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The voice of a leader--President Barack H. Obama (1361 hits)

By LAURA MECKLER
COSTA MESA, Calif. -- President Barack Obama said he will take the blame for bonuses being paid at American International Group Inc. if it will settle an intense finger pointing under way over how such payments were possible at a company that has received tremendous taxpayer aid.


Barack Obama
"Washington is all in a tizzy and everybody is pointing fingers at each other and saying it's their fault, the Democrats' fault, the Republicans' fault," he said at a town hall meeting Wednesday. "Listen, I'll take responsibility. I'm the President."

He also make clear that it isn't really his fault. "We didn't grant these contracts," he said.

But he added: "So for everybody in Washington who's busy scrambling, trying to figure out how to blame somebody else, just go ahead and talk to me, because it's my job to make sure that we fix these messes, even if I don't make them."

The comments were an effort to change the subject, which has engulfed Washington this week, and pivot to his push to overhaul financial regulations that govern the system and that many blame for the underlying problems.

"We've got to make sure that we've got regulations that don't allow companies to take these huge risks that are so big that they can sort of hold us hostage," he said.

He came west to Orange County, Calif., a state and a region hard hit by the recession, and found both the climate and the conversation a lot friendlier than it is in the nation's capital. A cheering crowd applauded his every sentiment.

On Thursday, he plans another town hall meeting in Los Angeles, where he'll be introduced by California's Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and a tour of a facility that develops batteries for electric cars. He'll also appear on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," the first appearance by a sitting president on a late-night TV talk show, which will offer a high-profile opportunity to sell his budget and economic programs.

His California trip began with a cheering crowd of about 1,300 people had waited in line for hours for tickets to the town hall meeting. The tone was set with "Obama, Obama" chants as the president entered the room and clinched when the first questioner asked if he planned to run for re-election.

Mr. Obama replied that his term should be judged by whether the economy is improved, the nation has gotten "serious" about health care, made "significant progress" on energy, made education more affordable and started controlling the federal deficit.

"I would rather be a good president taking on the tough issues for four years than a mediocre president for eight years," he said. That prompted more applause.

White House officials had expected questions about AIG, given the furor over the $165 million in bonuses given to officials at the company, which has received $180 billion in government aid. When the president mentioned the bonuses, many in the crowded booed. But not one person asked about the matter. Instead the questions were about issues that hit closer to home: teachers losing their jobs, immigration law, union organizing and the ability of community banks to continue making loans.

The president reiterated his commitment to pushing comprehensive immigration legislation, but declined to answer a question about his timeline for action. He said he supported efforts to make it easier for unions to organize.

The second-to-last questioner came closest to asking about the financial mess. She asked Mr. Obama if he would support a cap on interest rates that banks that have received taxpayer assistance can charge on credit cards, and Mr. Obama took the opportunity to launch into a long explanation for how the economy got into the mess it's in today. From there, he pivoted to address AIG again, the first chance he had since his opening remarks, diagnosing the root of the company's problems and predicting a solution will be found.

He said he supported consumer protections in the credit card industry, but did not say if he would support a cap on interest rates.

The final questioner brought the economic crisis home, saying he was laid off from his job after 13 years and now can't get a new one because of a 20-year-old felony conviction. "I can't get no work. I have a family to support. What do I do?" he asked the president.

Mr. Obama replied that it appeared like he had made amends for his past mistakes and proven himself in the job market. Typically, he said, felons have trouble getting their first job after pulling their lives together. He guessed that it was the general job market holding him back, not the conviction.

Upon presidential questioning, the man said he was laid off from the auto industry -- Toyota Motor Corp.

Mr. Obama replied that he had expected him to name an American auto company. "When Toyota's having problems and laying off, that tells you how tough the problems in the auto industry are right now."

Write to Laura Meckler at laura.meckler@wsj.com

Copyright 2008 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

We have a word for his stance in Spanish --he's got "cojones" a real man--what a refreshing vision!
Posted By: Marta Fernandez
Thursday, March 19th 2009 at 9:58AM
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God I love this statement--"look I'll take responsibility am the PRESIDENT! you gotta let em' know!!!
Thursday, March 19th 2009 at 10:00AM
Marta Fernandez
I am here to debate the state of the Union today. Any takers?
Thursday, March 19th 2009 at 4:34PM
Be realistic--he cannot read 700 pages in a forthnight and run the country-- travel the world to meetings , he is not the head of the nat'l assoc.for the ''aspiration '" of colored peoples! whose work is that up there? I seriously doubt you understand the lexicon-stop clowning--what's the matter big bad Obama makes some men feel real insecure?

since you are not even remotely familiar with how to run a multli-national corporation much less a country I really don't have an ear for you--sorry bro!

while I appreciate dogma? you need to remember that he is a Constitutional Professor of Law, and so if any one understands the Constitution I would surmise it is him AND his wife--you may be a" junkyard lawyer" and you and I know what that means, but your response is irrelevant, and not related--so what's going on in Florida? (smiles)
Thursday, March 19th 2009 at 5:07PM
Marta Fernandez
That is what compentent staffers are for. Then again with the state of the union there are many issues more important than the bailing oops tarp fund distribution by Presidents and Senators ...Representatives. The beauty of the Constitution was it is written for the common man. Now the nuainces and loop holes are there for the lawyers. Everbody has something to hold on to. I will try to hold on to my skepticisim because I got this feeling it aint over...
Thursday, March 19th 2009 at 6:21PM
Competent staffers? you and I know they are a shadow to both Obama's, Jarrett, Axelrod and Holder. After all they are Clinton's former staffers!
Thursday, March 19th 2009 at 7:42PM
Marta Fernandez
Don't make me laugh!! They still got eons on me! And I knew it was some junk from get out.
Friday, March 20th 2009 at 8:46AM
Obama himself says “the buck stops here” so he holds himself responsible, and that’s as it should be. He’s doing it so we don’t have to. If someone on the team you lead does something, it’s on you. But I also know that no one is perfect, and you’re not going to know everything all the time. I won’t hold Obama to a higher standard than I would anyone else, especially since he’s being a leader and stepping up to the plate.

Running the country is simply too big for one man, so you have to delegate and rely on subordinates like Geithner. Now that I know the course of events as to how all this came about, I believe Obama did what could be reasonably expected, given the way Geithner handled the situation.

At the same time however, it is very impressive what Obama said about taking responsibility. How could you not be impressed after what we’ve had for the last eight years? Hell, the last 50? It takes a real man to stand up there and take one for the team, which is essentially what Obama’s doing. Were it me, I probably would have dropped Geithner like a bad habit after this. But to his credit, Obama shows a deep loyalty to his own. .You gotta respect that.

Friday, March 20th 2009 at 10:39AM
Amen! yes he does - witness your hero the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Would not stop throwing a wrench in the game of politics,and I noticed how Obama initially tried his best to hang in there, out of loyalty. I admire that in people. Loyalty.
Friday, March 20th 2009 at 3:47PM
Marta Fernandez
Correct !
Nobody questioned competency before !
All of a sudden every move he makes is under scrutiny, give me a break.
He's giving a lot more than we have received in the past.If I'm not mistaken, he's been working since he got in office.
We need to stop what we do and say about each other.
Once again, the Negro has gone back to sleep !

Saturday, March 21st 2009 at 5:24PM
Min.Dr.LaDonna Blaylock D.D.
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