A departing Democratic lawmaker says his party is paying a political price for doing the right thing and working to rescue the economy from the financial collapse of 2008.
In an interview with The Hill, US House Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) defended the Democrats’ decision to support the $700-billion TARP bailout of the Wall Street banks, which was signed by President George W. Bush shortly before he left office.
The representative from Washington’s 3rd district said the Democrats could have played games with the economy, letting the financial collapse run its course and blaming the whole thing on the previous administration.
“We could have said, ‘The economy is going to collapse. The world is going to go into a depression. You’re going to get the blame and your party is going to get the blame because you’re in power and we are going to ride this into the majority for the next 40 years.’ That is what the Democrats could have done,” Baird said.
“Had we wanted to, we could have let the president, President Bush … stew in his own juices.”
He noted the Democrats “got punished” for supporting the bailout, but “there are a lot of American families and working families who would get clobbered if [we] didn’t pass TARP.”
Baird’s logic seems to borrow a book from his Republican opponents, who have been accused of opposing economic aid — such as the extension of jobless benefits — in order to help their own electoral chances when the public blames the incumbent administration.
However, allowing an economic crisis to cascade in order to blame the previous White House is a risky and debatable strategy. Baird, considered a conservative Democrat, has not shied away from controversial opinions.
Following his electoral loss in November, Baird lashed out at the leadership of his party.
“I told people we would screw it up,” he reportedly said. “You should never underestimate the power of liberals to shoot themselves in the foot.”
Of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, he said, “She doesn’t listen to other people. She only listens to people she agrees with unless she needs your vote.”
Seattle Weekly notes that Baird has a fairly conservative voting record. He opposed health care reform in its early stages, and voted for President Bush’s Iraq surge and against the Medicare prescription-drug benefit passed under the Bush administration.
However, unlike most of his centrist and conservative Democratic colleagues, Baird has been a strong advocate for Gaza and the creation of a Palestinian state.
Baird is expected to run for the US House again, in a different Washington state district, in 2012.