President Obama expressed confidence in embattled Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, saying Thursday he's handling a complex job well and "making all the right moves" even as the secretary is being blamed for failing to halt bonuses to AIG.
Congress and the press are demanding to know when Mr. Obama and his team knew about the bonuses American International Group is paying to employees. The president deflected those questions and tried to shoulder the blame himself -- "ultimately, I'm responsible" -- but found himself having to defend Mr. Geithner to reporters.
"I have complete confidence in Tim Geithner and my entire economic team," he said. "Understand, as I said before, Tim Geithner didn't draft these contracts with AIG. There has never been a secretary of the treasury, except maybe Alexander Hamilton, right after the Revolutionary War, who's had to deal with the multiplicity of issues that Secretary Geithner is having to deal with all at the same time."
Rep. Connie Mack has called for Mr. Geithner to resign or be fired, and Democrats are struggling to pin blame for the AIG bonuses.
Quite simply, the Timothy Geithner experience has been a disaster," said the Florida Republican.
Trying to stem the rising fury, Mr. Obama said he and Congress are looking at ways to recapture the money but said it is more important to prevent a repeat in the future.
"I don't want to quell anger. I think people are right to be angry. I'm angry. What I want us to do, though, is channel our anger in a constructive way," he said as he prepared to board Marine One, the presidential helicopter, on the beginning of a two-day trip to California in which he will host town halls and make an appearance on the "Tonight Show with Jay Leno."
Mr. Obama noted he had spoken with House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat, but didn't mention Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, who has been accused of being involved in protecting the bonuses.
After his nomination, Mr. Geithner widely was praised by Republicans and Democrats as the best pick for the job, though revelations he had failed to pay tens of thousands of dollars in Social Security taxes did dent his bid.
After Mr. Geithner's confirmation, several other top nominees with tax problems had to withdraw.
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