I wouldn’t count on either the politics of TARP shifting too much or John Thune boasting about his vote any time soon. Here’s the Senator in a recent interview with Major Garrett and Jeff Zeleny (relevant section starts around the three-minute mark):
I have probably been one of the fiercest critics and probably biggest advocates of ending TARP since it was enacted because of how it was used…. when they started getting in and taking equity positions in a lot of these companies and owning car companies and owning insurance companies, that’s just not a good precedent in a free market economy. So, it was wrong philosophically.
He didn’t go as far as John McCain did back in February — the Arizonan claimed he was duped into the vote by Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke — but there’s a clear distaste and distance there in his remarks. “It was wrong philosophically” is far from a defense.
TARP’s unpopularity has shot “bailout” into its own category of the political lexicon. The term is so poisonous that anyone wanting to cast aspersions on a piece of legislation merely tacks on the word, no matter the underlying substance, and candidates wish they could have voted against the program so desperately that they attempt time travel to do so. For all the ink spilled over RomneyCare and its similarities to ObamaCare, making that connection requires an explanation of the policy parallels. Bailout is already a universally recognized four-letter word in Republican circles and support for TARP seems ripe to be a seriously troubling asset in 2012.
(Thune video h/t Christian Heinze)