Obama Demands a Refund

Mar 17, 2009

By Daniel Politi

The New York Times and Washington Post lead with, and everyone else fronts, the continuing fallout from the $165 million in bonuses that American International Group handed out to employees who were at least partly responsible for the insurance giant’s fall from grace. President Obama ordered his administration to “pursue every legal avenue to block these bonuses” that started to go out Friday. Separately, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said he would subpoena the company to find out details about the bonuses and their recipients.

The Los Angeles Times leads with a look at how President Obama has “launched an aggressive campaign-style offensive” to garner support for his agenda and make his political opponents seem irrelevant. E-mails are going out to campaign supporters asking them to call members of Congress, and the White House is coordinating with grass-roots groups that are running ads targeting Republicans. Obama will even go on The Tonight Show on Thursday, marking the first time that a sitting president will appear on a late-night talk show. USA Today leads with a new poll that shows support for the war in Afghanistan has dropped to new lows. About 42 percent of Americans think it was “a mistake” to send troops to Afghanistan, a marked increase from the 30 percent who thought so in February. A mere 38 percent of Americans think the war is going well. The Wall Street Journal leads its world-wide newsbox with news that Mohammad Khatami, Iran’s reformist former president, has decided to drop out of the race. The move might make it more difficult for reformists to stop the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Khatami dropped out after a reformist rival vowed to stay in the race and the former president said he didn’t want to split the vote.

Coming a day after Obama’s top economic advisers said that they had no choice and had to let the AIG bonuses go through, it’s hard to see how the president’s order to “block these bonuses” was anything besides a little grandstanding. Indeed, the WSJ says that by the end of the day, administration officials had acknowledged that there was nothing they could do to demand the recipients return the payments without getting involved in a legal fight that could very well end up being more expensive than the bonuses themselves. The LAT talks to some legal experts and concludes that at the very least it would be difficult, and might even be illegal, for the government to force employees to return payments that they were entitled to under their contracts.

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