The Church of Kharma Futures

The Rev's views on politics, events,faith, and the world. All content copyright Church of Kharma Future 2007-2015 All rights Reserved

Asked, Not Answered, Then Forgotten

Posted by revkharma on March 17, 2009

Often I wonder, “why are the media outlets not asking the basic questions on this administration?” The total lack of accountability is staggering. Then I see that in fact, the questions are being asked, the answers are stumbling, incoherent non responses which answer nothing at all. They display a staggering level if incoherence  within the Obama administration, and colossal incompetence. However, not to worry, the entire thing just vanishes ‘down the memory hole’.

I’m going to put this here, directly from National Review Online this morning, something I ordinarily don’t do, but this is just not to be missed.


Exchange of the Day  [Greg Pollowitz]

Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post wonders if yesterday was Robert Gibbs’s toughest day yet.  It might have been.  The exchange about Dick Cheney grabbed the headlines, but these non-answers on AIG are what’s important.  Stick around to the end where Gibbs basically says, “go ask Geithner why it happened.”


Q    Did you guys first find out about these bonuses last week?

MR. GIBBS:  I think that’s true, based on what I read in the newspaper.

Q    But you gave money to AIG two or three weeks ago.  How could you not know that they have these millions, hundreds of millions of dollars —

MR. GIBBS:  Well, again, Jake, there’s — according to news reports, there’s existing contracts, some of which the President — of which the President has asked the Secretary to examine, going forward.  I think you also heard the President speak today about having a resolution authority that gives the government and taxpayers far more flexibility in dealing with the disposition of AIG in a way that gives taxpayers protection and flexibility; a disposition that we don’t currently have, but steps that we would like to see taken in order to deal with AIG as a whole.

Q    But why didn’t you attach it to the $30 billion you gave a couple weeks ago?

MR. GIBBS:  Again, Jake, the —

Q    You’re looking to retroactively attach it to this new $30 billion.

MR. GIBBS:  Well, they’re looking through contracts to see what can be done to wrest these bonuses from their recipients.

Q    No, I’m sorry, I don’t think — I don’t understand, so maybe I’m just not understanding.  But President Obama said in early February when he gave the speech on executive compensation, “These kinds of compensation packages in the midst of this economic crisis isn’t just bad taste, it’s bad strategy, and I will not tolerate it as President.  We’re going to be demanding some restraint in exchange for federal aid.”  Since that time, he gave tens of billions of dollars in federal aid to AIG without demanding restraint.

MR. GIBBS:  Well, again, Jake, we’ve got existing relationships, contracts, as I just mentioned, that were negotiated a year ago, assistance that was granted outside of the legal authority prior to the creation of the Troubled Asset Relief Program.  The President has asked the administration to go back and look at what remedies are possible to block those bonuses.

Q    Well, why didn’t he do that before?

MR. GIBBS:  Well, again, the excessive compensation rules that you noted — and I think somebody asked this at the background briefing that we had — obviously are prospective based on some limitations that we have in looking backwards.  The President has asked Secretary Geithner and members of the administration to exhaust all legal remedies in looking backwards to see what steps could be taken to block these bonuses.

Q    I know, but since — and I’m sorry to belabor this point — but since President Obama gave his speech, you guys gave more money to AIG.  Why wasn’t it attached to the new money?

MR. GIBBS:  Because it’s — again, it’s part of the —

Q    Part of the old contract.

MR. GIBBS:  Right.  It’s part of —

Q    But you’re looking now retroactively to see if you can attach something to that old money?

MR. GIBBS:  That’s what we’re looking at.

Q    Well, why didn’t you do it at the time, if you’re looking to retroactively do it?

MR. GIBBS:  The administration is taking the steps today to go back and see what can be done, as Jeff said, to call those bonuses back.

Q    But, Robert, to follow up on Jake’s point, did Secretary Geithner make a mistake by not reviewing these contracts — they’re a year old — before he cut a new check to AIG?  Why didn’t he do that?

MR. GIBBS:  I would certainly ask the Treasury — I’ll ask the Treasury that.  But again, to some degree, there are legal instruments and contracts that predate this administration, that predate the legal founding of the TARP program.  The President has asked this administration to exhaust all legal avenues to see what can and should be done going backwards.

Q    When the President gave that speech — on January 29th, I think it is — about excessive compensation, the next day you came in here and said, “I think you will see the President and his economic team outline a plan to deal with what he found irresponsible yesterday.”  Where’s that plan?  Because it’s now been about six weeks and you’re acknowledging in Jennifer’s question there’s not really that much you can do legally, it appears.  So why in January did the President and you tell the American people we’re going to stop —

MR. GIBBS:  Okay, let’s be fair, Ed.  Let’s be fair, because —

Q    You said you were going to stop —

MR. GIBBS:  Hold on, hold on, let me answer your question before you ask another one.  I think if you go back and look at the background briefing that we did here — I’ll be happy to provide you the transcript — it was specifically — there was a specific question about moving forward on executive compensation.  Look, Ed, we deal with things every day that are not of our own making, that we have, for whatever reason, fallen onto our plate and been given the amazing responsibility of dealing with.  Some of that are contractual obligations and responsibilities that we found when they gave us the key to the front door.

Our job is to do all that we can to protect the taxpayers going backwards and, as I’ve said and as the President said and as each economic member — team member has said, to change the rules of the road going forward.  That’s why we changed the rules of the road in how money could be spent in an economic recovery package.  We changed the rules of the road in addressing home foreclosure crisis by for the very first time giving help to those that had played by the rules.

We will change the rules of the road going forward as it relates to financial regulation to ensure that this type of activity doesn’t happen again.

We can’t change everything in the past.  We will do all that we can — the President has asked the administration to look and see what possible remedies there are.  But we’re also focused on ensuring that the actions we take are consistent with changing the way we do business here in Washington.



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