PRESIDENT OBAMA TELLS "60 MINUTES" NY'S WALL STREETERS NEED TO GET OUT OF TOWN TO REALIZE POPULIST ANGER IN HIS LONGEST INTERVIEW SINCE ASSUMING OFFICE -- SUNDAY ON CBS
The President Tells Steve Kroft he Wouldn't Accept Timothy Geithner's Resignation Even if Offered. He also Answers Dick Cheney's Attack on his Guantanamo Plan.
In his longest interview since taking office, President Barack Obama tells Steve Kroft that New York's Wall Street executives need to get out of town to appreciate the public's anger towards them and that embattled Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's job is safe. The president even joked that were Geithner to tender his resignation, he would say, "Sorry Buddy, you've still got the job." The 90-minute interview last evening began on the White House lawn and ended in the Oval Office where the president also addressed the economy, the bonus tax, healthcare, automakers' bailouts, Afghanistan and Pakistan and answered recent criticism from former Vice President Dick Cheney. It will be broadcast on 60 MINUTES Sunday, March 22 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
The president said neither he nor Geithner has mentioned resignation from his Treasury post and that criticism is natural. "It's going to take a little bit more time than we would like to make sure that we get this plan just right. Of course, then we'd still be subject to criticism," he tells Kroft. "What's taken so long? You've been in office a whole 40 days and you haven't solved the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression," Obama said with a laugh.
The president acknowledged his need for the support of Wall Street for his banking plan that he will reveal next week. But many of those executives, particularly in New York, need to appreciate populist perspective, too, he said in a discussion of the 90 percent bonus tax for workers making over $250,000 a year at companies receiving large taxpayer bailouts. Responding to Kroft's observation that Wall Street types in the New York area thought the appointments of Geithner and Lawrence Summers to his cabinet indicated he would be more supportive of them, Obama said those people need to get out of town. "They need to spend a little time outside of New York. Because...if you go to North Dakota, or you go to Iowa, or you go to Arkansas, where folks would be thrilled to be making $75,000 a year-- without a bonus -- then I think they'd get a sense of why people are frustrated."
Obama fires back at former Vice President Dick Cheney's charge that his plan to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay and end torture of terrorism suspects has made the U.S. less safe. "How many terrorists have actually been brought to justice under the philosophy that is being promoted by Vice President Cheney? It hasn't made us safer. What it has been is a great advertisement for anti-American sentiment." Pressed by Kroft that some of the released prisoners have returned to terrorist groups, the president said, "There is no doubt that we have not done a particularly effective job in sorting through who are truly dangerous individuals...to make sure [they] are not a threat to us," he says. But he called the Bush administration's policy on detainees at Guantanamo -including long incarcerations with no trials - "unsustainable."
The interview includes a walk on the grounds of the White House, where the swing set for his two daughters, Sasha and Malia, is visible. Obama said having dinner with his family and playing with his children each day is a welcome respite from the pressure of his office where, he concedes, decisions that land on his desk are often a choice "between bad and worse." His hardest one thus far, he tells Kroft, was sending an additional 17,000 troops to Afghanistan.