Looking back, Bennett said in an interview, “obviously, TARP was a major factor.” At the time of the vote, Bennett added, “I knew I was going to buy myself a significant primary challenge.” But he did not “really” envision losing his seat over it. What if he knew, back then, that TARP would play a critical role ending his 18-year Senate career? “I would” vote yea again.

“It was the right vote. The crisis was real. The Congress had to step up and deal with it,” Bennett continued. “I don’t want to sound pompous about this, but being a senator isn’t essential to who I am. Having a sense of having done the right thing, for the sake of my country, is more important to my long term inner serenity.”…

Bennett won’t call his TARP vote historic. And indeed, “historic” is tossed around promiscuously in politics. But the 2008 bailout, like Europe’s recent action, was indeed that. And Bennett has a claim on that history, like all the 74 yea votes in the Senate.

“As distasteful as many parts of it were, the TARP vote saved us from depression and deflation and disaster,” said the American Enterprise Institute’s Norm Ornstein, one of the nation’s leading congressional scholars. “I’m absolutely convinced that it will be regarded as one of the most-courageous votes of our time, but that has come too late for Bennett and others.”