Orrin Hatch's please-don't-let-me-be-another-Bob-Bennett tour had been going well. His speech and audience Q&A at the Tea Party Express "town hall" this week was, as such things go, friendly.
What that event was lacking: Hundreds of Ron Paul supporters ready to boo him. Hatch was on a sleepy panel about the possibility for a balanced budget amendment when a questioner threw the dynamite.
"When you talk about fiscal conservatism," he said, "how can we trust you, if you voted for TARP?"
Half the room exploded with cheers, pleasure at the audacity of the question. Hatch was stony-faced.
"Under the circumstances," said Hatch, "at the time, we were going down, and let me tell you..."
The crowd interrupted him with boos.
"Yes, you may disagree," said Hatch, "but you weren't sitting there, and you didn't have to make these decisions!
I probably made a mistake voting for it. But let me just say this to you, we were in real trouble... the secretary of the Treasury, a Republican, presented this plan." Hatch continued but contradicted himself. "If it had taken my vote, the 51st vote, to stop us from going into a depression, I would have done it anyway." It was a mistake, but he'd do it again. This is never a comfortable position.
The exchange wasn't over. Lew Uhler, president of the Tax Limitation Committee, had not gripped the crowd up this point, but he was furious at the boos. "I've been in the trenches with this man!" he bellowed. He chastized the people booing for abandoning civility and behaving like a "mob."