One of the primary strands in the AIG story is “Who knew what and when?” Chris Dodd has been fingered as the protector of AIG’s bonus plan. Then the blame shifted to Treasury, as details of the involvement of Tim Geithner and his aides came to surface. But what about the administration itself?
This article suggests Rahm Emanuel was intimately involved in the final negotiations. One Capitol Hill adviser tells me, “I don’t know if he signed off, but he was definitely in the room with Reid and Pelosi while they were finishing the stimulus bill.” So why does this matter?
For starters, it is a simple matter of honesty and, dare I say, transparency. Now that the White House is feigning a “stunned” reaction, voters have a right to know if the president’s right-hand man was instrumental in crafting the bonus protection language. If Dodd was leaned on by Emanuel, it does not lessen the former’s responsibility but it explains why a senior senator would agree to shield bonuses he suspected as problematic. That the White House is willing to hang Geithner out to dry on this debacle says something about the relationship between the two.
The president is perfecting the art of taking responsibility without taking responsibility. (Former Bush and McCain aide Nicole Wallace recounts: “CNN’s Jessica Yellin summed it up well: ‘Each time he takes responsibility, it’s followed with a but.’”) One of Obama’s primary claims was that his team didn’t draft the AIG contracts. But Geithner did structure the AIG bailout and it seems that both Geithner and Emanuel had plenty to do with determining how those bonuses were to be handled. Perhaps it is time for everyone to come clean.