President George W. Bush said in remarks last night that his decision to bail out the banks at the beginning of the financial crisis “wasn’t that hard” because he was warned of how bad a possible depression could be.
“I made the decision to use your money to prevent the collapse from happening,” Bush said last night at the University of Texas-Tyler, the Tyler Morning Telegraph reports.
Even though this was one of Bush’s rare public appearances since leaving office, the speech -- which was mostly predictable and uncontroversial -- flew under the radar. Republicans should be glad: Bush’s defense of a bailout could drive an even bigger wedge between the party establishment and the tea party candidates. Unlike Vice President Dick Cheney, who has made several scathing attacks on the Obama administration, Bush has not only refrained from criticizing his successor but has generally kept quiet.
A number of GOP candidates who had the party establishment’s support – Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Robert Bennett of Utah, along with Rep. Michael Castle of Delaware -- were all taken down in Senate primaries by tea party candidates who attacked them for their support of Bush’s bailout. Other legislators have also struggled to explain their support for the bill. That includes House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, who ran into trouble with members of the Republican Party who did not follow him in voting for the bill as he expected. If Bush had made the statement during primary season, it could have spelled trouble for even more Republicans.
Bush also used the speech to plug his memoir, Decision Points, which is due out just after the election, on Nov. 9. The book will have an enormous first print run of 1.5 million copies and be accompanied by an e-book edition with multimedia content including videos and additional photographs, according to Crown Publishers.
This article appears in the October 20, 2010, edition of National Journal Daily PM Update.