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President Barack Obama on CBS, 60 Minutes, March 22, 2009 (Transcript and Video Link)

President Barack Obama on CBS, 60 Minutes, March 22, 2009 (Transcript and Video Link)

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Obama on 60 Minutes, CBS, March 22, 2009. Transcript and Video Link.
Obama on 60 Minutes, CBS, March 22, 2009. Transcript and Video Link.

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Published by: icebergslim on Mar 23, 2009
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60 Minutes TranscriptBarack Obama, President of the United StatesMarch 22, 2009
By most accounts, this past week was one of the mostdifficult in the young presidency of Barack Obama. At the heart of it all was the public upheaval over $165 million in bonuses paid toemployees of AIG, a company largely responsible for bringing theworld's financial system to its knees and now being propped upby U.S. taxpayers. The bonuses touched off a cultural warbetween Wall Street and Main Street, both of whose support thepresident needs to help stabilize the economy.After campaigning in California to drum up support for his $3.6trillion budget, the president sat down with
60 Minutes
in theOval Office for a conversation about the AIG debacle, theeconomy, and getting the hang of the world's most difficult job."Were you surprised by the intensity of the reaction, and thehostility from the AIG bonus debacle?"
60 Minutes
correspondent Steve Kroft
asked."I wasn't surprised by it. Our team wasn't surprised by it. The onething that I've tried to emphasize, though, throughout this week,and will continue to try to emphasize during the course of thenext several months as we dig ourselves out of this economichole that we're in, we can't govern outta anger. We've got to tryto make good decisions based on the facts in order to put peopleback to work, to get credit flowing again. And I'm not gonna bedistracted by what's happening day to day. I've gotta stay focusedon making sure that we're getting this economy moving again,"President Obama replied.
 The president ordered Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to useevery legal means to recover the bonus money from AIG. If it isnot repaid, it will be deducted from the company's next bailoutpayment. The House decided to extract its own revenge bypassing a bill that would impose a tax of up to 90 percent on theAIG bonuses and on the bonuses of anyone making more than$250,000 a year who works for a financial institution receivingmore than $5 billion in bailout funds."I mean you're a constitutional law professor," Kroft remarked."You think this bill's constitutional?""Well, I think that as a general proposition, you don't wanna bepassing laws that are just targeting a handful of individuals. Youwanna pass laws that have some broad applicability. And as ageneral proposition, I think you certainly don't wanna use the taxcode to punish people," the president replied. "I think that you'vegot an pretty egregious situation here that people areunderstandably upset about. And so let's see if there are ways of doing this that are both legal, that are constitutional, that upholdsour basic principles of fairness, but don't hamper us from gettingthe banking system back on track.""You've got a piece of legislation that could affect tens of thousands of people. Some of these people probably had nothingto do with the financial crisis. And some of them probably deservethe bonuses that they got," Kroft said. "I mean is that fair?""Well, that's why we're gonna have to take a look at thislegislation carefully. Clearly, the AIG folks gettin' those bonusesdidn't make sense. And one of the things that I have to do is tocommunicate to Wall Street that, given the current crisis thatwe're in, they can't expect help from taxpayers but they enjoy all
the benefits that they enjoyed before the crisis happened. You geta sense that, in some institutions, that has not sunk in; that youcan't go back to the old way of doing business, certainly not onthe taxpayers' dime," Obama said. "Now the flip side is that MainStreet has to understand, unless we get these banks movingagain, then we can't get this economy to recover. And we don'twanna cut off our nose to spite our face.""Your Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has been under a lot of pressure this week. And there have been people in Congresscalling for his head. …Have there been discussions in the WhiteHouse about replacing him?" Kroft asked."No," Obama said.Asked if Geithner had volunteered or asked whether to step down,Obama told Kroft, "No. And he shouldn't. And if he were to cometo me, I'd say, 'Sorry, Buddy. You've still got the job.' But look, he'sgot a lot of stuff on his plate. And he is doing a terrific job. And Itake responsibility for not, I think, having given him as much helpas he needs."
Obama says Geithner is not only responsible for thebanks, the bailouts and the automobile industry, he also has tomake sure the money is being spent wisely and report toCongress. Yet nearly a dozen high level Treasury department jobsremain unfilled and Geithner still has no deputy. Two people underconsideration for the post withdrew their names after goingthrough the vetting process."You know, this whole confirmation process, as I mentioned earlierhas gotten pretty tough. It's been always tough. It's gottentougher in the age of 24/7 news cycles. And a lot of people whowe think are about to serve in the administration and Treasurysuddenly say, 'Well, you know what? I don't wanna go through

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