What CNN’s John King Didn’t Ask McCain: If the Wall Street Bailout Was So Bad, Why Did You Vote for It?
Here was a chance for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. to admit he was wrong, and to conclude publicly that government intervention in the private sector doesn't always result in the best of outcomes.
McCain appeared on CNN's Oct. 11 "State of the Union" in a pre-recorded interview and was asked by host John King if the lackluster recovery of the economy warranted more government intervention.
"The president has said he's considering new initiatives to help job creation," King said. "They passed one stimulus plan and most Republicans, including John McCain, have been pretty critical of this $787-billion stimulus passed early in the year. Should the President do more now through government spending, though tax incentives or should he wait because, as you have said many times, we have so much red ink, we can't afford much more?"
McCain, whose home state of Arizona is suffering from 9.1 percent unemployment, responded, "I would certainly look at any proposal that helps small businesses in America. I would look at proposals that help create jobs. This unemployment in my state is devastating - devastating around America."
However, he added his thoughts on the previous instances of government intervention - where Congress, through the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), authorized the federal government to bailout the troubled financial sector - giving the Treasury Department broad authority to act as they saw fit.
"What we've done, unfortunately, is we bailed out Wall Street, now they're making billions, they're making the deals, they're giving the bonuses, and because they were too big to fail, we pumped - I don't know, we still haven't had a full accounting - into those major financial corporations and told financial institutions."
However, during the 2008 financial crisis, McCain was at the forefront of supporting the bailout. Both he and his opponent, then-Sen. Barack Obama, voted for the TARP bailout. And just two weeks after McCain's election defeat, his chief economic adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, admitted it was a "strategic blunder" for McCain to support a bailout designed for Wall Street financial institutions.
The question remains - because King didn't ask it - whether McCain regrets voting for TARP in 2008. But McCain did express his disappointment in how the bailout unfolded and how it was perceived by other Americans.
"We told them they were too big to fail," McCain continued. "We told the guy on Central Avenue that just shut down his storefront that he's too small to save. There's something terribly wrong with that picture and we were off on the wrong foot by bailing out these financial institutions instead of addressing the housing crisis. And Americans have figured it out and they're very, very unhappy."