Liberal Commentators Disappointed with, GOP Pounces Upon White House Aides' Remarks on AIG Bonuses

Recent comments by two senior White House aides downplaying how much voters care about the AIG bonuses scandal have disappointed liberal commentators otherwise supportive of President Obama.

White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel was recently quoted in the New York Times saying that as angry President Obama is about AIG, “his main priority is getting the financial system stabilized, and he believes this is a big distraction in that effort.”

In today'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.” The Post described "the bonuses were a distraction from what senior aides called the main focus: getting the economy working and people back to work."

These comments progressive columnist David Sirota did not dig.

"Look, I get that nobody in Establishment Washington genuinely cares that taxpayers are being ripped off, and I get that the super-wealthy political class from millionaire investment banker Emanuel to millionaire consultant Axelrod to millionaire banker Tim Geithner gives much of a s--- that our taxpayer dollars are being used to make new millionaires on Wall Street," Sirota writes today . "But their boss, President Obama, is right: A huge majority of Americans, most of whom are not millionaires, are really angry and has a right to be angry. And we're not talking sorta angry, we're talking about Gallup's new poll showing a whopping 84% of Americans saying they are 'outraged' or 'bothered' by the AIG mess. The only question, then, is why the president is letting his aides contradict him and disparage the majority of the country?"

Sirota calls this "yet another indication that a the White House is creating a major economic credibility gap for itself."

Other liberal websites are expressing similar sentiments .

And ABC News' Teddy Davis points out that Republicans are seizing upon these remarks, as well as the provision in the stimulus bill that restricted bonuses over $100,000 at any company receiving federal bailout funds, but exempted bonuses agreed to prior to the passage of the stimulus bill on February 11, 2009 .

In an email, the National Republican Senatorial Committee tries to tie Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., up for reelection in 2010, to Axelrod's and Emanuel's comments and claims that by supporting the stimulus bill Lincoln was voting to allow "AIG to distribute huge bonuses with taxpayer dollars."

“Does Senator 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?”

-- jpt

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