In 2012 Primary, Everyone Will Have to Pretend That TARP Wasn’t a Huge Success

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Photo: Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Now that we have witnessed the power of the Tea Party movement to make or break campaigns — it's been apparent for a long time now, but every time it happens it throws us into a tizzy all over again — the question is how this influence will translate in the 2012 presidential race. Despite the current bout of discord among GOP elites, no candidate serious about winning the Republican primary will risk disagreeing with the movement on its major litmus tests. Unfortunately, one of those litmus tests has become virulent opposition to the TARP, the government bailout for banks that turned out to be a huge, economy-saving success. As once and perhaps future presidential candidate Mike Huckabee explains:


“Every person who voted for it is going to have to explain if not apologize for their vote on it,” warned Huckabee, of the 2008 financial bailout. “It doesn’t wash to say, “Things would have been so much worse if we hadn’t done it.’”

Money will still be important in 2012, Huckabee said, but he added: “The wonderful thing out of the Tea Party movement is it causes money to matter less.”


Well, okay. That's true, money matters less, and that levels the playing field. But what matters more? Irrational ideological purity at the expense of honesty and leadership. Things would have been so much worse if Congress hadn't passed the TARP, but since everyone seems to believe otherwise for whatever reason, let's just play along. As Politico's Ben Smith wrote two days ago:


“It’s become demonized on the left and the right by screamers — Glenn Beck and Rachel Maddow [Note: Gregg later retracted the Maddow part] — who have no interest in the facts; they’re just interested in hyperbolizing and generating attention,” lamented New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg, a key player in guiding the measure through the upper chamber and one of the few Republicans willing to talk about TARP in positive terms. ...

All that, despite a broad consensus of economists who think things would have been worse without the bank rescue — and perhaps far worse: In one simple example, American workers’ paychecks might well not have arrived. Think bread lines and cat food.

“The TARP is probably the most effective large-scale government program that the public has vehemently decided was a bad idea, and, therefore, has only the most tepid political defenders,” said the Brookings Institution’s Douglas Elliott. “Unfortunately, the right thing to do for the public just sounds so wrong to Main Street in this case.”


Among those who supported the TARP? Sarah Palin, who has already flipped, and Mitt Romney, who has tried to explain his qualified support for the program in his book. (Mike Huckabee was always against it, which is presumably why he's hoping it'll be such a major issue. But he's probably right.) It will be interesting to see whether Romney will succumb to the misinformed masses once the campaign begins.

Tea party gains clout for 2012 [Politico]