Uneasy Bush went against instinct to push bailout
President George W Bush's massive bailout of the finance sector isn't very conservative or Republican - and he has no problem expressing the discomfort he feels by breaking with his political ideology to rescue Wall Street, dpa reported.
While in the White House, Bush was supposed to represent the conservative base of the Republican Party opposed to large government spending, taxes, economic restraints or Democratic attempts to regulate the free market.
"I'm sure there are some of my friends out there saying, I thought this guy was a market guy - what happened to him?" Bush said recently while urging Congress to approve his 700-billion-dollar package to shore up Wall Street.
"My first instinct wasn't to lay out a huge government plan," the president went on to say. "My first instinct was to let the market work, until I realized, upon being briefed by the experts, of how significant this problem became."
"So I decided to act and act boldly," he said.
Bush has held to traditional conservative economic causes while in office by lowering taxes and cutting spending on social programmes, but the US deficit largely ballooned under his tenure, in part because of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The unprecedented financial crisis prompted the largest US government intervention ever, using a mountain of money to buy up mortgage-backed securities and other "toxic" financial assets. It also demonstrates that managing the economy cuts across party and ideological lines and requires a pragmatic approach.
Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama and his Republican opponent John McCain supported the plan.
Democrats were mostly quick to get behind Bush's plan, but not before criticizing his anti-regulation policies. Bush, however, had to overcome a tougher fight with rebellious House Republicans before eventually getting congressional approval for the bailout package.
Many House Republicans, already facing a difficult re-election in November, feared a conservative backlash for supporting legislation that violates the fundamental values of the party.
After the bill initially failed, one conservative lawmaker posed a simple question wondering why no one has to take responsibility when the market fails, while those at the top benefit when it succeeds.
"How can we have capitalism on the way up and socialism on the way down?" Texas Republican Jeb Hensarling said.
Bush has repeatedly defended the bailout, saying that doing nothing would have allowed the pain on Wall Street to spread to average middle and working class Americans throughout the country.
"I made a decision that is really opposite of my philosophy. I basically believe if people make bad decisions in the marketplace, they ought to fail," Bush told workers at an office supply company on Tuesday.
"The problem is, in this case, failure would have cost you," he added. "What appeared to be something that might have been isolated in New York, would have cost you the job. And that was unacceptable to me."
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino once again had to explain Bush's philosophy to reporters on Thursday after it was revealed the government was also considering buying ownership stakes in banks in order to inject more money into the economy.
"The radical and bold, aggressive steps that we are taking on the economy are not ones that were a part of his natural instincts," Perino said.