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He said aside from policy mistakes, such as turning over so much power to the Treasury secretary, the bailout also served to derail what had looked like a promising message for Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain because it shifted the election from a forward-looking question of options to a backward-looking referendum on Mr. Bush.

“When the bailout was passed it became eight years of deregulation, or whatever the Democrats are saying, and McCain supported the administration in what was the most watched and salient economic issue to Americans heading into this election,” Mr. McCotter said. “He couldn’t have taken a branding iron and put it on his forehead any better. That then, even if you voted against the bailout, that attached to you because your base Republicans and independents - independents actually hated it more than Republicans - started to deflate, and it became a referendum election.”

Still, he said, the fact that most House Republicans opposed the bailout gives him hope. Mr. McCotter voted against the bailout.

“A majority of the House Republicans voted against that thing twice. Twice. So I think that gives us hope for the future, although not the immediate future,” he said.

Mr. McCotter said rather than “compassionate conservative,” Mr. Bush’s administration has been defined by a globalist view.

“It tended to divorce itself from the average working people. It did not challenge the American people sufficiently. The Congress became, in many ways, the rubber stamp for this administration,” he said. “It was not a separate equal branch of government that hurt us in 2006 and it continued to hurt us as the bailout progressed.”

Another legacy is that Republicans have become politically “atrophied.”

“Fundamentally bedrock politics, we are very bad at - just very bad. It’s atrophied. It atrophied in what was called the permanent majority,” he said.

He did defend the president, arguing that the world changed on him, diverting him from his goal of being a domestic reformer.

Just as former President Harry S. Truman’s legacy has been rehabilitated by hindsight, he said, so might Mr. Bush’s.