(CNN) - President Obama thinks Michael Jackson was a "spectacular performer" but also a man with aspects of his life that were "sad and tragic," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Friday.
"I talked to him about it this morning," Gibbs said in the White House's first reaction to Jackson's death. "Look, he said to me that obviously Michael Jackson was a spectacular performer, a music icon. I think everybody remembers hearing his songs, watching the moon walk on television during Motown's 25th anniversary."
"But the president also said, look, he had aspects of his life were sad and tragic," Gibbs added. "His condolences went out to the Jackson family and to fans who mourn his loss."
Gibbs was quickly pressed over why the White House did not issue a formal statement on Jackson's death.
"Because I just said it," he said.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A sharply divided House of Representatives narrowly passed a White House-backed climate change bill Friday after hours of cajoling and arm-twisting by Democratic leaders among members worried about the legislation's potential economic and political fallout.
The bill passed 219-212, with virtually no Republican support.
The bill would reduce nationwide greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050 through a so-called "cap-and-trade" program under which companies would buy and sell emissions credits.
Among other things, the bill would also require utilities to generate an increasing amount of power from renewable sources.
The House vote came one day after President Barack Obama made an urgent plea for congressional approval in what could be an early make-or-break test of his young administration.
"Now is the time for us to lead," Obama said during an appearance Thursday in the White House Rose Garden. "We cannot be afraid of the future. We cannot be prisoners to the past."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A coordinated conservative push to kill a climate change bill managed to at least take down the House of Representatives' phone switchboard.
The volume of calls to House members Friday was so high that a spokesman for the House chief administrative officer told CNN Radio the system could not handle it.
"Phone traffic has increased to a level where some callers are receiving an 'all circuits are busy now, please try back again later' message," communications director Jeff Ventura wrote in an e-mail response.
This came as conservative radio hosts and congressmen made direct pleas for voters to dial the Capitol and oppose a Democratic bill that would set strict limits on carbon emissions. Both sides believed the bill was within a few votes of passing or failing.
COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CNN) - The South Carolina Secretary of Commerce who traveled to South America with Mark Sanford last June would not say Friday if he thought the governor should resign.
Secretary of Commerce Joe Taylor, a close friend of Sanford, said the state “moves forward regardless” of who is in the governor’s mansion. When asked if that meant he believed South Carolina would be able to run smoothly without Sanford in office, Taylor nodded.
However, asked directly if Sanford should resign, Taylor said only: “You have to ask him that.”
Taylor also said the governor’s office never pressed the Department of Commerce to add Argentina to the trip’s itinerary.
Sanford admitted Thursday that he met with his mistress in Buenos Aires during that trip, and promised to re-pay the state for full cost of the Argentina swing.
Taylor said little during Friday’s cabinet meeting with the governor, except to note that an economic development award given to the state this week “didn’t get much coverage because it's good news."
Sanford, in his first public appearance since admitting the affair on Wednesday, apologized to Taylor and the commerce department “for the way that I put y’all in a bad spot.”
After Friday’s cabinet meeting, a saddened Taylor told CNN he has traveled around the world with Sanford, but only learned of the affair on Wednesday “when everybody else in the state of South Carolina did.” He said he never saw any signs that Sanford was having an affair.
(CNN) - State Senator Jake Knotts, a Republican and longtime critic of Mark Sanford, called for a "full-blown" investigation Friday into the South Carolina governor's actions.
In a press conference with reporters, Knotts said he is actually calling for two investigations - one by the state's law enforcement agency, and the other by the State Senate Judiciary Committee with "full subpoena power."
"Irrational behavior. Lies, lies, lies. It's time that the truth to come out," said Knotts. "Like Joe Brown said, you can lie, but you can't hide... Everybody has found out where he's been hiding. In Argentina."
(CNN) - She's visiting troops on a peacekeeping mission, but Sarah Palin signaled Friday she's ready to go to battle with John Kerry, who reportedly made a joke earlier this week at her expense.
The Boston Herald reported that on Wednesday, before South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford's exact whereabouts were widely known, the Massachusetts senator mused to reporters the wrong elected official had dropped out of sight.
"Too bad if a governor had to go missing it couldn't have been the governor of Alaska," he said, according to the paper. "You know, Sarah Palin."
Palin herself, speaking to U.S. troops in Kosovo, responded Friday with a shot aimed straight for the face - literally.
"Then Sen. John Kerry makes this joke, I don't know if you saw this, but he makes this joke saying, 'Aw shoot, of all the governors in the nation who disappeared, too bad it couldn't have been that governor from Alaska...'" she said.
"But the way he said it, he looked quite frustrated, and he looked so sad, and I just wanted to reach out to the TV and say, 'John Kerry, why the long face?'"
Palin is overseas visiting Alaska National Guard troops on a peacekeeping mission.
Have a question for one of our guests? Email StateOfTheUnion@CNN.com. Tune in at 9 a.m. Eastern on Sunday to see this week's "State of the Union" report.
(CNN) - Two days before the U.S. military's scheduled pull-out from Iraqi cities, the top U.S. commander in Iraq will provide details of the withdrawal on Sunday's "State of the Union with John King."
A recent spike in violence in Iraq has raised concern whether the Iraqis will be ready to take over the security void left by the U.S. troops' Tuesday departure.
But General Raymond Odierno, who will give a live progress report from Baghdad on Sunday, has said that the U.S. is "absolutely committed" to withdrawing troops on June 30.
Also on Sunday's "State of the Union", Gov. Tim Pawlenty, R-Minnesota, will discuss the fallout from the recent revelations that both Sen. John Ensign, R-Nevada, and Gov. Mark Sanford, R-South Carolina, have been having extramarital affairs.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - It may be the last thing anyone wants to talk about, thanks to lasting memories from the very long, historic and contentious 2008 presidential campaign, but committees from both the Democratic and Republican parties already looking into revamping the way they pick their presidential nominees.
2012 may be years away, but the Democratic National Committee's Democratic Change Commission holds its first meeting this Saturday. The commission's looking at three issues that dogged last year's marathon primary battle between then-Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Their goals: changing the window of time during which primaries and caucuses may be held, reducing the number of unpledged delegates, and improving the caucus system.
A number of states moved up their contest dates and two of them, Florida and Michigan, were penalized by the national parties. There was also a controversy over the clout of superdelegates in the Democratic nomination battle between Obama and Clinton. Obama won a majority of pledged delegates, but needed the support of superdelegates to clinch the nomination. Superdelegates are party officials, members of Congress and state office holders. They are unpledged delegates who are free to support the candidate of their choice
Work on the Republican side is already underway. The Republican National Committee's primary committee met on Monday, beginning a fact-finding process that could result in some alterations to the primary calendar in the next presidential campaign.
TOPICS: Obama, Democrats in Congress, most important issue, economy, international threats, Sonia Sotomayor, Iran, health care, Iraq, North Korea, Michael Jackson, smoking, adultery, affirmative action, Founding Fathers.