White House

Obama returns to a crisis-filled Washington


President-elect Barack Obama flew into Washington this weekend on the wings of hope and into a storm of issues that will challenge his Presidency when he takes office in 15 days.

Richardson withdraws as Commerce nominee

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson abandoned his nomination to become commerce secretary under pressure of a grand jury investigation into a state contract awarded to his political donors — an investigation that threatened to embarrass President-elect Barack Obama.

Richardson insisted he would be cleared in the investigation and Obama stood by the governor as an "outstanding public servant." But both men said it has become clear that a grand jury probe would not be finished in time for Richardson’s confirmation hearings and could keep him from filling the post in a timely matter.

Richardson’s withdrawal was the first disruption of Obama’s Cabinet process and the second "pay-to-play" investigation that has touched Obama’s transition to the presidency. The president-elect has remained above the fray in both the case of arrested Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and the New Mexico case.

Bush’s personality shaped his Presidency

President George W. Bush will be judged on what he did. He will also be remembered for what he’s like: a fast-moving, phrase-mangling Texan who stays upbeat even though his country is not.

For eight years, the nation has been led by a guy who relaxes by clearing brush in scorching heat and taking breakneck bike rides through the woods. He dishes out nicknames to world leaders, and even gave the German chancellor an impromptu, perhaps unwelcome, neck rub. He’s annoyed when kept waiting and sticks relentlessly to routine. He stays optimistic in even the most dire circumstances, but readily tears up in public. He has little use for looking within himself, and only lately has done much looking back.

Bush’s style and temperament are as much his legacy as his decisions. Policy shapes lives, but personality creates indelible memories — positive and negative.

Call it distinctly Bush.

Bush: ‘We want a lasting Mideast cease-file’

President George W. Bush says any cease-fire in the Mideast must be fully respected, Hamas rocket attacks on Israel stopped and the flow of smuggled weapons into Gaza cut off.

Bush called the Hamas attacks an "act of terror" and said no peace deal would be acceptable unless the flow of smuggled weapons to terrorist groups is monitored and stopped. He made the comments in his weekly radio address taped for broadcast Saturday but released a day early.

Obama putting finishing touch on economic plan

President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team is putting the finishing touches on an economic recovery plan that could run from $675 billion to $775 billion. Briefings for top congressional Democratic officials are likely this weekend or on Monday, a senior transition official said Friday. Obama is slated to meet Monday with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., in a session likely to focus on the economic recovery package.

Former aides: Cheney did not pull Bush’s strings

Two former top aides of President George W. Bush dimiss claims that Vice President Dick Cheney was the "power behind the throne" or the puppetmaster who controlled the Presidency, saying the claims are "myth" or just plain "hooey."

In interviews with The Washington Post, former White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten and former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley try to redefine the public perception of Bush’s eight years in office.

They say "the decider" really made the decisions although they admit there was a period in the Bush Presidency when others made decisions for him.

Obama to meet with lawmakers, former Presidents

President-elect Barack Obama will meet with congressional leaders to discuss his economic stimulus plan and other legislative issues soon after his arrival in Washington in the coming days.

Obama and his family planned to fly to Washington on Sunday after their holiday vacation in Hawaii and a stopover in Chicago.

The president-elect was to meet with congressional leaders Monday, according to a senior Democratic congressional aide. Obama will meet with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, then join with them in a meeting with GOP leaders, said the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he had not been authorized to discuss the plans.

Bush sticks with support for Israel

By insisting that Hamas go first in any cease-fire with Israel, the Bush administration is sticking to its support for the Jewish state’s right of self-defense while stopping short of encouraging an Israeli ground assault aimed at fully reoccupying the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

Bush to Abbas: Let’s talk about Gaza

President George W. Bush and his top advisers conducted an urgent round of telephone diplomacy Tuesday to help end the deadly conflict between Israel and Hamas, but insisted that if any new cease-fire is to work, it must be honored by the Islamic militant group.

Obama to Senate: Just say ‘no’

President-elect Barack Obama says he supports the decision by Senate Democrats to deny his vacated Senate seat to an appointee of embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. On Tuesday, Blagojevich appointed former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris. He would be the nation’s only black senator.

Democratic leaders in the Senate are rejecting the appointment, arguing that because of accusations that Blagojevich tried to sell the seat to the highest bidder, any appointment by him would be tainted.