A White House love story

A White House love story By Heller McAlpin, For the San Francisco Chronicle February 22, 2018 Photo: Random House Image 1of/3 CaptionClose Image 1 of 3 "White Houses" "White Houses" Photo: Random House Image 2 of 3 Amy Bloom Amy Bloom Photo: Elena Seibert Image 3 of 3 Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok dine at a modest restaurant in San Francisco in 1934. Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok dine at a modest restaurant in San Francisco in 1934. Photo: Bettmann /Getty Images A White House love story 1 / 3 Back to Gallery Amy Bloom has long been drawn to inconvenient, inappropriate, illicit or just plain quirky love stories. With “White Houses,” her first fully historical novel, she’s found a tailor-made subject: the love affair between Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok. Most Popular 1 Legality of Electoral College process challenged in San... 2 Map: Where do San Antonio children face danger of lead? 3 Uresti’s fate in jury’s hands as deliberations in criminal... 4 S.A. firefighters union targets city manager salary, tenure 5 South Florida shooting trauma felt in Sutherland Springs If you like to make a meal out of ungarnished facts, stick to the history books. But “White Houses” serves up a plate piled with delectable trimmings. As E.L. Doctorow memorably remarked in defense of “The March,” his fictional take on the Civil War, “Which would you rather read to get a sense of the Napoleonic Wars — a history textbook, or ‘War and Peace’?” Bloom’s new novel builds on the trajectory of her work, a worthy addition to her gallery of challenging Continue Reading

‘Political theater’: The House Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation is nearing the point of no return

Sonam Sheth, provided by Published 11:33 pm, Friday, February 9, 2018 Mark Wilson/Getty Images The House Intelligence Committee released the transcript of a heated meeting that took place earlier this week, during which members voted to release a Democratic rebuttal to the Nunes memo released earlier this month. The meeting quickly took two separate paths, with Republicans targeting the FBI and Democrats targeting the White House. Given President Donald Trump's decision not to declassify the Democratic rebuttal a week after releasing the Nunes memo, it appears unlikely the two warring factions on the committee will reach a consensus any time soon. Local Channel Now Playing: Now Playing SAPD: Multiple injured after River Walk bar fight spills into street San Antonio Express-News Listen: Recorded Uresti interview played at federal trial San Antonio Express-News O'Connor soccer Terrence Thomas/San Antonio Express News 10 of the Most Scenic Places in Texas PopularMechanics Cat jailbreaks dogs San Antonio Express-News 3 masked suspects slay teen in revenge shooting, police say San Antonio Express-News Video shows suspect who shot San Antonio AutoZone manager San Antonio Express-News Deputy stabbed in neck while breaking up fight San Antonio Express-News SAPD releases video of shooting, robbery at UTSA student housing San Antonio Police Department Multiple injured after BMW smashes into S.A. Gold's Gym Caleb Downs released the transcript of a contentious business meeting it had earlier this week. Committee members voted during Monday's meeting to release a Democratic rebuttal memo written by ranking member Adam Schiff, which pushes back on the assertions made in a prior memo from Chairman Devin Nunes that was released last week. Trump on Friday declined to declassify the Democratic rebuttal. The White House counsel Don McGahn said in a letter to the committee that Trump was unable to declassify it because of Continue Reading

STASI: Trump should quit the White House now that even Carl Icahn has bolted

When even staunch supporter Carl Icahn, the bazillionaire who got even richer by destroying TWA, quits you, it’s time you thought about quitting yourself, Mr. President ... True Directive: The Sun Online reports that the most requested sex robot that sex bot manufacture, True Companion, receives is for long-dead Marilyn Monroe (not allowed because she’s not alive to give her permission), followed by requests for sex robots of buyers’ recently deceased wives. Can you imagine not getting a break from your putz of a husband even after you’re dead? Anyway, these sex bots are also programmed to have orgasms, which are probably as authentic as the ones these creeps’ wives had before they dropped dead. ABBOTT'S HEARTLESS BILL Rape insurance anyone? On Tuesday Texas Governor Greg Abbott passed a law forbidding both private and public health insurance companies from offering abortion coverage to women even in cases of rape, incest and horrific birth abnormalities detected in utero. The bill requires that women who fear such nightmarish circumstances pay for rape insurance beforehand instead. Hey, sorry about that brutal paternal rape, but we’ll be damned if we let your health insurance company pay for your abortion. During the hearings, Republican legislators argued that no one should be forced to subsidize abortions no matter what the reason — including rape, incest or even if doctors have determined that a fetus doesn’t have a brain, kidneys or other organs. So aside from this governor deciding women’s fates, he is condemning infants to be born with unimaginable abnormalities who will suffer unimaginable agony, their families to suffer unimaginable heartache, and the state to suffer the unimaginable costs of keeping these suffering children alive. Imagine the unimaginable cruelty of that. TRUMP SHOULD SAY WHAT Continue Reading

With Donald Trump just days from moving into the White House, activist athletes must be even more vigilant

It was as poetic as the end of a White House tenure could possibly be, with the first African-American president of the United States conducting his last official White House ceremony on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. And it was one more moment in which Barack Obama, the president for just one more week, could try to show a nation the lessons of peace and unity through one of his favorite vehicles, sports. The world champion Chicago Cubs, the hometown team that Obama had not grown up loving, were visiting the White House on Monday, the last championship sports team to visit this president. And with the team gathered behind him, Obama decided it was time to explain why sports were always so dear to him, and why the litany of champions that passed through the White House during his eight years at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW were always so important. “Sometimes, it’s not enough to just change laws, you’ve got to change hearts,” he said as the event was televised on ESPN. “And sports has a way of sometimes, of changing hearts in a way that politics or business doesn’t.” He noted that Jackie Robinson, who made his major league debut 70 years ago, played as critical a role in the battle for equal rights as the first black president of the United States has. “Sports has changed attitudes and culture in ways that seem subtle, but ultimately made us think differently about ourselves and who we were,” Obama said. “It is a game, and it is a celebration, but there is a direct line between Jackie Robinson and me standing here.” It is a direct line that has awakened to the activist minds of athletes throughout Obama’s time in office, and those activist minds must stay vocal about issues of social justice now, with controversial president-elect Donald Trump on the doorstep of the White House. Because, as Obama pointed out on Monday, athletes have Continue Reading

Who is Devin Nunes, the House Intelligence Committee chairman at the center of the Russia investigation?

California Congressman Devin Nunes got his start as a farm boy. Now he’s the focal point of a high-stakes intelligence probe. The House Intelligence Committee chairman admitted Monday to conducting a clandestine meeting on White House grounds one day before vaguely disclosing the government’s possible “incidental collection” of then-President-elect Trump and his staff’s communications. “Chairman Nunes met with his source at the White House grounds in order to have proximity to a secure location where he could view the information provided by the source,” his spokesman said in a statement. The Republican — who is leading the House investigation into Team Trump’s potential Russia ties — insisted to Bloomberg News that his anonymous source wasn’t a White House staffer. The White House, in turn, said it only learned of his visit last Tuesday from press reports. But Democrats speculated he could be working with the White House to help support Trump’s still-unsubstantiated claim that his predecessor ordered an illegal “tapp” on Trump Tower during the campaign — an accusation Nunes himself has repeatedly called false. The ado about Nunes began Wednesday when he expressed “concern” — but provided no evidence — that the Trump team’s communications may have been swept into a broader intelligence trawl, opting to hold a press conference and brief the President before informing his Democratic counterpart on the House committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). Trump said he felt “somewhat” vindicated by the supposed findings; Schiff, meanwhile, called Nunes’ actions “deeply troubling,” and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi branded the representative Trump’s “stooge.” Nunes later apologized privately to his Democratic colleagues, but Schiff asked him to recuse himself after Monday’s Continue Reading

Helen Thomas, Longtime White House Correspondent, Dies at 92

Groundbreaking journalist and White House correspondent Helen Thomas has died, Fox News confirms. The pioneer for women in journalism was 92 years old. Thomas served for 50 years at United Press International, first as a correspondent and then as a White House bureau chief. President Obama released the following statement: “Michelle and I were saddened to learn of the passing of Helen Thomas.  Helen was a true pioneer, opening doors and breaking down barriers for generations of women in journalism.  She covered every White House since President Kennedy’s, and during that time she never failed to keep presidents – myself included – on their toes.  What made Helen the “Dean of the White House Press Corps” was not just the length of her tenure, but her fierce belief that our democracy works best when we ask tough questions and hold our leaders to account.  Our  thoughts are with Helen’s family, her friends, and the colleagues who respected her so deeply.” Below is more from the Associated Press:   A friend, Muriel Dobbin, says Thomas died at her apartment in Washington on Saturday morning. Dobbin says Thomas has been ill for a long time, had been in and out of the hospital, and had come home Thursday. Thomas made her name as a bulldog for United Press International in the great wire-service rivalries of old. She used her seat in the front row of history to grill 10 presidents -- often to their discomfort and was not shy about sharing her opinions. She was persistent to the point of badgering; one White House press secretary described her questioning as "torture" -- and he was one of her fans.   Continue Reading

On clemency, White House sees distinction between Snowden and Manning cases

WASHINGTON — A White House spokesman went out of his way to distinguish between the cases of Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden on Friday, as President Obama nears end-of-term decisions on executive clemency.White House press secretary Josh Earnest emphasized that Obama has not made a decision on granting clemency in either case. But he emphasized that there is a "pretty stark difference" between Manning, an Army private, and Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor. Both have admitted to leaking national security secrets."Chelsea Manning is somebody who went through the military criminal justice process, was exposed to due process, was found guilty, was sentenced for her crimes, and she acknowledged wrongdoing," Earnest said. "Mr. Snowden fled into the arms of an adversary and sought refuge in a country that most recently made a concerted effort to undermine confidence in our democracy."Snowden has been in exile in Russia since 2013, after he delivered to journalists documents showing the NSA was collecting data from email and cell phone accounts of Americans.Manning, a transgender woman formerly known as Bradley, is serving a 35-year sentence in a military prison in Leavenworth, Kansas. Manning provided hundreds of thousands of classified government records to Wikileaks in 2010.On Thursday, Wikileaks said founder Julian Assange, who has been holed up in he Ecuadoran embassy in London rather than face extradition to the United States for his role in the Manning leaks, would voluntarily submit himself to prosecution if Manning receives clemency."The situation of these two individuals is quite different," Earnest said. "I know that there's a temptation because the crimes were relatively similar, to lump the two cases together. But there are some important differences, including the scale of the crimes that were committed and the consequences of their crimes."Snowden also has an additional hurdle to face: He hasn't Continue Reading

House Speaker John Boehner strikes defiant tone after President Obama says fiscal cliff deal is close

Optimistic despite a tightening deadline, President Barack Obama said Wednesday he and House Speaker John Boehner are "pretty close" to a grand fiscal deal to avoid a first-of-the-year shock to the economy, but that congressional Republicans "keep on finding ways to say no as opposed to finding ways to say yes." Obama cast a resolution to the "fiscal cliff" as a matter of political will. He said in the aftermath of the massacre of school children in Connecticut, the nation deserves a compromise by its political leaders.   "If this past week has done anything, it should just give us some perspective," he said. And he urged lawmakers to "peel off the partisan war paint" and strike a deal.   Obama spoke to reporters at the White House after announcing an administration-wide response to Friday's shooting at an elementary school in Newtown that killed 20 first-graders and six adults.   His comments came shortly after the White House threatened to veto Boehner's backup plan for averting the "fiscal cliff." Boehner's measure, a so-called Plan B, would block tax increases from being triggered Jan. 1 on everyone but those whose incomes exceed $1 million.   Boehner is planning a House vote on his proposal on Thursday, hoping it would raise pressure on Obama to make concessions as both sides continue reaching for a bipartisan deal on averting the "fiscal cliff." Without an agreement among lawmakers, broad tax increases on nearly all taxpayers and budget-wide spending cuts will be triggered in early January.   Boehner, R-Ohio, responded to Obama with a defiant tone. In an appearance before reporters that lasted under a minute, Boehner called on Obama to offer a deficit-cutting plan balanced between spending cuts and tax increases and predicted that the House would pass his backup plan.   "Then the president will have a decision to make," Boehner said. "He can call on the Senate Democrats to pass that bill or he can be responsible for the largest Continue Reading

LIBOUS: 6 months house arrest, 2 years probation, $50K fine

WHITE PLAINS – Former state Sen. Thomas Libous’ failing health will keep him out of federal prison.U.S. District Judge Vincent Briccetti on Tuesday sentenced the one-time Binghamton power broker to six months of house arrest, two years of probation and a $50,000 fine for lying to the FBI about his efforts to get his son a job with a politically connected Westchester County law firm.During a 75-minute hearing in White Plains federal court, Briccetti scolded Libous for his “disgraceful” actions, which came during a 2010 interview with investigators in the then-senator’s Capitol office.The judge said he would normally be compelled to sentence Libous to six months in prison. But Libous is facing terminal cancer that has spread from his prostate to his lungs and bones, which led Briccetti to be lenient.“It would be cruel, and I’m not in the business of cruelty,” Briccetti said of a potential prison sentence.Making his first public appearance since his July conviction, Libous appeared frail but alert. He moved without a walker or a wheelchair, only requiring assistance as he walked down the courtroom steps.Speaking to reporters following his sentencing, Libous vowed to appeal his conviction, calling it an issue that is “bigger than me.” The conviction forced Libous from office.“We’re going to appeal, because the appeal is much bigger than me,” Libous said. “This is not about me, this is about, I think, justice and giving people a fair shake, because at the end of the day anybody can fall into a trap like I did.”A jury convicted Libous in July of telling seven lies in 2010 to FBI investigators about the circumstances that led his son, Matthew, to work for Santangelo, Randazzo and Mangone, a Westchester law firm.Prosecutors said Libous had arranged the job in 2005, with now-disbarred Anthony Mangone testifying that Libous had promised to steer work to the firm.Later, prosecutors said, Continue Reading

Obamas, out. Trumps, in: Flipping the White House is a 5-hour sprint

When Donald Trump walks into the White House for the first time as president Jan. 20, his suits will be hanging in his closet, his personal photos will be displayed on perfectly placed tables, and his toothbrush will be near his favorite brand of toothpaste in his bathroom."The entire house has to be just the way the incoming family wants it," former White House chief usher Stephen Rochon said.But nothing can be touched until the Obamas pull out of the White House driveway for the inauguration ceremony that same day."It's more like less than five hours," Rochon said. The retired rear admiral oversaw the Executive Mansion from 2007-2011, including the transition between President George W. Bush and President Obama in January 2009.Rochon said he watched from the North Portico as the Bushes' limousine pulled away from the White House for the final time with Bush serving as commander in chief.The Bush family was headed to watch Obama's swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol. The White House residence staff was about to watch the mansion change before their eyes."Once I step inside the door on the State Floor, that’s when I give the signal, and we go to action," Rochon said.By "action," Rochon means an all-hands-on-deck execution of an intricately planned and timed move that would put HGTV flip shows to shame. All of the outgoing president's family's belongings must be carefully packed and moved out. All of the belongings of the incoming first family must be moved in and unpacked.The rugs upon which Trump walks will be the ones his family has requested. The furniture upon which they sit will be the pieces they picked out — whether they are new or chosen from a warehouse of historic furniture used in the White House before.Though the Obamas clearly know it’s their last day living in the White House, extreme caution is taken to make sure the first family feels at home. No one wants the outgoing president "to feel like they are kicked Continue Reading