[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/04/art.getty.obama.3.4.jpg
caption="President Obama spoke to congressional committee chairs and ranking members at the start of a dinner in honor of congressional leadership."](CNN) - The White House appears to be Washington's Wednesday night hot-spot.
President Obama and first lady Michelle wined and dined the heads of the congressional committees Wednesday evening in the East Room of the White House.
The first couple has been holding weekly social events and cocktail parties at the White House. As the president joked Wednesday, "This is a pretty big house so we get lonely."
President Obama continued his charm offensive with the congressional committee chairmen at the bipartisan dinner.
"We're not always going to agree on everything, but given how hard so many of you are working on both sides of the aisle, day in, day out, we thought it was important for us to be able to step back for a moment, remind ourselves that we have things in common – family, friends, laughter," Obama told the group. "Hopefully we'll have a chance to appreciate each other a little bit, take a time-out before we dive back into the game."
The entertaining by the first family is part of the Obamas' commitment to making the executive mansion a more open place for all.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/04/art.getty.malia.sasha.jpg
caption="The Obama girls still don't have a puppy, but they did receive another surprise when they arrived home from school Wednesday.'"](CNN) - The Obama girls still don't have a puppy, but they did receive another surprise when they arrived home from school Wednesday– a brand new swing set.
A spokeswoman for First Lady Michelle Obama says Malia and Sasha, ages 10 and 7, "squealed with delight" when they saw their surprise, playing on the swing set for almost an hour in the chilly weather.
The girls' parents arranged for the play set to be installed Wednesday at the White House grounds, within sight of the Oval Office, before Malia and Sasha arrived home from Sidwell Friends school.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/02/13/art.carville1.gi.jpg
caption="James Carville said he and Stan Greenberg have polled Limbaugh's name for 'a long time.'"]WASHINGTON (CNN) - Democratic strategist James Carville avoided saying Wednesday if he had been in contact with the White House over ongoing efforts to portray talk show host Rush Limbaugh as the leader of the Republican Party.
Carville was asked on CNN’s The Situation Room about a report in Politico that said Carville and his longtime friend, CNN contributor Paul Begala, pushed the idea of attacking Limbaugh in their daily conversations with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.
Carville said it was Limbaugh who started the war of the words.
“I think that honestly I don’t want to take credit away from the great Rush Limbaugh who did it on January 16 when he said he wanted the president’s policies to fail, and that’s what started the whole thing,” Carville said. “So don’t give Paul and I, or Rahm credit. Credit is due to the great Rush Limbaugh. So my hat’s off to you, Rush.”
The Politico piece noted that Carville and his partner, pollster Stan Greenberg, began polling Limbaugh’s popularity last year during the presidential campaign.
Carville said he and Greenberg have included Limbaugh in their polls “for a long time,” and said they were working on a new poll to be released soon.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/04/art.getty.obama.3.4.jpg
caption="A new national poll suggests that most Americans think the plan is unfair to those who pay their mortgages on time."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - On the day that the Obama administration begins implementing a new program to fight home foreclosures, a new national poll suggests that most Americans think the plan is unfair to those who pay their mortgages on time.
Sixty-four percent of those questioned in a Quinnipiac University survey released Wednesday feel the Obama administration program is unfair to those who pay their mortgages on time. Only 28 percent say that the president's $75 billion plan is fair. More details on the program, which is aimed at helping up to nine million borrowers stay in their homes using refinanced mortgages or modified loans, were released Wednesday.
Americans may not like the plan — but that doesn’t mean they think it’s a bad idea. While nearly two-thirds think the plan is unfair to those who follow the rules, 57 percent say they approve of the package, and 55 percent believe the plan will stabilize home prices.
"Americans don't like to see other people get special treatment, particularly when it comes to money, but they don't like to see others suffer either," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "And unlike federal assistance to auto companies and banks, the Obama mortgage plan appears to benefit individual Americans, typically a more popular option in polls."
Brad Pitt posed in late 2007 on the site where 150 homes new homes in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward are slated to be built. (Photo Credit: Getty Images/File)
WASHINGTON (CNN) – In what promises to be one of the most well-attended congressional photo ops of the year so far, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will appear with actor Brad Pitt on Capitol Hill Thursday, according to her office.
Pitt and Pelosi are slated to meet tomorrow afternoon to discuss a low-income housing project in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, an effort long supported by the actor.
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caption="Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh challenged President Obama to a verbal showdown Wednesday."](CNN) - Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh challenged President Obama to a verbal showdown Wednesday, calling on him to visit his talk show for an "intelligent, open discussion" on issues like health care and taxes.
"If you can win at this, then come here and beat me at my own game, and get rid of me once and for all, and show all the people of America that I am wrong," said Limbaugh. "If you take me out, if you can wipe me out in a debate and prove to the rest of America that what I say is senseless and wrong, do you realize you will own the United States of America?"
Limbaugh also accused the White House of orchestrating an attack on him, telling his listeners that the Obama team is demonizing the radio host since Bush left office. He said the effort was being spearheaded by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who Limbaugh refers to as the "power behind the throne."
"Don't let his effeminate nature and his ballerina past mislead you on this. He may look effeminate (he was a ballerina at one time) but he has the feral instincts of a female rat defending its young," Limbaugh said.
"I'm calling. I'm ready. I'll do everything I can to facilitate it. You're a very courageous man, Mr. President. I am, after all, just The Last Man Standing," Limbaugh said.
In January, Limbaugh called on the president to sign on to his “bi-partisan” stimulus plan, which would increase government spending for roughly half the country, and cut taxes for the other half.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/04/art.getty.bill.frist.jpg
caption="A Republican congressman urged the Obama administration Wednesday to not delay in appointing a special envoy for Sudan and floated the name of former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, pictured above, for the job.'"]WASHINGTON (CNN) - A Republican congressman urged the Obama administration Wednesday to not delay in appointing a special envoy for Sudan and floated the name of former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist for the job.
The comments from Virginia Rep. Frank Wolf come on the same day that the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for a five-year campaign of violence in Darfur.
“The world knows what's happening in Sudan and Darfur and yet the Obama administration has failed to appoint a special envoy,” Wolf said on the House floor. “I have asked them to appoint a former senator, Bill Frist from Tennessee, who could start today.”
It’s not the first time Wolf has lobbied for Frist: the congressman wrote to the president in February asking for a special envoy to work on Darfur issues and recommended Frist for the position. The former Tennessee senator is a heart surgeon who has traveled to Sudan multiple times on medical missions. Wolf has also traveled to Sudan to survey the violence.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/04/art.stock.market.gi.jpg caption=" Join the conversation on Jack's blog."]
As the stock market continues to drop, President Obama is running out of people to blame, according to an editorial in the Wall Street Journal.
Before the president took office, in early January, the stock market was over 9,000 its highest level since last fall. But in the last two months, it has dropped 25% to its lowest level since 1997.
The Journal suggests that Mr. Obama’s policies are slowing, if not stopping, what would be a normal economic recovery. “From punishing business to squandering scarce national public resources, Team Obama is creating more uncertainty and less confidence,” said the editorial.
The editorial takes issue with the way much of the administration’s stimulus spending went to social programs rather than public works, how the Treasury has been managing the bank bailout plan, and how tax cuts were devoted to income maintenance rather than giving incentives to work or invest.
To read more and contribute to the Cafferty File discussion click here
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/04/art.bernanke0304.gi.jpg caption="Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke slammed AIG in testimony on Capitol Hill Tuesday."]
(Fortune) - Lawmakers want to know who's pocketing the money taxpayers have spent to prop up AIG.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., on Wednesday demanded that Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke provide a full accounting of the firms that have received federal funds in their dealings with AIG (AIG, Fortune 500) since last fall's brush with bankruptcy.
The letter - which seeks to unmask the AIG trading partners that benefited from the billions of dollars the government has extended - comes a day after Bernanke expressed frustration with the firm, which has received more than $150 billion in federal help over the past six months.
"If there is a single episode in this entire 18 months that has made me more angry, I can't think of one other than AIG," Bernanke told the Senate Budget Committee Tuesday. "This was a hedge fund, basically, that was attached to a large and stable insurance company, made huge numbers of irresponsible bets - took huge losses. There was no regulatory oversight because there was a gap in the system."
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/03/04/gordon.brown.congress/art.brown.congress.afp.gi.jpg caption="Joseph Biden and Nancy Pelosi watch Wednesday as Prime Minister Gordon Brown addresses Congress."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, speaking Wednesday to a joint meeting of Congress, highlighted the many bonds between his country and the U.S. and offered a hopeful vision that the world's problems can be overcome.
"Working together, there is no challenge to which we are not equal, no obstacle that we cannot overcome, no aspiration so high that it cannot be achieved," Brown said in a speech punctuated by frequent standing ovations on both sides of the aisle.
Brown hit on much the same theme Tuesday in an Oval Office meeting with President Obama in which the leaders said the "special relationship" between the U.S. and Great Britain not only will survive the current global economic turmoil but also will be strengthened in the long term.
At the meeting, Obama and Brown agreed the global economy will recover from the recent sharp downturn but will require a common effort to combat protectionist impulses, coordinate economic stimulus efforts and update antiquated regulatory structures.
Brown's speech Wednesday centered on the economy and security concerns but also strongly highlighted the leadership role the United States plays in the world.
"Throughout your history," he said, "Americans have led insurrections in the human imagination, have summoned revolutionary times through your belief that there is no such thing as an impossible endeavor. It is never possible to come here without having your faith in the future renewed."
Brown pledged Britain's help in rooting out terrorism and other global threats.