8 a.m. ET: Is the White House doing its level best to distract people from the cratering economy and the AIG bonus controversy?
Consider: President Obama went on "The Tonight Show" last night and did talk about the economy, but also made news by joking about the Special Olympics -- hey, at least he didn't mock Nancy Reagan again -- and even threw out the nugget that the First Dog would be in place by Easter. Michelle Obama, meanwhile, will break ground today on a vegetable garden at the White House. And, of course, March Madness has begun, reducing productivity and slowing the Internet all across the land. (Obama went 11-5 on Day 1.)
But it was Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski who took time out from making commercials this week to suggest Obama should focus on the economy instead of his brackets. And similar criticism has come for his decision to appear on Leno.
So yet again, Obama explained Thursday -- somewhat oddly, this time -- that he can and should multitask. At a town hall meeting in Los Angeles, Obama said: "Somebody was saying the other -- today, I think, that I shouldn't be on Leno. I can't handle that and the economy at the same time. Listen, here's what I say. I say our challenges are too big to ignore." So was he saying that, in these trying times, an appearance on "The Tonight Show" was just too important to put off?
Regardless of whether he should be going on Leno or ESPN, Obama is making clear that he has no plans to hide. He will appear on 60 Minutes this Sunday, and will give a prime-time press conference Tuesday night. He even took the time to record a holiday greeting to Iran. In it, Obama spoke of a "new day" for relations between the two countries and did not mention bowling, the Special Olympics, his brackets or his confidence in Tim Geithner, proving that the president can, in fact, handle multiple subjects without getting confused.
Obama should study up this morning on the merits of deficit spending during a recession, because the Congressional Budget Office is due to release new numbers today projecting that deficits over the next 10 years will be significantly bigger than had been estimated when the White House was preparing its budget blueprint. The more dire projections make it even more likely that Congress will force Obama to scale back some of his priorities.
And of course, Obama will have to keep one eye on Congress to see what it does next on AIG. The House passed legislation Thursday taxing bonuses at AIG and other companies taking federal bailout money (note the interesting split in the House GOP leadership on the vote). The Senate is expected to move next week on an even tougher bill, even as it turns out that lots of people in government knew about the bonuses before they were paid. Obama can only hope the press isn't still fixated on the AIG blame game next week. Otherwise, he might just have to go on Letterman.
March 20, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
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