Washington (CNN) – On the day before President Obama delivers his first State of the Union address, he broke bread at a private White House luncheon with top business leaders representing the insurance, oil, and banking industries.
"The Obama administration has reached out throughout the first year to develop an ongoing dialogue with the business community as we work (to) rebuild and strengthen our economy for the long-term," a White House official familiar with the meeting told CNN. "The lunch is the fourth of its kind hosted by the President this year, and follows a series of meetings with top administration officials with business leaders throughout the country."
The meeting comes at a time when some of the industries represented at the luncheon have been criticized by the White House, and just days after the president told a town hall meeting in Elyria, Ohio that he was fighting to curb the excesses of Wall Street. In his daily briefing, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs acknowledged there are areas of disagreement between the president and some of the business leaders, but noted that the lines of communication remain open.
Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama called an unknown number of senators Saturday to "check in" on Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's confirmation for a second term, a senior administration official said.
Obama reappointed him to the position in August, but the Senate needs to confirm him before his terms - which began in 2006 - ends January 31.
The official, who wished to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to discuss the private phone calls, said the senators told the president that Bernanke will win another confirmation.
Obama remains "confident" that the Senate will confirm Bernanke for a second term, the official said.
On Friday, both Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-California, and Russell Feingold, D-Wisconsin, said they plan to vote against Bernanke, a Republican.
Washington (CNN) - The first couple made a big contribution to help Haiti on Wednesday, giving $15,000 to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund set up after last week's earthquake the devastated the Caribbean nation.
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama "have been inspired by the way that millions of Americans have responded with tremendous generosity to the Haiti crisis - even in these tough economic times," said Deputy White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest. "So, today, they sent their own check for
$15,000 to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund to support the ongoing relief efforts in that country."
Obama asked his two immediate predecessors - former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton - to set up the fund to raise money for relief and recovery efforts in Haiti and ensure that contributions continue long after the news media moves on to other stories.
According to the Web site for the fund, http://www.clintonbushhaitifund.org, it has received 126,000 contributions to date.
Honolulu, Hawaii (CNN) - In a marked shift from previous positions, senior Obama administration officials now say they are starting to see an al Qaeda connection to the attempted terror attack on a U.S.-bound airliner.
In the days after the failed attempt on Christmas Day, administration officials steadfastly shied away from linking the incident to the terror group and, in some cases, said there was no evidence of such a connection.
But one senior administration officials said late Tuesday that "some of the new information that we developed overnight does suggest that there was some linkage there" with al Qaeda.
The senior administration official was referring to intelligence that White House officials obtained late Monday night and then briefed President Obama about on Tuesday in a secure conference call.
The secure call, which included National Security Adviser Gen. Jim Jones and top homeland security adviser John Brennan, took place shortly before the president delivered public remarks suggesting there were "systemic and human failures" that prevented the government from stopping the attempted terror attack.
Honolulu, Hawaii (CNN) – President and Mrs. Obama left their vacation rental home in Hawaii for over an hour to make a Christmas Day visit to Marines stationed at the U.S. Marine base on Oahu.
“Hi guys, Merry Christmas,” the president said as he entered the mess hall where Marines and their families were enjoying their Christmas dinner. Casually dressed, the Obamas went from table to table to say hello, shake hands, and ask where everyone was from. At one point the president said “I’m proud of you guys,” and could be heard thanking the Marines for their service and saying he understood how tough it was to be away from their loved ones on the holiday.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Acknowledging his own struggle with smoking, President Obama signed a sweeping anti-tobacco bill into law Monday.
"Each day, 1,000 young people under the age of 18 become new regular, daily smokers, and almost 90 percent of all smokers began at or before their 18th birthday," Obama said. "I know; I was one of these teenagers. And so I know how difficult it can be to break this habit when it's been with you for a long time."
During his campaign for the presidency, Obama acknowledged that he had been an occasional smoker since he was a teenager, but had begun using nicotine-based chewing gum as a way to stop using cigarettes. And while the president has not been seen sneaking a smoke since taking the oath of office, the White House does not deny it is a an ongoing struggle.
"It's something that he continues to struggle with as somebody - like millions of Americans have," Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said at a briefing Monday when asked if Mr. Obama was still smoking.
WHITE HOUSE (CNN) – The head coaches for the Los Angeles Lakers and the Pittsburgh Penguins received congratulatory calls yesterday from President Obama.
The president - a basketball fan himself who still plays occasionally - called Lakers coach Phil Jackson to congratulate the team for winning the NBA finals, according to the White House. They also discussed the keys to the Lakers' success, and "the President's interest in the Lakers' triangle offense."
Obama also made a point to congratulate Jackson on his record-setting 10th championship as a head coach - four with the Lakers, and six with Obama's hometown Chicago Bulls. He told Jackson he has admired him since his days as coach of the Bulls, and looked forward to meeting him and congratulating the Lakers in person at the White House.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – President Obama is asking Congress for $1.5 billion to fight the current swine flu outbreak.
In a letter to lawmakers on Capitol Hill, the president made the request "at an abundance of caution," and said the funds should be "provided with maximum flexibility to allow us to address this emerging situation."
He also suggested the supplementing of anti-viral stockpiles, and assisting international efforts to stem the outbreak could be good uses of the funds. He added that his administration has "carefully been monitoring the situation, coordinating state and local responses, assessing the risk here in the United States and cooperating with international organizations and health officials around the globe."
Robert Gibbs, Obama's press secretary, read the letter to reporters at the beginning of Tuesday's White House press briefing.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – President and Mrs. Bush will be moving to Dallas after Mr. Bush leaves office, the White House announced Thursday. “The President and Mrs. Bush have purchased a home in the Preston Hollow neighborhood in Dallas, Texas,” Sally McDonough, Mrs. Bush’s press secretary, said in the statement.
The Bushes lived in Dallas from December 1988 through January 1995. They moved to Austin after Mr. Bush was elected Texas governor in November 1994. The president was partial owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team during part of their time living in Dallas.
During the latter part of Bush’s presidency, the first lady had made it known that Dallas would be their primary residence after leaving the White House, not the president’s beloved Prairie Chapel Ranch in Crawford, Texas.
“I like Crawford,” the president told a crowd at a Houston fundraiser in July. “Unfortunately, after eight years of asking [the first lady] to sacrifice, I’m now no longer the decision maker.” The Bushes will continue to spend some time at the ranch, according to the statement.
As to the specifics of their new home, the Bushes “do not have occupancy of the home, and therefore, no additional details will be provided,” McDonough said.
WHITE HOUSE (CNN) – Whoops! A picture of a Christmas tree is not the first thing you would expect to see on an invitation to an event celebrating Hanukkah, but that is exactly what recipients of invitations to this year's White House Hanukkah reception initially got in the mail.
The invitation sent to American Jewish leaders on behalf of the President and First Lady, requesting "the pleasure of your company at a Hanukkah reception," bore an image of a Clydesdale horse-drawn cart, carrying the White House Christmas tree, with a Christmas wreath-adorned White House in the background.
Mrs. Bush's press secretary, Sally McDonough, attributed the snafu to a "staff mistake" in not printing separate cards for the different White House holiday events, as has been the custom in years past. "Mrs. Bush is apologetic, It is just something that fell through the cracks," she said, referring to the role of the First Lady's office in sending out the invitations.
The card as originally intended featured a menorah given to the White House during Harry Truman's presidency. That mailing was to have gone out today, according to Mrs. McDonough.
McDonough added that the White House had received "dozens" of calls of support from members of the Jewish community to express their appreciation for what President and Mrs. Bush had done for them through the course of Mr. Bush's presidency.