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September 2011 Archives

WASHINGTON--Illinois Democratic House hopeful Tammy Duckworth campaign in Friday said she will have more than $386,504 in her first fund-raising report.

UPDATE I asked rival Raja Krishnamoorthi's campaign for their numbers and they are not offering up any yet.

Spokesman Mike Murray told me, "A final quarter number is not yet available because we are still receiving a considerable number of contributions, including at an event tonight hosted by Congressman Danny Davis. Over the past 2 weeks alone, fundraising events have been held for Raja in Florida, California, Wisconsin, Indiana, and a number of suburban locations."

Duckworth and primary rival Raja Krishnamoorthi no longer can use Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Il.) to raise money off of, since the Tea Party favorite announced he will run in another race. Nonetheless, with the third quarter fund-raising period closing at midnight, Duckworth campaign manager Jess Levin sent out an e-mail fund-raising appeal still invoking his name: "Joe Walsh has abandoned the 8th District, but you can bet the Tea Party will try to find another right-wing radical to spout their party line."

Duckworth was in Hawaii earlier this week--where she attended high school and college--for a fund-raiser sponsored by the Hawaii congressional delegation.

michelle target.jpg
AP Photo

follow on Twitter: @lynnsweet

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama shopped at a suburban Target on Thursday and some right wing perma critics--Glenn Beck for one--jumped all over her after pictures of her pushing a shopping cart wearing sunglasses and a Nike cap were published. Beck said he did not believe Mrs. Obama shopped at Target before she was First Lady. Fact Check: Beck is wrong. He is unaware for Mrs. Obama's fondness for the chain--especially the Target on Roosevelt Road in Chicago.

Mrs. Obama has some very high-end elite, expensive shopping tastes--but fair is fair. She also likes to shop at Target and has talked about the loss of her ability just to roam the aisles of a Target.

Beck, of course, is entitled to his opinion, but should frame his arguments without making up stuff. Beck went on a rant against Mrs. Obama over the Target outing and said, "I don't believe you were shopping at Target when you were not First Lady."

Mrs. Obama herself has talked about shopping at Target, as has her former Chief of Staff. Her purchases on her Thursday Target visit, I confirmed with a White House source, included treats for Bo, the family dog--dog food and dog toys.

*In a January, 2010 interview with a group print reporters--I was one--Mrs. Obama was asked about what she missed about her Chicago life. Said Mrs. Obama, "going to the Target on Roosevelt Road and going to the Dominick's. I mean, small things."

*In a March, 2011 symposium on First Ladies sponsored by American University, former First Lady Chief of Staff Susan Sher reflected on Mrs. Obama's wishing she could go out and shop.

Mrs. Obama has talked about missing being able to shop at the Roosevelt Road Target in Chicago, a place Sher said the first lady can visualize "up and down every aisle."
A while back, Sher asked her to go "on an outing" with her to see an exhibit at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. "She got so excited" about the "field trip" because "the Secret Service told her that we can walk ....she didn't know it was literally across the street." Even these kinds of outings are rare, Sher said.

President Obama commented Friday on Mrs. Obama's shopping trip to the Alexandria Target. "I'm glad she can sneak off," Obama told Michael Smerconish, the radio talk show host. Obama said if there is one thing she loves to do, it is to "go shopping at Target."

Kristina Schake, Mrs. Obama's communications chief said in a statement Friday, "It is not uncommon for the First Lady to slip out to run an errand, eat at a local restaurant or otherwise enjoy the city outside the White House gates."

Richard M. Daley book in the works

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The University of Chicago press announced a biography of former Mayor Richard M. Daley is in the works--I think the first book all about him. It's to be out in Spring 2013, by Keith Koeneman, who is billed as having inside access.

WASHINGTON--Chicago hosts world leaders next May for NATO and G-8 summits and on Friday, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen laid out four NATO goals for the Chicago meeting in a speech at the European Policy Centre in Brussels where he called for a "strategic partnership" with Russia.

"So in Chicago, I am confident that you will see a NATO Alliance demonstrating its strong solidarity even in difficult economic times. An Alliance that is committed - capable - and connected," Rasmussen said.

The G-8 economic sessions will run from May 15-22 and the NATO meetings overlap on May 20-21. The last NATO meeting in the U.S. was in Washington in 1999, marking the 50th anniversary of the organization.

Rasmussen in his "look ahead" to Chicago key points:

*"The backdrop to our NATO summit in Chicago is the global economic crisis. And there is no contradiction between being concerned about the economy and being concerned about security. Because economy and security are interlinked. Huge deficits and growing debt make nations vulnerable. Therefore, sound fiscal policies are also sound security policies. Both require that we get the most out of every euro, pound and dollar that we spend on defence and security."

*"The Alliance should also have a genuine, strategic partnership with Russia. We have already started to develop this. Russia and NATO are working together on many issues where we have shared concerns, such as Afghanistan, fighting terrorism and drug trafficking. And I look to a future where we cooperate even more."

*The Four Chicago goals....

"First - Afghanistan. We are on track to complete the transition of lead security responsibility to the Afghans by the end of 2014. But our commitment to the Afghan people will not end there. So my first goal for Chicago is to lay out the detail of that commitment, by agreeing a strategic plan for our engagement throughout the transition period, and beyond.

"Second - capabilities. To fulfil its essential purpose of safeguarding our security, the Alliance needs the appropriate mix of capabilities: conventional, nuclear and missile defence. We are currently reviewing that mix for approval at Chicago.

"We are also preparing a package of specific military capabilities that Smart Defence can help us to deliver. At Chicago, my goal is for NATO Heads of State and Government to endorse this package. And to make a smart commitment to deliver the capability improvements we all need.

"Third - missile defence. Poland, Romania and Turkey have already agreed to host key elements of this system. And my goal for Chicago is that we declare an interim operational capability for NATO's territorial missile defence. We will then be able to receive early warning of missile launches directed against us. A big step towards the full capability that we need.

"That's the NATO track. But I would also like to make progress on the NATO-Russia track. Cooperation on missile defence makes sense militarily -- because it renders both our systems more effective. And it makes sense politically -- because it demonstrates that our missile defence is not directed against Russia.

"Finally - partnerships. I would like the summit to reaffirm our commitment to the Euro-Atlantic integration of our partners here on this continent. But also to send a strong signal to countries across the Mediterranean, the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. That we continue to share an interest in the stability and security of their region. And I hope that by the time of our Chicago summit, a new, democratic Libya will be among our partners in the region."

kirk libya .jpeg In Tripoli, Senator Lindsey Graham (L), Senator Mark Kirk (2nd L) Sen. John McCain, Senator Marco Rubio (R)(photo by MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON--Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) joined three other GOP senators--John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio--in a short visit to Tripoli. Kirk later held a conference call on Thursday with Illinois reporters on the trip and the Chicago Sun-Times Abdon M. Pallasch has the report HERE.

"This was a success by President Obama and his team ... unquestioned kudos go to the president and his team," Kirk said.

WASHINGTON--Illinois Democratic House hopeful Ilya Sheyman, running in the north suburban 10th district against Brad Schneider, received a potential fund-raising boost Friday with the endorsement of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.

Schneider, meanwhile, gained two big endorsements this week--from Democratic state senators Jeff Schoenberg (D-Evanston) and Susan Garrett (D-Lake Forest). The 10th is heavily Jewish and Schoenberg's backing helps a lot in wooing Jewish voters; Garrett, who is stepping down after this term, is a popular figure in the 10th.

Sheyman already had the support of former Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean, but that did not translate to his getting ahead of Schneider in early money. The PCCC endorsement may mean real cash for Sheyman, who had been lagging behind Schneider. The endorsement is no surprise; Sherman worked as an organizer for progressive organizations, MoveOn and Democracy for America. MoveOne endorsed Sheyman on Thursday and included him in a fund-raising appeal.

The PCCC pitch to its 800,000 members for Massachusetts Democratic Senate hopeful Elizabeth Warren yielded $375,000 quickly to her warchest. In a New Mexico House race, the groups' appeals raised $70,000 for Eric Griego. The third quarter fund-raising deadline ends at midnight and the group is pushing today for $3 donations to Sheyman. The PCCC has 36,000 Illinois members.

The PCCC is also endorsing Friday Ann McLane Kuster in New Hampshire and Chris Donovan in Connecticut.

The winner will likely face freshman Rep. Bob Dold (R-Ill.) The district in the remap has been drawn to favor Democrats. Dold replaced Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) who vacated the seat to run for the Senate.

WASHINGTON--President Obama invited the 1985 Chicago Bears--the Superbowl XX champions--to the White House for an Oct 7 makeup visit that was scratched years ago, a White House official confirmed. Another advantage of having a Chicago president.

The 1985 Bears--Da Bears, Ditka and The Fridge--never got their White House championship honor because the space shuttle Challenger exploded two days before the Bears January, 1986 visit.

Obama on the DREAM Act: "I just have to continue to say this notion that somehow I can just change the laws unilaterally is just not true. We are doing everything we can administratively. But the fact of the matter is there are laws on the books that I have to enforce. And I think there's been a great disservice done to the cause of getting the DREAM Act passed and getting comprehensive immigration passed by perpetrating the notion that somehow, by myself, I can go and do these things. It's just not true."

WASHINGTON--The Obama White House is "deeply disappointed" in the decision of the Israeli government to expand settlement housing in East Jerusalem.

Link to Jerusalem Post story on the regarding the Gilo housing controversy is HERE
Headline was revised to reflect the disputed construction is in a Jerusalem neighborhood. END UPDATE

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney at the Tuesday briefing:

Q. Does the White House have any response to the new announcement of 1,000 -- or 1,100 settlements in East Jerusalem?

MR. CARNEY: Yes. The administration of the United States government is deeply disappointed by that announcement. We have maintained all along that each side in the dispute between the Palestinians and the Israelis should take steps that bring them closer to direct negotiations to resolve the issues that stand in the way of Palestinian statehood and a secure Jewish state of Israel.

When either side takes unilateral action, it makes it harder to achieve that. We make our views known, just as we did, obviously, with regard to the Palestinian action at the United Nations.

Q Jay, was that a surprise?

MR. CARNEY: I'd have to refer you to the State Department, but I'd say that we're disappointed by it.

Q The Palestinians say that this is a direct repudiation to the Quartet statement. Is that the U.S. view?

MR. CARNEY: I would only characterize it the way I have, which is to say that we're disappointed and that we have called on both sides to take steps that improve the prospects of direct negotiations getting underway because, in the end, the only way forward is through direct negotiations that result in the two-state solution that both sides seek, one that allows for a sovereign Palestinian state and a secure, Jewish state of Israel.

WASHINGTON--President Obama sends a "Shana Tova" in his annual Rosh Hashanah message. Warm up the matzo balls, Rosh Hashanah starts at sundown Wednesday night.

Read and click below for the transcript and prior years High Holiday greetings.



Click below for 2011...

WASHINGTON--GOP White House hopeful Rick Perry hists Chicago on Oct. 12 for a $2,500-a-person fund-raising reception--a rather modest ask, considering the deep pockets of Illinois Republicans. Perry, the Texas governor is not well known to the Illinois GOP establishment.

From the invite..

Please Join Us for this Special Reception in honor of Republican Presidential Candidate
Governor Rick Perry
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
5:30 PM - 7:00 PM
Residence of Holly & Steve Cortes
2618 North Magnolia
Chicago, IL
$5,000 / Couple
$2,500 / Person
RSVP: Laura Anderson
630-833-7722 |
RSVP By Friday, October 7, 2011

Link to a pdf of the entire invitation is here: perry chicago.pdf

WASHINGTON--President Obama is on a major fund-raising swing; the third quarter ends Friday and the Obama re-election finance team is on a blitz. Hitting Hollywood on Monday, Obama attracted stars: "Modern Family" Jesse Tyler Ferguson was an emcee at one event.

Namedropping in following paragraphs.

And speaking of names: Obama told supporters 2012 will be harder than 2008. "Here's the thing: I never promised you easy. If you wanted easy, you wouldn't have campaigned for Barack Hussein Obama."

Stars at events, according to pool reports:
Eva Longoria, DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenburg, Jack Black, Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman, producer Jon Landau, director Judd Apatow, music producer Quincy Jones, and Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown.

White House stars: David Plouffe and Jay Carney were among those working the crowd before the remarks began.

Tickets ranged from $250 to $17,900 a person.

Variety's Ted Johnson covers the intersection of Hollywood and Washington in Variety reports and his "Wilshire and Washington" blog. You can find his post on Obama's Monday Hollywood fund-raisers HERE.

Johnson's over-view story on Obama and Hollywood money and support is HERE.

I posted transcripts of Obama's speeches at the two Hollywood fund-raisers, the links are below.

Obama on "Modern Family:" Michelle, girls love show. Transcript

Obama tells Hollywood 2012 campaign not "as sexy" as 2008. Transcript

WASHINGTON--Former President Bill Clinton is marking the 20th anniversary of the announcement of his presidential bid with a day of activities and a staff reunion in Little Rock sponsored by his Clinton Presidential Center. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel march to the national scene started when he moved from Chicago to Little Rock to raise money for Clinton's run. The move to Little Rock was a turning point for Emanuel, paving the way for his political career and his financial fortune.

UPDATE: Emanuel will attend the reunion, Emanuel spokesman Tarrah Cooper confirmed. END UPDATE

There's a screening of the "War Room" and a panel discussion, "Reimagining the Progressive Tradition: The Clinton/Gore Campaign and the Emergence of a Democratic Agenda for the 21st Century." Panelists include James Carville, Frank Greer, Don Baer, Lottie Shackleford, Al From, and Vernon E. Jordan, Jr..

Click below for more details of the weekend....

Obama Sept. 26, 2011 week ahead

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President Obama's close relationship with Warren Buffett goes back to his Illinois Senate run; now the billionaire investor is helping Obama not only on the tax fairness front, but in fund-raising for his 2012 re-election bid. Buffett hits Chicago Oct. 27 for a $35,800-per person dinner and reception.

The host committee includes Obama's major Chicago based finance team: Jim Crown, Vicki & Bruce Heyman, Mellody Hobson Steve Koch, Penny Pritzker, John Rogers Jr., David Scherer.

Click below for the invitation...

Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), a Tea Party leader, on Wednesday announced he will run from the new 14th congressional district in Illinois, setting up primary with Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.) Walsh now represents the 8th district and Hultgren the 14th. UPDATE Fireworks already started: Sun-Times Political Writer Abdon M. Pallasch has a full story. Read it HERE

By running from the 14th, Republicans are without a well known candidate in the 8th district, where Democrats Tammy Duckworth and Raja Krishnamoorthi are pitted in a high profile contest.

The two Democrats have used Walsh's Tea Party views as rallying points and to help their fund-raising. Republican Rich Evans, a certified public accountant has been campaigning since June 20.

Walsh discussed the potential primary with Hultgren in a letter he sent to supporters on Wednesday.

"I understand that there is another Republican Congressman drawn into this new district, Randy Hultgren and it would be unfortunate if we had to run against each other. But the new 14th District, if it stands, doesn't belong to any Incumbent or any politician. The district belongs to the people of this district and they will have to decide who their next representative is. And if they have to decide between two Republican Incumbents, so be it - in many ways Randy and I are both good conservatives who share many of the same values but there are also healthy differences between the two of us, we've both had a very different initial tenure in Washington, and the voters in the new district will decide which one of us will best be their voice in DC."

Illinois Democrats drew the new map rigged to elect Democrats and Illinois Republicans are challenging it in federal court; no rulings are expected for a few months. In the meantime, the window has opened for candidates to start circulating nominating petitions.

Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.), whose existing west suburban district was diced up by the Democrats, is circulating petitions to run in the 11th district. A Democratic former lawmaker, Rep. Bill Foster is already in the contest and has no major primary opponent.

Click below for Walsh letter....

WASHINGTON -- As President Obama works the global precincts this week to avoid a United Nations vote on Palestinian statehood -- and as GOP presidential hopeful Rick Perry slammed Obama's record on Israel -- the Obama team kicked up its defense and outreach to the U.S. Jewish community.

On Tuesday afternoon, I have learned, the Obama team reached out to leaders and activists in the U.S. Jewish community in two conference calls: one organized by the Obama 2012 campaign, the second by the White House.

The campaign call was put together by Ira Forman, the Obama 2012 Jewish Outreach Director; featured Democratic National Committee Chairman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), and former Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), the president of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace.

On the White House call, Denis McDonough, deputy national security adviser, briefed on the intense Obama administration drive to avert a Palestinian showdown at the U.N. General Assembly meeting this week.

"What we are seeing is evidence that the campaign is now -- after a lot of talk -- putting into action efforts to address this constituency," a person on both calls told me.

It's not clear as I write this if the Palestinians have the votes to get rapid consideration of their U.N. membership request. It seems possible the Palestinian vote might be delayed. In any case, the U.S. has threatened to use its U.N. veto power if need be.

This confluence of policy and politics comes as polls show Obama's Jewish support is slipping. The U.S. Jewish community provided crucial support for Obama, in his 2004 Illinois Senate race and 2008 White House bid.Obama was able to get his 2008 presidential campaign off the ground only because of the early and major support of Jewish fund-raisers.

Perry traveled Tuesday to Manhattan to hit Obama on Israel, saying, "It is time to change our policy of appeasement toward the Palestinians." Mitt Romney, another 2012 GOP contender, accused Obama of throwing Israel under a bus.

Neither is right.

Perry and Romney have a disagreement on Obama's tactics and strategy. Israelis differ on how to deal with the Israel-Palestinian conflict. American Jews stand with Israel, and in the U.S. Jewish community there are deep differences over how to achieve a lasting Israeli-Palestinain peace.

The renewed outreach highlights Obama's strong actions to support Israel. Forman on his call unveiled a new website, "Jewish Americans for Obama" with a video featuring Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon--a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S.-- saying Israel "has never had a better friend than President Obama."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Obama for intervening when a mob recently attacked the Israeli embassy in Cairo. Under Obama, Israel got the most ever in military aid -- $3 billion. Obama has been working to strengthen sanctions against Iran and his team has lobbied more than 100 nations at the U.N. to avoid a showdown vote.

Said Wexler, when we talked about Obama, "I judge him on his actions, his words and his deeds."

Office of the Press Secretary
September 20, 2011


In the morning, the President will address the United Nations General Assembly. The First Lady will also attend. This event is open to pre-credentialed correspondents. The President will then hold a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. There will be a travel pool spray at the top of the meeting with statements.

After, the President will hold a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda of Japan. There will be a travel pool spray at the top of the meeting with statements.

In the afternoon, the President will meet with Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, the President of the United Nations General Assembly. The President will then meet with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. These meetings are closed press.

Also in the afternoon, the President will attend a luncheon hosted by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. There will be a travel pool spray at the top of the luncheon.

After, the President will give remarks at the Clinton Global Initiative. The President's remarks are open press.

Later, the President will hold a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom. There will be a travel pool spray at the top of the meeting with statements. The President will then hold a bilateral meeting with President Nicolas Sarkozy of the French Republic. There will be a travel pool spray at the top of the meeting with statements.

After, the President will meet with President Salva Kiir Mayardit of South Sudan. There will be a stills only photo spray at the top of the meeting. The President will then meet with President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority. There will be a stills only photo spray at the top of the meeting.

In the evening, the President and the First Lady will attend the United Nations General Assembly Reception. This event is closed press.

Later in the evening, the President and the First Lady will return to the White House. The President and the First Lady's departure from John F. Kennedy International Airport and arrival on the South Lawn are open press.

In-Town Travel Pool
Wires: AP, Reuters, Bloomberg
Wire Photos: AP, Reuters, AFP
TV Corr & Crew: FOX
Print: Washington Times
Radio: CBS

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


10:00AM THE PRESIDENT addresses the United Nations General Assembly - THE FIRST LADY also attends
United Nations Building
Travel Pool Coverage, UNTV Coverage, Open to Pre-Credentialed Correspondents

11:00AM THE PRESIDENT holds a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel
United Nations Building
Travel Pool Spray at the Top with Statements

12:25PM THE PRESIDENT holds a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda of Japan
United Nations Building
Travel Pool Spray at the Top with Statements

1:00PM THE PRESIDENT meets with Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, President of the United Nations General Assembly
United Nations Building
Closed Press

1:05PM THE PRESIDENT meets with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon
United Nations Building
Closed Press

1:20PM THE PRESIDENT attends a luncheon hosted by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon
United Nations Building
Travel Pool Spray at the Top with Toasts

2:45PM THE PRESIDENT delivers remarks at the Clinton Global Initiative
Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers
Open Press

3:45PM THE PRESIDENT holds a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom
Waldorf Astoria Hotel
Travel Pool Spray at the Top with Statements

4:45PM THE PRESIDENT holds a bilateral meeting with President Nicolas Sarkozy of the French Republic
Waldorf Astoria Hotel
Travel Pool Spray at the Top with Statements

5:35PM THE PRESIDENT meets with President Salva Kiir Mayardit of South Sudan
Waldorf Astoria Hotel
Stills Only Photo Spray at the Top

5:55PM THE PRESIDENT meets with President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority
Waldorf Astoria Hotel
Stills Only Photo Spray at the Top

7:05PM THE PRESIDENT and THE FIRST LADY attend the United Nations General Assembly Reception
New York Public Library
Closed Press

9:45PM THE PRESIDENT and THE FIRST LADY depart New York en route Andrews Air Force Base
John F. Kennedy International Airport
Open Press

9:30PM In-Town Travel Pool Call Time

10:40PM THE PRESIDENT and THE FIRST LADY arrive at Andrews Air Force Base
Out-of-Town Travel Pool Coverage

10:55PM THE PRESIDENT and THE FIRST LADY arrive at the White House
South Lawn
Open Press (Final Gather 10:35PM - North Doors of the Palm Room)


WASHINGTON-- First Lady Michelle Obama headlined a fund-raiser aimed at women in New York, where one of the other draws was feminist and author Gloria Steinem.

I wrote a preview about this "mother/daughter" fund-raising event and you can read it HERE.

from the pool report: "Michelle Obama drew bursts of applause and a standing ovation in a speech that was as much an endorsement of her husband's accomplishments as a rallying cry to the Democratic Party's troops.

"Are you in?" she asked at the end of a 20-minute address to 400 mostly female supporters in Manhattan. "Are you ready for work? We all have to be fired up and ready to go."

"..."Obama praised Ms. Magazine founder and feminism pioneer Gloria Steinem while invoking Steinem's determination on behalf of women and girls.

"Fortunately for us, Gloria made a different choice," she said. "She stuck with it for the long haul. . . In the end, we're not fighting these battles for ourselves, we're fighting them for our daughters and our granddaughters."

I reported earlier he price is $500 for an individual; $1,000 for a Mother/Daughter or mentor or mentee; a table of ten is $5,000. An event vice chair--raise or give $10,000-- gets a photo with Mrs. Obama and a lunch; an event chair--raise or give $35,800 gets a VIP pre-reception as well as the photo op and lunch. The contributions go to the DNC and the Obama 2012 re-election campaign.

WASHINGTON--Vice President Joe Biden, in Chicago on Tuesday for fund-raisers, is visiting the Obama/Bide 2012 national headquarters in the Prudential Building. The stop is taking place before a reception at the nearby Sheraton and a dinner at the home of Rajiv Fernando, the CEO of Chopper Trading.

WASHINGTON--GOP presidential hopeful Texas Gov. Rick Perry traveled to Manhattan to hit President Obama on Israel Tuesday, saying "It is time to change our policy of appeasement toward the Palestinians."

Perry's press conference was timed to Obama being in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, where the U.S. and Israel are working to head off a Palestinian statehood vote. Obama addresses the UN on Wednesday.

Perry's embrace of Israel comes as part of his Christian Evangelical perspective. Mitt Romney, another 2012 GOP rival accused Obama of throwing Israel under a bus. While Perry and Romney may have a disagreement on Obama's tactics and strategy--to suggest that Obama does not support Israel does not square with the facts.

American presidents have supported Israel since the state was founded in 1948. The focus on Israel comes as polls show Obama's support among the U.S. Jewish community--a bedrock of support in 2008--is declining. Perry's attack comes in the wake of a GOP victory--in a special election--of a House seat in a heavily Jewish Democratic district formerly held by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY).

See my post on Obama standing with Israel at the United Nations HERE.

Meanwhille, members of Congress are weighing whether to continue funding for the Palestinian Authority if the UN Palestinian bid is successful.

Excerpts from Perry press conference: "Today, neither adversaries nor allies know where America stands. Our muddle of a foreign policy has created greater uncertainty in the midst of this Arab Spring. And our policy of isolating and undermining Israel has only encouraged our adversaries in their aggressiveness.

"And with this end run of the Palestinian statehood imminent before the U.N., America must act swiftly. First, every nation within the U.N. must know America stands with Israel - -- and that we stand with the Oslo principle of direct negotiations without equivocation.

"Second, America must make it clear of -- that declaration on Palestinian statehood in violation of the spirit of the Oslo Accords and that they could jeopardize our funding of U.N. operations.

"And thirdly, the Palestinians must know that their gambit comes at a cost and certainly has consequences, in particular that America will have to reconsider the $4 billion in assistance we have provided the Palestinians in the last 17 years.

And lastly, we must close the PLO office in Washington" if the U.N. grants statehood.

"...Israel is our friend. Israel is our ally. I traveled there a number of times, met with the leaders. It's not a perfect nation, but its existence is critical to America's security in the world.

"It is time to change our policy of appeasement toward the Palestinians, to strengthen our ties with the nation of Israel, in the process establish a robust American position in the Middle East characterized by a new firmness and a new resolve.

"If America does not head off the aggression of forces hostile to Israel, we will only embolden them. That would be a tragic mistake."


Below, from the Democratic National Committee....

Obama Administration Has Already Implemented Policies That Rick Perry and Mitt Romney Call Loudly For On Israel

Mitt Romney Claims That President Obama Has Tried To "Throw Israel Under The Bus And Undermine Its Negotiating Position"

President Obama Believes Our Commitment To Israel's Security Is Ironclad. "The bonds between the United States and Israel are unbreakable and the commitment of the United States to the security of Israel is ironclad...Because we understand the challenges Israel faces, I and my administration have made the security of Israel a priority. It's why we've increased cooperation between our militaries to unprecedented levels. It's why we're making our most advanced technologies available to our Israeli allies. It's why, despite tough fiscal times, we've increased foreign military financing to record levels." [President Obama, 05/22/11]
President Obama Has Long Believed That Any Peace Agreement Must Be Based On Borders And Security Arrangements That Do Not Leave Israel Vulnerable. "As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself -- by itself -- against any threat. Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism, to stop the infiltration of weapons, and to provide effective border security. And a full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign and non-militarized state. And the duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated." [President Obama, 05/22/11]
President Obama Has Been Very Clear That He Believes Israel Must Remain A Jewish State. "The ultimate goal is two states for two people: Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people -- and the State of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people -- each state in joined self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace." [President Obama, 05/22/11]

Rick Perry Claims President Obama Has Tried To "Isolate" Israel.
President Obama And Prime Minister Netanyahu Have Met Seven Times Since Netanyahu Took Office. "Appearing together before the cameras Friday, President Obama described Netanyahu's seventh visit during his presidency as and 'indication of the extraordinary bond between our two countries.'" [PBS, 05/20/2011]
When Asked About The Obama Administration, Defense Minister Barak Said He "Can Hardly Remember A Period Of Better Support." "Our countries are good friends. And I'm the minister of defense, I can tell you that I can hardly remember ... a better period of support, American support and cooperation and similar strategic understanding of events around us than what we have right now." [Fox News, 08/04/11]
When Israel's Embassy In Cairo Was Attacked By Protestors, President Obama Called On Egypt To Protect The Embassy And Offered His Support To Prime Minister Netanyahu. "I would like to express my gratitude to the President of the United States, Barack Obama. I asked for his help. This was a decisive and fateful moment. He said, 'I will do everything I can.' And so he did. He used every considerable means and influence of the United States to help us. We owe him a special measure of gratitude. This attests to the strong alliance between Israel and the United States." [Prime Minister Netanyahu, 09/10/11]

Rick Perry Claims President Obama Has Encouraged The Palestinians To "Shun Direct Talks"
The Obama Administration Is Urging A Peace Settlement Through Direct Negotiations Between Israel and the Palestinians. "The only way of getting a lasting solution is through direct negotiations through the parties and the route to that lies in Jerusalem and Ramallah not in New York. So instead, we are redoubling our efforts with not only both sides but with a broad cross-section of the international community to create a sustainable platform for negotiations that can produce the two state solution that we seek." [The Telegraph, 09/13/11]
President Obama Has Firmly Stated His Opposition To The Palestinians Unilaterally Seeking Statehood Through The United Nations. "'If this came to the Security Council we would object very strongly, precisely because we think it would be counterproductive...We don't think that it would actually lead to the outcome that we want, which is a two-state solution,' he told Spanish-language media in an interview...' What we've said is that going to the UN is a distraction, does not solve the problem.'" [Haaretz, 09/13/11]

Rick Perry Claims That President Obama Has Weakened Israel's Negotiating Position By "[Suggesting] The 1967 Border Should Be The Starter Point For Israel-Palestinian Negotiations" and Criticizing Israel's Settlement Expansion.
President Obama Believes Israel's Borders Should Account For Changes That Have Taken Place Over The Last 44 Years.. "The parties themselves -- Israelis and Palestinians -- will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967... It is a well-known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation. It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 44 years." [President Obama, 5/22/11]
President Obama's Position Is Consistent With Every President And Secretary Of State Since The 2000 Camp David Negotiations. "President Obama's speeches formalize into official US policy the working assumption of every U.S. president and secretary of state since the 2000 Camp David negotiations, as well as former Israeli Prime Ministers Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak, Israel's most decorated soldier." [Wall Street Journal, 5/23/11]
Every President Since Lyndon Jonson Has Opposed Construction Of New Israeli Settlements In Territories Captured By Israel In 1967. "Every president since Lyndon Johnson - Republican and Democrat alike - has opposed Israeli settlement construction in the territories captured by Israel in 1967 exactly because it made a land-for-peace agreement all the more difficult to achieve. And every president for decades has enjoyed bi-partisan consensus for the United States' unwavering commitment to Israel's security, and support for its pursuit of lasting peace." [Jerusalem Post, 5/22/11]

Rick Perry Claims The Obama Administration Tried To Weaken Israel's Position At The United Nations

President Obama Used The First Security Council Veto Of His Presidency To Stop Condemnation Of Israeli Settlements. "Despite strong international pressure, President Obama vetoed the 2010 Security Council resolution condemning Israel for settlement construction - making the US the only country on the 15-member Security Council not to support the resolution." [Washington Post, 02/18/11]
The Obama administration lobbied heavily against the Goldstone report advancing beyond the Human Rights Council. "Rice told lawmakers the United States repudiated the Goldstone report as 'deeply flawed' when it first emerged. 'We see no need ... for the Goldstone report to be considered and now that its principal author has said what he said, frankly, our view is reinforced that this should go away and that's what we'll work to do,' she said." [Reuters, 4/6/11]
Ø The Obama administration condemned the Goldstone report on the Gaza conflict as "unbalanced, one-sided and basically unacceptable." "But she said [the United State] has long had 'very serious concerns' about the mandate he received from the Human Rights Council, calling it "unbalanced, one-sided and basically unacceptable." [Washington Post, 9/18/09]
The Obama administration expressed solidarity with Israel in the aftermath of the Gaza flotilla incident, working behind the scenes to have a more balanced statement by the UN Security Council that included embracing Israel's own independent inquiry into the raid. "The White House on Sunday backed Israel's inquiry into its deadly raid last month on a flotilla trying to break a blockade against Gaza, saying the independent public commission is 'an important step forward.' Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Israel's panel can meet the standard of a 'prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation.'" [Fox News, 6/13/10]

Rick Perry Claimed That President Obama Has "A Policy Of Moral Equivalency" Between Israel And Hamas

President Obama Has Called Hamas-Fatah Unity An "Enormous Obstacle To Peace And Said That Israel Should Not Be Expected To Negotiate With Parties That Do Not Recognize Its Right To Exist. "The recent agreement between Fatah and Hamas poses an enormous obstacle to peace. No country can be expected to negotiate with a terrorist organization sworn to its destruction. And we will continue to demand that Hamas accept the basic responsibilities of peace, including recognizing Israel's right to exist and rejecting violence and adhering to all existing agreements. And we once again call on Hamas to release Gilad Shalit, who has been kept from his family for five long years." [President Obama, 5/22/11]
The President has spoken out forcefully on numerous occasions to condemn Hamas:
Cairo Speech, 2009: "It is a sign neither of courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That's not how moral authority is claimed; that's how it is surrendered.... To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, recognize Israel's right to exist." [President Obama, 6/4/09]
United Nations, 2010: "The slaughter of innocent Israelis is not resistance--it's injustice." [President Obama, 9/22/10]
State Department speech, May, 2011: "Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist. " [President Obama, 5/19/11]
AIPAC, 2011: "No country can be expected to negotiate with a terrorist organization sworn to its destruction. And we will continue to demand that Hamas accept the basic responsibilities of peace, including recognizing Israel's right to exist and rejecting violence and adhering to all existing agreements." [President Obama, 5/22/11]

Rick Perry Questioned President Obama's Commitment To Preventing Iran From Acquiring Nuclear Weapons And Keeping The Pressure On The Syrian Regime.

With President Obama's Leadership, The United States Gained The Support Of Russia, China And Other Nations To Pass United Nations Security Council Resolution 1929, Creating The Most Comprehensive And Biting International Sanctions Regime The Iranian Government Has Ever Faced. "The U.N. Security Council passed a new round of sanctions against Iran today for its failure to comply with previous resolutions demanding Tehran halt its nuclear enrichment program. The new measures build on previous sanctions and pave the way for European countries to take their own punitive steps." [ABC News, 6/9/10]
In Addition To Multilateral Sanctions, President Obama Worked With Congress To Pass The Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, And Divestment Act, Which Strengthens Existing U.S. Sanctions And Makes It Harder For The Iranian Government To Buy Refined Petroleum And The Goods It Needs To Modernize Its Oil And Gas Sector. "The Senate and House in quick succession approved the penalties that focus on Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard and the country's imports of gas and other refined energy products..." [Associated Press, 6/24/10]
Ø Already Close To $60 Billion In Energy-Related Projects In Iran Have Been Put On Hold Or Discontinued. "According to reliable estimates, Iran may be losing as much as $50 billion to $60 billion overall in potential energy investments, along with the critical technology and know-how that comes with them," Burns said at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing [Bloomberg, 12/1/10]

Since April, President Obama Has Ratcheted Up The Pressure On The Syrian Regime Through Increasingly Harsh Sanctions. "Since the beginning of Syrian unrest, we have intensely pursued targeted financial measures to increase pressure on the Syrian regime. We have specifically targeted those responsible for human rights abuses, senior officials of the Syrian government, and Syrian businessmen linked to the Syrian regime." [White House Fact Sheet, 08/18/11]
President Obama Has Signed The Strongest Sanctions Placed On the Syrian Regime Thus Far, Freezing Syrian Government Assets, Barring Americans From Doing Business With The Syrian Government And Banning The Import Of Syrian Petroleum. "President Obama signed a new Executive Order taking additional steps pursuant to the national emergency with respect to Syria that blocks the property of the Syrian government, bans U.S. persons from new investments in or exporting services to Syria, and bans U.S. imports of, and other transactions or dealings in, Syrian-origin petroleum or petroleum products. This is the strongest financial action we have taken against the Syrian regime thus far." [White House Fact Sheet, 08/18/11]
President Obama's Ambassador To Syria Has Demonstrated America's Solidarity With The Syrian People. "Ford toured Hama on Thursday in a bid to show solidarity with residents demanding the downfall of the four-decade authoritarian regime amid a bloody security clampdown on the city and fears that Assad's armed enforcers may launch a military assault on the resistance hotbed. 'The fundamental intention was to make absolutely clear with his physical presence that we stand with those Syrians who are expressing their right to speak for change,' said a statement from the U.S. State Department." [LA Times, 07/08/11]
Ø Ambassador Ford's Visit To Hama Electrified The Syrian Opposition. "[Ambassador] Ford made a dramatic visit to the embattled city of Hama to demonstrate the United States' support for peaceful protests and its condemnation of the Syrian government's use of violence. His trip to Hama electrified supporters of the Syrian opposition, and marked a sharp escalation in U.S. efforts to deal with the difficult Syrian stalemate." [Marc Lynch, 07/14/11]

Ø Ambassador Ford Is Drawing Attention To The Syrian Regime's Violent Attacks On Civilians. "Ambassador Robert Ford, now in Syria, is bearing witness to the crimes of the Syrian government. He is traveling to cities where protests are occurring, pulling media coverage that reveals for lies the claims of the Syrian government. He is attending funerals of murdered Syrian anti-government activists, making clear to the Syrian people and people everywhere which side the American government is on in this struggle for power... American diplomatic presence in a country isn't a reward, it's a means of influencing both governments and their publics, of conveying American values, of drawing media attention by our presence and our choices. It can just as easily penalize a government as reward it." [Kori Schake, 09/14/11]

WASHINGTON--Mayor Rahm Emanuel will headline the Iowa Democratic Party's biggest annual event, the Jefferson Jackson dinner on Nov. 19 to support President Obama--stepping into a showcase for potential presidential candidates.

The dinner featuring Obama's former chief of staff will be in Des Moines. This is Emanuel's first visit to Iowa since taking office in May. The Iowa caucus is the first test vote in the presidential primary calendar.

Obama faces no Democratic primary in 2012. Obama's November, 2007 speech at the dinner--when he was locked in a primary with Hillary Rodham Clinton--was seen as one of the turning points of his campaign.

Iowa Democratic party Chairwoman Sue Dvorsky, in announcing Emanual headling the dinner said, "It's an honor to welcome Mayor Rahm Emanuel to the state for the Jefferson Jackson Dinner and to hear him speak to Iowa Democrats in support of President Obama.

"Mayor Emanuel has proven to be one of the great advocates for Democratic values and middle class opportunity throughout his service in both the Clinton and Obama administrations, as a leader in Congress, and now at the helm of the great city of Chicago."

"..As we approach the First in the Nation Iowa Caucuses, announcements like this will continue to bring Democrats together and build the organization we need to win in 2012," added Dvorsky.

Vice President Biden hits Ohio and Chicago Tuesday for fund-raisers to benefit the Obama 2012 re-election drive.

My Monday post on the Biden Chicago events is HERE.

WASHINGTON--President Obama is at the United Nations this week for the opening of the annual General Assembly meeting--where the U.S. is working the global precincts to avoid a vote on Palestinian statehood.

The potential vote comes as Obama needs to shore up support in the Jewish American community, whose members have been his most steadfast supporters from the start of his political career in Chicago.

The Obama White House on Tuesday released a summary of the administration work at the UN, and a section of it deals with Obama defending Israel. The UN has been historically hostile to Israel and giving the nation a fair shake is the exception, not the rule.

From the White House: "Standing up for Israel at the UN: The Obama Administration has consistently and forcefully opposed unbalanced and biased actions against Israel in the Security Council, the UN General Assembly, and across the UN system. President Obama has pledged that we will "continue U.S. efforts to combat all international attempts to challenge the legitimacy of Israel -- including and especially at the United Nations."

"When an effort was made to insert the Security Council into matters that should be resolved through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, we vetoed it. When the 2009 Durban Review Conference advanced anti-Israel sentiment, we withdrew. When the UN General Assembly voted for a commemoration in September 2011 of the original 2001 Durban conference, we voted against it and announced we would not participate. When the Goldstone Report was released, we stood up strongly for Israel's right to defend itself. When anti-Israel resolutions come up at the UN Human Rights Council, the General Assembly, UNESCO, and elsewhere, we consistently oppose them."

Bill Daley shrugging off stories

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WASHINGTON--White House chief of staff Bill Daley is shrugging off several recent stories raising questions about his tenure and comparing and contrasting his style to Rahm Emanuel--President Obama's former chief of staff, now mayor of Chicago.

A senior administration official told me Daley is telling "friends when he started the job that at best he would have six months before the typical Washington stories started running and he recently joked it looks like he got lucky and got an extra three months."

Daley, tapped in January for the job, on Monday traveled to New York with Obama for the United Nations General Assembly.

Politico's Bill Daley story is HERE

Chicago Magazine's Carol Felsenthal over-view on Daley is HERE

amy klobuchar.jpg Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) (photo by Neesa Sweet)

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) hit Highland Park on Sunday to keynote a dinner hosted by the Tenth Congressional District Democrats at the Highland Park Country Club.

Among those present: Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.); Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Abner Mikva, a former House member, appellate judge and Clinton White House counsel.

Former Vice President Cheney was in Chicago Monday with daughter Liz to promote his new book--and deliver a slap to the Chicago based U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who prosecuted Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Read the story by Chicago Sun-Times political writer Abdon M. Pallasch HERE.

Fitzgerald convicted Cheney's chief of staff for perjury, obstruction of justice and lying to the FBI "in the Fitzgerald-led investigation into who leaked to the news media that Valerie Plame, wife of a Bush critic, worked for the CIA," Pallasch wrote.

The late Chicago Sun-Times columnist Robert Novak was the first to report about Valerie Plame working for the CIA.

WASHINGTON--President Obama plans to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when they are both in New York for the UN General Assembly session, with the bi-lateral coming as the Palestinians are expected to press the UN for a vote on statehood--a moved opposed by the U.S. and Israel.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Monday at a briefing the Obama/Netanyahu date has not been set "but we believe the two leaders will meet."

Carney added, "We remain where we were on the inadvisability of unilateral actions that will bring the Palestinians no closer to the statehood they seek. And we generally -- as a rule, this administration, this President, supports the things that move the parties -- actions that move the parties closer together, and do not support the things that move them further apart. That is our guiding principle, if you will.

"And we believe that the only way the Israelis and Palestinians will achieve a two-state solution that's fair and equitable to both sides, that allows for a Palestinian state, that allows for a secure Jewish state of Israel, is through direct negotiations. And that is the focus of all the diplomatic efforts that we are engaged in."

Carney, asked if the administration requested Britain or any other members of the Security Council to veto the Palestinian initiative if it goes ahead--and about other lobbying efforts-- said, "Well, I think that there have been intense diplomatic negotiations about the right way forward. We firmly believe that the right way forward, the way to achieve the very goal that the Palestinians seek, is through direct negotiations -- in fact, it is the only way to achieve it -- and that actions that don't move the two parties closer to direct negotiations are counterproductive. We support those actions that move the two parties closer towards those negotiations -- negotiations which are the only path to the two-state solution that both sides desire."


WASHINGTON--Vice President Joe Biden hits Chicago on Tuesday for fund-raising events to benefit the Obama/Biden 2012 re-election drive--with the ticket price for a major donor dinner ranging from $10,000 for a guest and $35,800 to be a "host."

Biden is ramping up his fund-raising travel as the end of the third quarter--Sept. 30--approaches. Besides Chicago--where Biden hosts an event at the Sheraton on Tuesday--he has or recently was in Raleigh, Dallas, Cleveland, Charleston, New York and Boston. Tickets for the afternoon Sheraton reception are $500 per person.

The dinner is at the home of Rajiv Fernando, the CEO of Chopper Trading.

WASHINGTON--Lisa Kohnke--who grew up in Oak Park--a veteran of the Obama 2008 campaign and the Obama White House-- joined the Obama 2012 re-election drive in Chicago as the Obama 2012 director of scheduling and advance.

Kohnke was the Director of Special Events for the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs at the White House from January 2009 through last month.

Before that, she was the Deputy Director of Scheduling and Advance on the 2008 campaign, where she managed debates and multi-candidate events.

Born in Chicago and raised in west suburban Oak Park, Kohnke is a 1994 graduate of Oak Park River Forest High School. She earned her undergraduate degree from Indiana University in 1998.

From a birdie: "On a side note: It is a bad kept secret that Lisa may have been the biggest Chicago sports fan in the White House."

Kohnke bio, from

Deputy Director of Special Events, Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs

Kohnke provides event logistical support and scheduling guidance for the outreach missions of OPE and IGA, both inside and outside of the White House. Kohnke was previously the Deputy Director of Scheduling and Advance for the Obama for America campaign. She has 12 years of scheduling and advance experience, having previously worked for College Democrats of America, former Vice President Al Gore's presidential campaign and his leadership PAC, Congressman Kendrick Meek, Senator John Kerry's presidential campaign and AIPAC. Kohnke grew up in Oak Park, IL and is a graduate of Indiana University.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell ends Tuesday

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WASHINGTON--President Obama is proposing raising the fee passengers pay for airport security, according to the document the White House released on Monday.

Obama is asking Congress to "remove the current statutory fee limit and replace it with a statutory fee minimum
of $5.00, with annual incremental increases of 50 cents from 2013 to 2017, resulting in a fee of $7.50 in 2017 and
thereafter." He is also asking lawmakers to "allow the Secretary of Homeland
Security to adjust the fee (to an amount equal to or greater than the new statutory fee minimum) through regulation when necessary."

click below for proposal...

WASHINGTON--President Obama sent 80 pages of detailed deficit proposals to Congress Monday morning. Read the pdf with the plan HERE.

My over-view post on the plan is HERE

WASHINGTON--President Obama arrives at the United Nations on Monday, confronted with the challenge of a Palestinian push for a statehood vote. The U.S and Israel would like to avoid a vote.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice explained the delicate situation--and the U.S. position-- last week at a press conference: "We are supportive and we want to see the creation of a Palestinian state. There is no question about that. And President Obama said so last year, again, here at the General Assembly. But the fact of the matter is, there's only one way to accomplish that. And that is by the two parties sitting down at the negotiating table and deciding on the terms of that state and deciding on the issues that divide them.

"The issues are borders, security, the capitol of a new state, refugees, water and all the very complex final status issues that can't be decided by fiat and a piece of paper here in the United Nations, whether in the Security Council or the General Assembly.

" can only be decided by direct negotiations between the two parties and an agreement between the two parties. And that's what we are working very, very hard to foster. That's been our objective for many years, and certainly over the last two and a half years of the Obama Administration."

Former President Bill Clinton hit the Sunday shows and was on NBC's "Today Show" on Monday morning, all to highlight his massive Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York this week. The CGI brings together heads of state and leaders from all walks of life around the world. It is timed to coincide with the opening of the United Nations General Assembly meeting.

Click below for fascinating list of speakers.....

WASHINGTON--The White House hosts a large conference for Historically Black Colleges and Universities this week, at a hotel here because the gathering is so large. White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett delivers the keynote address on Monday.

From John Silvanus Wilson, Jr., Executive Director, White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the program book: "When this office was established back in 1980, roughly 80 percent of the African Americans in American higher education were being educated inside of HBCUs. Today, 90 percent of African Americans are being educated outside of HBCUs, including 15 percent in for-profit institutions, 15 percent in Predominantly Black Institutions, and roughly 33 percent in community colleges (only14 of which are HBCUs).

"...This conference is tied to both the fulfillment of Presidential Executive Order 13532 and the pursuit of the goal set by President Obama and Secretary Duncan to have the best-educated and most-competitive and diverse workforce in the world by the year 2020. To meet this goal, our nation needs roughly 8 million more graduates overall, and nearly 2 million of them need to be African Americans. To do our part, HBCUs need to generate another 167 thousand graduates above our current base and pace by 2020. That means our annual production must climb from approximately 35.5 thousand graduates to over 54 thousand. That is no small challenge!"

President Obama's deficit reduction plan is unveiled Monday and Lynn Sweet previews the announcement with Greg Jarrett on his WGN. Listen to the interview HERE

WASHINGTON--President Obama will put a $3 trillion deficit plan on the table Monday morning, with cuts in Medicare and Medicaid--programs sacred to Democrats--only to be supported if wealthy people pay more taxes--a proposal GOP House Speaker John Boehner already said he would not support.

UPDATE The pdf to an 80-page report with details of Obama's proposal is HERE. END UPDATE

The plan is Obama's first bid to the 12-member House/Senate deficit cutting "Supercommittee" which must come up with $1.2 trillion in deficit reductions by the end of November--or face automatic cuts neither Republicans not Democrats favor.

Senior administration officials, briefing Sunday night, said Obama is laying out his "vision" on Monday, not a plan designed as a compromise to get votes or a "Grand Bargain," a reference to the deal-making this summer between the White House and Congress over deficit reduction and raising the debt ceiling.

By offering his own plan, Obama is aiming to address critics in the House and Senate who have faulted him for not coming to Capitol Hill with proposals. Obama's change of strategy first came earlier this month, when he sent actual legislation--a $447 billion jobs bill--to Congress.

The officials said Obama will veto any bill that comes to him that reduces the deficit only through cuts of Medicare and other spending; it must also include wealthier people paying more, a theme Obama has been pounding in speeches for months.

The officials --who briefed on the condition their names not be used-- offered highlights of the package and "principles" Obama will announce from the White House at 10:30 a.m. est to pay down debt and deficit over time:

*The tax equity "principles" include the "Buffett Rule," named for billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who has been an ally of Obama since he ran for a Senate seat from Illinois. Buffett has long argued that its not fair that he pays less in taxes than his middle class workers. Obama will propose a new tax rate for $1 million plus earners.

*$1.5 trillion in tax increases. That money would come from allowing Bush-era tax cuts to expire ($800 billion), limiting high income deductions ($300 billion) and closing tax loopholes ($300 billion). Some of the loophole closers, the officials said will be cutting breaks for the oil and gas industry, ending carried interest and taxing corporate jets--proposals that have been rejected in the past year by Congress.

During a speech last week, Boehner said he was open to closing "tax loopholes" but ruled out backing any "Supercommittee" tax hikes. "Tax increases, however, are not a viable option for the Joint Committee," Boehner said.

*$1.1 trillion savings in drawing down troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

*$248 billion reduction in Medicare spending. No beneficiary changes would come until 2017. While the senior administration officials--who briefed on the condition their names would not be used--said Obama would not propose raising the age for Medicare benefits they did not rule out "means testing" for Medicare, where wealthier seniors would pay more for services. At present Medicare beneficiaries pay the same, no matter their financial standing.

During summer negotiations with Congress, Obama had considered raising the Medicare age.

*$72 billion cut in Medicaid spending.

*$430 billion savings on interest payments.

Social Security would not be touched.

Obama Sept. 19, 2011 week ahead

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The Chicago Sun-Times Mary Houlihan talked to Jane Lynch about her memoir charting her rise from Thornridge High in Dolton to Glee. Read it HERE.

On the latest WLS890 "Connected to Chicago" with Bill Cameron...and Chicago Sun-Times Lynn Sweet, Tribune's Ray Long and Crain's Chicago Business Greg Hinz...LISTEN TO THE SHOW HERE

WASHINGTON--Former Sen. Charles H. Percy (R-Ill.) died early Saturday at the age of 91 at a hospice here. Percy's daughter, Sharon Percy Rockefeller, is the president and CEO of WETA, the Washington area public broadcasting station.

I covered part of Percy's 1978 campaign, moving up to extensively report on his 1984 re-election battle with Paul Simon, who defeated him. The 1984 campaign, by the way, marked the political debut of David Axelrod, who worked for Simon; he is now President Obama's chief strategist.

it's hard to imagine now, what with constricted campaign coverage budgets, but in 1984 it was routine for Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune reporters to travel almost full time with U.S. Senate candidates, especially as election day drew nearer. One time in 1984 I found myself on a small jet with Percy, who was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Bruce Dold, my Tribune rival, for an Illinois fly-around.

This was an era before cell phones, so each time we touched down at an airport, Percy would go off to make phone calls.

At one stop, Percy climbed aboard looking perturbed. Naturally, I was curious, as was my Tribune counterpart.

"What's up senator," we asked.

Percy gravely replied, "They are bombing Khartoum"

We asked, "who is bombing Khartoum?"

"We don't know," Percy said.

In that pre-Twitter, pre-blog, pre-cell phone, pre-Internet era, there was nothing print reporters could do with that scoop about the capital of Sudan as the plane took off.

Read the Chicago Sun-Times obit HERE.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- First lady Michelle Obama is no eating purist, nor has she ever pretended to not love her french fries even as she champions healthy eating.

"I splurge," she said Thursday, in a pre-emptive strike at critics ready to pounce at the sight of some fries getting within a few feet of Mrs. Obama. "It's a good thing."

The splurge confession is hardly news. She's been talking about how an occasional indulgence is OK since she launched her signature "Let's Move" anti-childhood obesity drive in 2010. There continues to be misunderstanding in some precincts, as recently as Thursday, and I suspect it is deliberate at this point. Mrs. Obama has been preaching balance for years now.

Mrs. Obama traveled to an Olive Garden restaurant in Hyattsville, Md., a Washington suburb, to tout a voluntary agreement made between the Partnership for a Healthier America -- the nonprofit created in connection with Let's Move that serves as its operating arm -- and Darden Restaurants, the company that runs the Olive Garden, Red Lobster, LongHorn Steakhouse and Bahama Breeze chains.

The restaurant company promised to start to cut calories, automatically serve healthier fruit and vegetable side dishes to kids, reduce sodium and, to decrease cola consumption, give kids free refills of low-fat milk.

While Darden will push to revamp the kids menu by July 2012, the company has a long-term goal of a 10 percent reduction of calories over five years and a 20 percent calorie cut in 10 years.

Darden is acting in the face of competition that has already pledged to improve products aimed at children, including McDonald's, which launched its plan to upgrade menu choices last July.

The headline on the Drudge Report over the AP story about the Darden deal was "No fries for you!" That led me to recall how in September, Glenn Beck at a "Right Nation 2010" convention in suburban Chicago said, "Get away from my french fries, Mrs. Obama."

In February, Mrs. Obama caught flak because of the White House Super Bowl menu, which included bratwurst, kielbasa, cheeseburgers and deep-dish pizza.

Her July milkshake at a Washington diner, the Shake Shack, found some journalists scrambling to figure out the hefty calorie count for their stories.

That's why, I figure, Mrs. Obama tried to inoculate herself against critics ready to pounce on her Thursday speech, where she was talking about how parents have to be good eating role models for their kids.

"So if we want them to develop healthy habits, then we can't order them the broccoli and the spinach and then turn around and have burgers and fries. Trust me, I tried it. It doesn't work. Doesn't play so well," Mrs. Obama said.

Her point Thursday -- and she has been consistent about this since the start of Let's Move -- is to use balance and moderation in making food choices.

"With that said, there is nothing wrong with occasionally splurging on treats and desserts, right? I mean, that's the fun of being a kid. And quite frankly, it's the fun of being human. And I certainly have done my share of splurging. I splurge. It's a good thing," she said.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is becoming more popular and voters may have some buyers remorse, Bloomberg's John McCormick writes about a new Bloomberg poll.

From McCormick: The most popular national political figure in America today is one who was rejected by her own party three years ago: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans hold a favorable view of her and one-third are suffering a form of buyer's remorse, saying the U.S. would be better off now if she had become president in 2008 instead of Barack Obama.

Read McCormick story HERE

WASHINGTON--David Axelrod, the top strategist for President Obama, writes a memo to Sunday show producers--released to the rest of the press on Friday--putting a different--and more optimistic frame on Obama's low approval ratings.

Writes Axelrod: the media is "focused on the President's approval ratings as if they existed in a black box."

Click below for entire memo...

WASHINGTON--White House chief of staff Bill Daley is the subject of a long piece in Politico headlined "Bill Daley struggles to fix Barack Obama's slump," which also compares and contrasts Daley with Rahm Emanuel, the former chief of staff now Chicago's mayor.

The story is by Glenn Thrush, John Breshanhan and Amie Parnes and can be read HERE.

Excerpts from Politico....

On Daley and Congress..

"Daley's style is considerably more hands-off, people who work with him say, leaving much of the outreach to his able legislative affairs director Rob Nabors, Obama economic adviser Gene Sperling and budget chief Jack Lew, who all have decades of Hill experience."

On Emanuel...

"To be fair, Emanuel, who now terrifies and exhausts staffers in the Chicago mayor's office, was nobody's idea of a prototypical chief of staff, offering a flurry of ideas and criticisms, often absent any plan to actually implement them.
And he was no LBJ when it came to negotiating either, often willing to cut quick deals with conservative Democrats or Republicans rather than risk adverse consequences. That, in turn, put him at odds with many of his own party's tougher bargainers, especially then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a longtime ally who clashed with him repeatedly during Obama's first two years in office."

Biden headlines Raleigh fund-raiser

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WASHINGTON--White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett is in California this week, on her most extensive fund-raising swing yet for President Barack Obama's 2012 re-election bid.

Jarrett is one of the major surrogates on the trail for the Obama/Biden ticket, both prospecting with potential donors and headlining events with an admission price. Jarrett has a unique place in the Obama orbit, a personal friend of the president and First Lady Michelle and a key advisor with an extensive portfolio.

In San Francisco, Jarrett also delivered a speech at the APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) Women and the Economy Summit on Wednesday. First Lady Chief of Staff Tina Tchen also spoke to the group.

Jarrett then headed to Berkeley for a fund-raiser at the home of John and Dorine Streeter, with tickets starting at $1,000. From there, she traveled to Piedmont for another funder in the home of Wayne Jordan and Quinn Delaney at a $5,000 per couple event.

In July I wrote about the speakers series the Obama fund-raising team launched--Mayor Rahm Emanuel debuted the program in New York. On Thursday, Jarrett was scheduled to kick off the San Francisco speakers series, with tickets $5,000 per person.

The series was developed by Obama's fund-raising team to market to donors and bundlers -- people who tap into their personal networks to raise money for a candidate -- who may not be able to handle the $35,000 dinners Obama, Mrs. Obama or Vice President Joe Biden.

On Thursday evening, Jarrett is the draw at a fundraising dinner at the home of Noosheen Hashemi in Atherton, with tickets at $2,500 per person.

Moving on from the Bay area to Sacramento, on Friday Jarrett headlines fund-raising lunch at the Sutter Club there, with tickets starting at $2,500.

Heading to Los Angeles, Jarrett headlines an afternoon reception being marketed to women at the home of Michael Kong and Stacy Twilley where Demi Moore is one of the co-hosts. Tickets start at $1,000 for a mother/daughter combo.

From the invite: join Jarrett for "an afternoon reception and discussion focusing on empowering women and girls and encouraging a career in politics and public service."

On Aug. 11, Jarrett was in Columbia, S.C. for a field office visit and to appear at a Generation 44 fund-raisers. She was in Detroit on June 29 and Los Angeles on May 13 for fund-raisers.

Click below for the invitation to the Los Angeles mother/daughter event....

As the House Energy and Commerce Committee explores the Solyndra loan debacle--a big mess on President Obama's watch--ProPublica, the public interest journalism group, has a good guide to the developing story.

Speaker Boehner jobs speech. Text

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WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama on Thursday highlighted a move by Darden Restaurants--which operates Red Lobster, Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and Bahama Breeze--to sign a "a binding, legal agreement" to cut calories, offer healthier fruit and vegetable side dishes, reduce sodium and give free refills of one percent milk to kids.

The announcement was the latest deal signed by the Partnership for a Healthier America, the non-profit created to operate Mrs. Obama's "Let's Move" anti-childhood obesity drive.

Mrs. Obama lauded the chain for serving "healthier side dishes" as the standard on kids meals. So if "you don't choose anything, you get the broccoli," she said. Fries would come only on request.

She said that "often parents assume" that a kids menu is healthy and "too often that is simply not the case."

Mrs. Obama--apparently trying to avoid any labeling of this latest "Let's Move" program as part of a food police agenda-- said she was not "telling parents what to do" but was asking them to take "responsibility."

"Nothing wrong with occasionally splurging on sweets and deserts....I splurge!," she said. Mrs. Obama has never cast herself as a purist when it comes to eating, instead urging moderation and balance when it comes to treats.

Mrs. Obama traveled to the Washington suburb of Hyattsville, Md., for the announcement at an Olive Garden restaurant. Last July, Mrs. Obama gathered executives of Walgreen, Wal-Mart and other big retail chains to announce a promise to open more stores to reduce "food deserts," areas considered under-served by food stores.

She was joined by Drew Madsen, the president and chief operating officer of Darden in unveiling the revamped kids's menus--to start right away and be phased in by July 2012--and other changes, to be part of a five-and-ten-year plan for the 1,900 restaurants in 49 states Darden operates.

From Darden: "Darden is committing to reduce its calorie and sodium footprints, and to provide greater choice and variety to families through changes to its kids' menus. Across the entire Darden portfolio of brands, the company is working toward a 10 percent reduction of calories and sodium over five years and a 20 percent reduction in calories and sodium over 10 years. On kids' menus, fruits or vegetables will become the default side option and 1-percent milk will be the default beverage choice with free refills. Changes to the kids' menus are starting now and will be fully implemented by next July.

Here are specifics on the Darden committment:

Partnership for a Healthier America secured the following commitments and will be working with Darden to evaluate and monitor their progress with these efforts.

Kids' Menus - changes starting now and to be fully implemented by July 2012
· Guarantee a fruit or vegetable will be the default side for every kids' menu item at those restaurants offering a default side on the children's menu: Bahama Breeze, LongHorn Steakhouse and Red Lobster.
· 1% milk will be the default beverage, provided automatically if no alternate beverage is requested. Milk will be prominently promoted on the menu and made available with free refills.
· Food illustrations on the menu will promote the healthy choices for meals and drinks.
· Healthier menu options will be more prominently displayed when possible.
· Carbonated beverages will not be displayed on children's menus.
· Improve the nutritional content of one or more children's menu items to provide equal or less than 600 calories, 30% of total calories from fat, 10% of total calories from saturated fat, and 600 mg of sodium.

Calories/Sodium Footprint Reduction - changes to be implemented by 2016 and 2021
· By 2016, reduce calories by 10% and over a ten-year period by 20%.
· By 2016, reduce sodium by 10% and over a ten-year period by 20%.

WASHINGTON--The White House State DInner crashing Tareq and Michaele Salahi are in the news again. I just saw a tearful Tareq on local station NBC4 claiming his wife was kidnapped. TMZ is reporting Michaele "has run off with Neal Schon, the lead guitarist for the band Journey." NBC4 is confirming TMZ, reporting that local authorities were in contact with Michaele and she told them she left her husband and is with a friend.

"Don't Stop Believin" lyric seems apt to quote here....

Just a small town girl, living in a lonely world....

Obama dinner fund-raiser.jpg

WASHINGTON--Through texts and e-mails on Wednesday, President Obama made a pitch for three backers to have dinner with him--that is, donate at least $5 to his campaign and get entered into a lottery to win the meal. Obama used this tactic in 2008 to target low dollar donors. High end folks pay up to $35,800 for face time with Obama at fund-raising dinners.

Winners get free airfare.

Said Obama about the donor dinner lottery: "If this sounds a bit familiar to you, it's because we've done this before. In fact, my hope is that I'll be able to keep doing these dinners throughout the campaign.

"They're a chance for me to talk one on one with people like you who are taking ownership of this campaign and connect with the work going on every day in neighborhoods across the country.

These dinners also set our campaign apart. No matter what our opponents do over the next 14 months, dinners like these are how we will continue to put people at the heart of this campaign -- and prove that we don't need checks from Washington lobbyists or special-interest PAC money to win an election. We can do it person to person, in our neighborhoods and backyards, and over the dinner table."

WH design lunch1.jpegLunch in the White House East Room for 2011 Cooper-Hewitt National Design Awards winners and finalists. (Photo by Lynn Sweet)

michelle obama place setting.jpegMichelle Obama's place setting. (photo by Lynn Sweet)

Rick Valicenti.jpgDesign Award Winner Rick Valicenti (Photo by Lynn Sweet)

wh garden lettuce seeds.jpegSeeds from the White House garden were given as gifts. (photo by Lynn Sweet)

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a lunch for the National Design Award winners--the highest honor in the business--Tuesday in the East Room. The award lunch was done with The Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. Among the National Design Award winners at the lunch: Chicago's Rick Valicenti, founder of Thirst, 1440 W. Hubbard.

NATIONAL DESIGN AWARDS LUNCH MENU. Number of guests: about 160.


South Lawn Garden Greens
Jeeves Passion Fruit Gelee


Compressed Watermelon
Feta Cheese and Roasted Figs
Pistachio Vinaigrette

Crab-filled Saffron Ravioli
Roasted Sun Gold Tomatoes
Yellow Corn and Lemon Verbena


Peach Marjolaine with Blackberries
Grapefruit Sorbet


Illumination Sauvignon Blanc "Napa" 2010 Napa Valley, Calif.

Click below for transcript of Mrs. Obama's remarks

WASHINGTON--Hard to imagine a time when Fox News Channel wasn't a part of the 24/7 news and politics scene--the cable outlet marks its 15th anniversary with a six-city national tour of its top shows kicking off Sept. 19. Neil Cavuto, of "Your World with Neil Cavuto" does his show from Chicago on Oct. 3.

Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), a Tea Party leader, lost a round in a child support battle with his former wife on Wednesday. Chicago Sun-Times Abdon M. Pallasch reports that Cook County Circuit Court Judge Raul Vega issued a preliminary ruling ordering Walsh to explain why he appears to be $100,000 behind on his child-support payments.

More from Pallasch: "Laura Walsh -- who works as a public policy analyst for the pharmaceuticals giant Eli Lilly and Co. -- said the issue before the court is straightforward: "It's child support. Either he paid it, or he didn't. I'm certainly pleased with the ruling today."

Read Pallasch story HERE

WASHINGTON--Mayor Rahm Emanuel will help kick off a U.S.-India economic conference in Chicago on Sept. 20 sponsored by The Executives' Club and highlighted with a visit by India's new ambassador to the U.S., Nirupama Rao.

Rao presented her credentials to President Obama in a Sept. 9 ceremony.

"The Executives' Club of Chicago is pleased to welcome India's Ministers and new Ambassador to the U.S. and is proud to confirm that they will be speakers. Our membership looks forward to hearing from His Excellency Anand Sharma, Minister of Commerce, Industry & Textiles, His Excellency Sushil Kumar Shinde, Minister of Power, His Excellency Farooq Abdullah, Minister of New & Renewable Energy and Her Excellency Nirupama Rao, Indian Ambassador to the U.S. who will keynote during a full-day of programming covering aviation, manufacturing, power, renewable energy and telecommunications," said Melissa Bean, CEO & President. Bean is a former suburban Chicago congresswoman.

"....The summit is presented in partnership with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and in collaboration with The Chicago Council on Global Affairs and The Delhi Committee of Chicago Sister Cities."


WASHINGTON-- First Lady Michelle Obama is expected Thursday to announce headway in her drive to have restaurants reduce portion sizes, part of her "Let's Move' campaign against obesity.

"The Childhood Obesity Task Force Report"--commissioned as part of Mrs. Obama's "Let's Move" project, "specifically calls on restaurants to, "consider their portion sizes, improve children's menus, and make healthy options the default choice whenever possible."

WASHINGTON--New York Republican Bob Turner defeated Democrat David Weprin in a Tuesday special election for the Anthony Weiner seat in a district that had been seen as solidly Democratic. Weiner resigned in a sexting scandal. Watch for a lot of chatter today by Democrats who will say this loss does mean trouble ahead for President Obama in 2012. But it does throw a spotlight on Obama's troubles with Jewish voters. The Weiner seat loss was coupled with another GOP win, in Nevada, where Mark Amodei won a special election in a Reno area district.

Click below for GOP and Democratic statements....

WASHINGTON--Illinois Republicans are asking a federal court here to force the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to disclose the role they played in creating a congressional map rigged to elect Democrats.

Ten Illinois House members and Illinois GOP leaders who created the "Committee for a Fair and Balanced Map" are suing the Illinois State Board of Elections in order to force the drawing of a new map.

Though the original lawsuit was filed in Chicago last July, the plaintiffs are asking a federal court in Washington to compel the DCCC, the Democratic House political operation, to produce the documents requested in a subpoena.

The DCCC is resisting the request on the grounds that a court should first wait to see if the motion to dismiss filed by the defendants is successful.

The GOP motion argues, "Having injected itself into the Illinois congressional redistricting process, the DCCC now seeks to hide behind a series of bogus objections which are wholly lacking in merit. Plaintiffs seek highly relevant information regarding the DCCC's role in creating the Proposed Congressional Plan, which is a product of a backroom legislative process shrouded in darkness. Plaintiffs are entitled to that information to prove their claims that the Proposed Congressional Plan intentionally dilutes the votes of Latinos, enacts an unconstitutional racial gerrymander, and engages in blatant partisan gerrymandering. And the DCCC has no legitimate basis on which to shield that information from discovery.

"Because the DCCC has regarded the Subpoena as something akin to a social invitation that it can ignore and has utterly failed to approach the meet and confer process with anything other than bad faith, Plaintiffs have no alternative but to seek this Court's assistance to enforce the duly issued Subpoena."

In Chicago, the case has been assigned to a three-judge panel consisting of Judge Joan Lefkow, Circuit Judge John Daniel Tinder and District Judge Robert L. Miller, Jr.

GOP 2012 contenders meet in Tampa, Fl. for a CNN/Tea Party debate Monday at 8 p.m. est. Last Wednesday the eight rivals met at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

WASHINGTON--At the last of a long day of memorials Sunday marking the tenth anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, President Obama noted lives lost in New York, Washington, Pennsylvania, Iraq and Afghanistan: "May God bless the memory of those we lost, may God bless the United States of America."

During ceremonies on Saturday and Sunday, the bitter partisanship of recent months was shelved as former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden appeared at the sites where the four planes hijacked by terrorists met a horrific end.

The attacks, the worse in U.S. history, plunged the nation into two wars, forced massive new domestic security measures, threw a spotlight on Osama bin Laden's brand of radical Muslim fundamentalism and caused inconsolable grief to the families of the 2,819 people who died.

On Sunday the attention was on the families of the victim and survivors. No one on the planes lived. United Airlines Flight 175 and American Airlines Flight 11 were flown into the World Trade Center towers and the buildings collapsed a short time later. American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into a side of the Pentagon. The passengers on United Flight 93 are regarded as heros because they stormed the cockpit and crash landed the Washington bound plane.

Leaving the White House at 6:19 a.m.--returning at 9:15 p.m.--- Obama and First Lady Michelle traveled to "ground zero" in New York first, than Shanksville, then to the Pentagon for remembrances in the afternoon. Obama's last remarks on 9-11 were at a service organized by the Washington National Cathedral, moved to the Kennedy Center because the Aug. 23 earthquake damaged the structure.

The chimes of the Cathedral here rang out at the exact times the planes hit ten years ago: 8:46 a.m. and 9:02 a.m. in Manhattan; 9:37 a.m. at the Pentagon and 10:03 a.m. in southeastern Pennsylvania.

In New York, Obama was joined by Bush, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani; performers--Paul Simon sang "Sound of Silence," accompanying himself on guitar-- and from tearful family members of those who perished who told the crowd of their terrible loss.

Obama read from Psalm 46, selecting a passage "that talks of persevering through very difficult challenges and emerging from those challenges stronger," said principal press secretary Josh Earnest.

Bush -who was president on Sept. 11, 2001--read from a letter President Abraham Lincoln wrote to a Civil War widow.

Obama laid at wreath at the Flight 93 National Memorial and did not speak. At the Saturday dedication of the site marking where 40 passengers and crew died, Clinton announced that he would co-host a fund-raiser with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in order to raise funds to finish the project.

At the Cathedral memorial, Obama said that decades from now people will realize that the U.S. endured despite the attacks. "And they will know that nothing can break the will of a truly United States of America," Obama said, emphasizing the word united. "They will remember that we've overcome slavery and Civil War; we've overcome bread lines and fascism and recession and riots and Communism and, yes, terrorism."

The Pentagon-the only military target of the hijackers-- marked the day with two observances at the 9-11 Memorial on the west side of the structure dedicated in 2008. In the morning, wreathes were laid on each of the 184 backless benches--one for each victim.

Biden, in the morning Pentagon event talked about a "9-11 Generation" spawned ten years ago.

"Those in this building that day knew what they were witnesses.It was a declaration of war by stateless actors -- bent on changing our way of life -- who believed that these horrible acts of terror --these horrible acts of terror directed against innocents could buckle our knees, could bend our will, could being to break us and break our resolve.

"But they did not know us. Instead, that same American instinct that sent all of you into the breach between the 4th and 5th corridors," Biden said, referring to the rings of the Pentagon building, "galvanized an entire new generation of patriots --- the 9/11 Generation

note: The official schedule for Sept. 12 does not reflect a Rose Garden jobs event Obama will hold on Monday a White House official disclosed on Sunday after the schedule was released..

obama washington national cathedral.jpg

Photo provided courtesy of Washington National Cathedral.

Photographer: Donovan Marks

From the Cathedral....

"Barack Obama spoke Sunday Evening at Washington National Cathedral's
"A Concert for Hope," the capstone event of a three-day commemoration of the
tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001. Washington National Cathedral joined
the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, the Pentagon Memorial Fund, and the
Flight 93 National Memorial to present "A Call to Compassion," a weekend of
programming that gathered Americans to honor the memories of those who were
lost, heal the wounds caused by terrorism and war, and gain new hope to move
forward as a nation."

Click below for transcript

WASHINGTON--It's not on President Obama's public schedule for Monday yet--but according to a White House official, Obama will send Congress his jobs bill tomorrow night, with send-off remarks in the Rose Garden. Obama will be flanked, the official said, will be flanked in the Rose Garden by teachers, firefighters, police officers, small business owners and veterans, all people who Obama said would benefit from his package of tax breaks and spending to jumpstart the economy. Obama delivered the broad outlines of what the White House calls the "American Jobs Act" Thursday before a joint session of Congress.

WASHINGTON -- When President Barack Obama dropped in at Chief of Staff Bill Daley's office on Friday, the conversation with visiting Chicagoans -- including former Mayor Richard Daley and his son, Patrick -- turned to how Mayor Rahm Emanuel was doing, why Chicago doesn't have casino gambling and Obama's own immigration record.

That's the report I got from Ald. Danny Solis (25th), whom I ran into on Pennsylvania Avenue as he was leaving the White House on Friday with City Colleges of Chicago board chair and Cabrera Capital Markets CEO Martin Cabrera Jr., Evans Food Group CEO Alejandro Silva and United Neighborhood Organization CEO Juan Rangel.

I've been fascinated with the interlocking relationships among Chicagoans in the Obama White House since the beginning, which was made even more interesting when Bill Daley later took over from Emanuel as chief of staff. Solis has distinct and separate ties to the Daley brothers as a Chicago alderman and to Obama, whom he met when they were both young community organizers in Chicago.

Obama was curious, Solis said, "how the new mayor, Rahm, was doing."

Prompted by the question, Solis brought Obama up to date on two stories that have been making headlines in Chicago: Emanuel's battle with the Chicago Teachers Union to extend the school day, and his pressure on Gov. Pat Quinn for a casino in Chicago, made more urgent since a casino opened in suburban Des Plaines in July.

"Obama could never under- stand why Indiana and the other states" had casinos and Chicago did not, Solis said.

One thing, I guess, led to another and Obama offered up, Solis said, that his mother-in-law, Marian Robinson, "goes once or twice a year to Vegas and really enjoys it."

Solis and Obama met in the 1980s when Solis worked for UNO and Obama for The Developing Communities Project, both part of the Chicago-based Gamaliel Foundation network. "We used to go to the same trainings together," Solis told me.

There is also another connection. Patti, Solis' sister -- who managed Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign until she was jettisoned -- ended up in the Obama 2008 headquarters in Chicago as chief of staff for vice presidential running mate Joe Biden.

The talk in Bill Daley's office turned to immigration issues, and Solis said Obama faced some difficulty in the Hispanic community. That message is not news to Obama, whose administration has been stepping up Hispanic outreach across the nation this past year.

"We talked about the way deportations increased" on Obama's watch, Solis said.

The swelling numbers of deportees has fueled an outcry from immigrants rights activists -- and U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) -- who did not expect that to happen while Obama was president.

The Obama administration addressed the controversy on Aug. 18 with a new policy that could save thousands of people from deportation and virtually stop deporting students who are the children of illegal immigrants.

Obama disagreed with the way Solis framed the deportation issue.

"He clarified a very important point," Solis said.

While deportations are up, Obama emphasized that about "60 percent" of them took place at the border, which "shows enforcement [is] working," Solis said Obama told them.

"I told him that had to be clarified in the message [that the] majority of people are caught at the border," Solis said.

The Chicagoans were in town for a dinner honoring the former mayor on Thursday night, hosted by Mexico's Ambassador to the United States, Arturo Sarukhan.

Sarukhan met with Daley in September 2009, when he was in Chicago. When I interviewed Sarukhan in April of last year, in advance of First Lady Michelle's trip to Mexico City, he recalled his Chicago tour and his interest in a city with such an enormous Mexican-American community.

Bill Daley joined the dinner honoring his brother after Obama delivered his jobs speech before a joint session of Congress Thursday night. Solis said Mayor Daley suggested the White House visit Friday.

It was "a good friendly meeting among people who have known each other for a very long time," Solis said.

WASHINGTON--President Obama read Psalm 46 at the New York ceremony Sunday marking the tenth anniversary of the 9-11 attacks.

Principal deputy press secretary Josh Earnest explained why Obama selected that psalm.

"The President chose a scripture which he believed was most appropriate -- he believed it was particularly appropriate to use -- to read scripture this morning. And he chose a passage that talks of persevering through very difficult challenges and emerging from those challenges stronger," Earnest said.

Click below for transcript...

CST front page 9-10.jpg

My friends in Washington always ask me how Rahm Emanuel is doing as mayor; since Emanuel loves metrics, I thought I would pass along this benchmark, the first episode of alleged verbal abuse by Emanuel in his role as mayor....

It's not pleasant being yelled at by Emanuel, especially the first time. The intimidating tactic by President Obama's former chief of staff takes a little getting used to, then you can try to shrug it off. Toughen up, Chicago.

Chicago Sun-Times education reporter Rosalind Rossi details the Chicago Teachers Union chief telling of her heated discussion with Emanuel over the longer school day. Emanuel exploded at her, she said. The CTU sued Rahm's Board of Education Friday over the longer school day, asserting he is trying to "coerce" teachers into waivering their labor rights. Read Rossi's report here.

WASHINGTON--First lady Michelle Obama exercises a lot to stay in shape, but her main sport is tennis, a game she is passing on to daughters Sasha and Malia. During a visit to New York on Friday to promote her "Let's Move" anti-obesity program at the U.S. Open, Mrs. Obama talked about how she came to love the game, even though there were not a lot of tennis courts in Chicago's South Shore neighborhood where she was raised.

Said Mrs. Obama, "Now, I'm probably like the average kid. I didn't -- I grew up in the city, on the south side. And there were not a lot of tennis courts around. So I really didn't get exposure to the sport until after law school, when I just sort of picked it up and started playing with some friends. And it's the kind of sport that you just develop a passion for. And I'm not really good or anything like that -- that's the beauty of tennis. You don't have to be good to enjoy it, because I love the game and my skills are very questionable.

"But that's one of the reasons why I introduced the sport to my kids early on, because it's the kind of thing that -- it's great for kids because it gets you moving. It keeps you focused. You've got to move your muscles. You've got to be quick. You've got to be strong. Gets those arm muscles going, gets your heart pumping. But it's a sport you can do forever. I mean, that's one of the beauties. I know people in their 90s that are still playing tennis, and I want to be one of those people. I want my daughters to be some of those people. And I want all kids around the country to have access to opportunities and to get some exposure to sports like tennis so that you guys figure out what your loves are."

WASHINGTON--Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) urged President Obama to spend "some quality alone time" with House Speaker John Boehner as Congress takes up job creation proposals from Obama and other lawmakers.

A closer relationship between the two could be crucial during upcoming deliberations, Kirk told me when we talked Friday morning.

"Time one on one is critical," Kirk said, even suggesting Obama invite Boehner to Camp David, the presidential retreat in the Maryland mountains or to another round of golf.

Democrat Obama and Republican Boehner last week tangled over Obama's request to address a joint session of Congress. In a flap that illustrated how hard it is for opponents to have a working relationship, Boehner turned down Obama's original Wednesday night request but agreed to Thursday. Obama invited Boehner to play golf with him last June--meaningful because Obama usually prefers to draw his golfing companions from a small circle of regulars.

Obama in his Thursday night speech unveiled a package of long and short term plans he argues will create jobs. The White House told me Friday morning the speech will be translated into a bill and sent to Congress next week.

Most likely the new 12-member bi-partisan, bi-cameral "Super Committee," created out of the summer wrangling will deal with the Obama package, a move Kirk said would be productive. That's because the panel faces a late November deadline to make massive cuts--or raise revenue, or do both--or else face automatic cuts neither Democrats nor Republicans would want, an incentive for the dozen lawmakers to make a deal.

The battle over Mayor Rahm Emanuel's drive to increase the Chicago public school day latest on Friday...

Education Secretary Arne Duncan, in Chicago, tells Chicago Sun-Times education reporter Rosalind Rossi he would have liked to lengthen the school day when he was the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools.

The Chicago Teachers Union filed a lawsuit against the Board of Education on Friday morning charging that teachers are being "coerced" to waive their "labor rights" in Emanuel's longer day quest.

Click below for details of the lawsuit, filed with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board...

West Wing Week: Jobs and jobs

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WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama's latest job creation package contains long- and short-term proposals to jolt the economy, with expansion of the payroll tax cut to employers -- and a bigger reduction for workers -- one of the centerpieces of his $447 billion plan.

With the jobless rate stuck around 9 percent -- and the terrible news last month that employers overall were not generating new jobs, Obama's biggest threat to his re-election is not his GOP 2012 rivals but lingering unemployment.

Republicans and Democrats face a deep ideological divide on how to create more jobs.

Democrats have been favoring spending, and while Obama's massive $825 billion economic stimulus plan passed by Congress in February 2009 may have stopped the bleeding, it did not heal the wound.

Republicans will certainly be skeptical of the $447 billion price tag -- Obama did not mention that number in his speech Thursday night before a joint session of Congress -- and most recently they have been emphasizing that regulations are strangling business and that's why more jobs are not being created.

A senior administration official said during a briefing Thursday that temporary payroll tax cuts are an "elegant'' economic tool because they go to every worker who gets a paycheck and every business with salaried employees.

It is potentially a very fast way to get money out the door and into peoples' hands -- much quicker than other Obama proposals such as rehabbing and modernizing school buildings and building more multimodal transporation projects, which take a few years.

The Social Security payroll tax is 6.2 percent for workers and companies. This year, under a measure Congress approved in 2010, that rate dropped to 4.2 percent for workers and no break for firms. That break was to last only one year.

Obama is proposing that workers pay only 3.1 percent in extending the break for another year. For someone earning $106,800 or more -- (taxes on Social Security are capped on the first $106,800 in wages), the savings is about $3,300 a year. If you make $1,000 a week, you paid $62 dollars a week for Social Security in 2010, $42 weekly in 2011 and you would pay $31 in 2012.

Obama is asking Congress to allow companies to pay half the tax -- 3.1 percent on the first $5 million in payroll, a feature intended to especially help small firms. Employers would further save money if they hired new workers or gave raises because under Obama's plan, they would not have to pay any payroll taxes for them. This provision would be capped at a $50 million payroll.

The money helps the economy if people spend it and if companies use the savings to invest in people or the business.

After I wrote Wednesday that the payroll tax break workers get is the best break a lot of people don't know about, I got several e-mails from Chicagoans who said higher gas prices and an Illinois income tax increase swallowed the gains. A temporary federal payroll tax break also serves as a buffer for other hits to the wallet people face in this lousy economy.

WASHINGTON--With the nation about to mark the 10th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks, the White House confirmed Thursday that there are credible threats of an attack around the anniversary.

A White House official said, "The President was briefed on this specific threat information this morning and has been updated on it throughout the day. The United States government has already significantly enhanced its security posture in advance of the 9/11 anniversary to protect the country against possible terrorist threats. Nevertheless, the President directed the counterterrorism community to redouble its efforts in response to this credible but unconfirmed information."

Obama's jobs plan: fact sheet UPDATE

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Updated with links, pdf, etc...

White House slide show

PDF of Obama jobs proposals is jobs_act.pdf

Link to main White House fact page is HERE

Click below for text....

WASHINGTON--President Obama wants to cut Social Security payroll taxes in half for workers and employers in order to provide a fast jolt the economy. Last year, Obama and Congress agreed to shave the workers portion of the Social Security tax to 4.2 percent from 6.2 percent, with employers still paying the full 6.2 percent share. Under Obama's proposal, both sides would get a bigger break with the rate dropped temporarily to 3.1 percent, with the business cut applied to the first $5 million in payroll. Obama would eliminate payroll taxes totally for companies hiring new workers or giving raises.

"You should pass it right away," Obama told Congress.

WASHINGTON--Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), a Tea Party leader, is boycotting President Obama's jobs speech Thursday night, hold instead a small business town hall in Schaumburg which Democratic House contender
Raja Krishanmoorthi intends to attend.

Walsh is skipping the session because he said it is a "political" speech. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) encouraged his GOP colleagues to attend. Krishnamoorthi is running in the eighth district, locked in a Democratic primary with Tammy Duckworth. Walsh represents the eighth district under the current map but is likely to run from the 14th district in 2012 under a new map. But for now Walsh hasn't said where he will run from, which makes it possible for Duckworth and Krishnamoorthi to piggyback on Walsh's ability to get press attention.

While Krishnamoorthi heads to Schaumburg, Duckworth sent out a fund-raising appeal linked to the Walsh boycott.

Wrote Duckworth, "Did you see the latest from Congressman Joe Walsh? He's apparently decided that when the President of the United States comes to Congress to share his plan for creating jobs in the midst of a deep recession, he doesn't need to be there.

Congressman Walsh seems to think it's all a big game, saying that he refuses to "be a prop" for the President.

Well, Congressman, I have news for you: The people of Illinois are taking this jobs crisis much more seriously than you are. And they expect their Congressman to take seriously a proposal from the President. Disagree if you must, but at least listen to the proposal."

WASHINGTON--White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett hit the cable talk shows Thursday, in the run-up to President Obama's unveiling his new job creation plan before a joint session of Congress.

Jarrett told the Fox Business Network how the President will finance his jobs programs. "What I will say generally and the President has said this before is that we do need to close loop holes. We need a fair tax system. We need to make sure that people that are paying their fair share; that those who can most afford to pay a little bit more do. And so I think that the process that Secretary Geithner has been going through looking at corporate tax reform generally will come out later. But in this particular bill, the President will be looking to close loopholes."

And on the mission of the President's jobs plan, she said, "The goal of the American Jobs Act is to create jobs right now. It will be fully paid for. We are going to create a wide range of jobs. There will be a range of tax benefits for small businesses and startups. The important message is we need to act now and that is what the President will be calling on congress to do. There are programs in the package that have received bipartisan support in the past. This should not be controversial."

atkinson.jpeg(photo by Lynn Sweet)

WASHINGTON--When President Obama delivers his jobs speech tonight before a joint session of Congress, the House gallery will be full of guests--many invited by Democrats or Republicans to make a point, such as a man from Atkinson, Ill. who pleaded with Obama last month at a town hall in the western Illinois town to "not challenge us" with more regulations.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the number two leader in the Senate, is bringing Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael Carrigan as his guest to the joint session.

On the GOP side, Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) the chief deputy whip put together a list of "job creators" on behalf of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio.), some of whom say they have been hobbled by the federal government--either through regulations or some bureaucratic action.

One of Roskams picks is Rock Katschnig is a corn and soybean farmer from Prophetstown, Ill. Last month, when Obama hosted a town hall at Wyffels Hydrids, a corn seed company, in Atkinson, Katschnig told Obama to applause--I was there covering the town hall and saw and heard how his question resonated-- "Please don't challenge us with more rules and regulations from Washington, D.C., that hinder us from doing that. We would prefer to start our day in a tractor cab or combine cab rather than filling out forms and permits to do what we'd like to do."

Another Roskam guest is Eric Treiber is the CEO of Chicago White Metal Casting, who according to a release heads "a third-generation family-owned die casting company employing 250 workers in suburban Chicago. Jobs at White Metal Casting are being threatened by increased costs associated with excessive federal regulations, in particular Clean Air Act and utility MACT regulations."

WASHINGTON--The Democratic National Committee holds its fall meeting in Chicago on Friday and Saturday, previewing the 2012 nominating convention a year away in Charlotte, rallying base constitutient groups and providing a rare glimpse of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan in his role as Democratic Party of Illinois chairmain.

The DNC session comes as President Obama's and the DNC's mega donors and fund-raisers are also in Chicago for briefings from White House and campaign officials on Thursday and Friday.
The Democrats are gathering Thursday night at the Obama 2012 headquarters in the Prudential Building to watch Obama's jobs speech before a joint session of Congress.

I'm told that some 300 DNC members plus staff will be in Chicago for the meeting at the Marriott, 151 W. Adams in the Loop.

Madigan was last in the political news because he attended a fund-raising for GOP House Speaker John Boehner in the Chicago suburb of Lemont last month, the Sun-Times reported
. Apprarently there are no hard feelings because Madigan will be addressing the group, according to the DNC schedule. Madigan is a rarity among state Democratic chairmen because he rarely interacts with the DNC.

Other speakers include Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama's former White House chief of staff, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Steve Kerrigan, the CEO of the 2012 convention in North Carolina and DNC Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fl.). State Sen. Iris Martinez (D-Chicago) is the DNC Hispanic Caucus chair.

WASHINGTON -- President Obama is expected to ask Congress Thursday to extend the payroll tax cut every working person who gets a paycheck has been receiving for the past year. I call it the best tax break you don't know you have.


No one I've asked over the past few months can tell me the amount of cash Obama has put in their pocket. And it's clear the people I've been chatting with -- friend and foe of Obama -- had no idea they were getting a tax break. Maybe it's a result of so much direct deposit that people don't study pay stubs anymore or a matter of financial literacy or confusing messaging from the White House.

Here's the deal: Under a bipartisan deal Obama made with Congress in 2010 and starting in 2011, the deduction on your paycheck for Social Security -- often called a payroll tax -- was cut by 2 percent for a year. The rate workers kicked in dropped to 4.2 percent from 6.2 percent. The employers' contribution stayed the same -- 6.2 percent.

What does this mean to you? If you make $106,800 a year, the maximum saving is $2,136. (Social Security taxes are applied to only the first $106,800 of earnings.)

Let's look at it another way: If you make $500 a week, you get a $10 weekly tax cut. If you make $1,000 each week, your break is $20; a $1,500 weekly salary earner pays $30 less in payroll taxes.

In aggregate, the payroll tax cut pumped an estimated $112 billion into the economy -- indirectly.

This break works best if people buy stuff -- and not save the money or pay down debt. The Congressional Budget Office concluded that "higher spending would, in turn, increase production and employment."

Unlike other economic stimulus programs, the paroll tax break does not deliver as much bang for the buck as, say, a targeted tax cut or stimulus spending. Consider the upside: Trimming the payroll tax is one of the only tools around that can put money in the hands of consumers everywhere right away.

Obama, in his speech, may call for the employers' Social Security contribution to be temporarily trimmed. The thought is that even a short-term employer cut will bolster the balance sheets of business, potentially resulting in either more hires or expansion.

Some conservative Republicans in Congress question the effectiveness of the payroll tax cut -- even as they have fought hard to preserve the upper income Bush era income tax cuts.

The payroll tax holiday alone is not going to create the wholesale job growth needed to reduce the 9 percent unemployment rate. It is a retail component of a package of possible cures.

One of Obama's most caustic critics, Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), a leader of the anti-tax Tea Party may have, for once, found common ground with the president. Walsh told me he supports renewing the payroll break and extending it to employers. He does not believe it will create jobs but it "puts more money in the pockets of more Americans" and that is "always the right thing to do."

The Republican presidential 2012 contenders are debating and bashing Obama's healthcare plan, blaming it for everything but the earthquake that hit Washington. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney came prepared to strip Texas Gov. Rick Perry of his bragging rights about the Texas economy and try to cut the new front-runner down to size.

Romney, address Perry's claims of creating a Texas economy in better shape than the rest of the nation said, "States are different. Texas is a great state. Texas has zero income tax. Texas has a right to work state, a Republican legislature, a Republican Supreme Court. Texas has a lot of oil and gas in the ground.

"Those are wonderful things, but Governor Perry doesn't believe that he created those things. If he tried to say that, well, it would be like Al Gore saying he invented the Internet."

WASHINGTON--The Republican 2012 presidential contenders debate Wednesday night at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. and the Democratic National Committee, in a pre-emptive strike, slammed the rivals for their Tea Party alliances.

In a report released on Wednesday morning, the DNC said Tea Party proposals--a balanced budget amendment, supermajorities to raise revenues and caps on spending--would result in massive job loss and hurt the middle class.

The emphasis on jobs comes as the debate takes place the night before President Obama unveils his newest jobs plan before a joint session of Congress. Obama rolls out his proposals with the jobless rate stuck at about 9 percent and zero job growth last month.

The Wednesday match-up, sponsored by NBC News and Politico, is the first debate for Texas Gov. Rick Perry and sparks may fly between him and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney--who Perry quickly displaced as the front-runner once he jumped in the race.

Democrats have stepped up their efforts to link Republicans to the Tea Party--a movement that has grown increasingly influential in GOP politics.

DNC communications director Brad Woodhouse and former Obama White House press secretary Robert Gibbs are flying to California today to be in the "spin room" at the Reagan Library to rebut and comment on the debate. Democratic activist Maria Echaveste based in Berkeley, Calif. may join them on site as part of the team and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa may make media rounds via remote TV hookups.

The DNC said in their report, "In their zeal to appeal to the most extreme elements of the GOP and the Tea Party, Republican presidential candidates have signed on to an economic plan so extreme that
it would wreak havoc on our economy, cost 9.5 million American jobs and, because of its strict constitutional limits on spending and revenue, would leave future congresses and presidents all but helpless to implement policies to grow the economy, create jobs, or make the U.S. globally competitive.

"While tens of millions of Americans would be harmed by the economic fallout from such, the wealthiest Americans and big corporations would be protected - not forced to pay their fair share or make any future sacrifices to turn the economy around.

"The Tea Party economic plan endorsed by the GOP presidential field, euphemistically referred to as Cut, Cap and Balance, might make for great sound bites at a Tea PartyExpress rally, but based our analysis, it would be devastating to American workers and the middle class."

Journalist Jodi Enda explores "Campaign Coverage in the Time of Twitter" in the new issue of The American Journalism Review. I am one of the people she interviewed about the impact of Twitter.


"Political reporters say technological innovations, far from detracting from their journalism, give them new avenues with which to reach readers.

"Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief for the Chicago Sun-Times, says the trick is to figure out the best way to deliver each facet of information.

"Consider: In July, Sweet participated in a conference call with Obama adviser David Plouffe, who was opining on the contentious debt ceiling debate. One vivid quote - in which Plouffe likened House Speaker John Boehner's proposal to the Loch Ness monster - grabbed her attention, so she tweeted it before hanging up the phone. After the call, she lengthened her report in a blog post. She retools stories for the print version of the paper and often posts what she writes on her Facebook page. To complete the circle, all of her work snakes its way onto her blog and into tweets."

follow on Twitter: @lynnsweet

What happened to Michele Bachmann?

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GOP White House hopeful Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn) seems to be fading; her campaign manager, Ed Rollins quit and the luster of her Iowa straw poll win is fading. Jill Lawrence over at The Atlantic explains.

WASHINGTON--President Obama tapped Chicago lawyer Steven Cohen, a major Obama fund-raiser for his 2008 and 2012 campaigns, to the Harry S Truman Scholarship Foundation board on Tuesday.

My July post on Cohen and other mega Obama fund-raisers, called "bundlers," is here.

My post from earlier today, Tuesday, on Cohen co-hosting a fund-raiser on Thursday in Chicago for Virginia Senate candidate Tim Kaine.

From the White House:

"Steven H. Cohen, Nominee for Member, Board of Trustees of the Harry S Truman Scholarship Foundation
Steven H. Cohen is the founder and President of the Cohen Law Group as well as a co-founder of the Whistleblower Action Network. Mr. Cohen is also an adjunct faculty member at the Northwestern Law School in Chicago, teaching clinical trial advocacy. He serves on the Board of Trustees for Beloit College, the Chicago School of Professional Psychology and the TCS Education System, and the Mikva Challenge Foundation, a Chicago based organization that engages Chicago area high school students in local and national political elections. Mr. Cohen received his Bachelor's degree from Beloit College and his law degree from the Northwestern University School of Law."

WASHINGTON--President Obama's elite corps of fund-raisers meet in Chicago this week, scratching a Thursday evening cruise so they can watch Obama's jobs address to Congress at his Prudential Building campaign headquarters.

Two top Obama White House officials--Peter Rouse and Stephanie Cutter--and Democratic National Committee Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fl.)-- will fly to Chicago to brief the mega fund-raisers, known as "bundlers." The cruise, planned to kick off the two-day meeting, was cancelled once Obama's jobs speech was scheduled for Thursday before a joint session of Congress.

On Friday, there will be break out sessions at the Palmer House with top Obama campaign officials. One session will feature Ira Forman, the former chief of the National Jewish Democratic Council, hired last month to direct Obama's outreach to Jewish voters. Jewish donors have been major big money Obama backers and the campaign fund-raising department has staffers devoted to working with Jewish contributors--as well as other constitutient groups.

Within the Democratic Jewish community, some are upset with Obama's handling of Mideast issues, others are concerned about his administrations' domestic agenda.

With so much pocketbook power in Chicago, Virginia Senate candidate Tim Kaine--well known to the Obama bundlers because he is a former DNC chairman--will hold a fund-raiser himself Thursday evening at the downtown Smith & Wollensky to tap into the Obama donor base. Among the Chicago Obama bundlers on the Kaine host committee for the Thursday event are John Atkinson, Wally Brewster, Steve Cohen, Les Coney, Vicki Heyman, Laura Ricketts, Bob Satawake and Grace Tsao-Wu. Kaine has another fund-raiser at the East Bank Club on Thursday morning.

Obama tapped Kaine for the DNC spot; Kaine stepped down to run for the Senate. While Obama won Virginia in 2008 with a big assist from Kaine, then the governor, Obama faces a tougher challenge in 2012. Virginia is a major focus for the Obama team; Obama will be helped if Kaine mounts a strong campaign for the seat being vacated by Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.). Obama heads to Richmond, Va. on Friday, to follow-up on his Thursday jobs speech.

Bundlers tap into their own extensive networks to find donors to raise money for candidates. They are crucial to White House and congressional races because there is a legal limit to the amount of money individuals can donate to federal candidates: $2,500 for a primary, $2,500 for a general election and $30,800 to a national party each calendar year.

The purpose of the briefings is to "keep people educated on what is happening," a source told me. There are three categories of elite donors and fundraisers invited to the Obama headquarters:

*National Finance Committee members, who pledged to raise $350,000 this year.

*National Advisory Board members, who promised to raise $30,800 for the DNC each year for four years.

*Presidential Partners, who pledged to donate $75,800 over two years; this year $30,800 to the DNC and $5,000 for Obama 2012. The Presidential Partners program was launched earlier this year, designed to appeal to people who want to donate but not bundle.

Last July, the Obama re-election team released the names of their more than 244 mega fund-raisers including 31 who raised at least $500,000 to bankroll the Obama 2012 campaign and the Democratic National Committee. So far, no Republican running for president in 2012 disclosed their bundlers.

Obama's National Finance Committee met in Chicago last May.

Obama kicked off his re-election campaign in April with several events in Chicago and returned on Aug. 3 for more fund-raising events at the Aragon Ballroom.

Obama backers donated more than $86 million in second quarter fund-raising: over $47 million directly for the Obama for America 2012 campaign and more than $38 million for the Democratic National Committee.

Chicagoan and close Obama friend Martin Nesbitt is the Obama for America treasurer, reprising the role he played in the 2008 campaign.

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama, a tennis player, will travel to New York on Friday to tout her "Let's Move" anti obesity drive with tennis stars at the U.S. Open, all to highlight the importance of physical activity. Mrs. Obama has been spotted playing tennis at the Georgetown University indoor courts.

WASHINGTON--Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) jumped in the Senate race Tuesday to replace retiring Sen. Herb Kohl. If she wins, she will be the first openly gay senator. Her House district includes Madison.

Wisconsin State Journal story is here.

WASHINGTON--Texas Gov. Rick Perry may skip what was to have his presidential debate debut because of the Texas wildfires. The leading 2012 GOP rivals face off at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. on Wednesday in a session sponsored by NBC and Politico.

Perry jumped off the campaign trail to deal with the fires back home. On the CBS "Early Show" on Tuesday, Perry was asked if he would be at the debate.

Said Perry, "I don't know. That's a fluid situation at the moment. So, again, I go back to we're going to be taking care of the folks here. I've got a great team of people to work with. That's one of the things I've been blessed with for 10 years, whether it's emergency management folks or whether it's a lieutenant governor that is very adept at being a partner and working together. So we're really focused on the events at hand.

"And the other side of that is we're pretty good about multitasking as well, whether it was Hurricane Ike or Katrina, as we brought a lot of people in from Louisiana back over the years. We can do more than one thing pretty well in the state of Texas."

WASHINGTON--Democrats unveiled the logo for the 2012 presidential convention in Charlotte on Tuesday, at an event in Charlotte, NC.

What do you think of the logo....supposed to symbolize people coming together....

dncc logo.png

WASHINGTON--President Obama unveils his latest jobs creations plans Thursday as his poll numbers are sinking to new lows, according to surveys out Tuesday by ABC/Washington Post and NBC/Wall Street Journal.

From ABC analysis of their poll:
More than half of Americans now disapprove of Barack Obama's job performance, six in 10 rate his work on the economy and job creation negatively and more than one in three say they've become worse off financially under his presidency - a high in ABC News/Washington Post polls since Ronald Reagan trademarked the question a generation ago.

Those results and others underscore the depths of this summer of economic discontent. With unemployment stubbornly over 9 percent, 77 percent say the country is headed seriously off on the wrong track, up 17 points this year to the most since the end of George W. Bush's presidency.

In a further sign of the deep hazards to Obama, Americans by a 2-1 margin, 34 percent to 17 percent, now say his administration's efforts have done more to harm rather than help the nation's economy. The number who say his economic program has improved the economy has plummeted by half since January. And 47 percent say it's had no effect.

From NBC's Deputy Political Editor Mark Murray:
When Barack Obama unveils his jobs and economic plan to a joint session of Congress on Thursday, he'll do so at the lowest point of his presidency, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

After the bruising debt-ceiling fight -- as well as Standard & Poor's subsequent downgrade of the nation's credit rating -- Obama's job approval rating has sunk to a low of 44 percent, a 3-point drop since July. His handling of the economy stands at a low of 37 percent. And only 19 percent believe the country is headed in the right direction, the lowest mark for this president.

Perhaps most ominously for Obama, a majority of poll takers -- 54 percent -- think he's facing a longer-term setback from which he's unlikely to recover. Back in January, just 39 percent agreed with that assessment.

A Senate panel holds a hearing Tuesday on the future of the Postal Service as mail delivery is on the verge of a shutdown. For a witness list and other details, click HERE.

WASHINGTON--President Obama, in a Labor Day speech in Detroit, previewed the jobs plans he will unveil at a Thursday speech before a joint session of Congress. Obama also praised unions--he actually said "look for the union label" in his speech, using a line from a famous union commercial--with his comments coming as unions face massive challenges.

Said Obama on unions:

Now, let me say a word about labor in particular. Now, I know this is not going to be an easy time. I know it's not easy when there's some folks who have their sights trained on you. After all that unions have done to build and protect the middle class, you've got people trying to claim that you're responsible for the problems middle-class folks are facing.

Said Obama on his upcoming jobs package:

On Thursday, we're going to lay out a new way forward on jobs to grow the economy and put more Americans back to work right now. I don't want to give everything away right here, because I want you all to tune in on Thursday -- (applause) -- but I'll give you just a little bit. (Applause.)

We've got roads and bridges across this country that need rebuilding. We've got private companies with the equipment and the manpower to do the building. We've got more than 1 million unemployed construction workers ready to get dirty right now. There is work to be done and there are workers ready to do it. Labor is on board. Business is on board. We just need Congress to get on board. Let's put America back to work. (Applause.)

Last year, we worked together, Republicans and Democrats, to pass a payroll tax cut. And because of that, this year the average family has an extra $1,000 in their pocket because of it.


THE PRESIDENT: But that's going to expire in a few months if we don't come together to extend it. And I think putting money back in the pockets of working families is the best way to get demand rising, because that then means business is hiring, and that means the government -- that means that the economy is growing. (Applause.)

So I'm going to propose ways to put America back to work that both parties can agree to, because I still believe both parties can work together to solve our problems. And given the urgency of this moment, given the hardship that many people are facing, folks have got to get together.

But we're not going to wait for them. (Applause.) We're going to see if we've got some straight shooters in Congress. We're going to see if congressional Republicans will put country before party. (Applause.) We'll give them a plan, and then we'll say, do you want to create jobs? Then put our construction workers back to work rebuilding America. (Applause.) Do you want to help our companies succeed? Open up new markets for them to sell their products. You want -- you say you're the party of tax cuts? Well then, prove you'll fight just as hard for tax cuts for middle-class families as you do for oil companies and the most affluent Americans. (Applause.) Show us what you got. (Applause.)

The time for Washington games is over. (Applause.) The time for action is now. No more manufactured crises. No more games. Now is not the time for the people you sent to Washington to worry about their jobs; now is the time for them to worry about your jobs. (Applause.)

Click below for complete transcript

WASHINGTON--Education Secretary Arne Duncan, the former Chicago Public Schools CEO, visits Chicago's Schurz High School on Friday, along with Gov. Pat Quinn, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, State Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood), the assistant majority leader, current CEO Jean-Claude Brizard and labor officials.

The purpose, according to Duncan's office is to "discuss and celebrate the progressive education reform happening across Illinois." Bringing in state labor honchos might serve to try to smooth relations with teachers unions in Illinois; the event comes as Quinn is about to layoff state workers.

I don't know yet what achievements the officials will be celebrating. There will be a press conference at the Northwest Side school following the noon event.

Chicago public schools open Tuesday and Emanuel and Brizard launch the new school year welcoming students Tuesday morning at the STEM Magnet Academy, 1522 W. Fillmore St. with a press conference after the event.

Duncan hits Chicago to wind up a back-to-school multi-state swing. Here is his schedule:

Wednesday, Sept. 7
8:20 a.m. (press avail 9:35 a.m.)
The Secretary will kick off the "Education and the Economy" bus tour around the Great Lakes region with a panel discussion with Pittsburgh Superintendent Linda Lane and local labor leaders that will focus on labor management collaboration.
Pittsburgh King PreK-8, 50 Montgomery Place, Pittsburgh, Pa.

11:55 a.m. (press avail 1:05 p.m.)
The Secretary will highlight the positive impact of high-quality early learning programs and the Department's recently launched state-level grant competition, the Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge, with a classroom visit and roundtable discussion at the Early Connections - Early Learning Center. U.S. Sen. Robert Casey Jr. is scheduled to join via Skype.
Early Connections - Early Learning Center, 704 State St., Erie, Pa.

3:40 p.m. (press avail 4:45 p.m.)
The Secretary will highlight the role of partnerships in driving educational success during the "Connecting Cleveland's Communities and Classrooms" panel discussion with national and local leaders in community service at East Technical High School. Participants will include Joshua DuBois, executive director of The White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships; Acting CEO for the Corporation for National and Community Service, Robert Velasco II; state Superintendent of Public Instruction Stan Heffner; Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson; and Cleveland schools CEO Eric Gordon.
East Technical High School, 2439 East 55th St., Cleveland, Ohio

7:20 p.m.
The Secretary will meet with Toledo Superintendent Jerome Pecko, area teachers and labor leaders and observe a peer panel review meeting at the Toledo Federation of Teachers Union Hall. Following the panel's peer review, the Secretary will take questions from the teachers and administrators.
Toledo Federation of Teachers Union Hall, 111 S. Bryne Rd., Toledo, Ohio

Thursday, Sept. 8
8 a.m. (press avail 9:05 a.m.)
The Secretary will begin day 2 of the "Education and the Economy" bus tour with a stop in Detroit, where he will join Gov. Rick Snyder, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, and Emergency Financial Manager Roy Roberts for an event at Charles H. Wright Academy of Arts and Science to highlight recent steps initiated by the state and city of Detroit to provide better support and turn around persistently low-performing schools across Michigan.
Charles H. Wright Academy of Arts and Science, 19299 Berg Road, Detroit, Mich.

11 a.m. (press avail 12:15 p.m.)
The Secretary will address a faculty panel from the University of Michigan's School of Education to discuss what needs to be done in order to better support teachers and prepare them to be successful in the classroom.
University of Michigan School of Education, 610 E. University Ave., Ann Arbor, Mich.

4:45 p.m. (press avail 5:45 p.m.)
The Secretary will deliver the keynote address at the One Region, One Vision committee's annual meeting, cohosted by the Northwest Indiana Quality of Life Council. Duncan's remarks will draw on the importance of engaging all sectors - public and private - in education, and the role education plays in restoring and sustaining a vibrant economy. Participants will include State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett and hundreds of local business leaders.
Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza, 800 East Lincoln Highway, Merrillville, Ind.

Friday, Sept. 9
8:15 a.m. (press avail 9:35 a.m.)
The Secretary will start the final day of the "Education and the Economy" bus tour with a visit to the Milwaukee School of Career and Technical Education, which is a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) focused school that was awarded a federal School Improvement Grant (SIG) in 2010. National and local leaders, including U.S. Sens. Herb Kohl and Ron Johnson, State Superintendent of the Department of Public Instruction Tony Evers, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Milwaukee Superintendent Gregory Thornton, will join Duncan for a classroom visit and town hall to promote the importance of turning around persistently low-achieving schools.
Milwaukee School of Career and Technical Education, 5075 North Sherman Blvd, Milwaukee, Wis.

Noon (press avail 1:35 p.m.)
The Secretary will close the bus tour with a visit to Carl Schurz High School, where he will visit a classroom and engage in a panel discussion with local leaders, including Gov. Pat Quinn, State Sen. Kimberly Lightford, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago public schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard and state labor officials, to discuss and celebrate the progressive education reform happening across Illinois.
Carl Schurz High School, 3601 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, Ill.

Saturday, Sept. 10
No public events scheduled

Sunday, Sept. 11
2 p.m.
Sec. Duncan will visit a Washington Lee High School in Arlington, Va., to meet with teachers to honor their service on the front lines on 9/11, hear how educators coped with the event and its aftermath, and also uplift teachers as the unsung heroes who have had to incorporate the history and lessons of that day into the curriculum for a whole generation of students over the last decade.
Washington Lee High School, Media Center, 1301 N. Stafford St., Arlington, Va.

firstday-1.jpg(Chicago Public Schools graphic)


from Emanuel release...

Emanuel... joined Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard to welcome students to the first day of school at STEM Magnet Academy. Following that visit, the Mayor stopped by Genevieve Melody Elementary and Skinner North Elementary schools to welcome students there to the first day of this school year. He also congratulated the schools' principals and teachers for courageously voting last week to lengthen their school day by 90 minutes.

Updated Briefing Schedule

3:00PM Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney


WASHINGTON--Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), a Navy reserve officer, served a two week stint in Afghanistan during the summer congressional break.

"Back from a 2 week Navy reserve assignment in #Afghanistan. Admire what young Americans in uniform are doing there," Kirk said in a Sept. 3 Twitter posting.

WASHINGTON -- White House press secretary Jay Carney on Sunday chose his words carefully when asked what he thought of Rep. Joe Walsh's (R-Ill.) decision to boycott President Obama's jobs speech before a joint session of Congress on Thursday.

"The idea that the president of the United States giving a speech about the need to grow the economy and create jobs is political -- I'll let you judge that for yourself," Carney said after he was asked about Walsh skipping the speech during a briefing.

Walsh, a freshman and part of the Tea Party caucus, threw a spotlight on himself earlier this summer when he made a video saying Obama should "quit lying" about the consequences of not raising the debt ceiling.

Walsh told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Friday, "This is nothing but a political move by this president, and I simply didn't want to be a pawn in this political theater."

Instead, Walsh said he will return to Illinois for the speech, telling MSNBC's Martin Bashir on Friday, "I'm going to fly back home and talk to the folks who really know what we need to do when it comes to job creation, not this president."

"Connected to Chicago"
with host Bill Cameron and Chicago Sun-Times Lynn Sweet, Tribune's Ray Long and Crain's Chicago Business Greg Hinz discuss President Obama's planned jobs speech, Union leaders and their 'Sweetheart Deals' as well as casino bills and ComEd rate hikes. The show can be heard at 6am on Sunday morning on 890AM WLS or listen to the show HERE.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

follow on Twitter: @lynnsweet

WASHINGTON -- President Obama's team and House Speaker John Boehner squabbled over the date of Obama's upcoming address before a joint session of Congress which of course raises the question of how will lawmakers, back from a long summer break next week, get any of the big stuff done on jobs and the deficit.

Editorial: Obama stumbles into trouble with GOP

Boehner and Obama's staffers said that they would rather not dwell on the Wednesday miscommunications and want to move on. But it's instructive to look at what happened. That's because it shows how hard it is for opponents to work together in the partisan political climate.

White House Communications chief Dan Pfeiffer and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney used identical language Thursday on MSNBC shows discussing the mess.

"They raised no objections to the date or time," Pfeiffer told Chuck Todd.

"We contacted the speaker's office, informed them that we were going to be asking for that day. No objection was raised at that time," Carney said on "Morning Joe."

Sometime near 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley phoned Boehner about an 8 p.m. Sept. 7 joint session, where Obama would unveil his newest jobs plan.

Of course, Obama could have made his jobs speech anywhere. His team picked the venue they thought would have the most impact -- and with Congress as a backdrop, make it harder for the TV networks to refuse to carry the prime time speech.

Boehner and Daley, two pros, have cordial relations. After Daley was tapped by Obama to be his new chief of staff, replacing Rahm Emanuel, I am told Daley reached out to Boehner to have dinner. The two dined the third week of February at Bobby Van's Steakhouse on 15th Street, not far from the White House.

From the White House perspective, the call was somewhat routine. No presidential request for a joint session had ever been turned down. At 11:55 a.m., Pfeiffer sent out a Twitter announcing the address.

Within a few hours, the Obama team had to retreat. Boehner nixed the date on logistics grounds. Other Republicans roared that the White House surely knew of the Sept. 7 GOP presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif.

The GOP debate, however, was not the main issue.

From the Boehner team perspective:

Daley was telling, not asking, Boehner about Sept. 7. So Boehner listened. There was no yes or no on the call, I was told by a Boehner source. If Carney and Pfeiffer "believed they had an actual OK from the Speaker [in that call] they would be saying that," and not use the wiggle words they did about "no objection" being raised.

From the Obama team perspective:

Boehner's behavior was "passive aggressive," a White House source told me. During the call, Boehner gave "no pushback" to Daley, letting him hang up without a signal that Boehner was not ready to approve the Sept. 7 date -- for whatever reason. The assumption was that no Speaker would say no to a president, to do so was "disrespectful," no matter what else was going on that evening or the logistical challenges the request would pose.

On Thursday night, Boehner issued a polite invitation for Obama to address Congress at 7 p.m. Sept. 8. Obama accepted, Carney said in a statement. This could be a lesson learned for both sides. Or a foreshadowing of more tough times ahead.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Thursday released a list of donors to his Chicago 2011 Inaugural Committee. Below, the consumer friendly database. The fund paid for a variety of May activities in connection to the swearing in of the Mayor, City Clerk and Treasurer. Also, according to release, the fund paid for "security costs surrounding the attendance of the Vice President of the United States and several members of the President of the United States' cabinet."

Chicago 2011 Donors

Upcoming GOP presidential debates

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WASHINGTON--The Sept. 7 GOP presidential debate is one of many on the political schedule.

Here's a roundup of sponsors and dates for the coming weeks:

Sept. 5 - American Principles Project, Columbia, SC.

Sept. 7 - MSNBC and Politico at Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Simi Valley, Calif.

Sept. 12- CNN and Tea Party Express, Tampa, Fl.

Sept. 22 - FOX News and Google, Orlando, Fl.

Oct. 11 - Bloomberg, Hanover, NH.

Oct. 18 - CNN, Las Vegas

Jon Huntsman job plan. Read it here.

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Time to Compete- An American Jobs Plan

The Kaiser Family Foundation has a new chart listing many of the services private health insurance is supposed to provide without additional cost or co-pays under the Obama health care coverage law, aka Obamacare. The chart is on page three of this link; pages one and two are a bit hard to get through.

WASHINGTON--Zeke Emanuel, a former White House health policy advisor, and brother of Chicago Mayor Rahm and Hollywood agent Ari, starts a new job on Thursday, at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine and the Wharton School.

Emanuel's title: the Diane v.S. Levy and Robert M. Levy University Professor and vice provost for global initiatives.

An oncologist with a bioethics speciality, Emanuel took leave from his job at the National Institutes of Health Bioethics department to join the Obama White House as a health policy advisor. He is a former North Side Chicago resident.

Emanuel worked on the Obama health care legislation and on First Lady Michelle's anti-obesity program. Earlier this year, he left the West Wing to return to the NIH. Emanuel has also become a regular contributor to the New York Times op-ed page.

WASHINGTON--The Obama White House, taking a cue from the United Kingdom, announced Thursday morning the launch of "We the People," a new online e-petition organizing tool intended to push federal government issues that otherwise might be ignored to the top of the list.

The announcement came on several fronts: from White House senior advisor David Plouffe in an email and on a White House blog by Macon Phillips, the White House director of digital strategy. Plouffe is intensely interested in metrics and the online drive, if it works, will bring in new names--from the Tea Party to Progressives and all in-between--who otherwise might not be on the Obama radar.

In the political context, this tool will give the White House another way of measuring what people are interested in. There is no promise of government action in this new program, only that after meeting a 5,000-signature threshold, petitions will be "reviewed and answered."

Said Plouffe, "We're about to change the way Americans engage with President Obama and his Administration by launching a new way for you to join with fellow Americans to petition the federal government on a range of issues."

This roll out of this new feature is being "teased," in an effort to collect more names and spur more engagement online. And once again the Obama team, attempting to make people feel special, promises a "first to know" email once the feature is online. Of course, the Obama team, it seems could have launched the feature live, but the two-step has proved effective for them.

Wrote Plouffe, "Help us spread the word about this new tool by forwarding this email to ten friends. And remember, if you want to learn more about We the People and be the first to know when it is live, head to"

Phillips writes, "Individuals will be able to create or sign a petition that calls for action by the federal government on a range of issues. If a petition gathers enough support (i.e., signatures) it will be reviewed by a standing group of White House staff, routed to any other appropriate offices and generate an official, on-the-record response.

"How many signatures? Initially petitions that gather more than 5,000 signatures in 30 days will be reviewed and answered.

"There's another aspect to this meant to emphasize the grassroots, word of mouth organizing that thrives on the internet. At first, a petition's unique URL will only be known to its creator and will not show up anywhere else on It's up to that person to share it in their network to gather an initial amount of signatures -- initially 150 -- before it is searchable on"

click below for Plouffe, Phillips memos....

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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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