HATCH WANTS FORGIVENESS FOR THE VOTE HE’S GLAD HE CAST…. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) participated at a panel discussion at the Conservative Political Action Conference yesterday afternoon, and he had to know a question on the financial industry bailout was coming.

It’s a shame he didn’t prepare a better answer.

Mr. Hatch said he voted for it to keep the country from slipping into a depression — and said he would do so again if he had to be the deciding vote — but acknowledged that he now felt sorry that he had voted for the bill.

“All I can say is, there aren’t many people who will say, ‘I’m sorry.’ I’m one who will,” Mr. Hatch said.

A simple apology might have worked under the circumstances. Hatch cast a vote, he regrets it now, and he’s sorry.

But that’s not what Hatch said, exactly. The senator apologized for the vote, but also said that without the rescue package, “I believe we would have gone into a depression.” The Republican added, “I probably made a mistake voting for it.”

Are voters supposed to find this even remotely persuasive? Hatch cast a controversial vote … and he’s sorry … but not really because he saved the economy … which he now considers a mistake.

In effect, the senator is making a fundamentally awkward request: “Forgive me for doing the right thing, which I now regret.”

Either Hatch was right or he was wrong. He’s either glad he cast the vote or he regrets it. The senator can either stand by his record or he can abandon it. But trying to do all of this at the same time is a very bad idea.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.