I remain a fan, but the ineptness of his excuse here is positively Steele-esque.

“Now, that I know – which I didn’t at the time – that this is unconstitutional, I wouldn’t have voted the same way,” Ryan said during a taping of C-Span’s “Newsmakers” on Thursday – the show is set to air on Sunday. POLITICO was one of the participants in the Ryan interview.

Ryan blames confusion about the constitutionality of the plan on Democrats for rushing the bill through the House.

“You rush this thing to the floor. Nobody had time to review it,” Ryan said on the CSPAN program, adding that lawmakers “got conflicting advice on it” before the vote…

But the conservative still agrees with the underlying principle behind the bill.

“The message was sent that should have been sent,” Ryan said. “These bonuses were completely ridiculous. They rewarded failure.”

The message was sent, all right. Say, didn’t he … take an oath about protecting the Constitution? Is that now optional in the bank-seizing era of Hopenchange? Arguably, in fact, the tax is constitutional, but he shouldn’t have needed a team of lawyers to raise a red flag: Our own commenters were crying “bill of attainder” as soon as news broke that Congress was thinking about it. Ryan, of course, was also one of the Republicans who crossed the aisle to vote for the original TARP, something for which I don’t fault him but pretty much all of you do. If he wanted to “send a message,” maybe he should have sent it then, yes?

He’s still one of the GOP’s young stars, but one more wrong vote on a high-profile bill and his vaunted economic cred will be permanently damaged. And speaking of which, this just in about the GOP’s new alternative mini-budget released today: “Cantor and Ryan were reportedly ’embarrassed’ by the document — believing it was better to absorb a week of hits from Democrats than to be slammed for failing to produce a thoughtful and detailed alternative.”