WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama plans to get much more assertive when he addresses a joint session of Congress Wednesday night at a critical stage in the health-care debate.
Top aides say his fiery Labor Day speech to an organized-labor crowd in Ohio was a preview of a more passionate case for reform that's coming later this week.
The top aides say the president is putting his own strong imprint on the speech to Congress. After advisers last week submitted various thoughts on what the speech should say, Obama spent much of the weekend at Camp David crafting the actual address, which currently is running about 37 minutes in draft form.
"He will be very forceful," one senior Obama aide said about the tone of the speech. "He will be making the case for action."
A second senior Obama aide said that while the president knows that a rousing organized labor crowd is a much different audience than a joint session of Congress - along with millions of Americans watching on television Wednesday night - Monday's speech set the stage for what will be a more aggressive case for reform than the public has seen thus far.
"He will make a strong case Wednesday night on what health-care reform means to Americans," the second aide said on Monday. "Today you began to see a preview of what you will see Wednesday night."
(CNN) – Jim Greer, the Florida Republican party chairman who accused President Barack Obama last week of trying to "indoctrinate America's children to his socialist agenda," suggested Monday that the president's original speech on education was "different," but said he is now encouraging all kids to watch it.
Greer called Obama "very aggressive and very vocal on what he believes government's role is" and said he believed the initial intention of the speech "was about the White House writing lesson plans." He specifically took issue with a section that encouraged students to write letters to the president on how they could help him meet his goals, which has since been removed.
"When you ask students to write a letter to the president on how we can help you with your new ideas, that is leading the students in an effort to push the president's agenda," Greer told CNN's Suzanne Malveaux on The Situation Room. "Now that the White House got their hand in the cookie jar caught, they changed everything. They redid the lesson plans."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Former first lady Laura Bush is defending President Obama's decision to address the nation's school children, telling CNN Monday that it is "really important for everyone to respect the President of the United States."
"I think that there is a place for the President of the United States to talk to school children and encourage school children, and I think there are a lot of people that should do the same," she told CNN's Zain Verjee, in an interview set to air Monday on The Situation Room. "And that is encourage their own children to stay in school and to study hard and to try to achieve the dream that they have."
The former first lady said she believed criticism of the speech had arisen because of the accompanying lesson plans. If parents are opposed to the address, said Bush, "That's their right. You know that certainly is the right of parents to choose what they want their children to hear in school… (But) I think it's also really important for everyone to respect the President of the United States."
Does she think it's fair to criticize Obama, as some have, by labeling him a socialist? "I'd have no idea whether it's fair, do you think I thought it was fair when President Bush was criticized - not really. So, I guess not," she responded.
(CNN) – Sarah Palin is calling the AP's decision to release a battlefield photo of a dying Marine over the family's objection "an evil thing to do."
In a Sunday night post on her Facebook page, the former Alaska governor called the photo released this week of Lance Corporal Joshua Bernard's dying moments on the battlefield in Afghanistan a "sacred image."
"Many of us join Secretary Gates in condemning the Associated Press for its heartless and selfish decision to turn its back on the wishes of a grieving family in order to exploit the tragic death of a true American hero," she wrote.
CINCINNATI, Ohio (CNN) - President Barack Obama sought organized labor's help Monday in getting Congress to pass health-care legislation, invoking his "fired up" campaign chant at a Labor Day speech to an AFL-CIO gathering.
To cheers from a supportive crowd, Obama said it was vital for America "to ensure that our great middle class remains the backbone of our economy - not just a vanishing ideal we celebrate at picnics once a year as summer turns to fall."
He called overhauling the nation's ailing health-care system an essential step for both those who have health insurance and those lacking coverage.
"Your voice will get health care passed," he said. "Your voice will make sure the American worker is protected."
(CNN) — Joe Kennedy has decided not to enter the fight to succeed his uncle Ted Kennedy in the U.S. Senate.
"Given all that my uncle accomplished, it was only natural to consider getting back involved in public office, and I appreciate all the calls of support and friendship that have poured in," the former Democratic congressman said in a statement released Monday.
"My father called politics an honorable profession, and I have profound respect for those who choose to advance the causes of social and economic justice in elective office. After much consideration, I have decided that the best way for me to contribute to those causes is by continuing my work at Citizens Energy Corporation."
Massachusetts voters head to the polls in January to choose a successor for Ted Kennedy.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - As one so-called White House czar resigned over the weekend, President Obama announced the appointment of another one Monday, much to the frustration of Republican critics.
By some accounts, Obama has nearly 30 czars, who are officially called special advisers. The czars cover issues from AIDS and health care to Middle East peace.
Czars are nothing new. They date back to early presidents, including Franklin Roosevelt. Republicans also had czars: Richard Nixon had an energy czar, and George H.W. Bush appointed the first drug czar.
But the positions are not subject to congressional oversight or Senate confirmation, which rankles critics of the administration.
"What you see with President Obama is this reliance on czars," GOP strategist Kevin Madden said. "And I think there are probably even some corridors of power within the administration that probably didn't like the idea that you have czars that are encroaching on their policy portfolios."
David Gergen, a CNN contributor and former aide to past presidents, said the czar controversy has given Republicans an opening to question the administration's decisions.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama plans to name Ron Bloom as the administration's senior counselor for manufacturing policy, the White House said Monday.
"Bloom will provide leadership ... for the president's agenda to revitalize the manufacturing sector," a White House statement said.
Bloom will keep his role as senior adviser to the Treasury Secretary assigned to the President's Task Force on the Automotive Industry. He has previously served as special assistant to the president of the United Steelworkers Union and as an investment banker, the statement said.
The news comes a month after the U.S. manufacturing sector grew for the first time in 18 months and recorded its highest monthly output in two years, the White House said.
"A strong manufacturing sector is the cornerstone of American competitiveness and a critical part of President Obama's economic strategy," Bloom said, according to the statement.
The White House has released the full text of President Obama's speech to school children Tuesday:
Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama
Back to School Event
September 8, 2009
The President: Hello everyone – how’s everybody doing today? I’m here with students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. And we’ve got students tuning in from all across America, kindergarten through twelfth grade. I’m glad you all could join us today.
I know that for many of you, today is the first day of school. And for those of you in kindergarten, or starting middle or high school, it’s your first day in a new school, so it’s understandable if you’re a little nervous. I imagine there are some seniors out there who are feeling pretty good right now, with just one more year to go. And no matter what grade you’re in, some of you are probably wishing it were still summer, and you could’ve stayed in bed just a little longer this morning.
I know that feeling. When I was young, my family lived in Indonesia for a few years, and my mother didn’t have the money to send me where all the American kids went to school. So she decided to teach me extra lessons herself, Monday through Friday – at 4:30 in the morning.
Now I wasn’t too happy about getting up that early. A lot of times, I’d fall asleep right there at the kitchen table. But whenever I’d complain, my mother would just give me one of those looks and say, "This is no picnic for me either, buster."
(CNN) - Former Rep. James Traficant had a triumphant homecoming Sunday night, his first public appearance since being released from federal prison, a local paper reports.
The Youngstown Vindicator said Monday a supporter-organized welcome home dinner for the former Democratic congressman, which drew the capacity crowd of roughly 1,200 Sunday, included performances by an Elvis impersonator and a polka band, as well as a speech from Traficant himself.
The newspaper reported that Traficant was defiant, telling listeners that he'd "been hounded by some government people for a long time" and that the government "had to cheat to convict me."
"'If you want to know the true nature of a country, you must go through its prisons,'" said Traficant, quoting former South African leader Nelson Mandela, who spent nearly three decades in prison. "I know America. I've seen the other side of it, and I don't like it."
Traficant was released Wednesday after serving just over seven years in federal custody for charges that included racketeering, obstruction of justice, tax evasion and bribery.
The Vindicator reported that Columbiana County Republican Chairman David Johnson, who tried to defeat Traficant for years, was on hand for the event, and said the former congressman would have his support if he mounted another bid for office.
"I would support (Traficant) tomorrow if he ran for Congress," Johnson told the paper.