Several days ago, Marc Ambinder reported that conservative think tanks were told to keep quiet on the bailout. Now the Heritage Foundation has released a borderline incoherent response entitled “The Bailout Package: Vital and Acceptable.”
At first blush, Heritage seems to endorse the proposal:
While there are those in Congress who would push the role of government far beyond what is necessary in this crisis, the core technical parts of the negotiated package are acceptable. Important protections for taxpayers have been added to the original plan. And while some questionable and potentially counterproductive features have also been added, other egregious proposals—such as enormous handouts to activist housing groups—were stripped away during the negotiations. Taken together, the main financial measures are likely to accomplish the goal, and the unwise measures are sufficiently limited to warrant passage.
But then the authors suggest that key provisions remain unconstitutional:
Thus serious constitutional concerns remain and should be addressed in putting together a statute to deal with this current and hopefully temporary credit emergency. The constitutional questionability of some provisions is worrying, as is the centralization of power. Nonetheless, the situation is so grave that we must take unusual measures now and accept some negotiated arrangements that remain very troubling, provided they are limited in extent and time and are not accepted as a permanent part of our government.
This maddeningly vague formulation – what exactly should a “statute to deal with this current and hopefully temporary credit emergency” look like? – gets at the fundamental bankruptcy of movement conservatism. Provided there’s an emergency of sufficient magnitude, “serious constitutional concerns” can be brushed aside without so much as a backward glance.