Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, in 2012. Mr. Giuliani drew criticism for his remarks about the president at an event on Wednesday. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
February 20, 2015
By Maggie Haberman and Nicholas Confessore
Good Friday morning from Washington, where President Obama returns from a frigid Chicago to meet with members of a Democratic National Committee trying to get over November's election results. Gov. Chris Christie has been in town bragging about New Jersey. In Illinois, Gov. Bruce Rauner imports the anti-union playbook that Gov. Scott Walker has used to such advantage in Wisconsin. We start off in New York, where former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani tells us why his inflammatory comments about Mr. Obama's love (or not) for America can't be construed as racist.
Former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York didn't back down on Thursday after calling out President Obama as a man who does not love America, telling First Draft that his criticism was not racist because the president was raised by "a white mother."
"I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America," Mr. Giuliani said at an event on Wednesday, as first reported by Politico. "He doesn't love you. And he doesn't love me. He wasn't brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up, through love of this country."
"Some people thought it was racist," Mr. Giuliani told us after the remarks created an uproar. "I thought that was a joke, since he was brought up by a white mother, a white grandfather, went to white schools, and most of this he learned from white people."
"This isn't racism," he said. "This is socialism or possibly anticolonialism."
Obama Heads to Democratic Meeting Dominated by Absent Clinton
President Obama heads to the Democratic National Committee's winter meeting on Friday for a party pep talk at the Capitol Hill Hyatt. The question is: Will he be able to steal the spotlight from Hillary Rodham Clinton, who isn't even there?
"She sucks the air out of the room," said Jay Jacobs, the Democratic chairman in Nassau County, N.Y. "I'm not hearing a peep about anybody else. This is a party that's ready for her."
Still, their enthusiasm is blunted by memories of the complacency during the 2010 and 2014 elections.
"We have to get ready for the battle we are facing," Gov. Dannel P. Malloy of Connecticut told First Draft. "Republicans have a very appealing message of making the rich get richer, and we have to make sure our message is just as appealing."
Former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida is emerging as a formidable potential opponent, and Democrats acknowledge that candidates who are anointed at the start – Mrs. Clinton, say – often face a disappointing finish.
"Early states are more than prepared to trip up any front-runner," said Raymond Buckley, the New Hampshire Democratic Party chairman, advising Mrs. Clinton against taking his home state for granted. "They know that could happen."
– Alan Rappeport
Christie Makes It to Washington, but Only for a Night
The occasion was the 78th annual New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Walk to Washington, a schmoozefest that begins with a 13-car chartered train ride from Newark and ends with remarks over dinner from the governor and members of the state's congressional delegation.
As the crowd was well aware, Mr. Christie is facing numerous difficulties: unemployment that is higher than the national rate, a road-repair fund that is about to run out, pension problems and numerous downgrades to New Jersey's credit rating.
But in his Washington speech on Thursday night, Mr. Christie blamed the Legislature for rejecting his economic plan and the state's high tax rate for the departure of a prized corporate citizen, Mercedes-Benz, to Georgia. His remarks were greeted with dutiful applause.
Mr. Christie once boasted of his bipartisan success with a legislature controlled by Democrats. But now, he said, the problem was ambition – but not his own. "Every time a member of the Legislature walks by a mirror, they see a governor," he joked.
One of the state's new congressmen, Donald Norcross, a Democrat, noted that Mr. Christie had failed to mention the parallel issue, of governors looking in the mirror and seeing a president.
– Kate Zernike
Illinois Governor Imports Anti-Union View From Wisconsin Colleague
Union leaders in Illinois had long said they feared what Bruce Rauner might do if he were to become the state's first Republican governor in more than a decade. Would he be another Scott Walker, the Wisconsin governor who pushed to limit collective bargaining rights for most public workers?
Less than two months into Mr. Rauner's first term, union members say they have their answer. The only surprise, they say, is how quickly it has come.
This month, in his first State of the State address, Mr. Rauner said Illinois should ban some political contributions by public workers' unions and permit local "right-to-work" laws. A week later, he signed an executive order banning unions from requiring state workers to pay the equivalent of dues, saying so-called fair-share payments for nonunion members violated the Constitution.
And on Wednesday, as he announced more than $6 billion in proposed cuts to universities, health care for the poor, local governments and more, he pressed for a sharp reduction in pension benefits for state workers as a way to fix the state's hugely underfinanced pension system.
But, unlike in Wisconsin, in Illinois, Democrats hold veto-proof majorities in both chambers of the Legislature, leaving some of Mr. Rauner's plans very much in doubt.
– Monica Davey
What We're Watching Today
President Obama is to address the Democratic National Committee and participate in a round table at the committee's winter meeting in Washington.
Michelle Obama is to speak at a White House event "Celebrating Women of the Movement" as part of Black History Month. This event will be streamed online at WhiteHouse.gov/live.
Obama Boards the 'Chiberia' Express to Help Rahm Emanuel
President Obama walking across the South Lawn of the White House on Thursday. Jabin Botsford/The New York Times
President Obama had two messages for Chicago during his visit on Thursday: Vote to re-elect Mayor Rahm Emanuel. And: It's cold!
The wind chill was 17 degrees below zero when Air Force One landed at O'Hare International Airport on Thursday, and the Hawaiian-born president made it clear that he had noticed.
He joked that the city – where he lived for years and where he still has a home – was "also known as Chiberia" and that it had "always been a dream of mine to be the first president to designate a national monument in subzero conditions." (He used the visit to proclaim the city's Pullman Historic District as a national monument.)
But the real reason for the trip became evident later, when the president stopped by a campaign office and noted that Mr. Emanuel – his friend and former chief of staff – had been "dogged in making sure Chicago is not just the coldest city but the greatest city."
Mr. Emanuel is fighting to win enough votes in next week's election to avoid a runoff, and the president's visit was intended to make sure that happens.
"Everybody knows he is passionate and he is tough," Mr. Obama said with Mr. Emanuel at his side before the scrum of cameras. "I'm glad he's my mayor, and I'm glad he's going to be my mayor for another four years."
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