* Obamas will get a dog in April
* Obama says Geithner is doing an outstanding job
* Traveling on Air Force One "is pretty cool" - Obama
(Adds Republican Sen. Jon Kyl comment, paragraphs 14-15)
By Jeff Mason
BURBANK, Calif., March 19 U.S. President Barack
Obama was alternately somber and light-hearted in an unusual
appearance on America's top-rated late-night variety show on
Thursday, moving deftly from the economic crisis to the April
arrival of a "First Dog" in the White House.
In an appearance on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," the
first by a sitting president, Obama talked seriously about his
economic plans and voiced strong support for embattled Treasury
Secretary Timothy Geithner.
Wearing a bright red tie and an American flag pin on his
lapel, the president pitched his budget and said he was stunned
to learn crippled insurance giant AIG had paid out big bonuses
to employees after using taxpayer money to stay afloat.
But he switched gears to talk about family life in the
White House, confirming a timetable for the First Family's
acquisition of a canine companion. Obama said the dog would
arrive after his planned trip to Europe in early April.
"When we get back, the dog will be in place," Obama said,
adding his daughters Sasha and Malia were not the only ones
looking forward to its arrival. "They say if you want a friend
in Washington, get a dog," he joked.
More seriously, Obama said critics had underestimated the
number of challenges facing his Treasury secretary, who has
taken heat for his handling of the AIG bonus scandal.
"This guy has not just a banking crisis. He's got the worst
recession since the Great Depression. He's got an auto industry
... that has been on the verge of collapse," Obama said.
"I think Geithner is doing an outstanding job."
'ENOUGH IS ENOUGH'
Obama reiterated the need for a government bailout of AIG
(AIG.N) and said his administration was doing everything it could
to get the bonus money back.
"The immediate bonuses that went to AIG are a problem," he
said, "but the larger problem is we've got to get back to an
attitude where people know enough is enough."
Pushing his plans for broad reform of financial regulation,
Obama said many of the practices that led to the meltdown of
the U.S. financial industry were not against the law.
"Here's the dirty little secret, though: most of the stuff
that got us into trouble was perfectly legal," he said.
Republicans pointedly noted that amid the firestorm over AIG
bonuses and deepening recession Obama had taken time to appear and
joke on a television show.
"We've got a crisis on our hands. The president is correct
about that. He flies off to Los Angeles tonight to be on the Jay
Leno Show," Senator Jon Kyl, a member of the Republican
Kyl suggested that when Obama returns to Washington he
quickly get to the bottom of the bonus flap to prevent it from
occurring again and figure out how to remedy what Kyl called
the crisis within the financial industry.
On life in the White House, Obama told Leno he is getting a
basketball hoop for the mansion's tennis courts but is in the
meantime improving his bowling -- a game at which he did not
excel during his campaign.
"I'm making progress on the bowling," he said.
Asked by Leno whether people who played basketball with him
allowed him to win now that he's president, Obama dead-panned:
"I don't see why they would throw the game, except for all those
Secret Service guys with guns around."
He confided that he enjoyed traveling on Air Force One. "I
personally think it's pretty cool," he said, adding that his
kids were "just not as impressed."
Leno teased Obama for his White House living arrangements.
"People think it's amazing that the president would take
the time to leave Washington, D.C. and fly 3,000 miles to come
to California," Leno said before Obama came on stage.
"But you know something, that happens to a lot of guys when
their mother-in-law moves in with them."
The talk show host also took a dig at the vice president.
"We were also going to have Vice President Joe Biden come
out and say a few words, but you know, it's only an hour show."