Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., criticized the president for flying "out to Los Angeles tonight to be on the Jay Leno show. My suggestion is he come back, since he's taken the full responsibility" for the AIG controversy, "to get his people together and say, 'Alright, I want to know exactly what happened and who did what when and how are we going to prevent this from ever happening the future.'"
"The AIG bonuses make the president subject to the charge that he's living above the store but he's not minding it," said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.
Alexander even quoted, out of context, a joke Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski made when asked about how the president had picked rival UNC to win the NCAA tournament without even placing Duke in his predictions for the Final Four.
"Somebody said that we're not in President Obama's Final Four, and as much as I respect what he's doing, really, the economy is something that he should focus on, probably more than the brackets," Krzyzewski said with a laugh.
He then added: "Why would I care about that? I love the guy, and I think he's gonna be great."
Republicans took the mock offense part of the quote.
"He's even found time to fill out his NCAA basketball brackets," said Alexander, who called it "a healthy thing," but then went on to impugn it.
"He picked North Carolina and he caused the Duke coach, our Olympic coach, Coach K, to say respectfully, 'You might be spending less time on the brackets, Mr. President and more time on the economy.' I think that's what we'd like to say, with respect."
The president responded to the controversy on the Ed Schultz radio show, saying, "Coach K, I think, is a great coach. And you know, Reggie Love, my assistant, played for Coach K. And so it's not surprising. I didn't pick him to go to the finals. Look, he's a competitive guy. I just don't think they've got the inside game to go all the way. But I look forward to him proving me wrong."
Republicans today also seized upon comments made by the president's top aides.
White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel recently was quoted in The New York Times saying that as angry as Obama is about AIG, "his main priority is getting the financial system stabilized, and he believes this bonus furor is a big distraction in that effort."
In Thursday's Washington Post, senior adviser David Axelrod is quoted saying, "People are not sitting around their kitchen tables thinking about AIG. They are thinking about their own jobs."
In an e-mail, the National Republican Senatorial Committee tried to tie Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., up for reelection in 2010, to Axelrod's and Emanuel's comments and claimed that by supporting the stimulus bill Lincoln was voting to allow "AIG to distribute huge bonuses with taxpayer dollars."
"Does Sen. Lincoln -- who has railed against AIG's handing out taxpayer-funded bonuses as 'outrageous' -- agree with the Obama White House that the voters in Arkansas who have lost their jobs and their homes 'are not sitting around their kitchen tables thinking about AIG?'" asked NRSC spokeswoman Amber Wilkerson. "After her constituents' hard-earned dollars were used to pay for these lavish executive bonuses, how can Blanche Lincoln agree with the White House's assessment that people do not care?"
And it's not just the Republicans that have been critical of the Obama aides' comments. Liberals are also were troubled.