give.

Update...

Illinois Huntsman host committee includes:
GREGORY W. BAISE
DAVID HERRO
BILL GRAHAM
ROBERT LEVY
STEPHEN J. LIVADITIS
ANDREW MAGLIOCHETTI
RON SORINI
PAULA & BOB THIBEAULT
GOV. JAMES R. THOMPSON
PAM WESTIN
WILLIAM E. WOLF

Lori Montana is the pro fund-raiser for the event. Montana, a top Republican fund-raiser--a few months ago was raising money for Chicago mayoral candidate Carol Moseley Braun, a former Democratic senator and ambassador.

WASHINGTON-- French finance minister Christine Lagarde, former chair of Chicago's Baker & McKenzie law firm, is a step closer to becoming chief of the International Monetary Fund: on Tuesday, the U.S. endorsed her bid. Her appointment could come today.

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said in a statement, "I am pleased to announce our decision to support Christine Lagarde to head the International Monetary Fund. Minister Lagarde's exceptional talent and broad experience will provide invaluable leadership for this indispensable institution at a critical time for the global economy. We are encouraged by the broad support she has secured among the Fund's membership, including from the emerging economies. I also want to commend my friend, Agustin Carstens, on his strong and very credible candidacy."

Lagarde would replace Dominique Strauss-Kahn, facing charges on the attempted sexual assault of a hotel maid in New York.

"The jury in United States v. Blagojevich is expected to return a verdict on 18 of 20 counts sometime after 1 p.m. (cst) today. An exact time has not yet been set but U.S. District Judge James Zagel indicated that it would not be before 1 p.m."

WASHINGTON--While President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle this week woo big dollar donors, the Obama 2012 small contributor program just sweetened it's dinner with Obama event. Instead of a small donor winning a place at a meal with the president, the lure now is to be in the donor lottery to meet and eat with Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. As Obama said in a video about the contest--paraphrasing Biden (but leaving out that f word) having Biden also at the table makes it a big deal.

June 30 is the last day for second quarter donations; the Obama 2012 team is trying to emphasize small donors--even as the major contributors and bundlers are for now the backbone of the 2012 drive for a second term.

WASHINGTON--A key White House press staffer, Ben Finkenbinder--one of President Obama's most frequent golfing partners-- will be leaving the Obama administration to become a regional press secretary on the Obama 2012 re-election campaign in Chicago.

Finkenbinder started in the press shop of the Obama 2008 presidential campaign right out of Macalester College--he was a media monitor handling clips--working his way up to join the Obama White House as associate director of Press Advance and Press Pool Wrangler.

I'm told that Finkenbinder has no favorite golf course in Chicago yet--he never had time to play during the 2008 campaign--but can be expected to find one this time around.

In Chicago, Finkenbinder will be reunited with his West Wing press colleagues who have moved to the campaign: Ben LaBolt, the Obama 2012 press secretary and Katie Hogan, the deputy press secretary.

Other most frequent Obama golfing partners besides Finkenbinder --a standout golfer at Macalester-- White House Trip Director Marvin Nicholson, and Chicagoan David Katz, an Energy Department staffer.

WASHINGTON--Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is trying again to get the DREAM Act passed and will chair the first-ever Senate hearing Tuesday on the immigration measure to give students in the U.S. illegally a chance to stay.

As a run-up to the DREAM Act hearing in Washington, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel hold a telephone press conference Monday to promote the legislation.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) has been traveling across the nation to build support for the legislation. While White House Chief of Staff, Emanuel was seen as declining to push President Barack Obama to make DREAM Act passage a priority.

In May, Durbin re-introduced the measure on Wednesday, continuing a years long fight.

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. In May, 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.


"I've been working on the DREAM Act for over ten years," Durbin said in a statement."In that time, it's been reported out of committee by a large bipartisan margin, passed the House of Representatives, and received a bipartisan majority vote in the Senate, only to fall because of a filibuster. I'll convene the first-ever Senate hearing on this bill next week to discuss how the DREAM Act will make our country stronger by giving undocumented students a chance to earn legal status if they came here as children, are long-term U.S. residents, have good moral character, and complete two years of college or military service in good standing."


From Durbin's office: Durbin will chair the hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security. The hearing will be webcast live at www.judiciary.senate.gov.

DURBIN BACKGROUNDER ON THE DREAM ACT LEGISLATION IS HERE.


Witnesses list: Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano; Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan; Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, Dr. Clifford Stanley; DREAM Student, Ola Kaso; Lt. Colonel (retired) Margaret Stock; and Director of Research for the Center for Immigration Studies, Steven Camarota.

Additional information about the DREAM Act can be found here.

Who: Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL)

What: First-Ever Senate Hearing on the DREAM Act

Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security

When: Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

10:00am ET

Where: Room 216

Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, DC


Obama June 27, 2011 week ahead

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First Lady Michelle Obama arrives in Botswana from South Africa (Reuters video)


First Lady Michelle Obama, winding up a trip to South Africa and Botswana--she takes her family on a private safari this weekend before arriving back in Washington on Monday, tells CNN in an interview from Botswana when it comes to the 2012 re-election campaign, "we're ready to work hard." Mrs. Obama on Thursday hits Vermont and Boston for fund-raisers to benefit President Obama's 2012 re-election drive.

Mrs. Obama to CNN: "When it comes to the campaign we're ready to work hard. We did it before and we'll do it again, so we're rolling up our sleeves and getting on with it."

On raising Sasha and Malia in the White House: "Fortunately, we have help from the media. I have to say this: I am very grateful for the support and kindness that we've gotten. People have respected their privacy, and in that way, no matter what people may feel about my husband's policies or what-have-you, they care about children, and that's been good to see."

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama headlines fund-raisers in Boston and Vermont next Thursday, hitting the campaign trail for President Obama's second term after wrapping up a swing to South Africa and Botswana.

Mrs. Obama is piggybacking an official event on Thursday--" to show appreciation to the Vermont National Guard and their families' which helps justify the government picking up much of the costs of the trip. The Democratic National Committee picks up some, not all, of the expenses--just as when President Obama and other presidents before him--have combo government/political swings.

WASHINGTON--Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed the new congressional remap for the state, designed to heavily favor the election of Democrats; Republicans vowed to file a federal lawsuit to get a court to draw the lines.

Chicago Sun-Times Springfield Bureau Chief Dave McKinney has the story here.


Statement of Republican U.S. House Members from Illinois on Gov. Quinn Signing into Law the Democrats' Congressional Redistricting Map.....


"We are disappointed that Governor Quinn chose to sign into law this flawed map, thereby proving that his actions do not match his rhetoric. Despite his expressed desire for "openness and fairness," Governor Quinn instead rewarded his Democrat allies by approving this highly partisan map that tears apart communities and disrespects the will of Illinois voters as expressed in last fall's election.

"Governor Quinn said that a fair redistricting process required hearings. Yet the map was unveiled on a Friday and passed the following Monday, with no hearings. Governor Quinn said that the way in which district lines are drawn contributes to the success of our democracy. Yet the map he approved seeks to reverse the results of a democratic election. Governor Quinn advocated for a fair and open process. Instead, he has guaranteed an unfair and closed one.

"This map will be challenged in court, and we do not expect to comment further on a matter that now will be the subject of litigation. As we have said before, we do not believe this map will stand."

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. Adam Kinzinger (Il-11) Rep. John Shimkus (Il-19)
Rep. Don Manzullo (Il-16) Rep. Joe Walsh (Il-8)


The new Democratic drawn map is designed to pit Republicans against each other. Rep. Tim Johnson (R-Ill.) is the only GOP Illinois congressman who did not sign the letter; he gave an interview predicting the lawsuit would fail.

lynn sweet softball.jpegChicago Sun-Times Washington Bureau Chief Lynn Sweet, en route to first base at Congressional Women's Softball game. (Photo by Jeff Malet)

lynn softball2.jpgLynn Sweet at bat (Photo by Jeff Malet)

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CNN White House correspondent and softball slugger Brianna Keiler voices the game story on CNN's "The Situation Room"


ABC News political director and softball powerhouse Amy Walter voices the game story on ABC's TOPLINE program.


WASHINGTON--A heartstopping final play handed lawmakers a 5-4 victory Thursday night against a press team at the Congressional Women's Softball game.

I played on the press team and faced pitcher Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) at my two times at bat; I singled to first both times.

From ABC News: "Tied up 4-4 in the bottom of the seventh inning, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz drove in the winning run as the Members team beat the Bad News Babes 5-4 in the third-annual Congressional Women's Softball Game."

"....with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) was intentionally walked, as was Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Calif.), who blasted a 3-run HR earlier in the game. The media's gamble to pitch to Wasserman Schultz was a bust, as the Florida Democrat lined a grounder up the middle to bring Sanchez around for a play at the plate."

In the crowd: House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, (D-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). Yankees fan Sonia Sotomayor, the Supreme Court Justice, tossed out a symbolic first pitch, fresh from her Saturday Wrigley Field debut at the Cubs-Yankees game, where she took to the mound for the first ball toss. NBC's Andrea Mitchell and Sen. Amy Klobachar (D-Mn.) did the play by play.

The game was a benefit for the Young Women's Survival Coalition, created to help fight breast cancer in young women.

First Lady Michelle Obama talks about meeting Nelson Mandela (White House video)


WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama, in Cape Town took questions from girls during a session at a university in this coastal South Africa city. She was asked bluntly, "Do you still feel pressure being the first African American First Lady?"

"There's a little pressure because this is an opportunity that you can't waste," she said.

The exchange below, as transcribed by the White House....

Q Do you still feel pressure being the first African American First Lady?

MRS. OBAMA: Do I feel --

Q The pressure.

MRS. OBAMA: Pressure, oh, the pressure. I thought you said the "pleasure." (Laughter.)

The pressure. That's a really good question. I don't know if I feel pressure. But I feel deep, deep responsibility, and that -- sort of that practice habit I got into. I think whether I'm First Lady or whether I was a nurse or a mother, I feel like -- the pressure to be absolutely good at what I'm doing, probably so that I could make my parents proud, I could make myself proud, and I don't disappoint my country.

So I guess in a sense there is pressure, because I don't want to let people down, you know? I didn't necessarily run for office. I was actually trying to talk my husband out of running for office. (Laughter.)

But now that we're here, I want to be good because this is a big job, and it's a big, bright light. And you don't want to waste it. So I'm constantly thinking, how do I use this light? And, you know, the light is limited, fortunately, for a term or two.

So no matter what, it's short-lived. So how will I feel -- my husband and I, we talk about how will we feel when it's time to leave? We'll be fine leaving, but what will we have left, right? And will we feel like this was worth it? Everybody who voted, and looked up -- you know, will you guys -- I think about that. When I leave here, I think about, was this worth it for you? Is this going to matter?

So I guess, yeah, there's a little pressure because this is an opportunity that you can't waste. And I think some of that is the practice, because I felt that way when I was seven, probably. I see it in my kids, that sort of -- the practice of wanting to be excellent at what you do.

So there probably is a little pressure. There's probably a little bit. (Laughter.)

WASHINGTON--President Obama is wrestling with Congress over whether a vote was needed--or is now--to allow U.S. military strikes in Libya. House Republicans on Friday will call for votes on several resolutions dealing with military force and Libya.

The Senate also has pending before it a bi-partisan measure calling for authorization of the Libya strikes--while limiting the duration of the actions.

The Obama White House argues the hostilities do not amount to war, and that's why no congressional votes are needed.

Back in December, 2003, Barack Obama, running for a U.S. Senate seat from Illinois, had a simpler view--one with no nuance or quibbling over what, exactly, defines a war.
He was asked about Congress' role in war in an extensive questionnaire from a Chicago liberal group, the Independent Voters of Illinois - Independent Precinct Organization.


IVI-IPO question: Should the US wage war without a declaration from Congress?

Obama answer: No.

WASHINGTON--President Obama hits fund-raisers for his 2012 re-election bid in New York Thursday night, with one targeting LGBT donors. The long planned funder comes as New York state lawmakers are considering legalizing same sex marriage. Meanwhile, Obama says his position on gay marriage is "evolving," signaling that one day he may support it--but not now.

Over at The Advocate, reporter Andrew Harmon learned that some Democratic senators--Jeff Merkley, Kirsten Gillibrand, Al Franken, and Bernie Sanders--say its time for Obama to evolve. Read Harmon's story here.

WASHINGTON--Mayor Rahm Emanuel promoted Chicago as a host city for G-8 and NATO meetings in 2012 with President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Chief of Staff Bill Daley, I reported on Wednesday. I asked a senior administration official for more details on how Chicago landed the meetings and it seems Emanuel greased the deal from the get-go. Obama announced the Chicago meetings on Wednesday night, during his speech about the Afghanistan troop draw down.

Background: Obama announced last December in Lisbon the U.S. would host the next NATO summit.

From a senior administration official: "Then, over the course of the next several months, we, I think, had conversations with a range of different cities. And Chicago, as a world-class international city, clearly possesses the ability to host a successful NATO summit. I would also note that they're going to also host the G8 summit around the same time next May. The mayor of Chicago is of course a well-known figure here, and I'm sure he'll be able to do a successful job in helping to oversee some of the preparations there.

"But really it's a decision that was made over the course of the last several months. We felt it was important to explore options beyond Washington, because often you have these things in the capital city. I think what we believe is important to do is to highlight other parts of America that represent the character of our people and that can make for interesting venues. So we did know that we wanted to go outside of Washington. And, again, Chicago clearly has a great capacity to host these types of events."

I asked if other cities were in competition and the senior administration official told me, "No, it wasn't really a bidding or a competition. I think -- so it wasn't like a very wide net that was cast. I think that we -- there were a number of discussions here about places, and Chicago emerged as a very natural fit, again, given its resources, given its diversity as an international city, and of course there was interest from Chicago and Mayor Emanuel and others in hosting these events. So it just very much solidified as a good fit over the course of the last several weeks, and I think we arrived at that decision within the last month.

"And we felt it was a good opportunity to announce it in conjunction with the President's announcement today because the NATO summit will be one of the next -- if we look out into the future in Afghanistan, we have this announcement, we have the Bonn Conference in Germany in December, which will be an important opportunity to assess the political situation in Afghanistan, and then the NATO summit in May will be the next big opportunity for the alliance to come together to assess the progress that's been made since Lisbon and to discuss the next phase of transition."


WASHINGTON---Been practicing to play Thursday in big softball game here...female members of Congress vs. women in the D.C. press corps. It's for charity, to benefit the Young Survivors Coalition--an organization dealing with breast cancer issues.


Full List of Players

Member Team
Captain - Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)
Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV)
Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL)
Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA)
Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD)
Captain - Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO)
Captain -Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC)
Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI)
Rep. Kathy Hochul (D-NY)
Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA)
Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA)
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)
Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA)
Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH)
Captain - Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL)
Rep. Betty Sutton (D-OH)

Member Coaches
Rep. Joe Baca (D-CA)
Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX)
Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-IN)
Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO)
Rep. Dan Webster (R-FL)

Press Team
Captain Dana Bash, CNN
Christina Capatides, ABC
Jennifer Bendery, Huffington Post
Jessica Brady, Roll Call
Captain Carrie Budoff Brown, Politico
Leigh Ann Caldwell, C-SPAN
Julie Davis, Bloomberg
Erika Dimmler, CNN
Elise Foley, Huffington Post
Kasie Hunt, Politico
Jill Jackson, CBS
Brianna Keilar, CNN
Stephanie Kotuby, CNN
Jackie Kucinich, USA Today
Lisa Lerer, Bloomberg
Abby Livingston, CNN
Lynn Sweet, Chicago Sun-Times
Shawna Thomas, NBC
Captain:Trish Turner, Fox
Amy Walter, ABC

Coach: Dave Espo

obama south africa2.JPG
Then Sen. Barack Obama at the Apartheid Museum. (photo by Lynn Sweet)


michelle africa soweto.jpgFirst Lady Michelle Obama, daughters Malia and Sasha at the Apartheid Museum. (White House photo)

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama's South Africa visit retraces some of the stops then Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) made when he visited the nation in 2006.

A big difference--Mrs. Obama was given an official welcome--as befits the spouse of a head of state--while Obama in 2006 could not even get a meeting with the then South African president.

Obama left Washington on Aug. 18, 2006, to fly to Cape Town on an official congressional visit that would end Sept. 3 in Chad. Soon after arriving in Cape Town, Obama publicly criticized the South African government as being in "denial" for advocating nutritional treatments over medical alternatives to treat HIV/AIDS.

Obama criticism of South African President Thabo Mbeki's HIV/AIDS treatment policies a day before he hoped to meet with him -- meant the meeting never took place.

Mrs. Obama, with her entourage are or will be in Pretoria, Johannesburg and Cape Town, the same cities Sen. Obama visited.

Mrs. Obama on Wednesday visited the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Muesum in Soweto and was shown around by Pieterson's sister, Antoinette Sithole. In 2006, Sithole led Sen. Obama on a tour; at the end, Sen. Obama laid a wreath at the museum's memorial.

In Cape Town on Thursday, the First Lady will visit Robben Island - where former South African President Nelson Mandela--who she met on Tuesday-- was held for 18 of his 27 imprisoned years. Obama started his South Africa trip with a visit to Robben Island--where he stood in Mandela's cell.

Mrs. Obama will meet with Archbishop Desmond Tutu; Tutu met with then Sen. Obama in 2006 and teased him about one day becoming president of the U.S.

Ironic note: In Cape Town, "Mrs. Obama is meeting with organizations dedicated to combating HIV/AIDS in South Africa, including using soccer as a means to convene and educate South African children about HIV/AIDS."

Mrs. Obama and her daughters and friends met up with then Sen. Obama in 2006 in Kenya--where she took an HIV/AIDS test with Obama in public in order to encourage men to be tested with their wives.



WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama will bring world leaders to Chicago next May for a "G-8" summit and a NATO meeting, gatherings Mayor Rahm Emanuel said will provide an international showcase for the city, despite financial and security headaches.

Obama will announce the meetings in his adopted hometown during his Wednesday night speech on drawing down troops in Afghanistan.

An Obama White House administration official told the Chicago Sun-Times that the two distinct meetings will take place at the same time in Chicago, in locations to be determined. The 2012 summits in Chicago "will provide President Obama with opportunity to continue his leadership of our most important security alliance, to fulfill commitments made by allied leaders in Lisbon in November 2010, and to sustain our joint work to revitalize NATO to prepare it to effectively meet challenges of the 21st century.

"They will review the progress in Afghanistan since the Lisbon NATO Summit, and discuss the next phase of our transition to full Afghan security in 2014."

The meetings will run from May 15--May 22, 2012 and will be an opportunity for Emanuel, Obama's former White House chief of staff, to show off the city for the world.

But the meetings will also bring massive security and financial challenges to the cash strapped city. A gathering of world leaders attracts protestors. When Pittsburgh hosted the G-20 summit on global economies Sept. 24-25, 2009, a public-private host committee partnership was created to help share the costs, much as for a political convention.

Sending the meetings to Chicago is a tangible demonstration of the Chicago White House clout. Unlike the city's bid for the 2016 Olympics--which it lost--or the 1996 Democratic National Convention--which it won--Chicago landed the G-8 and NATO by appointment--not a competitive process.

A City Hall source told me Emanuel talked to Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Chief of Staff Bill Daley--all his friends--about hosting the events in Chicago.

This is the first time Chicago has hosted either group--and the first city outside of Washington to host a NATO gathering. The last time and place a city hosted both gatherings was 1977 in London.

Back in Chicago, Chicago Sun-Times City Hall reporter Fran Spielman reports that Emanuel said the gathering of world leaders in Chicago will provide an unprecedented opportunity for the city to showcase itself to the world.

"From a city perspective, this will be an opportunity to showcase what is great about the greatest city in the greatest country. It's an opportunity for the City of Chicago economically, but also a message internationally about why Chicago is a city that‚s on the move and, if you're thinking of investing, Chicago is a place to invest," Emanuel said.

In 2002, Chicago played host to a two-day meeting of international business leaders known as the TransAtlantic Business Dialogue (TABD) that attracted hundreds of protesters from across the country.

The meeting went smoothly, but not without an unprecedented show of force by Chicago Police.

That's expected to pale by comparison to the security needs of the 2012 NATO/G-8 meeting. But, Emanuel said Chicago will be ready.

"There's no doubt about that. And one of the things I'm gonna be working on is raising the private resources necessary to supplement what we have to do," the mayor said.

"While there is no doubt there will be security needs. This is also an opportunity for the city that is unprecedented from an economic standpoint and job-creation standpoint."

The G-8 member countries are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The gathering also includes European Commission and African nation leaders.

NATO--The North Atlantic Treaty Organization
--has 28 member countries.

BILL CLINTON'S CLINTON GLOBAL INITIATIVE MEETING IN CHICAGO NEXT WEEK

Former President Bill Clinton is bringing to Chicago next week his Clinton Global Initiative meeting, to run June 29-30 and expected to "bring together more than 600 leaders from businesses, nonprofits, and all levels of government to develop and highlight ideas for spurring economic growth and creating jobs in the United States."


WASHINGTON--The Republican National Committee--which does not routinely disclose fund-raising activities of chairman Reince Priebus --has some chutzpah taking on the White House and the Democratic National Committee for not allowing a pool reporter to cover Vice President Biden's funder Tuesday, at Navy Pier in Chicago.

There should be one standard of disclosure--a high one--for both the Democrats and Republicans.

The RNC is hypocritical for criticizing the Obama team on fund-raising disclosure and coverage when it hardly discloses anything about its fund-raising activities.

For years, I've written columns urging disclosures of all fund-raisers and hosts--information that is not available on reports filed with the Federal Election Commission or, in the case of state candidates, with state election authorities.

The Obama White House does allow pool reporters to cover a portion of fund-raisers if "formal" (as they define it) remarks are delivered by Biden, President Obama or First Lady Michelle. Reporters usually are not allowed to stay and cover the more interesting question and answer sessions.

Is this Obama team system optimal? No. Should Biden's comments at the small Navy Pier event be open to press coverage? Yes. But team Obama does more than the RNC--or for that matter the 2012 Republican presidential candidates-- when it comes to being transparent about fund-raising activities.

RNC Spokesman Ryan Mahoney sent out a statement Tuesday dinging the Obama team for "shutting out the press"--something the RNC does on a routine basis when it comes to fund-raising.

From Mahoney: "If you're looking to cover Vice President Joe Biden's fundraiser in Chicago today, good luck, you're going to need it with this administration's track record of shutting out the press. If covering tonight's DNC fundraising event with Vice President Biden, please consider the following quote:

"While Vice President Biden schmoozes with donors in Chicago, millions of unemployed Americans are coming to the realization that only jobs Vice President Biden and President Obama care about are their own. This administration has lost touch with the harsh realities facing the American people and with 9.1 percent unemployment it's unclear whether any amount of campaign cash will help bolster their reelection effort. What is clear however, is that when it comes to fundraisers, this administration is willing do what it takes to avoid questions about their failed economic policies in front of DNC donors."

I called Mahoney and asked him why the RNC was complaining about the Obama team not doing something the RNC was not willing to do.

His reply: "As for RNC fundraisers, it's been well publicized that the RNC is working on rebuilding our major donor program and much of that is done through one on one sit downs with individual donors - and you're right those have not been open press and likely never will be."

Mahoney says--and I disagree--there is no "comparison to be made between RNC fundraisers and those done by President Obama or Vice President Biden. The president should be held to a higher standard about transparency and openness, especially when the administration trumpets themselves as the most transparent in history."

There is one standard, and it is not situational.

michelle mandela 2.jpgFirst Lady Michelle Obama, daughters Malia and Sasha with Nelson Mandela (Photo courtesy Nelson Mandela Foundation)

WASHINGTON---Former South African President Nelson Mandela--93 next month-- met Tuesday with First Lady Michelle Obama, daughters Malia and Sasha, niece and nephew Leslie and Avery Leslie and her mother, Marian Robinson.

The call on Mandela took place in his home, after Mrs. Obama and her family visited the Nelson Mandela Centre for Memory in Johannesburg. Mrs. Obama is in South Africa and Botswana through June 26.

Mrs. Obama met with Nompumelelo Ntuli-Zuma, wife of South Africa President Jacob Zuma. She is one of his three wives.

She also greeted U.S. Embassy employees at the residence of U.S. Ambassador Donald Gips.


According to the White House:

"The First Lady, her two daughters, her niece and nephew, and Mrs Robinson met privately with President Mandela, his wife Graca Machel and about 15 members of their family for approximately 20 minutes at the Mandela's home. A White House photographer and a Mandela Foundation photographer were in the room for the beginning of the meeting to take photos and then left the room. A White House staffer entered at the end of the private meeting to escort the family out of the
room. Mrs. Obama also brought a nephew, Avery Robinson, 19, and niece, Leslie Robinson, 15, to Africa and they also visited with Mandela, said Semonti Stephens, deputy communications director for Mrs. Obama.

"The two, from Corvallis, Oregon, are children of Mrs. Obama's brother, Craig Robinson."

According to the Mandela Centre::

"Sello Hatang and Sahm Venter, the co-editors of the soon to be released book, Nelson Mandela By Himself: The Authorised Quotations Book, presented Mrs Obama with an advance copy.

"Hatang and the head of the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, Verne Harris, showed the First Lady a display of archival items housed in the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory including prison desk calendars, notebooks and draft letters. She was introduced to the senior archivist, Razia Saleh.

"Mrs Obama expressed appreciation for the display saying, "You are doing very important work."

"She then proceeded to Mr Mandela's house where she paid him a courtesy call."

CLICK HERE FOR MICHELLE OBAMA'S SOUTH AFRICA, BOTSWANA SCHEDULE AND WHITE HOUSE BRIEFING ON HER SOLO DIPLOMACY.

WASHINGTON--President Obama will use a prime time address--8 p.m. est--on Wednesday to detail his plans to draw down the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. In December, 2009, Obama said he will start to withdraw troops in July; there is debate within the military over how many soldiers need to remain in Afghanistan.


WASHINGTON--Looks like the Obama White House will not avoid a vote on authorizing a congressional vote on the Libya war. At issue: whether President Obama could unilaterally authorize Libya air strikes without a congressional vote. Congress disagrees with the Obama White House on the need for a vote; there is congressional backing for limited U.S. military action in Libya.

On Tuesday, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee introduced a resolution authorizing the limited use of U.S. militay in Libya. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is among the co-sponsors.

McCain statement: "The Senate has been silent for too long on U.S. military operations in Libya. It is time for the Senate to act. It is time to authorize the President's use of force, whether he thinks he needs it or not. And it is time to send a message to our allies, to Qaddafi, and to his opponents in Libya who are fighting for their freedom that there is strong bipartisan support in the Senate, and among the American people, for staying the course in Libya until we succeed."

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, back in Chicago from a long weekend in Washington and Baltimore, will see Vice President Biden on Tuesday. Biden hits Chicago to headline the CURE foundation (founded by David and Susan Axelrod) and to be the draw at a Democratic National Committee/Obama 2012 fund-raiser. Both events are at Navy Pier.

obama south africa.JPGThen Sen. Barack Obama visiting Nelson Mandela's cell, 2006. (Photo by Lynn Sweet)

michelle south africa.jpgFirst Lady Michelle Obama, daughters Malia and Sasha in South Africa

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama landed in South Africa on Monday for the start of a trip taking her to Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa and Gaborone, Botswana. Her mother, Marian Robinson, daughters Malia and Sasha and Leslie and Avery Robinson, the children of her brother Craig are also on the trip.

This is the third visit to Africa for the Obama daughters: In 2006 they accompanied then Sen. Barack Obama and Mrs. Obama to Kenya.

This is Mrs. Obama's second solo international trip. In April 2010, she flew to Haiti and Mexico City.

Since you are going to ask who pays for Mrs. Obama's relatives who are with her on this official trip: A portion of the personal expenses will be billed.

From the East Wing:

First Lady Michelle Obama will travel to Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Cape Town, South Africa and Gaborone, Botswana during an official visit to Africa from June 20 - 26 focused on youth leadership, education, health and wellness. The trip is a continuation of Mrs. Obama's work to engage young people, especially girls and young women, at home and abroad.


In South Africa, Mrs. Obama will visit South African sites then Sen. Obama stopped at in his 2006 visit, including Robben Island and the Hector Pieterson Memorial in Soweto. She will also meet with Desmond Tutu; then Sen. Obama met with him at his office in 2006, and Tutu prophetically teased him about being the president of the U.S.


From the June 20 pool report filed from Pretoria.....

First Lady Michelle Obama who is traveling with her mother, daughters, niece and nephew arrived at Waterkloof Air force base in Pretoria, South Africa following an uneventful flight at approximately 9:20 pml ocal time. The plane was refueled in Cape Verde. In Pretoria, she was greeted by U.S. Ambassador Donald Gips, Mrs. Elizabeth Berry Gips, Benjamin Gips - age 14, Samuel Gips - age 18. South African officials Grace Mason, acting Chief of Protocol, Department of International Relations and Cooperation Minister and Nosiviwe Mapisa - Nqakula, Minister of Correctional Services also greeted FLOTUS and her family.

FLOTUS wore a bright orange and black Duro Olowu sweater. The designer is of African descent, WH officials said.

The Obama daughters were given South African blankets with colors of the nation's flag by young children of the protocol officer as a welcome. They wrapped themselves in the blankets. It is winter here and a chilly 51 degrees. After the brief open press arrival attended by your pool, four traveling colleagues, and a few broadcast cameras, Mrs. Obama's motorcade headed to Johannesburg where she will stay for the night. This is the first lady's fourth trip to the continent of Africa and her first to South Africa. This is her second solo official visit. The lid is on but will alert if there are updates.


At the click....White House briefing on Mrs. Obama's trip.

Here is Mrs. Obama's Africa schedule:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - Pretoria, South Africa

First Lady Michelle Obama is arriving at Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria, South Africa. After meeting with President Jacob Zuma's wife Nompumelelo Ntuli-Zuma at the capital, Mrs. Obama will visit the Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg. Mrs. Obama is meeting with the former First Lady of Mozambique and wife of President Mandela, who will be able to give her a tour of the foundation and President Mandela's archives.

Later in the day, Mrs. Obama is visiting a daycare center in Johannesburg, and is ending her day with a tour of the Apartheid Museum, a testament to the inspirational progress that South Africa has made.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - Pretoria and Johannesburg, South Africa

In the morning, Mrs. Obama is traveling to the Regina Mundi Church in the Soweto township, where she delivers the keynote address to a U.S.-sponsored Young African Women Leaders Forum. Forum participants include young women from across sub-Saharan Africa who are leading or involved in social and economic initiatives in their own countries.

The Regina Mundi Church, where the Forum is taking place, holds particular historical significance for the people of South Africa and the Soweto community. Political gatherings were banned during the anti-apartheid movement, and churches became hubs for activity. During the Soweto student uprising of June 16, 1976, a number of young people sought cover in the Regina Mundi Church where they were followed by police and fired upon. Students like twelve year-old Hector Pieterson were shot and killed by apartheid government police, galvanizing international pressure on the apartheid regime. The church remains a national symbol of the struggle.

After delivering the keynote, Mrs. Obama is visiting the Hector Pieterson Memorial. The Memorial displays an iconic news photograph of Hector's body being carried through the streets of Soweto, his distraught sister running along-side him. The date Hector was killed, June 16th, 1976, has been commemorated as Youth Day in South Africa, and this year June has been declared Youth Month.

In the afternoon, the Young Leaders will participate in breakout sessions to build and foster networks among one another, and discuss the issues that are important to them. The First Lady will visit several of the breakout sessions, before joining fourm participants in a community service project at a local community center. An event that is in line with the First Lady's focus on service around the world and the importance of young people serving their communities in the United States and abroad.
Thursday, June 23, 2011 - Cape Town, South Africa

Mrs. Obama begins the day in Cape Town, thanking United States Consulate employees and their families for their service.

Then, the First Lady is visiting Robben Island - where former President Nelson Mandela was held for 18 of his 27 imprisoned years.

As a continuation of her commitment to engaging young people, supporting educational opportunities and promoting youth mentoring, Mrs. Obama is inviting students from area schools in historically disadvantaged communities, for a day-long university "immersion experience" at the University of Cape Town. The University of Cape Town is providing the students with campus tours, discussions with University students and exposure to studying on campus. The students are attending a full day of activities at the University of Cape Town, concluding with remarks delivered by the First Lady.

Mrs. Obama is completing her day with a visit to the Cape Town Soccer Stadium, site of the 2010 FIFA World Cup matches. There she is meeting with Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Mrs. Obama is meeting with organizations dedicated to combating HIV/AIDS in South Africa, including using soccer as a means to convene and educate South African children about HIV/AIDS.

After the meeting, Mrs. Obama is joining girls and boys from the Cape Town area, including its townships, on the soccer field for activities and drills.
Friday, June 24, 2011 - Gaborone, Botswana

The First Lady is visiting the Botswana Baylor Children's Clinic Center of Excellence's Teen Club. Teen Club was assembled to teach leadership among teens and encourage young people to teach others HIV/AIDS education. Mrs. Obama joins Teen Club members in a service project at the site for the planned Botswana Baylor Adolescent Center.
Saturday, June 25, 2011 - Gaborone, Botswana

Mrs. Obama is beginning her day by thanking U.S. Embassy employees and their families. Following this event, Mrs. Obama and her family are departing for a family safari.
Sunday, June 26, 2011 - Gaborone, Botswana

Mrs. Obama and her family are departing Gaborone, Botswana at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport.


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The White House confirmed President Obama will deliver an Afghanistan speech on Wednesday--expected to detail when U.S. troops will start to come home. Obama had set a July target for troop drawdowns.

WASHINGTON--Vice President Biden hits Chicago on Tuesday to keynote a big fundraiser for CURE--Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy--founded by David and Susan Axelrod and for a funder to help bankroll the 2012 Obama/Biden ticket.

Before the CURE event at the Navy Pier ballroom at 4:30 p.m. Biden is the draw at a small, minimum $5,000-per-person fund-raiser also at Navy Pier--at the Riva Crab House.
For $10,000 the donor gets a photo and an invite to a pre-reception reception.

Last April, President Obama kicked off his 2012 fund-raising drive in the same Navy Pier ballroom.


Mayor Rahm Emanuel has no public events on his schedule today, but I think he is still in the Washington-Baltimore area. He traveled to Baltimore on Friday for the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting, which is still ongoing. President Obama is meeting with a bi-partisan group of mayors at the White House today and I am checking to see if Emanuel, Obama's former chief of staff and good friend to Chief of Staff Bill Daley, will attend.


My column on Emanuel's debut at the U.S. Conference of Mayors--and how the mayors hope he can lead them to more federal cash--is here.

UPDATE: I am told Emanuel will not be with the other mayors at the White House today. END UPDATE

Obama June 20 week ahead

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"From the WLS newsroom Bill Cameron brings you this week's media panel of Ray Long of the Chicago Tribune, Greg Hinz of Crain's Chicago Business and Lynn Sweet of Chicago Sun-Times. They discuss Governor Quinn backing down after threatening to withhold construction funds to get something he wanted in the budget. Why did back down? They also discuss Mayor Emanuel wanting to be a mayor on a national stage not just local. Is it unfair for the Chicago School Board to rescind the 4% wage increase that is in the Chicago Teachers Union?"


BALTIMORE--Mayor Rahm Emanuel was warmly embraced at his U.S. Conference of Mayors debut here, partly because of his celebrity, more important to cash starved mayors: Emanuel is seen as key to getting Washington to ship more money to cities.

Joining other mayors at the Friday press conference opening the 79th annual meeting of the group, Emanuel got a shout out from Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the incoming president.

"He's got a key to the front door and a key to the back door of the White House," Villaraigosa recounted for me when we talked on Saturday. "And then (Emanuel) said something like 'well I'm going to hold on to those keys' and I said, hold on to those keys, just let the rest of us in."

The mayors are excited about the entrée Emanuel brings to the White House--he was President Obama's chief of staff--and to Congress, where he was one of the top leaders when he was a House member. They hope the access--and Emanuel's drive to find more federal dollars for Chicago--will benefit all cities, under rising-tide lifts-all-boats theories.

"People are excited that he is here, excited about the potential enhanced relationship with the White House and just getting to know him as mayor," Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake told me.

Emanuel is no stranger to the mayors, working with them on national domestic issues since his days in the Clinton White House. That Emanuel, Chicago's new mayor, wants to be active in the organization is almost a given; former Mayor Richard M. Daley is a past president (1996-1997) as was his father, Richard J. Daley (1975-1976).

He comes with "a certain rank, if you will, a certain stature in the U.S. Conference of Mayors because of who he is and who he represents," Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter told me. The relations he has "both in the administration and in Congress can only be good" for mayors, Nutter said.

In office only since May 16, Emanuel was given a featured speaking slot on Saturday and he obliged his audience by pushing, during his remarks--lasting a little over nine minutes--for the creation of a "national infrastructure bank" to create jobs through big mass transit, roads and water projects.

The idea per se is not new; Obama got behind one proposal that stalled; Emanuel's close friend, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Ct.) has been working on the issue. The problem is how to pay for it, a particular challenge in the GOP controlled House.

Emanuel said he wants to "put together two ideas" to increase the chances of bi-partisan Congressional backing: create a "bank" with a funding stream in one legislative package designed to appeal to corporate America. Emanuel wants to cut the tax rate U.S. companies pay on profits earned overseas--or "repatriated" -only on the condition the money is "guaranteed" to be used for infrastructure projects.

"No doubt it would create jobs," Emanuel said.

Related matters:

*Emanuel, tieless in tan jeans and a blazer, brought his son, Zach, to the conference and took pains to introduce the 9th grader around: to Sacramento, Calif. Mayor Kevin Johnson, who played 12 years with the NBA's Phoenix Sun and Charlotte, N.C. Mayor Anthony Foxx, whose city is hosting the Democratic National Convention in 2012. He also met briefly and privately with Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley.

*Emanuel will duck a potentially controversial--but totally symbolic-- vote on Monday at the conference on a resolution asking Obama to pull troops out of Afghanistan and spend the money to create jobs. As chief of staff, Emanuel played an integral role in the Obama administration self-imposing a July deadline for a gradual troop pullout. He told me he will busy in "meetings."

* Emanuel organized a session with other Illinois mayors at the conference, meeting some in person for the first time.

WASHINGTON--Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor will throw out the first pitch Saturday in Chicago, when the Cubs host her team, the New York Yankees, I'm told. After her work on the mound, Sotomayor--raised near Yankees Stadium--will view the rest of the game at Wrigley Field in the stands with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)

This will be Sotomayor's second time making the first ceremonial pitch. In 2009, the Bronx native pitched one when the Yankees played the Red Sox.

The Cubs on Friday beat the Yankees 3-1.

Jun 17 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Yankees 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 5 0
Cubs 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 6 0

WASHINGTON--President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) play golf together for the first time on Saturday morning in a much anticipated match where the official word is the game is social--not to do business on the links.

"The Speaker's goal tomorrow is breaking 80," Brendan Buck, Boehner's press secretary, told me on Friday afternoon. "This is a social occasion," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.

Vice President Biden and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are rounding out the foursome. Kasich and Boehner are old friends from Kasich's days in the House. Will Boehner, a smoker, puff during the game--with Obama, who has stuggled to quit?

Obama is a regular golfer--most often at military base courses--but plays almost all of the time with a very small circle of younger male staffers who have been with him since his presidential campaign. (They are White House press shop staffer Ben Finkenbinder, White House Trip Director Marvin Nicholson, and Chicagoan David Katz, an Energy Department staffer.)

Here's what I think Obama and Boehner get out of the golf summit:

*It gives them both a chance to look bi-partisan. Can't hurt.

*It lets them get to know each other. They have no personal relationship now.

*If they decide to talk a little business--they can, informally. Boehner called for Obama to be personally involved in the debt ceiling talks (Biden is handling the actual meetings with a bi-partisan group) so that's on the table. If they want to chat on areas where they have some agreement--there are trade and patent issues pending.

What I'm hearing...don't expect anything major to materialize from the golf outing; it's a game of intangibles Saturday with potential deliverables sometime in the future.

WASHINGTON--Obama White House Capitol Hill team veteran Jonathan Samuels, an Evanston native, was promoted to Deputy Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs and House Liaison in the White House Office of Legislative Affairs.

The promotion was announced by Rob Nabors, Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House. The White House legislative affairs office lobbies Congress on behalf of the president -- defending and advancing his agenda. Samuels will manage the House side of the operation. He steps up as the White House has a new challenge of working with a Republican controlled House.

Samuels joined the White House lobby shop at the start of the administration, as Special Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs.

Samuels is a former deputy chief of staff to Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.). After Schakowsky, Samuels moved over to the office of then House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) He worked in the 2008 Obama presidential campaign as the southern regional director and was on the transition team dealing with congressional affairs.

WASHINGTON--Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is splitting with President Obama over the need for Congress to authorize military action in Libya--though he backs Obama's order to send in air strikes. Congress needs to have a voice in the decision is Durbin's point.

The White House is arguing that the nation is not involved in a war--there is no ongoing hostile action--and therefore there is no need to invoke the War Powers Act and call for a Congressional vote.

Republicans and Democrats are disagreeing with the White House position--as they join in demanding congressional approval. The White House has been trying to address congressional critics, sending to Capitol Hill on Wednesday a summary report on U.S. activities in Libya and putting out a briefing by White House counsel Bob Bauer.


Durbin, from the Senate floor on Thursday said, "I believe that what we are engaged in with Libya is a matter that should come under the War Powers Resolution" and called for a vote. Durbin would vote to authorize the force. Such a vote would "give the president clear authorize and will also establish the clear authority of Congress in this particular situation. Let me add quickly, I think the president was right in what he did initially."

Durbin is teaming with Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) to push for a resolution that would give Obama the authority to continue hostilities in Libya as long at no ground troops would be used, there woule a "time certain to end--by the end of 2011--unless Congress votes again whether or not to continue.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday, "You know, the White House says there are no hostilities taking place. Yet we've got drone attacks under way; we're spending $10 million a day; we're part of an effort to drop bombs on Gadhafi's compounds. I don't -- I just -- it just doesn't pass the straight face test, in my view, that we're not in the midst of hostilities.

"It's been four weeks since the president has talked to the American people about this mission, and I think it's time for the president to outline to the American people why we are there, what the mission is and what our goals are and how do we exit this."

WASHINGTON--Mayor Rahm Emanuel is heading to Baltimore for his debut before the U.S. Conference of Mayors, where he keynotes an address on Saturday morning. His mayoral spokesman would not say yet when he was flying to the conference, which begins on Friday with a speech by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.

UPDATE: Emanuel departs Chicago for Baltimore and the conference on Friday. He will be traveling with his policy director, David Spielfogel. The mayoral conference runs through Monday and Emanuel will remain in the Baltimore--Washington area through Monday, though I am told his plans may change. Emanuel is expected to visit his family in their Washington home--still here until the end of the month--during this East Coast swing. END UPDATE

Emanuel, in office only since May 16, was vaulted to a featured position in the speaking line-up. Others addressing the conference will be Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue, Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.

Mayors and Afghanistan: As White House chief of staff, Emanuel played an integral role in the Obama administration self-imposing a July deadline for a gradual troop pullout. Members of Congress--including Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) want soldiers to come home at a faster pace--saving the U.S. billions of dollars.

Will Emanuel join the nations mayors in pressuring Obama to step up the pace of getting out of Afghanistan--as his top military advisors say they may need more time? At the conference, the mayors will be asked to vote on a resolution--entirely symbolic-- "to end the Afghanistan War and re-direct spending for job creation."

Also: on Monday, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will be inaugurated as the new president of the group.

WASHINGTON--Former President Bill Clinton is bringing an all-star line-up to Chicago at the end of June, when his massive Clinton Global Initiative meets at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers.

(The hotel was the Clinton headquarters when the 1996 Democratic Convention was in Chicago--when Clinton was nominated for his second term.)


From the release: "Featured participants also include Haley Barbour, governor of Mississippi, Stephanie Burns, chairman of Dow Corning, Mitch Daniels, governor of Indiana, Rahm Emanuel, mayor of Chicago, Roger W. Ferguson, Jr., president and CEO of TIAA-CREF, Anthony Foxx, mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, Jennifer Granholm, former governor of Michigan, John Hickenlooper, governor of Colorado, Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, Bob McCann, CEO of UBS Wealth Management Americas, Pete Peterson, founder of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, Michael Porter, professor at Harvard Business School, J.B. Pritzker, managing partner, the Pritzker Group, Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, James E. Rogers, chairman, president, and CEO of Duke Energy, Antonio Villaraigosa, mayor of Los Angeles, and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack."

WASHINGTON--Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) quit Congress on Thursday, apologizing to his pregnant wife, a top aide to Sec. of State Hillary Clinton before a sea of television cameras instead of just issuing a statement.

"I'm here today to again apologize for the personal mistakes I have made and the embarrassment I have caused," Weiner said. "I make this apology to my neighbors and my constituents, but I make it particularly to my wife Huma. I had hoped to be able to continue the work that the citizens of my district elected me to do -- to fight for the middle
class and those struggling to make it. Unfortunately, the distraction that I have created has made that impossible. So today I am announcing my resignation from Congress, so my colleagues can get back to work, my neighbors can choose a new representative, and most importantly that my wife and I can continue to heal from the damage I have caused."

Weiner, from Brooklyn, read the short statement with the apology to his wife over the sexting scandal that became public at the end of May. Weiner made things worse for himself by lying to the public and his congressional colleagues about lewd photos he sent to young women.

Weiner was heckled during his brief appearence, with at least one vulgar remark loud enough to be heard. From a heckler..."Are you more than seven inches?"

Yikes.

A moment after Weiner was done--he took no questions, Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y), the chief of the House Democratic political operation issued a statement: "Anthony's decision to resign is right for him and his family, our party, and our country because we have serious work to do in Congress. Last week Republican leaders introduced a bill to privatize Social Security, and the American people deserve an undistracted debate on it, Medicare, jobs, and other important issues."


President Obama, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and DNC chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fl.) all said Weiner should resign.

Click for Weiner's complete statement.

WASHINGTON--The Obama White House is trying to head off a fight in Congress over why President Obama authorized air strikes over Libya without a congressional vote.

From an administration official: "the bottom line is this operation has achieved a great deal in just over two months in terms of saving lives; in terms of pushing back Qaddafi's forces and degrading his capabilities and his ability to threaten his own people; in terms, again, of building international support to isolate and pressure Qaddafi; and to pursue a goal that is profoundly in the interest of the Libyan people and the United States, which is an end to the targeting of civilians in Libya and ultimately, of course, a Libya that is more responsive and reflective of the aspirations of its own people."

In this post:
Below, the pdf to a declassified report on the U.S. in Libya
At the click, a transcript of a White House briefing on the War Powers Act and why Obama took action
At the click, after the transcript, a copy of a letter the Obama White House sent to House Speaker John Boehner and members of Congress, a summary of all the above.

The Obama White House summary report on U.S. activities in Libya pdf is here. United_States_Activities_in_Libya_--_6_15_11(2).pdf

WASHINGTON--A new study found that 80 percent of President Obama's best 2008 campaign fund-raising "bundlers" were rewarded with "key administration posts," with other major donors getting access to the White House.

"More than two years after President Obama took office vowing to banish "special interests" from his administration, nearly 200 of his biggest donors have landed plum government jobs and advisory posts, won federal contracts worth millions of dollars for their business interests or attended numerous elite White House meetings and social events, an investigation by iWatch News has found."

Bundlers are well-connected individuals who use their own networks to raise money for a candidate. Bundlers are vital to federal campaigns, where there is a donation cap of $2,500 for a primary and $2,500 for a general election and other limits for overall donations to parties. Obama's 2008 and 2012 National Finance Committee is made up of people who have made pledges to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars directly for the Obama 2012 re-election campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

The study on money and influence in the Obama White House, by reporters Fred Schulte, John Aloysius Farrell and Jeremy Borden, was based on White House visitor records, campaign disclosure reports and other government databases.

iWatchNews.org is an investigative arm of the Center for Public Integrity, a non-partisan organization.

The topline findings include:

"Overall, 184 of 556, or about one-third, of Obama bundlers or their spouses joined the administration in some role. But the percentages are much higher for the big-dollar bundlers. Nearly 80 percent of those who collected more than $500,000 for Obama took "key administration posts," as defined by the White House. More than half the ambassador nominees who were bundlers raised more than half a million."

READ THE ENTIRE iWatchNews.Org STORY HERE.


UPDATE

CLICK BELOW FOR WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY JAY CARNEY DEFENDING OBAMA ADMINISTRATION APPOINTMENTS

WASHINGTON--With the potential of Assistant Veterans Affairs Secretary Tammy Duckworth running for the House from the new Illinois 8th District, I asked Raja Krishnamoorthi--already in the contest--on Wednesday if he would step aside for the better known candidate and the answer for now is no.

"I'm in this race," he told me. "I have great respect for her and other potential candidates, but I am in this race and what I need to focus on are the issues voters care about right now, such as the economy and the middle class, medicare and public education I also am focusing on what it it would take for me to win."

Click below for Krishnamoorthi memo on his prospects and lists of endorsements....

Click here for my column on Duckworth resigning from the VA and the formidable resume she brings if she decides to run.

Gov. Pat Quinn has yet to sign the Democratic-drawn Illinois congressional remap....

Illinois Republicans have a fund-raiser Wednesday night in Washington for their legal fund to fight the Democratic remap in federal court.

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama, at a Los Angeles fund-raiser on Monday offered some glimpses into the private life of the first family--having "conversations" with daughter Malia about wearing heels.

The event was held at the home of Michael Smith, chosen by Mrs. Obama to be her White House interior designer.

President Obama had opinions about the drapes: "I mean, imagine moving to this new house -- it's a little more than a house -- not knowing where stuff goes, how it works, and Michael just -- he has the right temperament, because believe it or not, the President has opinions about his drapes. And Michael is very patient with him in a very humorous way. It's a very good balance. It's very interesting to watch."

On Sasha, who turned 10 last week and Malia, who will be 13 on July 4, with her at the fund-raiser: "They are growing. Malia is here. And yes we are having conversations about shorts and heels and all that stuff. I don't know what to do. But she's growing up. But at that time they were still young. And the last thing that I wanted to do was disrupt their lives and turn their routines upside down. The last thing that I wanted in the world was to spend time apart from my girls."

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama, with daughters Malia and Sasha continue Tuesday on a California fund-raising swing. Mrs. Obama headlined a breakfast at the Claremont Hotel in Berkeley, a wonderful old-style grand hotel tucked in the lower Berkeley Hills (and a few blocks from where I lived while attending the University of California at Berkeley, but I digress....)

Malia and Sasha and Marian Robinson, Mrs. Obama's mother, were spotted at Universal Studios near Hollywood on Monday...
Mrs. Obama hosted funders in the Los Angeles area on Monday.... Later, Mrs. Obama took the girls out for pizza in Hancock Park in L.A.

Famed Berkeley chef Alice Waters crafted the Claremont Hotel menu....

from the pool report...

"the menu, prepared by the staff of famed chef Alice Waters, included blood orange and tangerine juice, organic coffees and black tea; cherries, strawberries, blueberries and raspberries with yogurt and honey; baked farm eggs with fresh morels, asparagus vinaigrette and grilled whole wheat toast; and wild fennel biscotti, jam thumbprints and lemon verbena tisane."

WASHINGTON--President Obama, in Puerto Rico on Tuesday, touched on the matter of the status of the island, a touchy subject. Discussions over whether Puerto Rico should continue as a U.S. commonwealth, be a state or an independent nation have been ongoing for years.

Obama formed The President's Task Force on Puerto Rico to deal with the issue of the island's future.

Said Obama: "First of all, we've addressed the question of political status. In March, a report from our presidential task force on Puerto Rican status provided a meaningful way forward on this question so that the residents of the island can determine their own future. And when the people of Puerto Rico make a clear decision, my administration will stand by you."

Rep. Luis Gutierrez on Tuesday repeats his call for Puerto Rican independence here.

WASHINGTON--John Atkinson, who had been exploring a Democratic House bid from a Chicago area district, suspended his campaign on Tuesday, faced with the prospects of tough primaries in either of the two districts he was considering running from.

"I believe that it is in the best interest of my community and the state for me to suspend my exploratory campaign and support Bill Foster in his effort to become my Congressman in the new 11th Congressional District," Atkinson said in a statement. (Full statement at the click.)

UPDATE
Foster statement...

"In his words and in his actions, John Atkinson put his principles and his love of country ahead of political considerations, traits that would make him a great public servant. I am very proud and humbled to have his support. I share John's concerns about job creation and the direction of our nation, particularly Republican efforts to end Medicare as we know it and balance the budget on the backs of Illinois seniors . There is a right way and a wrong way to get our financial house in order, and I look forward to a vigorous debate about these issues with people like John Atkinson at my side," said Bill Foster.

END UPDATE

Former Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.) declared his candidacy in the new 11th district, drawn by Democratic mapmakers in Springfield to be heavily tilted for a Democrat. Atkinson got into the race at first intending to challenge Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), but Lipinski's dad, Bill, a former House member and Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan made sure Atkinson's house was not in the Lipinski district. Atkinson then started mulling a run from the 11th--designed to be an open seat--but Foster got in and quickly tried to nudge Atkinson out of the race. Foster commissioned a poll that showed him with an enormous running start over Atkinson.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has yet to sign the map, which will be challenged in court by Illinois Republicans. A fund-raiser to bankroll the GOP legal challenge will take place Wednesday at the Capitol Hill Club here.

WASHINGTON--Illinois House Republicans are fund-raising here on Wednesday to bankroll their anticipated legal challenge to the proposed congressional remap drawn by Illinois Democrats designed to create districts the Republicans would have difficulty winning.

I've written about "The Committee for a Fair and Balanced Map," created last year to be the lead group to mount challenges to the Democratic map. The group recently sent a letter to Gov. Quinn urging him not to sign off on the new districts. Quinn has not signed yet. The committee is expected to file a federal lawsuit challenging the map.

The Wednesday fund-raiser is at the Capitol Hill Club and is hosted by prominent Illinois Republicans: former Speaker Denny Hastert, former Labor Secretary Lynn Martin and former Rep. Tom Ewing.

Other hosts:
Susan Hirschmann, Tim Kurth, Sam Lancaster, Dan Mattoon
Royal Roth, David Thompson and Laura Zuckerman

WASHINGTON--The Illinois GOP congressional delegation--11 House members and a Senator-- are the headline draws at a Capitol Hill fund-raiser on Tuesday to benefit the Illinois Republican Party.

At bat for the Illinois Republican Party:

Senator Mark Kirk
Congresswoman Judy Biggert
Congressman Robert Dold
Congressman Randy Hultgren
Congressman Tim Johnson
Congressman Adam Kinzinger
Congressman Don Manzullo
Congressman Peter Roskam
Congressman Bobby Schilling
Congressman Aaron Schock
Congressman John Shimkus
Congressman Joe Walsh

WASHINGTON--President Obama visits Puerto Rico for a few hours on Tuesday, a stop aimed at Puerto Rican voters in Florida--a critical 2012 re-election state--as Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) again called for the island to become an independent nation.

"He's in Puerto Rico, but he's really speaking, as you suggested earlier, to over 4 million Puerto Ricans in the United States that will cast ballots for president, but he's really focusing, I believe, on one state," Gutierrez told Chuck Todd Tuesday on his MSNBC show. "We've seen a demographic shift in Puerto Rican population from the island to the United States not like any other since the 1950s when my mom and dad left the island of Puerto Rico to move to Chicago.

"There are 850,000 Puerto Ricans in the state of Florida -- that one state alone -- and that's a critical state because, you know, let's face it, Illinois, New York, those are states that -- you kind of know where those states are going, right?" Gutierrez said.

He added, "Florida is a very key state. And so I think what he's doing today is he's going to raise some money in Puerto Rico, and then he's going to take some photos. And it's a good idea -- you know, people drinking pina coladas and having.... on the tropical island of Puerto Rico. But, you know, I think people would rather see a president not taking photos but really taking action in order to help a community."

LYNN SWEET POST DEBATE ANALYSIS...

Winners...Mitt Romney and Michelle Bachman....

The top tier GOP contenders: Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty decided not to go after former Massaschusetts Gov. Mitt Romney over his Massachusetts health care plan to his face...Romney, the frontrunner had a very good night; pleasant, focused on Obama. Pawlenty had a very hard time making his points; did not make the best use of the debate.

Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Mn.) who many in the nation may know just from some goofy soundbites on political shows...She had articulate positions, answered pretty straightforward most questions, got some buzz by announcing she filed her presidential paperwork....got to show off her credentials....as well as her family: mother of five, foster mother of some two dozen.

Solid but not standout: Santorum.

Interesting but grouchy: Gingrich

Not ready for debate: Cain, especially in his Muslim answer.

Best riff: Paul, on why the U.S. should get out of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen.


* * * * * *

9:58 John King asks what have you learned these past two hours...
safe answer is New Hampshire folks ask good question..

9:54 pm question...polls show lack of enthusiasm for the GOP field...
CAIN...a lot of the people dont know us yet...as people get to know us, this is a good field of candidates...not a weak field..
PAWLENTY ASKED by JOHN KING...who was better choice for runningmate, BIDEN OR PALIN..takes the leap...."gov. p is a remarkable leader.." she is qualified to be president
ROMNEY...not clear in answer
BACHMANN...would ya pick someone on stage? Maybe need an American Idol contest.
PAUL...sidesteps


9:45 pm question right for US to be in Libya? a vital national interest?

BACHMANN..no...our policy is flawed...the president was wrong...he was not leading when it came to libya...we were not attacked...Sit on House Select Committee on Intelligence....we don't know who rebels are...
GINGRICH..seems to agree with Bachmann...we have no idea what percent of Libyan rebels are Al Queda....
CAIN...we dont understand the problem...


9:41 pm...question...osama is dead...isnt it time to have troops leave Afghanistan...

ROMNEY will do so when get word from Generals Afghans can defend themselves from Taliban...we learned...our troops should not go fight for independence for others
PAUL... i wouldnt wait for generals...get troops home as soon as possible..Afgahistan, Iraq, Libya...NO BOMBING IN Yemen....longer there, worst things are....
PAWLENTY....not sure position..


REMINDER: Not in the debate...Jon Huntsman, who is expected to declare in about ten days...Rick Perry...thinking about a run...or Sarah Palin....who is a maybe...

King to PAWLENTY....coke or pepsi?
Coke, says Pawlenty...

iowa question...end ethanol subsidies?

SANTORUM.. could phase it out

30 minutes left, on Immigration now
birthright citizenship?
CAIN ...i dont believe so...get serious about securing the borders...promote the path to citizenship...empower the states...to do....not sure what...

John king to PAWLENTY...should each state have its own policy..."let the states do it," sent minnesota national guard to the border...birthright...points out how important it is to appoint conservative judges....

King: Should states be spending money on this...
GINGRICH...country is in trouble because of elites...we are never going to pass a comprehensive immigration bill...control the border...send national guard to the border...take half of department of homeland security bureaucrats to the border...should not be trapped into a yes or know answer....there are humane practical steps..if pols and the news media would cool it...


9:21 pm would try to ban gays in military or leave obama policy in place
CAIN have other things to do
PAWLENTY..leave it to military
PAUL...behavior counts..
ROMNEY...i believe dont ask dont tell should have been left in place until conflict is over
GINGRICH...I would listen to commanders
BACHMANN..I WOULD keep dodt, confer with chiefs to see how it was being implemented.
SANTORUOM...should be repealed...punish bad behavior

9:18 pm gay marriage...should pres. use position to chance
BACHMANN..brings up she and her husband took in 23 foster children..i am running for the presidency of the United States and i dont see...role of president to go into states...
PAWLENTY..for a const. amend to define marriage as between man and women
PAUL...govt should get out
GINGRICH, SANTORUM, for a const. amend.
BACHMANN...comes back to say does support const. amend, but would not go to states to change state law.

9:14 pm
to ROMNEY...spicy or mild wings...
Spicy, Romney says.
9:11 pm
to CAIN, Godfather's Pizza former CEO...deep dish or thin pizza
Deep Dish, says Cain

9:05 Cain flails over explaining what he meant regarding Muslims...ROMNEY...not having to say he is Mormon, calls for tolerance...

9:02...Debt limit ceiling ..should it be raised
ROMNEY...maybe...need a president to "reign in" excess spending. "Where is the presidents ideas" He is not leading...budget..on jobs....

9:00 social security...should retirement age be raised, income means tested..
CAIN..talks about Chile...wont say about retirement age...

8:54..How keep Medicare solvent...
PAUL...cut foreign, military aid and let people opt out of the whole system...
GINGRICH..side steps why he criticized Paul Ryan plan...
PAWLENTY...says he will have his own plan out...


8:53 pm
Blackberry or Iphone to Paul...He thinks a moment, says Blackberry

HALF TIME LYNN SWEET SCORE: Bachmann, Romney doing best of the seven....

8:51 PM John King "this or that" question for Gingrich...
"Dancing with the Stars" or American Idol.
With great solemnity, Gingrich replies, "American Idol."
So far, the finest moment for the former Speaker.

8:50
Romney sidestepping question about disaster relief...

8:48 pm should federal govt be doing food safety?
CAIN...yes...

8:46 PM question..what should govt be doing about housing?
PAWLENTY...unions partly to blame!...Obama programs a failure...got to get the private sector growing!
PAUL...corrections are good!..need to get prices of housing down to clear the market...

8:43 pm question..role of government in future space exploration...
GINGRICH...NASA a case study in why govt cannot innovate...too much of a bureaucracy...NASA ought to be getting out of the way..
PAWLENTY...we should not eliminate the space program...
GINGRICH...i did not say end....decentralize...
ROMNEY...

8:39 pm question..was auto bailout a succcess?
ROMNEY...critical of the BUSH AND OBAMA administrations for auto bailout...perception in country that government knows better...allow private sector...to create a brighter future...
John King tries to make Romney eat his 2008 words...predicting auto companies would not survive if a bailout...
SANTORUM...agrees with Romney, should have just let auto companies go to bankruptcy..
BACHMANN...I fought against ..my own party...against TARP

8:37 pm
question...what should government do to hurt private enterprise.
PAUL...Should not happen...

BACHMANN...elvis or johnny cash? She says both..

8:32 pm
John King is going to ask the gang some questions through the debate to bring out their personalities and we learn
SANTORUM...Leno or Conan? never watches Leno....


8:30 pm..question..support right to work laws?

PAWLENTY...govt should not tell us what to do..
GINGRICH...Congress should defund the National Labor Relations Board...meddling in Boeing in South Carolina...(an early primary state)
CAIN...believe in right to work...

8:25 pm...how get more manufacturing jobs in the U.S.
PAUL...have a strong federal currency...
PAWLENTY.. "I was in a union!" ..have to have fair trade...."not for being stupid, not for being a chump....blames high taxes, obamacare...
BACHMANN...reduce corporate tax rate..."need to pass the mother of all repeal bills..and I would start with the EPA...
SANTORUM..cut capital gains tax in half
everybody thinks ya can create jobs through the tax code....

8:20 P.M. question about Tea Party and what should mainstream GOPers do...
BACHMANN...reminds chairman of the Tea Party Caucus...we need everybody to come together...I want to announce tonight..."President Obama is a one term president."
John King reminds us...CNN hosting Tea Party debate in September...

8:13 P.M. health care question...Republicans talking about "Obamacare"
BACHMANN.. will not rest till I repeal Obamacare...this is a job killer...
ROMNEY..RE pawlenty re obamneycare....I will repeal obamacare...is he going to igonre Pawlenty taunt? CNN showing split screen shot with Pawlenty...
PAWLENTY...DId not give a clear answer here...did not want to address why coined phrase Obamney care..John King pressing him...Pawlenty does not seem to want to take on Romney now over the Mass. health care plan.
ROMNEY..acting like a frontrunner...saying cant wait to debate Obama over health care...wondered why Obama did not call him to ask what worked in Massachusetts.
GINGRICH...this campaign can't just be about the presidency...have to pick up seats in Senate and Congress...


8:12 still on jobs
PAUL...HUH??


8:10 still on jobs
GINGRICH... Obama "destructive" on jobs
BACHMANN...just announced she filed paperwork today...to run for president...SHE'S IN.

8:05
First question about job creation
CAIN....economy stalled....lower capital gains tax to zero...
SANTORUM...Obama "oppressive regulations" "Obamacare" bad for business....blames Obama for high oil prices..."we need to drill.."
PAWLENTY...cut taxes, reduce regulation, Obama is a "declinist," that's a new phrase...says he could deliver 5 percent annual growth...a figure that has been dinged by fact checkers as overly optimistic.
ROMNEY...housing prices in decline, "this president has failed..delegated stimulus to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.


8:03 pm est
Newt Gingrich slams President Obama while he is introducing himself. Looks grouchy. Others are upbeat, at least in the first three minutes.

Herman Cain...not a politician, he says. Happy to be on a stage with better known folks.


WASHINGTON--I'm live blogging tonight the first GOP 2012 presidential debate in the first in the nation primary state. Seven contenders--not all declared yet--are on the stage at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire. The moderator is CNN's John King, thrilled to be back, in "Red Sox nation."

At bat...

Michele Bachmann
Herman Cain
Newt Gingrich
Ron Paul
Tim Pawlenty
Mitt Romney
Rick Santorum

WASHINGTON--NBC's Today Show new co-host Ann Curry asked President Obama if Rep. Anthony Weiner should resign on Monday and Obama all but said he should quit.

Said Obama, "Well, obviously what he did was highly inappropriate. I think he's embarrassed himself, he's acknowledged that, he's embarrassed his wife and his family. Ultimately there's going to be a decision for him and his constituents. I can tell you that if it was me, I would resign. Because public service is exactly that, it's a service to the public. And when you get to the point where, because of various personal distractions, you can't serve as effectively as you need to at the time when people are worrying about jobs and their mortgages and paying the bills, then you should probably step back."

WASHINGTON--Team Obama has a multi-front game plan Monday night to deal with the first 2012 Republican debate, to start 8 p.m. est on CNN, live from New Hampshire. Former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs will play a key role defending President Obama. The operation is being run by the Democratic National Committee, but I assure you: Obama 2012 headquarters in Chicago is watching.

Here are the details:

*Gibbs is in New Hampshire booked for a series of national and regional interviews before and after the debate. Exclusive: On Tuesday morning, Gibbs will hit the a.m. talk shows: CNN's American Morning, Fox and Friends, CBS' Early Show and MSNBC.

*Flooding the zone. Obama 2012 top strategist David Axelrod was deployed to CNN in D.C., where he guests on the debate pre-show, "John King, USA."

*Democratic National Committee top spokesman Brad Woodhouse will handle post debate spin room duties at the debate site, St. Anselm's College.

*The DNC is deploying folks to work all social media-Twitter, web, etc. during the debate and will run a fact check operation.

*The DNC is also doing what is called pre-buttal, taking aim in particular at Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney. At the click, a DNC pre debate memo.

WASHINGTON--President Obama and First Lady Michelle are both headlining events to benefit his 2012 re-election bid on Monday. Obama has three events in Miami on Monday while Mrs. Obama has two events is in the Los Angeles area.

Pool report from Mrs. Obama Pasadena funder:


Luncheon fund-raiser in Pasadena. No news.

About 500 people gathered on the ample lawn behind the Pasadena home of Ann and Robert Hamilton for a lunch-time fundraiser. Outside of the two-story Mediterranean-style home, a fountain spat water from a swimming pool and several women lounged nearby, strumming harps.

Guests paid $1,000 per ticket to attend the event. They sat at tables draped in white linen and dined on tamales, corn salad and fruit tarts. The majority of the guest were African-American women -- the fundraiser was organized by Southern California Women For Obama.

The First Lady arrived at approximately 12:40 PST and spoke for about 25 minutes. Lena Kennedy, the co-chair of the event, introduced her as "the not-so-secret weapon of the President of the United States."

WASHINGTON--Veterans Affairs Assistant Secretary Tammy Duckworth submitted her resignation, the VA confirmed for me on Monday. One of her options will be to return to the Chicago suburbs to run for a House seat from the new 8th Congressional District and I bet she does.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki told the Chicago Sun-Times in a statement, "Assistant Secretary Duckworth has submitted her resignation. She has served the Department of Veterans Affairs with distinction. Her unwavering dedication to Veterans and their families has strengthened VA's ability to perform our mission--providing Veterans the healthcare and benefits they have earned.

"Tammy Duckworth uniquely understands the needs of today's Veterans and their families, and her commitment to serving Veterans and increasing VA's outreach has helped the department serve more Veterans and serve them well. We will miss her advocacy and leadership, but wish her the very best in the years to come."

In 2006, Duckworth, 43, ran for the House in the present Illinois 6th Congressional District, beat by Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) in a close race.

If Duckworth ran for the House again, she would have a much stronger resume than the first time around--since then, she ran the Illinois veterans agency and is one of the top VA officials in Washington-- and would be running from a more Democratic district.

Her Hoffman Estates home is in the proposed new 8th Congressional District, anchored in the northwest suburbs--and designed by Illinois Democrats in the remap they drew to have a Democratic tilt.

The new 8th contains large tracts of territory from the present 6th district where Duckworth beat Roskam in 2006 and other turf that could yield Democrat votes.
When Duckworth ran in 2006, her candidacy was encouraged and supported by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), then Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and then Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), now Chicago's mayor, who at the time was running the House political operation.

I bet that if Duckworth runs again--she would quickly be able to recreate the local and national financial base that helped her raise some $4.5 million in 2006 and secure the backing again of Emily's List.

Her association with Obama opens doors to his fund-raising network and would also be a boost in a year he is running for re-election, where turnout will be high in his adopted home state.

Duckworth lost both legs and shattered an arm when her helicopter was shot down in Iraq in November, 2004. She met Durbin while she was recovering in Washington at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and he helped launch her 2006 House bid.

After she was defeated, she became chief of the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs, serving while maintaining her membership in the Illinois National Guard, where she is a major.

Duckworth was tapped by Obama in February, 2009 to be one of the top spots in the VA-- Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Last month, Obama also named Duckworth to the Board of Trustees of the American Folklife Center.

In that job, she has maintained a high national profile while remaining connected to Illinois. She has several official speaking engagements on her calendar in Illinois for later this month.

Duckworth was born in Thailand and grew up in Hawaii, earning her undergraduate degree from the University of Hawaii; her masters is from George Washington University in D.C.; she did work on her doctorate at Northern Illinois University. She worked at the Center for Nursing Research at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, and Rotary International's Asia-Pacific region from 2002 to 2004.


Her husband, Major Bryan Bowlsbey is an Iraq war vet and a National Guard officer.

In Hawaii over Memorial Day, Duckworth talked to reporters and closed down rumors she may run for a Senate seat from her native Hawaii.

Said Duckworth: "As honored as I am by all those who'd like me to run here -- and I get asked that question all the time -- my home and my National Guard unit are in Illinois. And if I run for office again, it'll be there," she told Hawaii reporters.

There is a potential for a Democratic primary. Former Deputy Illinois Treasurer Raja Krishnamoorthi has already announced he will run in the 8th congressional district. He lost his his Democratic primary election for state comptroller in 2010.

Former 8th Distict Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.), defeated last November by Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) is the new President and CEO of The Executives' Club of Chicago and is not looking for a rematch in 2012.

Gov. Quinn has not yet signed the new map, which will be challenged in federal court by Illinois Republicans. No Republican has yet staked a claim in the new 8th.

WASHINGTON--White House Press Secretary Jay Carney commented for the first time Monday on the Rep. Anthony Weiner mess--and was critical of Weiner but did not call for him to resign.

Said Carney, "The President feels -- we feel at the White House that this is a distraction. Obviously as Congressman Weiner has said himself, this is -- the behavior was inappropriate; the dishonesty was inappropriate. But the President is focused on his job, which is getting this economy continuing to grow, creating jobs, and obviously ensuring the safety and security of the American people."

Q Did any of the President's top aides have any role in engineering or encouraging Anthony Weiner to resign or to step aside?

MR. CARNEY: Well, I think this is an issue that the Congress has been addressing, congressional leaders have been addressing, and that Congressman Weiner has been addressing.

Q But did any of his top aides have conversations --

MR. CARNEY: Not that I'm aware of.

Q Does the President believe that Anthony Weiner should resign?

MR. CARNEY: Again, I think I answered that question. We think this is a distraction obviously from the important business that this President needs to conduct and Congress needs to conduct. Beyond that, I don't have any more comment.

WASHINGTON--GOP 2012 White House hopeful Mitt Romney slams President Obama in a new spot for calling the slow economic recovery a "bump in the road."

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked Monday to react to the spot: Does the president regret using the phrase "bump in the road" to describe the economy? Was it appropriate?

Said Carney, "Bump in the road is exactly what the president said, when you are emerging from the worst recession since the Great Depression, 8 million jobs lost because of the recession that he inherited when he took office ... what he said is that as we emerge from this recession it's not going to be a straight road, there may be some bumps on the road. These are common phrases in the English lexicon and his meaning is clear. We are headed in the right direction, but it is not necessarily a smooth path and it is precisely because of the devastating impact of the recession he inherited... "

WASHINGTON--CNN hosts the first debate between the 2012 Republican presidential contenders on Monday night, starting at 8 p.m. est.

Seven GOP candidates will appear at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., the first primary state.

Michele Bachmann
Herman Cain
Newt Gingrich
Ron Paul
Tim Pawlenty
Mitt Romney
Rick Santorum

WASHINGTON--Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) is sending himself into treatment, making the announcement on Saturday as House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic National Committee Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz called for his resignation.

Weiner is resisting stepping down as a result of his sexting scandal--sending lewd photos of himself to woman and then lying about it.

Pelosi said in a statement, Congressman Weiner has the love of his family, the confidence of his constituents, and the recognition that he needs help. I urge Congressman Weiner
to seek that help without the pressures of being a Member of Congress."

Pelosi is not letting Weiner off the hook with his treatment decision--where he will ask the House to grant him a leave of absence.

A Pelosi aide said Saturday afternoon, "At the time of her statement this afternoon, Leader Pelosi was already aware of Congressman Weiner's intention to take a leave of absence in order to seek treatment.

Said Wasserman Schultz in a statement released Saturday: "It is with great disappointment that I call on Representative Anthony Weiner to resign. The behavior he has exhibited is indefensible and Representative Weiner's continued service in Congress is untenable. This sordid affair has become an unacceptable distraction for Representative Weiner, his family, his constituents and the House - and for the good of all, he should step aside and address those things that should be most important - his and his family's well-being."

WASHINGTON--Sasha Obama turned 10 on Friday and celebrated her birthday with her family at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland. Her sister, Malia, is 13 on July 4.

By the way...President Obama hits 50 on Aug. 4.

Obama and First Lady Michelle and her mother, Marian Robinson, headed out to Camp David on Friday afternoon, with Marine One lifting off from the White House at 3:34 p.m. According to the pool report, Malia and Sasha traveled separately to Camp David.

Sasha Obama celebrated her ninth birthday at home in 2010.

In 2009, Mrs. Obama and her daughters were in London for a summer vacation, marking Sasha's eighth birthday by visiting the set of a Harry Potter movie.

WASHINGTON--Some 24,199 e-mails from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin--who may / may not be mulling a 2012 presidential bid--will be released on Friday morning. The e-mails will cover most of her tenure as governor--with no redactions. Several news outlets bought copies of the e-mail files and will be posting and analyzing the contents.

The Palin Alaska e-mails will be an experiment in on-line pro/am cooperation. Professional journalists--and citizen researchers--will be "crowdsourcing"--sorting and trying to make sense of the e-mails, starting as soon as they are released. Check out the Washington Post and Mother Jonesto track Friday's Palin e-mail developments. NBC'S Mike Isikoff is reporting live from Juneau this afternoon on MSNBC.

MOTHER JONES, NBC AND PRO PUBLICA ARE DOING A JOINT PROJECT ON THE PALIN EMAILS. FOR AN OVER VIEW, CLICK HERE.


WASHINGTON--Former Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.), making a 2012 comeback bid in the new 11th congressional district, starts the contest in a much stronger position than potential Democratic rival John Atkinson, according to a poll Foster commissioned.

I was shown the entire Foster poll--by the Global Strategy Group--as Atkinson is weighing whether to run in the new 11th district--or stay with his original plan, to challenge Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) in the 3rd congressional district. Either way, Atkinson would face a Democratic primary.

The poll of 400 likely Democratic 2012 primary voters was taken between June 2 and June 5 and has a 4.9 percent margin of error.

WASHINGTON--Rep. Anthony Weiner's wife, a top aid to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is pregnant, with the news coming Wednesday just as he is facing the biggest crisis of his career over a sexting scandal made worse because he lied about sending lewd picture of himself to women.

The New York Times reported that Weiner's wife, Huma Abedin, is pregnant, basing the report on three un-named sources.

The couple were married last year in a ceremony officiated by former President Bill Clinton.

Weiner, at his press conference earlier this week where he confessed about the photos and his coverup, said he would not split from his wife.

"We will weather this," Mr. Weiner said Monday. "I love her very much, and she loves me."

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama touted breastfeeding in a speech aimed at improving healthy eating habits at child care centers as a way to reduce youth obesity.

Click here for my February column on how Mrs. Obama planned to speak out more to remove barriers to breastfeeding.
The subject turnout out to be a bit controversial, so for the record this is what Kristina Schake, Mrs. Obama's communications chief, told me then:"Breastfeeding is a very personal choice for every woman. We are trying to make it easier for those who choose to do it."

On Wednesday, Mrs. Obama said one part of the healthy nutrition equation for the very young was "supporting mothers who choose to breastfeed. Whether we do it in our workplaces or in our child care facilities, breastfeeding, as we have learned, is one of the ways to reduce the level of obesity in a child. The longer a mother can breastfeed, the better off a child will be on a whole range of health issues. And I know here at CentroNia that you all are working to make sure that mothers can bring their milk to their child on a daily basis. Those are the kind of things that workplaces -- that we all need to understand is an important part of a family's well being and a child's health."

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday posted all City of Chicago employee salaries on-line. The data is very easy to search by name. The search is on the upper right side; use last name first.


Check out the salaries here.

Sun-Times political writer Abdon M. Pallasch on former Illinois deputy treasurer Krishnamoorthi jumping into the Democratic primary in the new 8th Congressional District in north suburban Illinois. Gov. Quinn still has not signed the Democratic-drawn remap, to be challenged in federal court by Illinois Republicans because the Illinois Democrats put too many thumbs on the scale.

My bottom line: Will Tammy Duckworth run? The Iraq war vet--former suburban Chicago House candidate---former Illinois VA chief--and now a top exec at the VA in Washington--seems tailored for the new district.

In Hawaii over Memorial Day, Duckworth talked to reporters and closed down rumors she may run for a Senate seat from her native Hawaii.

Said Duckworth: "As honored as I am by all those who'd like me to run here -- and I get asked that question all the time -- my home and my National Guard unit are in Illinois. And if I run for office again, it'll be there," she said.

german rose garden.jpgGerman State Dinner outdoors in the White House Rose Garden (AP Photo)


President Obama and First Lady Michelle hosted their first outdoor State Dinner on Wednesday night, for German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Click here for a photo gallery.

Click here for a White House video: Inside the White House kitchen, preparing for the German State Dinner.

WASHINGTON--Chicagoans at Tuesday's Obama State Dinner for German Chancellor Angela Merkel:

Architect Helmut Jahn, Deborah L Jahn
Attorney John Cooney, Barbara Cooney
Bruce Heyman, a managing director Goldman Sachs and Vicki Heyman
Kraft CEO Irene B. Rosenfeld, Richard Illgen

Chicagoans from the Obama administration....

White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley and Bernadette Keller; Senior Advisor, Valerie Jarrett; Council of Economic Chair Austan Goolsbee and Robin Goolsbee

Federal wiretaps transcripts revealed Tuesday in the Rod Blagojevich criminal retrial in Chicago featured Blagojevich, then the Illinois governor, plotting in 2008 with then Rep., now Mayor Rahm Emanuel over if he would appoint a placeholder--Forrest Claypoole--to his House seat while he serves as President Obama's chief of staff, if he could figure out a legal way to do it. Vacant House seats--unlike in the Senate--are supposed to be filled by a special election.

PDF: Transcript of Blagojevich, Emanuel phone call (Warning: Contains adult language)

the president.jpgPhoto by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama. Shot in the State Dining Room.

WASHINGTON--President Obama and First Lady Michelle host a State Dinner Tuesday for German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Rose Garden, transformed into a venue inspired by the German Bauhaus school of design. James Taylor and members of the National Symphony Orchestra will perform. The Bush China will be used.

Dinner Menu

White House Chopped Garden Salad

Fine Herbs

White House Honey Gastrique

Tuna Tartare with Rye Crisps

Pickeled Young Carrots and Mustard Oil

Spring Pea Salad

Shaved Ham and Ginger Snaps

Petit Filet with Maryland Crab Ravioli

Wild Ramp Puree

Apple Strudel

Golden Raisins and Topfen

WASHINGTON--President Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel smoothed over their differences on Libya during their joint press appearence Tuesday at the White House. The two leaders had a private dinner at a Georgetown restaurant on Monday night and Obama honors her at a State Dinner--the first for a European leader and the first for a female leader--Tuesday night. Merkel will receive from Obama the U.S. Medal of Freedom.

The Germans never signed on to the NATO strikes over Libya. Obama told the German paper Tagesspiegel he wanted to discuss with Merkel how "we can enhance our work together to more effectively address the changes underway in the region, including in Libya."

At the Tuesday press conference, Obama said regarding Libya and Germany, "we did discuss last night Germany's role, and there is going to be a lot of work to do when Qaddafi does step down, in terms of getting the Libyan people back on their feet -- economic, political work that's going to have to be done. And my expectation is going to be that there will be full and robust German support as there has been in the past from Germany on a wide range of issues."


Merkel said Germany will be stepping up to the plate. "Germany will be showing that it is responsible and committed to the Libyan cause," she said. "It is our joint will that this NATO mission is successful."

CLICK BELOW FOR PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT

WASHINGTON--Christoph von Marschall, the White House Correspondent FOR "Der Tagesspiegel," in Berlin and the author of books about President Obama and First Lady Michelle, had a wide ranging interview with Obama before the arrival of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Obama was hoping going into the Merkel meetings to get more help from Germany for the NATO strike force in Libya.

UPSHOT: On Tuesday, at an Obama/Merkel joint press conference, Obama thanked Germany for stepping up to do more once in the air waged against Libian Leader Moammar] Kadafi works.

von Marschall in his Obama exclusive asks, " Where could Germany do better in taking global responsibility and being a leader? Germany has been criticized for not taking part in Nato's operation in Libya. How does such an experience change your relationship with Angela Merkel? One consequence seems to be that Germany does not take part in military consultations?"

"Said Obama, "Germany is already a global leader and we are in constant contact with one other to coordinate our efforts. Germany has some 7,000 troops deployed in several different operations around the world, so it is making a significant contribution to international peace and security. We especially appreciate its contributions to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, where Germany provides some 5,000 troops, making it the third largest national contingent. In addition, Germany commands the entire northern region, heads two Provincial Reconstruction Teams, and provides the logistical support base for all ISAF forces in the area, including several thousand U.S. troops. Of course, this mission does not come without sacrifice, and our hearts go out to the families of the more than 50 German soldiers who have given their lives, including several in recent weeks, to help keep our countries safe."

"On Libya, there is no harder decision to make than whether or not to commit one's military men and women to armed conflict. We appreciate Germany's support for NATO operations in all theatres, from the Balkans to Afghanistan, off the Horn of Africa and in Libya. As a member of NATO, Germany is part of NATO's command structure and makes meaningful contributions to all NATO operations. I also want to commend Germany for recently deploying its AWACS surveillance planes to Afghanistan in order to free up other NATO members' pilots and aircraft for the NATO operation in Libya. I would also note that Germany is playing an important role in responding to the democratic transitions that are underway in North Africa. I look forward to discussing with the Chancellor how we can enhance our work together to more effectively address the changes underway in the region, including in Libya."

WASHINGTON--Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel makes his national debut as mayor--and deals with his counterparts--later this month when he speaks at the the 79th annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Baltimore.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa becomes the new president of organization--a group former Mayor Richard M. Daley led and had been very active in during his mayoral tenure.

From the conference:

Featured speakers include: House of Representatives Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, MD Governor Martin O'Malley, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (Fri); U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue (Mon), Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (date TBD), Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and many others.

GOP 2012 presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty is in President Obama's turf on Tuesday to unveil his economic proposals and accuse Obama of "Big Government," a catch phrase Pawlenty may fill in at his University of Chicago speech.


Click below for speech excerpts.....

UPDATE
React from Democratic Committee National Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz at the end of the excerpts....END UPDATE

WASHINGTON--Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Ill.)--the dean of the Illinois Democratic House delegation--who took the lead in working with Springfield Democrats in the congressional remap which heavily favors Democrats--is getting payback from Republicans, who usually have left him alone.

Costelllo is hit on Medicare--in a web ad that basically says he did not support a GOP Medicare overhaul plan. It's a bit of table turning; Democrats are going after Republicans--(re the Democratic recent win in a New York House race) over the Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) Medicare proposal. Now the GOP is going after a Democrat over Medicare.


A GOP source told me the National Republican Congressional Committee did the spot because they think Costello left himself weaker in the new district he drew for himself to run from in 2012. Illinois Republicans asked Gov. Pat Quinn not to sign the map and signaled they will fight the Democratic plan in federal court.

WASHINGTON--Austan Goolsbee, Chairman of President Obama's Council of Economic Advisers--who has advised Obama since he was an Illinois Senate candidate--will leave the White House later this year to return to the University of Chicago business school next fall.

"Since I first ran for the U.S. Senate, Austan has been a close friend and one of my most trusted advisers," President Obama said.

Obama elevated the popular Goolsbee--one of the most public defenders and explainers of the administration's economic recovery strategies--">to chairman last Sept. 10, replacing Christina Romer as chair. Last year, she returned to teaching at the University of California, Berkeley.

Goolsbee decided to depart at this time to preserve his tenure at the U of C. The school has "been beyond understanding of my public service," Goolsbee told the Chicago Sun-Times. Goolsbee, who advised Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, is expected to assist the 2012 Obama re-election drive--headquartered in Chicago--when he returns to his Hyde Park home.

MY BOTTOM LINE: Watch for Goolsbee to emerge as a leading "public face" for the Obama 2012 drive; he'll be reunited with top Obama strategist David Axelrod back in Chicago.

Illinois congressional Republicans are heading to federal court to protest the ultra partisan congressional remap drawn by Illinois Democrats. One of the GOP arguments is that the map shortchanges Hispanics by not carving out a second congressional district with lines drawn to elect a Hispanic. While such a district would likely yield a Democrat, Republicans are making the argument in order to force a judge to redraw all the district lines--gambling that a new court drawn map would punish Republicans less. Chicago Sun-Times political writer Abdon M. Pallasch, in an interview with Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) writes that the Illinois Hispanic establishment leaders and Gutierrez--decided not to push for a second Hispanic district. Without Hispanics complaining, will the GOP get traction with their strategy?

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is on the stand again today in his criminal corruption retrial and is being cross examined about alleged schemes dealing with now Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the appointment of now White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett to the Senate seat being vacated by Barack Obama after he was elected president.

Read all about it over at the Sun-Times Blago Blog, with Sun-Times federal courts reporter Natasha Korecki, Springfield Bureau Chief Dave McKinney, political writer Abdon M. Pallasch and Lark Turner.

While these plots have been reported earlier by the Sun-Times--and covered in Blagojevich's first trial last summer--hearing details from Blagojevich himself under sworn testimony for the first time is new.

Monday HIghlights:

We've heard it before, but bears repeating since it's from Blagojevich's mouth:

Blagojevich was asked if then newly designated White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel was pushing him to appoint Jarrett as senator to get her out of the White House.

"You believed Rahm Emanuel wanted her out of the White House?" federal prosecutor Reid Schar asked

"Yes," Blagojevich said.


Blagojevich testified that he and Emanuel explored whether Blagojevich could appoint a place holder to the House seat Emanuel was vacating to become Obama's White House Chief of Staff.

MY POINT: Unlike Senate openings, the Constitution calls for House vacancies to be filled by elections--not appointments. So Emanuel and Blagojevich thought they could get around the Constitution?

WASHINGTON--The White House, with an assist from Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Friday, is pushing back against Republicans--presidential hopefuls and others--who assert President Obama's Israeli/Palestinian policy is weakening prospects to jumpstart peace negotiations.


"I am grateful that this president has not given up trying to find a path that would bring the parties back to the negotiating table," Emanuel wrote in an op-ed in Friday's Washington Post that quickly was noticed in Israel.


A new White House web site explaining Obama's Middle East policy--launched Friday and shopped around to U.S. Jewish groups-- is seen as an element in a concerted effort on the part of the White House to forcefully fight back against critics who complain that Obama is weak on Israel.

Obama has been having to prove and defend his support-of-Israel credentials since the 2008 presidential campaign. Obama won the White House with 78 percent of the Jewish vote and with massive campaign fund-raising help from the U.S. Jewish community.

Emanuel, Obama's former White House chief of staff--whose father is an Israeli immigrant-- penned the op-ed column to defend Obama's May 19 speech on the Middle East where the president said "the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed land swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states."

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who announced his GOP bid for president on Thursday, said last month Obama "threw Israel under the bus." Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, also mulling a 2012 run, called it "the most dangerous speech ever made by an American president for the survival of Israel."

Republicans seem intent on trying to cause a rift between Obama and his Jewish supporters. Comments by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid after Obama's speech were not seen as helpful--but their remarks were seen as a one-time shot, not the kind of persistent criticism expected to continue to come from Republicans.

Obama's language--the mentioning of the 1967 borders on the record--triggered a controversy in part because the speech came the day before the White House visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu had wanted the line cut from the speech and ended up delivering a lecture to Obama about Israeli history during a joint press conference at the White House on May 20.

Emanuel, also a former Clinton White House advisor, wrote in the Post that Obama's comments "stated a concept that has been the basis of every serious attempt at a resolution since he negotiations President Bill Clinton held at Camp David in 2000. He reminded us that every president and many Israeli elected leaders have recognized that the borders are one starting point for negotiations, not the end point."

Emanuel's op ed drew reaction from the Israeli press. Haaretz noted in its news story about Emanuel's column that he was attempting "to assuage Israeli fears that the U.S. administration expects Israel to return to 1967 borders, clarifying that this was never Obama's policy."

Another op-ed defending Obama on Israeli was posted Friday by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fl.) the chairman of the Democratic Committee.

"Whether it is for political gain or other motives, the distortion of President Obama's record and position on Israel only plays into the hands of the enemies of Israel by falsely suggesting that there is a softening of U.S. policy," she wrote.

On Friday afternoon, Danielle Borin, the White House liaison to the Jewish-American community sent out an e-mail to Jewish groups announcing the launch of a new White House web page dedicated to explaining Obama's Middle East policy.

"We're pleased to provide you with a powerful new resource on the White House website designed to answer any questions about President Obama's commitment to advancing Israel's security and supporting peace," Borin wrote in a note signed, "Shabbat shalom," Danielle.

"When we put it all together, the White House and their allies are building a strong, pro-active response to the lies and distortions that Republicans have been pushing about the President's excellent record on Israel," said David A. Harris, President and CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council."

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle, daughters Malia and Sasha and Marian Robinson, her mother, travel to Cape Town, South Africa and Gaborone, Botswana for according to the White House, "an official visit to Africa from June 21 - 26 focused on youth leadership, education, health and wellness."

This will be Mrs. Obama's second solo international swing. She made her first solo overseas trip in April, 2010, for a few hours in Haiti and then to Mexico City to discuss what she said would be her new agenda of youth international engagement.

Mrs. Obama and her daughters visited Kenya in 2006, with President Obama when he was an Illinois senator visiting the nation where his father was born and is buried.

WASHINGTON--Former two-time presidential candidate John Edwards was indicted on Friday; he is accused in six counts of improperly using what the federal government asserted were campaign contributions for his mistress.

Read the Edwards Indictment here.Edwards_Indictment.pdf


WASHINGTON--Mayor Rahm Emanuel flew here from Chicago on Thursday afternoon to celebrate the upcoming bat mitzvah of his daughter, Ilana.

The Emanuel family--wife Amy and three children--remained here to finish the 2011 school year--after Emanuel returned to Chicago in 2010 to run for mayor. The family moved to a rented house across from the National Cathedral here when Emanuel was President Obama's chief of staff.

Ilana's bat mitzvah comes a little over a year after the Emanuel family traveled to Israel in May, 2010, to celebrate the bar mitzvah of his son, Zach, and a nephew.

Emanuel flew in first class on his United flight.

WASHINGTON--President Obama once thought of becoming an architect, he said at Thursday's Pritzker Architecture Prize event here. Obama lauded Chicago's Pritzker family--Penny Pritzker was his 2008 presidential fund-raising chair--as well as Chicago's storied architecture in his remarks.

Referring to Tom Pritzker, Obama said, "Now, as Tom mentioned, my interest in architecture goes way back. There was a time when I thought I could be an architect, where I expected to be more creative than I turned out, so I had to go into politics instead."

WASHINGTON--Illinois Republicans are asking Gov. Quinn on Friday to veto a heavily gerrymandered congressional remap designed to favor Democrats, arguing the new districts likely violate the federal Voting Rights Act.

The letter to Quinn--I've obtained a copy--is dated today--June 3--and is signed by eight Illinois Republicans--the leadership of "The Committee for a Fair and Balanced Map--including former House Speaker Denny Hastert and former Labor Secretary Lynn Martin, also a former Rockford House member.

Martin is the chair of The Committee for a Fair and Balanced Map, a group incorporated last December with the Illinois Secretary of State, designed to bankroll and oversee legal challenges to the remap. (My column on fund-raising efforts by the Committee to battle the Democratic map is here.)

"This proposal fractures longstanding communities with gerrymandered boundaries for apparent partisan purposes," Quinn is told in the letter.

The group also tells Quinn "the proposal targets and divides existing Republican communities, combines other Republican communities together, and forces Republican incumbents to run against each other, all while strengthening the districts of Democratic incumbents. This is inconsistent with the will of the people, who just six months ago elected five new Illinois Republican Congressmen."

The current Illinois House delegation has 11 Republicans and 8 Democrats. Illinois will lose a seat starting in the 2012 elections because of population shifts in the 2010 Census. Among the arguments Quinn is urged to consider:

*The Democratic drawn map splits suburban "communities of interest"--areas with much in common--and scattered residents so that their "interests" would be diluted. Some residents in the west suburban current 13th congressional district--presently represented by Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) would find themselves dispersed into six districts--three of them stretching into Democratic precincts in Chicago.

*Counties would be fractured in the Democratic map. DuPage would be in six Districtsl Kane in four; Will in six.

*The Democratic map shortchanges the Illinois Hispanic community by not reflecting Hispanic population growth and carving out a second Hispanic district.

The letter does not threaten a lawsuit; rather it asks Quinn to veto the map and redraw lines that "reflects our diverse, bipartisan state."

Quinn will be under pressure from local and national Democrats to sign the map without changes because Illinois presents some of the best prospects for the Democrats to pick up a chunk of the 24 seats needed to regain control of the House they lost in 2010.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chief Rep. Steve Israel told me at a reporter's breakfast on Wednesday that ""Illinois and particularly the suburbs of Chicago have always been a center of gravity in our path to retake the House majority." (My column on DCCC chief Israel talking about key Illinois is the House Democrats is here.)


WASHINGTON--Top Illinois Republicans--including former House Speaker Denny Hastert and former Labor Secretary Lynn Martin-- have lent their names to help Illinois GOP House members raise money for a legal challenge to the new Illinois congressional remap, gerrymandered to heavily favor Democrats.

Concerned that Illinois Democrats--who control the Illinois General Assembly and the governorship--would try to remap Illinois GOP Republicans out of a job in the 2012 elections Republicans incorporated the "Committee for a Fair and Balanced Map" with the Illinois Secretary of State on Dec. 6, 2010. I've learned that there was a $1,000-per-ticket fund-raiser for the group on May 10 at the Capitol Hill Club here.

In addition to Hastert and Martin, a former Rockford area House member, others listed as hosts for the May reception were former Rep. Tom Ewing (R-Ill.) and Illinois business executives Alexander Stuart, Michael Keiser and James D. Pearson.

The Illinois map awaiting Gov. Pat Quinn's signature turned out to be harsher than the GOP expected--forcing most of the 11 GOP Illinois incumbents to make hard decisions about which districts to run from and to start preparing for potentially tough 2012 elections.

A federal lawsuit is expected to challenge the Democratic lines in order to force a court-drawn revised map. Former Illinois Attorney General Ty Fahner at Chicago's Mayer Brown law firm is expected to reprise his 1991 and 2001 roles as the GOP map lawyer in 2011 court action.

In the fund-raising letter sent out for the "Committee for a Fair and Balanced Map," prospects were told, "While there are many different theories and rumors out there, the process is really coming down to the fact of making sure the map is fair and balanced. As expected, the process to make sure the federal map is equitable will require costly legal fees."

Patton Boggs, a law firm here, was retained to write a letter to potential donors explaining how the Committee was organized as a 501 c4 non-profit organization under the IRS Code. In the Dec. 6, 2010 memo Patton Boggs attorneys George Schutzer and William McGinley wrote "CFBM will be engaged in state-level educational activities and potential litigation" and that "CFBM's policy is to not release the names of its donors to the general public" though contributors of more than $5,000 have to be disclosed to the IRS on a form available to the public.

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack unveiled new food guidelines on Thursday--with the federal government switching from the "food pyramid" long used to help figure out how to eat balanced meals to the simpler "food plate" icon. The new website is ChooseMyPlate.Gov Mrs. Obama is involved promoting the new plate icon because it folds into her "Let's Move" anti-childhood obesity campaign.

Transcript at the click....

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich testifies again today in his federal corruption case and the Sun-Times Natasha Korecki and Lark Turner are filing must-read reports over at the Blago Blog. Today's installments deal with the selling of the Senate seat vacated by President Obama and Blagojevich tapes cover his discussions with now Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nv.) over the seat, and his interest, at different times of tapping now White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan for the seat.

Click over to blogs.suntimes.com/blago to read these reports:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to Blagojevich: 'This is a thankless job you have,' Blago testifies

Blagojevich discussed appointing himself Senator, hunting down bin Laden

Adviser was teasing about Senate President's campaign coffers, not asking for them, Blagojevich testifies"

Charitable organization wasn't meant to pay Blagojevich, he says; it was 'get the rich to help the poor'

Blagojevich says his advisers pushed him to leverage Senate seat; he insisted it be legal

Blagojevich: I talked to Emaunel about appointing Madigan to Senate seat

Blagojevich's version of trade: I was excited by the idea of spreading healthcare nationally

WASHINGTON--White House counsel Bob Bauer is stepping down at the end of June, returning to his private practice at Perkins Coie but staying part of the Obama team. At Perkins Coie, Bauer "will resume his practice focused on serving as general counsel to the President's reelection campaign, general counsel to the Democratic National Committee, and personal lawyer to President Obama," the White House said. Bauer's wife is Anita Dunn, former White House communications chief.

Bauer's deputy, Kathryn Ruemmler steps up as top counsel upon his departure.

WASHINGTON--Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney makes his 2012 presidential bid official on Thursday, kicking off his second White House campaign in the crucial early primary state of New Hampshire.

He's starting with a blast at President Obama over the economy and the high jobless rate--and trying to ignore the crowded GOP field. Stealing some of Romney's thunder--former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, is headed to New Hampshire on her bus tour--which may or may not be laying groundwork for her own 2012 bid. The Democratic National Committee tried to flood the political reporting zone on Thursday with web videos and messages about Romney being a flip flopper--especially on health care coverage, since he signed the Massachusetts health care law.

Romney posted on his blog Thursday his Obama slam:

Barack Obama has failed America.

When he took office, the economy was in recession. He made it worse. And he made it last longer. Three years later, over 16 million Americans are out of work or have just quit looking. Millions more are underemployed.

Three years later, unemployment is still above 8%, a figure he said his stimulus would keep from happening.

This is not just a problem--this is a national crisis. And in a time of crisis, we need a President who can lead, a President with the vision and experience to understand what needs to be done, a President who knows how to create jobs and get the economy back on track. Mitt Romney can be that President.



WASHINGTON--Picking up congressional seats in Illinois in 2012 is key to Democrats retaking the House, the chair of the Democratic House political operation said on Wednesday.

I asked Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to assess the chances for Illinois Democratic gains in the wake of Illinois state Democrats muscling through the Legislature this week a map drawn along highly partisan lines.

With the new map, Illinois--a Democratic leaning state--is central to Democratic strategy to win back the 24 Republican seats they need to regain control of the House.

"Illinois and particularly the suburbs of Chicago have always been a center of gravity in our path to retake the House majority," Israel said at a reporters breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

Illinois currently sends 11 Republicans and eight Democrats to Congress, with the GOP scoring last November the biggest gains in decades: the election of five GOP freshmen.

Because of population shifts, Illinois will lose a seat starting in the 2012 election. The Democratic mapmakers diluted GOP strongholds by drawing new heavily gerrymandered district lines to add more Democratic territory to the mix. The five GOP freshmen, Adam Kinzinger, Bob Dold, Bobby Schilling were thrown into Democratic turf and Joe Walsh and Randy Hultgren were pitted against each other.

Israel suggested four Illinois districts under the new map would be prime prospects for Democrats: 8, 10, 11, all in Chicago's suburbs, and Downstate, 17.

Israel had no sympathy for Republicans who protested the new map, crafted to wipe out the 2010 gains because in some states where the GOP controls the map--think Texas-- they have used redistricting to throw out Democrats.

"There are Republicans who were complaining about Illinois. This is like the arsonist hitting the fire alarm, it is just not credible," he said.

Israel is also counting on President Obama at the top of the ticket in 2012 helping elect more Democrats in his adopted homestate.

"The landscape is also immeasurably improved by the fact that President Obama is running for re-election. You're going to have a significant presidential surge in Illinois, which should help our candidates," Israel said. Israel visited Chicago in January to recruit candidates and prospect potential donors.

Republicans want to challenge the map in federal court. If there are no changes, a Democratic analysis of the new districts found:

*8 safe Democratic seats: 1.Bobby Rush; 2.Jesse Jackson Jr.; 3.Dan Lipinski; 4. Luis Gutierrez; 5. Mike Quigley; 7., Danny Davis; 9. Jan Schakowsky and 12. Jerry Costello.

*5 competitive or swing seats: 8. Considered open, now held by Walsh; 10. Dold; 11. Open; 13. Tim Johnson; 17. Bobby Schilling

*5 Republican lean to GOP safe: 6. Peter Roskam; 14. Hultgren; 15. John Shimkus; 16. Don Manzullo; 18. Aaron Schock.

Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) left homeless in the Democratic map may run from the open 11th; Kinzinger is likely to head to the Manzullo district; Walsh may switch to the 14th.

CORRECTION: On Tuesday I wrote the three best GOP districts were for Johnson, Roskam and Schock. It's Shimkus, not Johnson plus the two others. Sorry.


WASHINGTON--President Obama's top fund-raisers, meeting in Chicago on Wednesday were asked by Obama campaign manager Jim Messina to raise $60 million for the Obama 2012 re-elect and the Democratic Party by the end of June, I've been told.

The $60 million June 30 second quarter goal--part of a power point presentation to members of the Obama 2012/Democratic National Committee National Finance Committee--is equal to the amount raised during the comparable time by the 2004 Bush/Cheney campaign and the Republican National Committee.

Whatever the comparison, members of the NFC--Obama's major bundlers--people who use their extensive personal networks to convince others to make campaign donations--were huddling at the Hyatt Regency on Wacker Dr. to map strategy to raise what Messina has said was "north of $750 million" for the 2012 re-election campaign.

Obama and First Lady Michelle, I've learned, will hit the fund-raising trail again this month in a quest to raise big money early on for the Obama 2012 re-elect and the DNC.

Mrs. Obama headlines fundraisers in California--Pasadena and the Bay Area on June 13.

Obama has fund-raisers June 13 in Miami; June 20 in Washington aimed at Jewish donors, June 23 in New York City for gay and lesbian contributors and June 30 in Philadelphia.

Besides Messina, others briefing the NFC include Deputy Campaign Manager Julianna Smoot; Rufus Gifford, the Obama 2012 Finance Director and the NFC 2012 chair Matthew Barzun, Obama's former ambassador to Sweden.

In April Messina told me, "We'll raise enough funds to compete and win, and that will take a significant amount given the vast amounts GOP-allied groups are already raising. But this pie in the sky speculation about a billion dollars is baseless."

Mayor Emanuel--who has the golden touch when it comes to fund-raising for himself or others--met with the NFC on Tuesday.


WASHINGTON--Mayor Rahm Emanuel--in office since May 16-- did not slam shut the door on a 2016 White House run during an interview for ABC's "Good Morning America" with his longtime friend George Stephanopoulos. The interview touched on the 2012 presidential campaign, Israel, challenges facing Chicago and closed with a question about Emanuel and 2016.

Wisecracked Emanuel about loving being mayor: "It is the greatest -- I joked-- I said to (White House Chief of Staff) Bill Daley the other day, if I had known this was this great, I would have primaried Richie four years ago."


Stephanopoulos said at the end, "you know, if you do a good job here, a lot of Democrats are going to be talking about you to run for president in 2016."

Said Emanuel, "I got a job to do here and that's all I'm focused on."

The interview was taped Tuesday in Emanuel's City Hall office and broadcast on Wednesday. Full transcript at the click....

Highlights:

*Israel---Asked if Obama went too far in his Mideast speech--calling for Israel/Palestinian negotiations to start at the 1967 borders with mutual land swaps--Emanuel at first referred to a Chicago neighborhood and school in his answer.

"Well, I think he -- George, first of all my focus is on what goes on in Englewood, what goes on in Lindblom High. I looked at the whole speech. I looked at everything he said in support of Israel, with its security and safety. And I saw the president that I worked for. And he's been consistent about Israel security and safety, as his number one concern."


*2012----When Emanuel was President Obama's White House chief of staff, GOP Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman was tapped to be Ambassador to China. Now Huntsman is preparing for a 2012 White House bid.

Asked if Emanuel expected Huntsman to run for president, he said "No."

Asked if he agreed with Democrats who think Huntsman would be the "strongest Republican candidate," Emanuel said, "I thought, I do think that, I think the president of the United States, people will judge-- first of all, let me back up here. There will be an assessment of the president versus whoever. And I think if they'll look at the country he inherited, worst economic conditions since the Depression, an auto industry that was on its back, and actually, a lot of people-- even some of the national leaders of the Republican Party were advocating of let it go.

"... When the president said, "We're not going to let the place where-- it was America where the car was invented go over the side." He made the tough decision where a lot of people were second guessers, the naysayers in America. Made tough decisions, forced the industry. Management, labor, bankers, suppliers, all made some concessions. And it saved 1.2 million jobs in this country.

"And that was against the winds of all the naysayers and on the other side, where the only model that existed prior to that was Chrysler. And he had to do it with the entire industry. And we are stronger for it, because he was ready to sail against the wind. Just taking one industry, not counting the financial, not counting the recession, and not counting the war in Iraq. Which are all decisions he made in the first five months."

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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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