From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** Boy, that escalated quickly: We predicted that the AIG bonuses story would lead politicians to begin channeling their inner populist. We just didn't realize that -- to borrow a phrase from Ron Burgundy -- it would escalate so quickly, to the point that we're now talking about death and suicide. Indeed, yesterday's reactions to the bonuses either resembled that journalist-on-journalist fight in "Anchorman" ("Brick killed a guy. Did you throw a trident?"), or one of those mob-violence scenes in "The Simpsons." As the Washington Post recounts, New York Attorney General (and possible 2010 gubernatorial candidate) Andrew Cuomo said he was issuing subpoenas; more than 80 House Democrats signed a letter demanding that the money used to pay the bonuses be recouped from AIG; House Minority Leader John Boehner warned that there would no GOP support for future bailouts; and even Sen. Chuck Grassley suggested in a radio interview that AIG executives "follow the Japanese model … resign, or go commit suicide." The Post adds that an aide later explained that Grassley "does not actually want executives to kill themselves." Well, um, thanks for the clarification. So it is no wonder Wall Street firms may feel the need for extra security...
*** The congressional lynch mob: Seriously, are longtime senators really advocating that people commit suicide? It's a lynch mob out there, and members of Congress seem to be carrying torches. This actually makes it that much harder for AIG to want to disclose the names of the bonus recipients (their lives could be in danger, apparently). Will President Obama -- who yesterday said, "I'm choked up with anger here" -- actually have to calm people down? What's ironic here is that the $165 million in bonuses represent just 1% of the government money AIG has received. (What's nuttier about this financial crisis: that we're getting worked up over something that's less than 1% of an entire bailout, or that somehow $165 million has been reduced to 1% of ANYTHING?) What's also ironic here: A Congress and a federal government that made it easier for trading derivatives and credit-default swaps are so angry right now. Of course, everyone wants to pile on the government for not stopping the bonuses or anticipating what was going to happen. But at what point is it totally incumbent on the government to anticipate all this? *** Clarification *** Our math failed us this morning; that $165 million represents one-tenth of 1% of the money AIG has received.
*** Gibbs vs. Cheney: Besides the furor over the AIG bonuses, the other big political news yesterday was the administration's counterpunch to Dick Cheney, who has now twice accused the Obama White House of making the country less safe. "I guess Rush Limbaugh was busy," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said in response to Cheney's claims. "So they trotted out the next most popular member of the Republican cabal." Is Robert Gibbs' open disdain for Cheney acceptable to a president who promised to move beyond petty political squabbling? And does the president agree with Gibbs' description of the loyal opposition as "the Republican cabal"?
*** A judicial sign: According to a scoop from the New York Times, it looks like the Obama White House will unveil its first judicial nomination this week, and the pick is intended to send a "signal" about the kind of judges the president will appoint. The pick, the Times says, is Judge David Hamilton -- a moderate from Indiana who worked for Sen. Evan Bayh, who happens to be Lee Hamilton's nephew, and who has the support of GOP Sen. Dick Lugar -- and Obama will nominate him to serve on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. An official told the Times that "part of the reason for making the Hamilton nomination the administration's first public entry into the often contentious field of judicial selection was to serve 'as a kind of signal' about the kind of nominees Mr. Obama will select."
*** Obama political operation picking up steam: We alluded to this yesterday, but the Obama political operation is beginning to pick up steam. Not only is his Organizing for America, which is housed inside the Democratic National Committee, deploying its grassroots army to support Obama's budget (a campaign that's going to be MORE about winning over conservative Democrats than moderate Republicans), but the president will hit his first fundraiser (next week), he'll make an appearance on Leno (on Thursday), and Biden delivered remarks thanking DNC donors (last night). Welcome to the permanent campaign.
*** Murtha in trouble? Something tells us that this story about Rep. Jack Murtha isn't going away. The Washington Post: "A Pennsylvania defense research center regularly consulted with two 'handlers' close to Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) as it collected nearly $250 million in federal funding through the lawmaker, according to documents … and sources familiar with the funding requests. The center then channeled a significant portion of the funding to companies that were among Murtha's campaign supporters." The question for key members of the House Democratic caucus is whether Murtha is going to hang around long enough to take down other members of his party with him, or if he ends up being tossed under the proverbial bus? We're surprised so many Democrats (particularly those freshmen and sophomore reformers) have stayed so quiet.
*** St. Patrick's Day fun: At 10:50 am ET, President Barack O'Bama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with Ireland's taoiseach (or prime minister), Brian Cowen. The three men then attend a Shamrock ceremony at the White House, O'Bama makes remarks at a St. Patrick Day's lunch on Capitol Hill, and the president makes another speech at a St. Patrick's Day White House reception in the evening. The National Republican Senatorial Committee also has some St. Patrick's Day fun by releasing a Web video (entitled "Luck O' The Dodd") blasting Sen. Chris Dodd.
Video: TODAY's Meredith Viera talks about Obama's plans for St. Patrick's Day.
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