Senator John Thune

With General Motors slated for nationalization, and the government holding major stakes in Chrysler and several major banks, many concerned observers have been asking when it will all end. President Obama, however, has not even ventured a guess. The omission is an odd, and dangerous, one: the president who campaigned on the need to set a deadline for U.S. withdrawal from Baghdad has failed to establish one for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Detroit.

Now comes Senator John Thune of South Dakota, joined by John Cornyn of Texas, with a proposal to do just that. In legislation to be offered today, Senator Thune would require that the federal government divest itself of all ownership stakes acquired through the TARP program by July 1 of next year (with possible extensions of up to a year if the Treasury Secretary certifies it is necessary to prevent taxpayer losses).

The idea of setting an exit date has gotten from rumblings from at least one Democrat as well. Politico is reporting that Democratic Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska is interested in the issue, and has asked the Government Accountability Office to report on the question.

There’s room to quibble on the details (why allow the administration to extend the deadline?). But all said, these are good steps in the right direction. And that direction is toward the exits.