And here's Michelle!
January 31st, 2012
10:28 PM ET

And here's Michelle!

 We’re getting a glimpse into what life is like in the White House including mentally preparing for a presidential campaign and sleepovers for the first daughters from first lady Michelle Obama as she appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno Tuesday. 

The first lady is in California raising money for her husband’s campaign at Democratic National Committee fundraisers and also advancing her Let’s Move initiative to solve the problem of childhood obesity within a generation.

 Appearing on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Mrs. Obama confided her feelings on the upcoming campaign.

 “There's really no way to prepare for it.  You know, you just take each day as it comes.  I think, Barack and I, our motto is, you try to do the best job we can do every single day and the hope is that will speak for itself.  So, you know, we wake up everyday, we think about what this country needs.”

 She told Leno two of the most important issues she has pressed for as first lady are her initiative to combat childhood obesity in this country and her work with military families.

On the subject of her own family, the first lady said her daughters Sasha and Malia are adjusting well to life in the White House.

“They're doing really well and I think that's been one of the most surprising things about living in the White House and probably one of the things I've worried most about was whether we could have a normal life,”  she told Leno in a video clip released by NBC. 

“The people at the White House are amazing, the girls are good, they're normal, we always check in, they have a regular life.  They've got friends and sleepovers, and to them its home.  It's been truly a blessing for us,” she said. 

The first lady came to the Leno show bearing gifts as she presented the host with an apple and some White House honey from her White House kitchen garden.  The comedian couldn’t let that pass without a double entendre joke saying, “That sounds bad…You know, with a different president, that could mean a whole different thing.”

And Mitt Romney’s musical skills also came up as Leno asked Mrs. Obama if she heard the GOP candidate’s slightly off key rendition of  “America the Beautiful” on the campaign trail Tuesday.  Mrs. Obama didn’t miss a beat saying she had seen the video in the NBC green room and as the audience laughed she hesitated only briefly diplomatically declaring the rendition “beautiful” and that, “It's a song that's to be sung by every American.”

Obama campaign reports 4th quarter fundraising, bundlers
January 31st, 2012
04:40 PM ET

Obama campaign reports 4th quarter fundraising, bundlers

Washington (CNN) – The Obama campaign has officially reported to the Federal Election Commission raising $68 million from 583,000 donors in the 4th quarter of 2011, according to an Obama campaign official.

These numbers are consistent with those announce by the campaign in a video released in early January.

What's new is the list of approximately four hundred big bundlers they published on the Obama campaign website – along with the amounts each raised.

The term bundlers refers to big fundraisers who "bundle" large amounts of donations together.

Some notable names: longtime Democrat and Dreamworks co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg raised half a million dollars as did Vogue editor Anna Wintour. Ari Emanuel – the Hollywood superagent and brother of the one-time chief-of staff – raised one hundred to two hundred thousand dollars.

Can the first lady convince Leno to eat his veggies?
First Lady Michelle Obama visited Parklawn Elementary School in Alexandria, Virginia last week to announce USDA's new nutrition standards for school lunches.
January 31st, 2012
04:38 PM ET

Can the first lady convince Leno to eat his veggies?

Michelle Obama is going Hollywood is a big way to push her Let's Move program designed to solve the problem of childhood obesity within a generation.

The first lady is in California taping The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, which is scheduled to air Tuesday night.

She taped an interview last week with celebrity chef Rachael Ray and The Ellen DeGeneres Show is teasing its upcoming interview with Mrs. Obama.

The chatter is leading up to the two year anniversary for Let's Move, the first lady's initiative designed to pave the way for a healthier generation of children by schooling parents in healthy eating habits and pressing schools and corporations to offer healthy eating options.

Mrs. Obama ramped up the rhetoric about her Tonight Show appearance when she tweeted this weekend: "@JayLeno says he never eats vegetables…we'll see about that! #LetsMove to get Jay to eat some veggies on #TheTonightShow on 1/31!" FULL POST

January 31st, 2012
12:26 PM ET

Administration official denies president made mistake revealing U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan

A senior administration official is denying to CNN that President Obama made a mistake in publicly revealing what had been classified information about U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan.

Asked whether it was a mistake or part of some larger strategy, the official said the president’s on the record admission on drones during a Google + video chat Monday, was “neither a slip up or a secret message to the Pakistanis”

The president on Monday said that "a lot of these strikes have been in the FATA, and going after al Qaeda suspects who are up in very tough terrain on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. For us to be able to get them in another way would involve probably a lot more intrusive military actions than the one we're already engaging in." (FATA being the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan where Al Qaeda and many Taliban are ensconced).

The official downplayed the significance of what happened, pointing out that what the president said was widely known. The president, the official said was making the point that the drone missions are “precise” and “targeted to avoid casualties.”

On continued tensions between the U.S. and Iran, the same senior administration official said “we want this to end diplomatically.” “Iran just needs to seize this opportunity” and agree to compromises as part of the international talks to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Topics: Pakistan • President Obama • The News
Obama admits to Pakistan drone strikes
January 31st, 2012
12:11 PM ET

Obama admits to Pakistan drone strikes

Maybe it was one of the worst kept secrets in Washington and Pakistan, but U.S. officials rarely admit publicly to the active use of drones to hunt down Al Qaeda and Taliban in Pakistan. One reason is out of deference to the Pakistan, whose government relents to the drone flights even while publicly condemning it because the Pakistani populace is so against the strikes.

That being said, the president on Monday casually revealed to his Google+ hangout that "a lot of these strikes have been in the FATA, and going after al Qaeda suspects who are up in very tough terrain on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. For us to be able to get them in another way would involve probably a lot more intrusive military actions than the one we're already engaging in." (FATA being the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan where Al Qaeda and many Taliban are ensconced).

To read the entire story, check out CNN's Security Clearance blog.

Topics: Pakistan • President Obama • The News
Obama to raise big bucks on GOP primary night
January 31st, 2012
10:53 AM ET

Obama to raise big bucks on GOP primary night

Washington (CNN) - On the same night the political world closely watches the outcome of Florida’s Republican primary, President Obama is engaging in some below-the-radar fundraising that will likely net his campaign and the Democratic National Committee well over $2 million.

The president has two fundraisers lined up on Tuesday night in the Washington area, one at the St. Regis Hotel and the other at a private residence in the tony Maryland suburb of Chevy Chase, according to a Democratic official.

About 50 individuals are expected to attend the St. Regis event while 70 will be on hand in Chevy Chase. At both events, the price of admittance starts at $35,800 per couple, with the first $5,000 designated to the president’s reelection effort and the remaining allocated to the Democratic National Committee.

As is the case with most of the president's fundraisers, no cameras will be allowed into either event. The White House has said cameras are only permitted into fundraisers when the president plans to make formal remarks.

Tonight’s events clock in as the 12th and 13th fundraisers the president has attended this month.

Topics: Uncategorized
Morning Briefing: January 31
January 31st, 2012
09:35 AM ET

Morning Briefing: January 31

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

Obama camp mobilizing in Florida [ABC]

Biden reveals bin Laden details [NYT]

The facts on Obama’s tax record [CNN]

What will Gingrich do next? [NYT]

Is this the most hyperbolic campaign ever [WashPo]

Colbert Super Pac raises over $1 million [NYT]

POTUS' Day Ahead: Behind closed doors
January 31st, 2012
08:35 AM ET

POTUS' Day Ahead: Behind closed doors

President Obama spends the day largely behind cameras, save for some quick comments ahead of a Cabinet meeting this morning.

In the evening the president hits up two high-dollar fundraising events, but these two are closed to cameras.

As the political world watches Florida on this day, it's probably a good time for the president to fly under the radar.

Topics: Daily Schedule
January 30th, 2012
09:27 PM ET

Catholic clergymen come out swinging against HHS regulation

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Washington (CNN) – Catholics around the country got an earful on Sunday from the pulpit over a new health insurance policy by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that forces employers to cover contraception and abortion as part of preventative care regardless of religious beliefs. The use of abortion and contraceptives violates Catholic teachings.

In Green Bay, Wisconsin, Bishop David Ricken denounced the policy at Mass in St. Francis Xavier Cathedral on Sunday and received a standing ovation, CNN affiliate WLUK reported.

“If we pay for those services for people who work for us, we are in effect saying don’t do it, but then giving the money to pay for it,” said Ricken.

In a letter read to congregants in the Atlanta Archdiocese, Archbishop Wilton Gregory called the policy “a matter of grave moral concern.”

To read the complete story go to CNN's Belief Blog.

Topics: Catholic vote • President Obama • The News
Obama's Google+ Hangout
January 30th, 2012
09:15 PM ET

Obama's Google+ Hangout


WASHINGTON (CNN) - While reaching out to supporters through one of the latest high-tech means, President Obama expanded his social media experience by holding a Google+ video chat room interview on Monday afternoon.

In an election year, it's probably not good politics to talk about what you look forward to doing after your time in the White House, but that's exactly what President Obama did when asked about the frustrations of living in the security bubble.

"It's the toughest thing about being president. Look, this is the greatest job on Earth and it's such an honor to serve, but it is true sometimes, you get a little stir crazy," he said. "One of the things I look forward to after I've had this extraordinary honor is just taking a walk, or waking up on Saturday morning, not shaving and going to the local Starbucks and not having to worry about it." FULL POST

Topics: Google • President Obama • The News