It is unintelligent to cut off your nose to spite your face or to create harm just so you can blindly be right about something. There are always tradeoffs in "critical thinking" and "good decision-making."
And there is no contest for what was the wise move.
Surely saving us from a financial collapse that would cause the US and the world to slump into a depression is not something we want. Sure, we don't want the government to overstep its bounds, but sometimes we need the government to create a greater good or avoid a greater bad. (Geithner, the present Secretary of the Treasury, was a key in going into action quickly to save the country.)
I would say that a smart conservative and a smart liberal would make the decision to go for the greater good, especially when it is huge and obvoious to anybody who understands it.
CONSEQUENCES OF NO BAILOUT
If the bailout wasn't done, we would have fallen into a financial abyss. With the collapse in real estate values, the companies did not have enough assets to pay their debts - and many of the debts were to other financial companies, including banks - so other organizations could not pay their debts to each other. It would all fall apart and with a banking collapse Americans would be in big trouble. (Anyone interested in a "tutorial" on this can access Khan Academy's teaching site: Bailout 5 , 10 min.)
The "system" would have collapsed. It is not reasonably arguable any other way - at least not in terms of the size of the tradeoff: financial collapse on one side and people "being right" on the other side (the government shouldn't...)!
Romney is doing what a smart man would do. He is being a smart conservative, making smart choices that benefitted us all. (Remember that Paulsen and Bush and many smart conservatives were intelligent enough to see that it was the only choice. Plus governments across the world who saw the wisdom and the worth of saving the financial systems. And Barack Obama supported the bailout as a candidate at the emergency meeting called by McCain.)
People cannot blame any one of these key individuals for "violating" conservative principles of non-government intervention, as each one used a higher principle: avoiding undue harm to the greater population. It was not about saving the firms being the goal, it was strictly about saving the financial system in order to save Americans from extreme financial hardship.
FOR ZERO COST, A HUGE PAYOFF
For those who criticize this well-considered move, they might note that the bailout was virtually costless, as the loans have been paid off - except for the Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae government debacles, which are a separate (and very, very important) issue. .