President Takes Responsibility for AIG (Not Really)

By Dschabner

Mar 18, 2009 7:31pm

COSTA MESA, Calif. — "Washington is all in a tizzy," President Obama said at a town hall meeting here this evening. "It’s their fault, it’s the Democrats’ fault, it’s the Republicans’ fault. — Listen, I’ll take responsibility. I’m the president."

In the next breath, the president said, "We didn’t grant these contracts, we’ve got a lot on our plate. But it is appropriate when you’re in charge to make sure stuff doesn’t happen like this."

But the president said, the point isn’t to assign blame but to solve the larger issue.

"For for everyone in D.C. scrambling how to blame someone else, just go ahead and talk to me," the president said, deviating from his prepared remarks, "because it’s my job to make sure we fix these messes, even if I don’t make ‘em."

Mr. Obama tied the controversy over $165 million in retention bonuses for officials of the AIG Financial Products unit to an economy built on recklessness and greed — and one that he said he would change.

"These bonuses are a symptom of a much larger problem," the president said, attacking "the system and culture that made this possible."

But, he said, "what’s just as important is that we make sure that we don’t find ourselves in this situation again where taxpayers are on the hook for losses and bad times," the president said. "We don’t need these house of cards, these Ponzi schemes, even when they’re legal."

Citing local projects the stimulus bill is funding — new cops in Inglewood, a new highway lane in Orange County — the president said he would "create or save" 396,000 jobs in California over the next two years.

He then started taking questions.

– Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller

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