The White House decks the halls
November 30th, 2011
05:55 PM ET

The White House decks the halls

WHITE HOUSE (CNN) – First Lady Michelle Obama showed off the newly-decked halls of the White House on Wednesday to a select group of special guests.

Family members of military servicemen and women joined Mrs. Obama and her staff to preview this year’s holiday decorations at the White House.

“I want to thank all of the Gold Star families for your enduring strength and commitment to this country. And I want to thank all of the troops, all of our veterans, all of our military families, whose service and sacrifice inspires us all,” the first lady said. “I know for some of you, this holiday season will be tough. But hopefully, it's times like this that make you know that you live in a grateful nation, and that we are just so inspired by your sacrifice. And hopefully, this is a memory that will stay with you every holiday season.”

This year’s holiday theme is “Shine, Give, Share” and many aspects honor Gold Star and Blue Star families. There are 37 Christmas trees throughout the White House. The largest one, a 18-foot 6-inch balsam fir from Neshkoro, Wisconsin stands in the Blue Room. The tree is adorned with holiday cards made by military children, along with medals, badges, and patches representing all of the branches of the military.

Mrs. Obama spoke of one message on the tree which five children from Washington state wrote. “No matter how many Christmases our dad misses, he makes every Christmas special and we love him,” the card read.

After her remarks in the East Room, she invited all the children to the State Dining Room where the White House served cookies and the kids made holiday crafts. The White House chefs have made 20,000 cookies so far for this holiday season. The White House says approximately 85,000 visitors will pass through its halls this December.

Obama pushes for payroll extensions
November 30th, 2011
04:10 PM ET

Obama pushes for payroll extensions

Scranton, Pennsylvania (CNN) - President Obama brought his two month-long jobs push to Scranton, Pennsylvania Wednesday, pleading with members of Congress back in Washington to extend the payroll tax holiday that he claims will save the average family $1,500 next year.

“Let’s be clear, if they vote no, your taxes go up,” Obama told an enthusiastic crowd at Scranton High School.  “If they vote yes, you get a tax cut.  Which way do you think Congress should vote?”

The payroll extension holiday is among the final components of the president’s larger jobs bill the Congress has yet to formally consider.  Nearly every other measure Obama proposed in the $447 billion bill earlier this fall has been held up by Republicans - and in some cases Democrats - wary of increasing the country’s ballooning deficit or raising taxes on any income brackets. 

The White House, that long suspected many of the president’s proposals would meet opposition in Congress, has jumped at the opportunity to campaign against Washington in the months before the presidential campaign kicks into full gear. 

“Folks in Washington don’t seem to be getting the message,” the president also said in the 20 minute-speech in which he largely railed against congressional Republicans.   FULL POST

In Pennsylvania, presidential politics hard to ignore
November 30th, 2011
09:34 AM ET

In Pennsylvania, presidential politics hard to ignore

Scranton, Pennsylvania (CNN) – Planning to push for an extension of the payroll tax holiday at a high school in Scranton,Pennsylvania on Wednesday, President Obama is taking his jobs message to a familiar setting. 

Pennslyvania is among the states Obama has visited most as president.  It's no surprise: Pennsylvania's penchant for close elections makes its 20 electoral votes a tempting prize for both parties.  But a win here in November may be particularly important to the president, who could use a bit of breathing room as he faces tough odds to hold some of the Republican-leaning states he won in 2008.

Officially, the White House maintains this is not a campaign trip, but the 2012 overtones will be impossible to ignore when Air Force One touches down in this city that once thrived on the back of the coal-mining industry but now faces an unemployment rate bordering on nine percent – the highest among the state's most populous cities.

Obama has a bit of a complicated history here, having gotten his clocked cleaned by Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primary before walloping Sen. John McCain eight months later.  Now, the state appears solidly up for grabs: a recent Quinnipiac poll showed him with a razor-thin lead over Mitt Romney, currently the odds-on favorite to win the GOP nomination.

Still, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Monday presidential travel decisions are based on a variety of factors, not least of which is their proximity to Washington.
FULL POST


Topics: 2012 Election • jobs • President Obama • The News
White House schedule for Wednesday November 30, 2011
November 30th, 2011
08:56 AM ET

White House schedule for Wednesday November 30, 2011

The President starts his day at The White House then heads to Scranton, PA to tout  his jobs plan.   Specifically he will push for the extension of the payroll tax cut.   After Pennsylvania he will head to New York City to attend three fundraisers before returning to DC for the night.   

The real news will happen mid-day here at  The White House when Mrs. Obama unveils The White House Holiday decorations.   Military families including Gold Star and Blue Star families are invited today to view the decorations and then some of the kids will make holiday crafts and treats with The White House chefs and florist.  

full schedule after the jump

FULL POST

Biden makes surprise visit to Iraq
November 29th, 2011
11:04 AM ET

Biden makes surprise visit to Iraq

Vice President Joe Biden made a surprise visit to Baghdad Tuesday, his eighth trip to the country as vice president.

"Vice President Biden has arrived in Baghdad, Iraq. While here, the Vice President will co-chair a meeting of the U.S.-Iraq Higher Coordinating Committee,” according to a White House official. “He will also meet with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, President Jalal Talabani, Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, and other political leaders.”

“The Vice President will also participate in, and give remarks at, an event to commemorate the sacrifices and accomplishments of U.S. and Iraqi troops,” the White House official added.

The trip comes more than a month after President Obama announced all U.S. forces in Iraq will be withdrawn by the end of 2011.

Update: The White House has released a full statement on the trip.  Statement after the jump.
FULL POST

POTUS' Day Ahead: Netherlands invasion
November 29th, 2011
07:45 AM ET

POTUS' Day Ahead: Netherlands invasion

President Obama welcomes Prime Minister Mark Putte of the Netherlands to the White House Tuesday, an effort by the two countries to express their economic ties. Netherlands is the third largest direct investor in the United States, according to the White House, and is among the top 10 destinations for U.S. exports.

The meeting comes a day after President Obama met with European economic leaders over the Euro crisis, so it is likely that topic will come up as well.

Also on the meeting agenda is talk of the 2012 NATO summit, which will be held in Chicago next May.

Meanwhile, Jay Carney will brief reporters at 1:00 p.m. ET today.

Full schedule:
FULL POST


Topics: Daily Schedule
Morning Briefing
November 28th, 2011
08:17 AM ET

Morning Briefing

The 1600 Report's daily roundup of what the White House is reading this morning online and in the papers:

TV attack ads aim at Obama early and often [NYTimes]

DNC ramps up its attacks on Mitt Romney [YouTube]

Obama would beat W, but nearly half don’t want either [Vanity Fair]

Let the Chris Christie 2012 talk begin again! [Politico]

Leaders in Europe seek new pact with Obama’s help [WSJ]

Good Black Friday expected to lift stock market [WSJ]

Don’t call Gingrich the ‘anti-Romney’ [NYTimes]

Payroll tax extension to face fight in Senate? [NYTimes]

Recusal battle over health care at Supreme Court [Wash Post]

POTUS' Day Ahead: EU comes to the WH
November 28th, 2011
07:45 AM ET

POTUS' Day Ahead: EU comes to the WH

Good morning from the White House. President Obama spends the day immersed in the crisis surrounding the Euro and the broader issues surrounding the European debt, hosting a summit with several EU leaders in the morning at the White House. He follows up the larger meeting with a EU summit lunch and then a smaller meeting with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso.

Full schedule after the jump

FULL POST


Topics: Daily Schedule
President's Retail Therapy for Small Business Saturday
US President Barack Obama and his daughters Malia and Sasha shop for books at Kramerbooks and Afterwords, a local bookstore, in Washington.
November 26th, 2011
04:18 PM ET

President's Retail Therapy for Small Business Saturday

On one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year, President Obama and first daughters Sasha and Malia dropped by a local area bookstore in support of the 2nd annual Small Business Saturday.  The First Family, known for their bookstore outings provided some Thanksgiving retail therapy to Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe in Washington's Dupont Circle neighborhood.  The family was dressed casually, with both girls wearing jeans.  The visit didn’t seem like a spur of the moment decision, since the area in front of the store had been cordoned off with yellow police tape.

The President and first daughters were greeted with applause, as some stunned shoppers stopped in their tracks at the scene of Secret Service and travelling Media in the crowded bookstore.  The First Family browsed together, spending time in the travel/writing section of the trendy bookstore/restaurant known for its eclectic variety of books.

The President greeted 5-year old Alexander Lee Mussehl at the behest of the youngster’s Grandmother, Susan Lee of Washington. Obama asked Alexander if he was doing some Christmas shopping.  The President then responded for him “Well, we're starting early. This is 'Small Business Saturday.' So we're out here supporting small business."

Daughter Malia,  loaded down with an armful of books, also said hello to young Alexander.  The White House provided this list of the books purchased at the shop by the first family.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret – by Brian Selznick

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever – by Jeff Kinney

Tails – by Matthew Van Fleet

Descent into Chaos – by Ahmed Rashid

The Tiger's Wife – by Tea Obreht

The Phantom Tollbooth – by Norton Juster

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – by Junot Diaz

Zen Shorts – by Jon Muth


Topics: Malia Obama • Sasha Obama • The Buzz • The Family • The News • Travel Pool
Obama thumbs up to NBA Agreement
US President Barack Obama gives a thumbs up after a reporter questioned him about the NBA deal as he walks to his car after playing basketball at Fort McNair in Washington.
November 26th, 2011
12:13 PM ET

Obama thumbs up to NBA Agreement

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President Obama remarked "good deal!" and gave a thumbs-up in response to reporter questions about today's agreement to resume the NBA season.  The President responded to the news of the agreement between the NBA owners and player after wrapping up his own personal game of basketball with friends at Washington's Fort McNair Army Base.


Topics: Basketball • President Obama • The News • Travel Pool