[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/06/05/art.michelleobama.gi.jpg caption="The White House said Thursday the first lady had selected a new chief of staff."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - First lady Michelle Obama has brought in an old Chicago friend, Susan Sher, to replace chief of staff Jackie Norris.
The White House announced the switch late Thursday.
Norris was part of the team that led the Obama campaign to victory in the Iowa caucuses. She will now serve as a senior adviser to the Corporation for National and Community Service.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - As Democrats on Capitol Hill prepare to unveil landmark bills to dramatically overhaul the nation's health care system, the White House and the Democratic National Committee are mounting increased efforts to rally public support around the idea.
On Saturday the DNC's advocacy arm, Organizing for America, is sponsoring thousands of meetings across the country in which it says tens of thousands of activists will discuss how to change the system, will hear a message from President Obama encouraging their activities, and will be recruited to engage in other activities that will be held throughout the summer's "campaign for healthcare reform."
In the message, the President says after decades of trying real reform is possible, in part because some groups who have never worked before are now joining together. “But the most important seat at the table belongs to you. To get this done, I need your voice to be part of the debate, and it needs to happen now,” he says, according to an excerpt of his remarks obtained by CNN.
In March, the group sponsored a canvassing effort and collected hundreds of thousands of pledges of support for the administration's budget bill. It's also mounted an effort to support the president's Supreme Court pick, Judge Sonia Sotomayor. This effort, though, will be the most sustained to date on a key agenda item for the president.
Activists on all sides are gearing up for a crucial few months. The first public outlines of a bill could be unveiled within the next week, and the Senate Finance and Health, Education and Labor panels are trying to pass measures by the end of the month. President Obama has asked both the House and Senate to act before the August recess.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Douglas Wilder, who became the country's first African-American governor when Virginians elected him in 1989, thinks that no matter who emerges victorious from the state's Democratic gubernatorial primary on Tuesday, the party will find it awfully tough to defeat Republican candidate Bob McDonnell in November.
Wilder said "there's something in the air" that makes him think Virginia voters aren't prepared to elect a Democrat to the governorship for the third straight time. Democrats Mark Warner and Tim Kaine have won the last two gubernatorial elections in the commonwealth. Before that, Republicans won two consecutive victories with George Allen and Jim Gilmore.
"Each time around, voters say, 'Wait a minute, no one's supposed to be here forever,' and I think Virginians like to see that degree of balance," Wilder said in an interview with CNN. "They like to mix it up. I think the guy who can ride that horse to show some grasp of the independent voter, rather than just the Republican or Democratic voter, will be successful. That's key."
The former Democratic governor, who later served as mayor of Richmond from 2005 to 2009, said that the three Democratic candidates running in the primary - former DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe, former House caucus chairman Brian Moran and state Sen. Creigh Deeds - have so far not found a way to excite Democratic voters, including the African-American voters who turned out so heavily for Barack Obama in 2008.
"They're not energized," he said. "I don't see any energy among any voters."
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/04/18/obama.drug.war/art.marijuana.gi.jpg caption="Rising drug violence in the United States is one of the administration's top domestic concerns. "]
(CNN) - Top Obama administration officials were in Albuquerque on Friday to announce new efforts to combat the flow of illegal drugs from Mexico.
The White House released a summary of its National Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy, aimed at not only stemming the trafficking of illegal narcotics, but also slowing the flow of cash and illegal firearms into Mexico.
The plan involves increased intelligence and enhanced technology. It also includes "targeted financial sanctions to disable drug trafficking
organizations," as well as heightened cooperation with Mexico, the White House said.
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Attorney General Eric Holder, and White House Drug Policy Chief Gil Kerlikowske planned to discuss the strategy at a news conference.
Rising drug violence in the United States is one of the administration's top domestic concerns.
–CNN's Terry Frieden contributed to this report.
(CNN) - Most people across Muslim and Arab lands viewed President Barack Obama's speech in Cairo, Egypt, as "excellent," a spokesman for the hard-line Palestinian movement Hamas told CNN.
But the official, Ahmed Yousef, interviewed on CNN's "American Morning" from Gaza City, said now there's a question out there on the street: Is the American president "ready to walk the way he talks."
"This is the question," said Yousef, the senior adviser for former Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya.
In his address to Muslims, Obama called for bridging gaps between Israelis and Palestinians and urged the establishment of a two-state solution. He called for an end to Israeli settlement building and he called for the Palestinians to end violence against the Jewish state.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/13/art.cnn.biden.amtrak.jpg caption="Vice President Joe Biden calls Friday's unemployment report 'tough.'"]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Vice President Joe Biden calls Friday's unemployment report "tough" - but says there are also "some signs of hope today."
Friday's numbers released by the Labor Department show the nation's unemployment rate rising to 9.4 percent in May, the highest level in 25 years. But the report also finds that employers cut 345,000 jobs from their payrolls last month, down from the revised 504,000 job decline in April.
The total is the fewest jobs lost in a month since last September. It's also lower than originally-predicted loss of more than half a million jobs in May.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The top Republican in the House of Representatives is using Friday's unemployment report to slam President Obama's economic agenda.
Less than an hour after the Department of Labor released its monthly employment report showing unemployment rising to 9.4 percent, House Minority Leader John Boehner released a statement criticizing the Obama administration's record on job creation.
Full Boehner statement:
"Today's unemployment rate is the highest in more than a quarter century, and it's another reminder of how Washington is hanging middle-class Americans out to dry. More than 2.5 million Americans have lost their jobs this year, and what have the Democrats in charge of Washington given them? A trillion-dollar 'stimulus' that isn't producing jobs immediately, as the Administration promised, and that Vice President Biden admits is ripping off the American people. Another $400 billion spending bill loaded with 9,000 unscrutinized earmarks. And bailouts that reward irresponsible behavior and bad business decisions. These policies are harming middle class families when they can least afford it and adding to the massive debt inherited by future generations.
"There is a better way. Doubling down on the Democrats' plans to tax more, spend more, and borrow more from our children and grandchildren is not the right answer to this economic crisis. Republicans have offered better solutions to create more jobs, curb spending, cut taxes, rebuild savings, and control the debt, and we have reached out to our Democratic counterparts to work on these policies in a constructive way. I urge Democrats in Congress and the Administration to finally follow through on their promises of bipartisan cooperation."
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) – Job losses slowed dramatically in May, according to the latest government reading on the battered labor market, even as the unemployment rate rose to a 26-year high.
Employers cut 345,000 jobs from their payrolls in the month, down from the revised 504,000 job decline in April.
This was the fewest jobs lost in a month since last September, when the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers caused a crisis in U.S. financial markets and choked off credit for many businesses. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com had forecast a loss of 520,000 jobs in May.
The unemployment rate rose to 9.4 percent from 8.9 percent in April. Economists expected unemployment would rise to 9.2 percent.
DRESDEN, Germany (CNN) - One day after his speech to the Muslim world, President Obama moved quickly to try and build momentum for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, revealing to reporters he's sending his special envoy George Mitchell to the region next week.
Obama said that in the wake of his speech in Cairo, Egypt, he wants Mitchell "to follow up with each of the individual parties on a whole host of negotiation points and potential confidence-building measures that can be taken."
At a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel after a private meeting with her, Obama told reporters the two leaders discussed ways to "redouble" their efforts to bring about two states, Israel and a Palestinian state, living side by side in peace.
"I think the moment is now for us to act on what we all know to be the truth, which is that each side is going to have to make some difficult compromises; we have to reject violence," said Obama.
DRESDEN, Germany (CNN) - President Barack Obama spoke emotionally Friday about his great-uncle's role in liberating the German concentration camp at Buchenwald, noting that "it was a memory burned in him for quite some time."
Obama told reporters that as a young boy he learned about the life of his great-uncle, Charles Payne, who had a "very difficult time re-adjusting to civilian life" after his time as an American soldier in the 89th Infantry Division. That division helped liberate the Ohrdruf forced labor camp, a subdivision of Buchenwald, which Obama will visit for the first time on Friday afternoon.