Barack Obama: February 2009 Archives

WASHINGTON--President Obama, the Hoopster-in-Chief, hosts members of the Chicago Bulls at the White House on Thursday afternoon. The White House said the team would huddle with the president--an avid player--in the Blue Room.

The Bulls will be in town to play the Washington Wizards on Friday. The players and coaches are not expected to be bringing in gear to play a pick-up game. As president-elect in Chicago, Obama at one point had been expected to attend a game, but he had to cancel.

WASHINGTON--No lucky dog yet.

Just to clear the record--President Obama and First Lady Michelle have NOT YET picked a dog breed. After touching base Wednesday with Obama White House East Wing staff about a report in People Magazine that a puppy has been selected-- the word is that the final pick is likely not to come until April.

"The Obamas have not yet selected a dog," I was told. Back in January President Obama said the frontrunners were a labradoodle or a Portuguese water hound. The First Lady seemed partial to a Portuguese water hound in an interview in the new People Magazine out Friday, but one is not to read into that, I was told, a decision.

update 4:20 eastern
WASHINGTON--No lucky dog yet.

Just to clear the record--President Obama and First Lady Michelle have NOT YET picked a dog breed. After touching base Wednesday with Obama White House East Wing staff about a report in People Magazine that a puppy has been selected-- the word is that the final pick is likely not to come until April.

"The Obamas have not yet selected a dog," I was told. Back in January President Obama said the frontrunners were a labradoodle or a Portuguese water hound. The First Lady seemed partial to a Portuguese water hound in an interview in the new People Magazine out Friday, but one is not to read into that, I was told, a decision.

WASHINGTON--Hat tip to People Magazine's Sandra Sobieraj Westfall for the scoop: First Lady Michelle Obama told her the long anticipated puppy pick will be a Portuguese water hound. The dog comes sometime in April.

Some background......
More on the Obama First Dog, settling into Washington
By Lynn Sweet on January 12, 2009 11:27 AM | Permalink

BY LYNN SWEET Sun-Times Columnist

WASHINGTON--President-elect Barack Obama revealed Sunday he is closing in on selecting the first dog -- either a labradoodle or a Portuguese water hound. Here for one week, Obama and his family explored some of the city over the weekend.
The long-promised dog is a gift for daughters Malia and Sasha. "This has been tougher than finding a commerce secretary," Obama told George Stephanopoulos, host of ABC's "This Week."

Update 10:14 eastern

WASHINGTON--Now I have to stop this and start writing a column.....Here are some post speech scenes I observed from the House gallery balcony overlooking the chamber. Sen. Dick Durbin and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton are at the podium, locked in conversation....She takes a card out of her pocket and a blue pen and starts taking notes on what Durbin is saying.....

....Ok, I feel bad for Sen. Roland Burris. President Obama finished his speech. He worked the GOP side of the aisle. He turned towards the Democrats. Burris is standing alone. He waves at Obama from a short distance away. No response from what I see......No one from the Illinois delegation comes up to Burris. Finally one or two House members, both men who I do not recognize come up to Burris.

The speech is over and Obama is looking up at the balcony, where the press is....he quickly averts his gaze....and then his eyes lock for a moment on the First Lady.....

9:54 EASTERN...These times are a "tremendous burden" but a "great privilege" to shape the world.

For those who are laid off, have homes loosing values, 401k's in the dumps .....I say.....such an honor!

9:54 eastern...Scene in the House press gallery...(not inside the chamber) the journalists who will be doing interviews in Statuary Hall are now scrambling to leave to get there--with escorts--before security clamps down.

9:44 eastern....I'm in the chamber and Obama is talking about how health care reform cannot wait, "it must not wait." I look over to Hillary Rodham Clinton, in the front row with the other cabinet members to see if she reacts. As First Lady in 1994, she got nailed when she tried to steer health reform through Congress. She sits impassively. (I stepped out of the chamber to write this)

9:34 eastern...Here's the, health cafe and education.
Downbeat....China, Germany and Japan are beating us with our own technology....
Upbeat...."It's time for America to lead again."

9:32 eastern....Obama says he will sacrifice some "worthy priorities" and they are.....

9:29 eastern ....A whole lot of Wall Street and bank bashing.
Obama has an interesting rhythm in this speech...some doom and gloom and then a shiny point of light...."slowly, but surely, confidence will return, and our economy will recover."

9:20 eastern
"Nobody messes with Joe," Obama says. Pitches accountability in his stimulus plan and website.

President Obama starts his speech before a joint session of Congress very gloomy.'s the hope....
"We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before"

8:59 p.m. Some pre President Obama speech scenes in the House of Representatives.....

*First Lady Michelle wearing a sleeveless dress. Doesn't she ever get cold?

*Big cheers from Democratic female lawmakers for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, the former House member confirmed Tuesday.

*Embattled Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.), with a red hanky in his pocket chatting with Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) looking all around the House gallery.

*Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) as his tradition, arrived in the chamber hours early in order to claim an upfront aisle seat.

WASHINGTON--As President Obama has said, he didn't sign up for an economic meltdown when he campaigned for the White House. Now he has a hand in running the nation's banks, auto industry and housing market. Tonight, before Obama's first joint address to Congress, he is expected to focus on domestic and financial issues.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs made the rounds of the morning shows to preview the speech. On CBS Gibbs said, "I think what you'll see tonight is the president will lay out the many challenges that we have.

:He'll talk about the recovery plan that's now into law and that is already beginning to save and create jobs in this country. He'll talk extensively about a financial stability plan that will get banks lending to families and small businesses again, a home foreclosure plan that helps responsible homeowners avoid foreclosure, as well as a plan to re-regulate the financial industry so that we don't find ourselves, Maggie, facing this situation ever again."

WASHINGTON--Last week, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs issued what sounded like an ominous warning to embattled Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.). Take the weekend to think about his future.

That chilling message was suppose to pry Burris from his Senate seat. Well, the weekend is over and Burris is still here. He'll be at President Obama's address to a joint session of Congress tonight. So far Gibbs threat and the calls from others for Burris to resign ihas not worked. In an earlier post today, I reported that Burris is not resigning but offered this bone to critics: he will not run in 2010.

On NBC's "Today Show," host Matt Lauer asked Gibbs about Burris. Gibbs threat is going into overtime.

"That Senator Burris needs to take some time and think about whether he can actually help this country, whether he can serve the constituents of Illinois," Gibbs said.

Arnold and Maria (photos by Lynn Sweet)

Valerie Jarrett

The Crists of Florida

Desiree Rogers

The Jindals' of Louisiana

WASHINGTON--Here's an overview on many of the Chicagoans in the Obama White House I wrote for Washingtonian Magazine.

WASHINGTON--The White House web site--uses the occasion of President Obama's first international trip--a quick visit to Ottawa, Canada on Thursday--to live blog the event.

WASHINGTON--President Obama and First Lady Michelle will give the first glimpse of their entertaining style Sunday night when they host a black-tie White House dinner for the National Governors Association.

The East Wing, run by the First Lady has been working on the details of the dinner for several weeks.

It is the debut for White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers, the Chicago executive and friend of both the President and First Lady.

"The White House is the place where our bond as Americans is strengthened," said Rogers in a statement. "We look forward to welcoming the nation's governors to celebrate our democratic ideals, our diversity, our shared values and the best of the American spirit."

The evening will feature performances by the Marine Corps band and Earth Wind and Fire, the jazz and rhythm and blues group from the 1970s with Chicago roots.

Obama's Gibbs on Burris

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WASHINGTON--A big reason that Senate Democratic leaders dropped their resistance to seating Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) last month is that President Obama signaled that the commotion over his appointment by now ousted Gov. Blagojevich was a distraction.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs was asked about the revelations that Burris was not candid (to say the least) when he testified before the state House impeachment panel about his contacts with people in the Blagojevich orbit. Burris also was not candid when I asked him about how he put himself in play at a Jan. 7 press conference here--a day before his Springfield testimony.

Gibbs, asked about Obama's reaction said,"I have to say, I've neglected to speak with him. But I will give you this. Obviously the people of Illinois have been through a lot in the past few weeks. And obviously Senator Burris was seated based in some way on the representations that he made to the U.S. Senate and to the committee in Illinois investigating Governor Blagojevich, and as well in interviews to the people of -- that the people of Illinois heard.

"I think in many ways he was seated based on those representations, and I think that the people of Illinois deserve -- deserve to know, based on some of the things that have happened over the past few days, deserve to know the full extent of any involvement. And I think that's likely to come out as part of some of the investigations that are now ongoing."

Gibbs declined to says whether Burris should resign.

WASHINGTON--There are a lot of elements to the Obama mortgage foreclosure plan unveiled on Wednesday. I know from the many comments on my blog this is an issue of crucial importance to many of you.

Here is an on-the record briefing from Obama administration officials. (Note that White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs allowed the briefers to be identified and not be sourced as senior administration officials.)

WASHINGTON--President Obama unveils his mortgage foreclosure plan Wednesday in Phoenix.

Key elements:

*help some homeowners--whose property has decreased at least 15 percent--reduce monthly payments.
*make it easier to modify loans.
*keep interest rates low.
*no help for speculators.
*help homeowners before they default.

WASHINGTON---I talk about what a great place Chicago is--and a bit about deep dish pizza, Italian beef and ribs--in NBC's Lester Holt's piece Sunday night about the Obama family returning to Chicago for the weekend.

On pool duty in Chicago, the Sun-Times Abdon Pallasch reports "President Obama skipped the gym workout and instead headed at about 11 a.m. to the University of Chicago Lab School campus for a basketball game with friends. Friends' IDs not yet available."

NBA star Magic Johnson was asked by CNN's John King on Sunday's "State of the Union" what position he would play Obama on a team.

Point Guard, Johnson said.

"He's going to be a point because that's how he thinks......

"....What I'm saying is that a point guard got to think five minutes ahead. You ask these two guys they know the time they know what they have to do at that particular time but they also thinking five min ahead because we got to know what is going to happen five min down the road. So he's got to stay at pt guard because he is running the country the same way he's got to think for the future so he is the point guard for sure."

WASHINGTON--Neither David Axelrod nor Robert Gibbs, the top Obama White House spokesmen moved the bar much on the Sunday shows over who President Obama will pick for vacant Commerce and Health and Human Services cabinet spots. Not many crumbs offered up in the mortgage foreclosure plan the administration will roll out on Wednesday.

On NBC's "Meet the Press" host David Gregory asked Axelrod, a senior Obama advisor, about any surprises he may have had in the first few weeks in Washington.

"You know, I relearned, David, a lesson that I've, that I, that I've always known but that came back in stark relief, which is that there's a different conversation in this town often than what's going on in the country," Axelrod said.

"On cable television for the last few weeks you've heard the president's plan is in trouble, you know, this big discussion about Republicans and Democrats and so on and so forth. Out in the country people were saying, "I'm losing my job. I'm worried about my health care. I'm worried about staying in my home. I'm looking for someone to act." And they were supportive of what the president was trying to do. And it's always important to remember that the chatter in this town is not the chatter around kitchen tables in this country. And as long as we listen to kitchen table chatter, I think we're going to stay on a truer course."

President Obama and First Lady Michelle are celebrating Valentines Day Saturday night in Chicago at the Table Fifty-Two restaurant at 52 W. Elm St. The co-owner and executive chef of the restaurant is Art Smith, the one time personal chef for Oprah Winfrey.

The Obama family flew from Washington to O'Hare Friday night on Air Force One for the Presidents Day weekend. The Obamas' I take it want themselves and their daughters to stay connected, grounded and rooted in Chicago even as they get to know Washington in their new roles.

On Saturday morning Obama worked out at the gym at Regents Park in Hyde Park.

The Air Force One traveling party also included First Grandmother Marion Robinson, friend Valerie Jarrett, White House Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Relations and Public Liaison and Heather Higginbottom, Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council.


WASHINGTON--The Land of Lincoln is joining the crowd making a buck off the popular son of Illinois, President Obama. Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White is selling Obama plates--good only for 60 days--for $50 a pair.

The Illinois Library Association will use the profits to help fund materials for library run summer reading programs for students.

In the first wave, the plates will be sold only to people from Illinois who have autos. For people who don't have cars--no matter where they live-- the souvenir plates can be purchased for $50 after April 17.

Summer reading programs help kids retain reading and learning skills while on vacation.

A tax deduction of $35 can be taken as a contribution to the library association.

It costs about $5 to make the plate; $5 to mail and $2 for credit card charges. Rights to use the Obama photo cost about $650, according to the ILA.

WASHINGTON--Vice President Biden on Thursday announced the appointment of Chicagoan Kareem Dale as Special assistant to the President for Disability

Dale, who is partly blind, was the Disability Vote Director for the Obama presidential campaign.

Biden announced the Dale appointment during his visit to the Special Olympics World
Winter Games in Boise, Idaho.

Dale flew with joined Biden on Air Force 2 from Washington to Boise. Said Dale: "I¹m just humbled and honored for the faith the president and vice president have shown in me and I look forward to working with them."

By Abdon M. Pallasch
Chicago Sun-Times Political Reporter

EAST PEORIA, Ill. ‹ Once President Obama signs the $789 billion stimulus
package, roads will start getting built again, orders for Caterpillar trucks
will go up again and the company can start hiring back some of the 22,000
workers it plans to lay off, he said.

³Think about all the work out there to be done, and Caterpillar will be
selling the equipment that does the work,² Obama said to hundreds of
Caterpillar workers at a plant here.
He spoke in front of two new-model Caterpillar electric road-building

WASHINGTON--Visiting the Caterpillar Plant in East Peoria on Thursday afternoon, President Obama was drumming up support for his stimulus bill. He pressured freshman Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.)--Caterpillar is in his district--for his vote by basically wondering out loud if he will measure up to the two men who had the seat before him--Transportation Sec. Ray LaHood and former House Minority Leader Bob Michel (R-Ill.)

No House Republicans voted for the stimulus the first time around. I've heard that as of Thursday, no Illinois House member will vote yes on the final version.

Said Obama at the plant, "I want to thank Peoria's own Ray LaHood, who is doing outstanding work as my Transportation secretary. You know, Ray comes from a long line of Republicans I love, starting with Bob Michel and -- you know, they're just -- I think there's a common-sense, Midwestern, can-do, bipartisan attitude that Ray represents. And I am so pleased that he's in my Cabinet.

"Now, his successor, Congressman Schock -- where is he? He's back here. He's right here. Stand up, Aaron. This is -- Aaron's still trying to make up his mind about our recovery package...... So, you know, he has a chance to be in the mold of Bob Michel and Ray LaHood."

WASHINGTON--Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) withdrew his name Thursday as President Obama's Commerce Secretary. He cited differences with the administration over the stimulus bill and what he said was a "slight" issue over the handling of the Census Bureau.

The Obama team botched its chance to explain in a timely way, clearly, not in code, what Obama did--or did not--want to change in regards to overseeing the Census Bureau after Gregg was nominated.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said "Senator Gregg reached out to the President and offered his name for Secretary of Commerce. He was very clear throughout the interviewing process that despite past disagreements about policies, he would support, embrace, and move forward with the President's agenda.

"Once it became clear after his nomination that Senator Gregg was not going to be supporting some of President Obama's key economic priorities, it became necessary for Senator Gregg and the Obama administration to part ways. We regret that he has had a change of heart".

The Census Bureau is a part of the Commerce Department and some Democrats complained to the Obama White House about the selection of Gregg, who seemed hostile to Census funding and some other issues. The upcoming census is next year, and an expert I talked to said the bureau is behind in planning.

Democrats and Republicans have ideological and practical issues over the Census, especially over statistical sampling over an actual count. How people are counted is important-the Census is the basis for redrawing electoral districts, from alderman to Congress and everything in-between.

So after some Democrats--particularly the Congressional Black Caucus--complained about Gregg, the White House sent some kind of signal--vague, but still something--that the White House will take some kind of oversight role with the Bureau. That morphed into Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel running the Census from the West Wing, though that is not the case. After a few days, as the issue festered, the White House then said in a statement not widely released that nothing would change.

Republicans this morning held a press conference to complain about what they asserted was a power grab.

"Yesterday our leadership, along with a group of members from the House Administration Committee and Government Reform
Committee, sent a letter to the president urging him to reconsider his
plan to hand over control of the 2010 census to political operatives
in the White House," House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Oh.) said.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), long involved in Census issues, said "At today's event the House Republicans went on about how there were political machinations going on. But the only true political machinations have been over the past eight years: the Bush Administration's woefully inadequate planning and preparation for the next census, which may result in a failed count unless action is taken in the weeks ahead.

"A failed census is the ultimate political machination: it means lower income and minority citizens would be more likely to be missed, and affluent citizens would be more likely to be counted twice."

Bottom line: The Obama administraton could have had a different approach to placate nervous Democrats. The Obama team could have made it clear that the White House would appoint the Under Secretary for Economic Affairs, the person who runs the Commerce Department's Economics and Statistics Administration, a shop which includes the Bureau of the Census.

Sean Quinn over at picked up on an exchange reporters (one being me) had with Robert Gibbs on Wednesday over the closed door conference committee for the stimulus bill.

WASHINGTON--President Obama paid tribute to President Lincoln and the slaves who helped build the Capitol during a speech marking the 200th anniversary of the birth of the 16th president. Always aware of the bigger narrative and a compelling storyline, Obama said Lincoln "in so many ways made my own story possible - and who in so many ways made America's story possible."

At a ceremony in the Rotunda, with House and Senate leaders, Obama said, "It is fitting that we are holding this celebration here at the Capitol. For the life of this building is bound ever so closely to the times of this immortal President. Built by artisans and craftsmen, immigrants and slaves - it was here, in the rotunda, that union soldiers received help from a makeshift hospital; it was downstairs, in the basement, that they were baked bread to give them strength; and it was in the Senate and House chambers, where they slept at night, and spent some of their days."

WASHINGTON -- Just a little over three miles from the White House, I'm standing in front of the "cottage" where Abraham Lincoln and his family lived from June to November in 1862, 1863 and 1864 -- and I am struck by the quiet. This was Lincoln's retreat.

The buildings in this city most associated with the 16th president are the White House, of course, Ford's Theater, where Lincoln was assassinated, and the majestic Lincoln Memorial, designed by architect Henry Bacon with the famous Lincoln statue created by Daniel Chester French.

But not as well known is that Lincoln -- whose 200th birthday is celebrated today -- had his closest personal connection with this 34-room Gothic revival house on a Washington hilltop. Lincoln commuted each day to the White House, often on horseback.

WASHINGTON--Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner made a long speech Tuesday on bringing financial stability to the markets, remarkable for what was not in it--the Obama administration still is not ready to roll out a plan to rescue the nation's housing market and slow down the tidal wave of foreclosures.

Geithner said a comprehensive housing plan will be unveiled in a few weeks. Key elements will be to bring down mortage payments and reduce interest rates.

The Obama team is birthing another web site. will be joining on the Internet.

Click below for Geithner transcript

WASHINGTON--President Obama, who campaigned for two years calling for a new era of bi-partisanship, all but conceded Monday night at his first White House press conference that the gargantuan recession busting stimulus bill pending before Congress won't have much GOP support.

The pragmatic Obama-with three Republicans in his cabinet-- as much said that bi-partsianship will, if need be, left for another day because of the economic crisis facing the nation.

WASHINGTON -- The Obama White House and Democratic allies have opened a multi-front campaign to build pressure on Congress to pass a stimulus package of more than $800 billion, using tools from the old-fashioned bully pulpit to Internet social networking

WASHINGTON--The first family, including Marion Robinson, the mother of First Lady Michelle Obama, boarded the Marine One helicopter Saturday afternoon en route to the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland. This is the first Camp David visit for the family. Another young girl was with the family.

WASHINGTON-- The Obama family will be returning to Chicago next weekend, for a Presidents Day weekend visit back home.

Obama will return to Illinois on Feb. 12, when he travels to Springfield for a daytrip to mark the 200th anniversary of Lincoln's birth.

WASHINGTON--President Obama is keeping the White House faith-based office created by former President Bush with new emphasis on forming partnerships with community non-profits-- secular and religious--rather than pushing faith based initiatives.

White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives

White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Meanwhile, at the Thursday briefing, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the Obama family still have not picked a church. The Obamas' quit Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ last year in the wake of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright controversy.

The president and first lady "would like to visit some more" churches before making any decisions," Gibbs said.

CHICAGO--President Obama ribbed chief of staff and friend Rahm Emanuel Saturday at the Alfalfa Dinner. These dinners are marked by speeches that often are marked by self mockery and mockery of those around you. Obama's quips about Emanuel made note of his well known use of profanity.

Obama's zingers, as provided by excepts from the White House:

"Now, this hasn't been reported yet, but it was actually Rahm's idea to do the
swearing-in ceremony again. Of course, for Rahm, every day is a swearing-in

"But don't believe what you read. Rahm Emanuel is a real sweetheart.

No, it's true. Every week the guy takes a little time away to give back to the
community. Just last week he was at a local school, teaching profanity to poor

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Barack Obama category from February 2009.

Barack Obama: January 2009 is the previous archive.

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