Bennett said the bank bailout was “Congress’s finest moment.” He recalled that a colleague said it felt like a James Bond movie with so much peril at hand. When Senate banking committee chairman Chris Dodd announced that lawmakers had reached a deal and turned to Bennett as a senior Republican for his comments, Bennett echoed Dodd, saying, “We have a deal.” Footage of Bennett saying those words and standing with the hated Democrats aired in a continuous loop in Utah, dooming Bennett among Tea Party activists.
Asked if he had ever changed his vote to accommodate political needs, he replied forthrightly, yes, that if a vote was “relatively meaningless and I didn’t care strongly one way or the other, I would take the conventional conservative route.” But he drew the line when it came to the rather obscure appointment of University of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein to be the administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Conservatives had zeroed in on Sunstein as a left-wing radical, and Bennett thought many of his writings were “nuts.” But he talked to him, found him qualified, and determined that he would vote for him. “I have a character flaw in that I want to be fair to people,” he said. His staff argued that his vote didn’t matter, that Sunstein would be confirmed without him. “It will make me feel better—so take that,” he told them. The Sunstein vote was another in the arsenal of complaints about him from the right.