Mon, Mar 23, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Obama says Geithner will stay in post

DOSE OF REALITY The president said corporate executives would better understand the public’s outrage over bonuses if they ventured out of New York from time to time


US President Barack Obama said treasury secretary is one job that’s not up for grabs.

In an interview with CBS’ 60 Minutes, Obama said if US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner offered his resignation, the answer would be: “Sorry buddy, you’ve still got the job.”

Obama also took the opportunity to strike back at comments by former vice president Dick Cheney, who said that plans to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center would make the US less safe.

Obama contended that the Bush administration’s policy of holding detainees for years on end with no trials is “unsustainable,” and has fueled anti-US sentiment. At the same time, Obama said, US authorities haven’t done a good job determining who should be released from the Navy base in Cuba.

On Geithner, Obama reiterated his support for the beleaguered secretary, who has been roundly criticized over a corporate bonus flap and steps to revive the economy. Obama urged patience.

“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 said in the interview, taped on Friday and set to air yesterday. “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.”

CBS released excerpts of the interview on Saturday.

Obama said corporate executives would better understand the public’s outrage over bonuses if they ventured out of New York and spent time in Iowa or Arkansas. There, he said, people are thrilled to be making US$75,000 a year with no bonuses.

Public outrage spilled over last week after revelations that struggling insurance giant American International Group doled out US$165 million in bonuses to employees, including to traders in the financial unit that nearly caused the company’s collapse.

On the former administration’s detainee policies, Obama said hundreds of men had been held at Guantanamo for several years, but “how many terrorists have actually been brought to justice under the philosophy that is being promoted by vice president Cheney?”

The former administration’s policy, Obama said, “hasn’t made us safer.”

Among those who have been released, more than 60 former Guantanamo detainees are believed to have rejoined the fight, the Pentagon says.

“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,” Obama said.

Some 800 men have been held at Guantanamo since the prison opened in January 2002 and 240 remain. Some are admitted terrorists, including confessed Sept. 11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was transferred to Guantanamo from CIA custody in September 2006. But officials have said that many may have been innocent men unconnected to the Taliban or al-Qaeda, but swept up by US forces in the war in Afghanistan.

Since taking office, Obama has taken aim at the policies of US President George W. Bush’s administration, suspending military trials for suspected terrorists and announcing he would close Guantanamo and other overseas sites where the CIA has held detainees.

The president also ordered CIA interrogators to abide by the US Army Field Manuals’ regulations for treatment of detainees and denounced waterboarding.

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