Idaho Blue Dog Congressman Walt Minnick has made his opposition to the Troubled Asset Relief Program a centerpiece of his campaign this cycle -- even using that opposition in his first ad of the season -- despite the program doing "surprisingly well," according to reports.
The ad was called "one of the smoothest Republican campaign videos of the year" by a highly-respected Idaho political observer and features Minnick narrating the line, "I've said 'No' to Wall Street bailouts." It drew criticism from many, including that Minnick was misleading voters into believing that he had voted against TARP when he was not actually in office at the time and had no vote.
Minnick's campaign countered that he had strongly opposed TARP during the 2008 campaign and that the ad was consistent with his views of the program since, as Betsy Z. Russell reported in the Spokesman-Review:
John Foster, Minnick’s campaign manager, said Minnick was a “loud” opponent of the TARP bill during his 2008 campaign, spoke out against it in congressional hearings since taking office and voted against other bailout measures, including a symbolic vote against funding TARP and a vote against an auto industry bailout. “What Walt said in the ad is true,” Foster said. “He’s been consistent.”
What the campaign doesn't want you to know is that in a December, 2008 interview with the Idaho Statesman editorial board [audio here, relevant portion at 19:30], just prior to assuming office, Minnick described TARP as performing "slightly better" than expected and said that "the way they are using it made more sense than doing nothing." He concluded that the program deserved an overall grade of C minus -- at least a passing grade.
Well, well, well. That must have been before he supposedly "didn't drink the [Obama] Kool-Aid," and it sure doesn't seem to meet the definition of a "loud" or "consistent" opponent.
For what it's worth, Minnick was right about TARP back then. As reported in Bloomberg last week, "the much-maligned bailout program made money on most Wall Street investments and cost less than expected."
The Treasury Dept.'s investments in banks through the Troubled Asset Relief Program have done surprisingly well. Lower-than-expected losses on auto and insurance company rescues, as well as the financial markets' return to strength, mean the $700 billion rescue plan launched in October 2008 will cost less than one-tenth its initial price tag. "The TARP may well be the best and most useful federal program that has ever been despised by the public," says Douglas J. Elliott, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former JPMorgan Chase (JPM) managing director.[...]
"When all is said and done, this program will be viewed as one of the most effective and least costly forms of assistance" in the financial crisis, says Herbert M. Allison Jr., the former Merrill Lynch (MER) executive and Fannie Mae (FNM) official who has shepherded the rescue effort for Geithner and leaves the job on Sept. 30.
Too bad Minnick didn't have the courage to run on the facts.