POLITICS
04/13/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Gibbs: Obama Does Not Think CEO Bonuses Are Justified

The Obama administration continued on Thursday to clarify the president's remarks in which he said he doesn't begrudge Wall Street executives for their success and casually compared their bonuses to the bulging salaries of poorly-performing baseball players.

Addressing reporters at the daily briefing, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs insisted that the president understands that baseball players, unlike Wall Street executives, did not bring the financial industry to the brink of collapse -- a distinction that New York Times columnist Paul Krugman said Obama didn't fully grasp.

"The point he was trying to make was that there are obscene and shocking salaries and obscene and shocking compensation that don't match what happens with your performance," Gibbs said. "And he said salaries like you were talking about in baseball, and these bonuses, are extraordinary and shocking."

Gibbs also stressed that Obama's position on executive compensation hasn't softened, let alone changed, in the past days or months. While Obama told Bloomberg BusinessWeek that Goldman Sacs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon are both "savvy businessmen" who shouldn't be begrudged for their success or wealth, he still feels that their bonuses were not justified.

"The president doesn't have a different view on bonuses yesterday than he had ten days ago or ten months ago," Gibbs said. "Ensuring that bonuses are paid in that way is a movement in the right direction. Does that justify the level of these bonuses when only through the taxpayer's assistance would these banks exist? Of course not."

As the Huffington Post reported on Wednesday, the White House has gone into overdrive in its efforts to stem the fallout of the Bloomberg piece. Aides insist that the article misrepresented what the president said and overplayed the implications of his remarks. Clearly, though, they recognized that a more aggressive pushback was needed. Last night, deputy communications director Jennifer Psaki put up her inaugural blogpost on the White House website pushing several of the same lines dispensed by Gibbs today.