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Obama spokesman blames Bush admin for AIG bonus scandal
Rachel Oswald
Published: Tuesday March 17, 2009

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White House press secretary Robert Gibbs attempted to deflect blame for the AIG bonus scandal away from the Obama administration by reminding reporters that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner inherited a bad situation and had to make the best of it when he took over from the Bush administration.

"The Secretary of Treasury did as much in his legal power at the time to lessen the impact of what we all understand is outrageous," Gibbs said during a Tuesday afternoon press conference. "Let's make sure that everybody understands that there was a change in administration between September of 2008 and what we were talking about sometime last week,"

President Obama's Monday call to "pursue every single legal avenue" in recouping the executive bonuses has been taken up by members of Congress, who have proposed several measures to claw back the money.

Gibbs told reporters President Obama continued to have "complete confidence [in Geithner]."

He added that he didn't think it was fair to blame the cerebral Geithner for not anticipating the populist anger over the executive bonuses. That anger has created a public relations obstacle that Obama must overcome in his efforts to secure Congressional support for further bailouts. One Republican senator even went so far on Monday to say the executives should commit ritual suicide.

"I think it would be very unfair based on the actions the Secretary of Treasury took as we got closer to the pending legal deadline to restructure what could be restructured [in the AIG bailout agreement]," Gibbs said. "The Secretary did good work in changing what was potentially out there."

"I have not talked to the president specifically about when he was informed [about the bonuses]," Gibbs said. "I do know that Secretary Geithner last week engaged with the CEO of AIG to communicate what we thought were outrageous and unacceptable bonuses. Secretary Geithner received a commitment to lessen some of the bonuses of senior executives, a promise of the restructuring [of the company] moving forward that obviously this bumped up against a contractual deadline of March 15."

Gibbs challenged critics of the Obama administration's handling of executive compensation to "ask... what they did or didn't do to change the way executives were compensated before Barack Obama came to town as president."

This video is from MSNBC's News Live, broadcast Mar. 17, 2009.

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