President Obama makes no small plans. One day after announcing the biggest budget deficit since World War Two, Obama flies to a Marine base in North Carolina to announce a withdrawal timetable for troops in Iraq.
Obama envisions an end to combat operations by August 2010, though a force of around 50,000 will remain. That’s too many for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a fellow Democrat, but former Republican presidential rival John McCain thinks it’s about right.
The Iraq news should provide a welcome change of focus from the economy, which continues to be terrible. Government data showed the U.S. economy contracted more sharply than estimated in the fourth quarter, with gross domestic product falling at an annual rate of 6.2 percent. The Treasury Department has said it will convert its $25 billion stake in Citigroup to regular shares, giving it 36 percent ownership of the troubled banking giant. Citi’s shares are down 19 percent in premarket trading.
What about the other troubled banking giant? Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis flew to New York yesterday so state attorney general Andrew Cuomo could press him to release a list of employees who got bonuses in 2008. Lewis said he cooperated, but the AG’s office said otherwise.
How did Lewis get to the meeting? He flew in a $50 million private jet, according to ABC News.