Last week's stars of the Obamateurhour were Treasury Secretary "Tiny
Tim" Geithner (shrinking before your very eyes) and Sen. Chris Dodd
(D-CT) Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. Both initially lied
about the roles they played in authorizing payment of bonuses to
employees of bankrupt insurer AIG before fessing up.
After first saying he knew nothing about the provision in the "stimulus"
bill that protected the $165 million in bonuses, Sen. Dodd acknowledged
in a CNN interview that yes indeed it was he who had inserted the
provision. But he had done so, Sen. Dodd claimed, at the request of the
After first saying he hadn't learned of the bonus provision until March
10, Mr. Geithner told CNN Thursday he did talk to Sen. Dodd about
including the provision in the stimulus bill, which Congress passed Feb.
14. Mr. Geithner says now he didn't know the "size" and the "timing" of
Washington Post reporters David Cho and Michael Shear wrote March 19
"Federal Reserve officials knew for months about the bonuses at American
International Group, but failed to tell the Obama administration." The
Federal Reserve official most intimately involved in the original
bailout of AIG was the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New
York, Timothy Geithner. How likely is it that Fed President Timothy
Geithner kept this information from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner?
Appearing on the Jay Leno show March 19, President Obama said he was
"stunned" to learn of the bonuses, but was careful not to say when he
did learn of them.
Several Republican lawmakers have called upon Mr. Geithner to resign.
In private, some Democrats agree. But Mr. Obama had high praise for his
beleagured Treasury secretary.
"I think Geithner is doing an outstanding job," the president said. "He
is a smart guy. He is a calm and steady guy."
Despite this praise, Secretary Geithner is expected soon to be spending
more time with his family. Perhaps his best job security is that, with
the exception of Bush holdover Stuart Levey, who hunts down terrorist
financing, there is no other senior political official at Treasury
confirmed and on the job. If Mr. Obama had paid as much attention to
staffing the Treasury department as he has to appearing with comedians
and with filling out his NCAA basketball tournament bracket, he would
have more options.
"Brownie, you're doing a helluva job," President Bush said in the
immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to Federal Emergency Management
Director Michael Brown, who is widely thought to have botched federal
relief efforts. It remains to be seen whether Mr. Obama's praise of Mr.
Geithner will one day be repeated as ironically as President Bush's
praise of Mr. Brown.
The brouhaha over bonuses obscured other blunders which would have made
news at other times at least if it had been a Republican president
who had made them.
During an address at the White House to mark St. Patrick's Day, Irish
Prime Minister Brian Cowen opened his remarks by saying "We begin today
by welcoming a strong friend of the United States."
Mr. Cowen realized immediately the teleprompter operator was repeating
the same speech President Obama had made minutes before. Mr. Obama
wasn't quite so quick on the uptake. Failing to recognize the
teleprompter operator had finally switched the speeches, he thanked
himself for inviting the Irish prime minister.
To hold the St. Patrick's Day event, Mr. Obama rescheduled a meeting
with Brazil's president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
"The White House made several moves interpreted as snubs by the
Brazilian media," the Miami Herald reported March 13. "Silva aides said
the trip was pushed forward form Tuesday because of the St. Patrick's
Day holiday making Latin America once again look like an
afterthought. Then the White House announcement misspelled his name."