Obama defended his decision to shut down the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and he countered criticism from former vice president Dick Cheney.
“I fundamentally disagree with Dick Cheney — not surprisingly,” Obama said. “I think that Vice President Cheney has been at the head of a movement whose notion is somehow that we can’t reconcile our core values, our Constitution, our belief that we don’t torture, with our national security interests. I think he’s drawing the wrong lesson from history.”
About the AIG MESS
The president stressed that his administration won’t endorse a House bill that would levy a 90 percent tax on bonuses paid out by companies that receive bailout money. The House decided to extract its own revenge by passing a bill that would impose a tax of up to 90 percent on the AIG bonuses and on the bonuses of anyone making more than $250,000 a year who works for a financial institution receiving more than $5 billion in bailout funds.
“Were you surprised by the intensity of the reaction, and the hostility 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 one thing that I’ve tried to emphasize, though, throughout this week, and will continue to try to emphasize during the course of the next several months as we dig ourselves out of this economic hole that we’re in, we can’t govern outta anger. We’ve got to try to make good decisions based on the facts in order to put people back to work, to get credit flowing again. And I’m not gonna be distracted by what’s happening day to day. I’ve gotta stay focused on making sure that we’re getting this economy moving again,” President Obama replied.
“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 be passing laws that are just targeting a handful of individuals. You wanna pass laws that have some broad applicability. And as a general proposition, I think you certainly don’t wanna use the tax code to punish people,” the president replied. “I think that you’ve got an pretty egregious situation here that people are understandably upset about. And so let’s see if there are ways of doing this that are both legal, that are constitutional, that upholds our basic principles of fairness, but don’t hamper us from getting the 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 nothing to do with the financial crisis. And some of them probably deserve the bonuses that they got,” Kroft said. “I mean is that fair?”
“Well, that’s why we’re gonna have to take a look at this legislation carefully. Clearly, the AIG folks gettin’ those bonuses didn’t make sense. And one of the things that I have to do is to communicate to Wall Street that, given the current crisis that we’re in, they can’t expect help from taxpayers but they enjoy all the benefits that they enjoyed before the crisis happened. You get a sense that, in some institutions, that has not sunk in; that you can’t go back to the old way of doing business, certainly not on the taxpayers’ dime,” Obama said. “Now the flip side is that Main Street has to understand, unless we get these banks moving again, then we can’t get this economy to recover. And we don’t wanna cut off our nose to spite our face.”