"I think the other thing that's critically important here is that they've been, in a week -- for a week now -- in the midst of a total distraction," former White House press secretary Dana Perino said on "Good Morning America" today. "And every day they're talking about AIG, now they're going to be talking about the Special Olympics today, means it's another day they're not able to advance their message on health care reform or education reform or energy reform. And they've given the Republicans a real opportunity here."
But his supporters said it's too early to cast daggers at the administration, which has barely been in the White House for two months.
"There's many distractions out there, and some of them are caused by themselves. But, you know, by and large, given the job they have ahead of them, and as young as this administration is, I think they're doing quite well," said Democratic strategist James Carville on "Good Morning America." "Give the guy some credit. They've pushed a lot of stuff out there real early, and they're getting up early and working late."
The president tried to laugh off the criticism when he was with Leno.
"I do think in Washington it's a little bit like 'American Idol,' except everybody is Simon Cowell," Obama said.
Critics also took a swing at the president for filling out his NCAA picks on ESPN.
"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. "He's even found time to fill out his NCAA basketball brackets, which is a healthy thing to do in my opinion."
They seized on comments made by Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, who jokingly pretended to be perturbed by the president picking rival North Carolina to go all the way and not tapping Duke to even make it to the Final Four.
"Somebody said that we're not in President Obama's Final Four," Krzyzewski said from the Blue Devils' first-round site in Greensboro, N.C. "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."
What Republicans did not quote was Coach K's follow-up comment: "Why would I care about that? I love the guy and I think he's going to be great."
Obama replied to the joking jab on "Leno," saying his right-hand man Reggie Love -- who played basketball and football for Duke -- gave him a hard time about the picks.
"I got a hard time from Reggie, because he played at Duke, and you know, Coach K, being competitive, I think was a little -- you know, pushed back a little bit today. And I understand that. That's what you want. You want everybody to be competitive. I think these are all great teams," he told Leno.
The White House says these other issues being raised are just noise and what the president will continue to push is his agenda to fix the economy.