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Obama tries to temper furor over AIG bonuses

Associated Press – President Barack Obama is trying to dampen a fire he once stoked, urging a more tempered response to public furor over bonuses paid to executives of the publicly rescued insurance giant American International Group.

Obama is virtually certain to use Tuesday’s prime-time news conference to continue an effort that began over the weekend: cooling the anti-AIG ferocity, now that it threatens to undermine his efforts to bail out the nation’s deeply troubled financial sector.

Obama’s tone changed dramatically after the House voted last week for targeted taxes to take back most of the $165 million in bonuses paid to AIG executives. Many lawmakers felt Obama had encouraged their step, because he called the bonuses reckless, outrageous and unjustified.

In the White House, however, the situation seemed to be spinning out of control. Some fellow Democrats questioned the constitutionality and wisdom of the House’s action. Executives of other troubled companies signaled they would not make deals with a federal government that revises agreements after they are signed.

On Sunday, Obama told CBS’ "60 Minutes" the House’s plan to slap a special tax on the AIG executives would be unconstitutional. Borrowing a line from his Feb. 24 speech to Congress, he said he would not "govern out of anger."

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