So here’s the reason presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney now claims to have saved the auto rescue in Michigan: Romney will be campaigning in Michigan for the next couple of days and needs to convince folks there, that he wasn’t against the bailout. In fact he will try to convince them that he actually rescued the industry from demise.
With the general election in full swing, Mitt Romney is tacking to the center on the auto rescue with furious speed, with a top spokesman and then Romney himself both claiming he deserves a big “thank-you” for saving Detroit.
“I pushed the idea of a managed bankruptcy, and finally when that was done, and help was given, the companies got back on their feet,” Romney told a Cleveland TV station while visiting a local auto plant Monday. “So, I’ll take a lot of credit for the fact that this industry has come back.”
The trouble is that the people who helped craft the actual auto bailout — and not just on the Democratic side — have said Romney’s public position would likely have resulted in destruction of the industry.
This isn’t the first time Romney has courted credit. He applauded Obama in 2009 for showing “backbone” in implementing certain aspects of the initial bailout, and called it “a course I recommended a number of months ago.”Romney’s position was vague enough then, despite a high-profile “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” op-ed, to make a plausible case he and Obama were on the same page. But during the 2012 Republican primary he clarified that the measures he endorsed were nowhere near what actually was needed to fix the problem at hand.
Both Romney and Obama agreed the car companies should be put through bankruptcy, which is what ultimately occurred. But the key difference was who would pay to keep the companies alive as they restructured. Experts say that without the tens of billions of dollars in federal loans, the companies would likely have been liquidated, as the private financial industry was in a meltdown of its own and completely unwilling to step in with loans.
Romney danced around this issue while campaigning in the Michigan primary earlier this year, where his bailout position received a lot of attention, but ultimately sided with those on the right who insisted the private sector should sort it out.
“The president tells us that without his intervention things in Detroit would be worse,” Romney wrote in an op-ed in the Detroit News in February. “I believe that without his intervention things there would be better.”
This squared with previous remarks: Romney told Piers Morgan in June 2011 that “the bailouts were a mistake” and suggested that the companies could have gone through bankruptcy immediately with minimal federal help.
Romney’s insistence in February that he would have saved Detroit drew some pushback from within his own party. Even while campaigning in support of Romney in Michigan, Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) told reporters plainly, “There was no one that could have picked up those pieces other than the federal government.”
Steve Rattner, the “auto czar” responsible for managing the rescue, penned a New York Times op-ed savaging Romney for claiming credit for the most popular aspects of the bailout while disowning the loans that were necessary to make it work.
“[Romney’s position] sounds like a wonderfully sensible approach — except that it’s utter fantasy,” he wrote. “In late 2008 and early 2009, when G.M. and Chrysler had exhausted their liquidity, every scrap of private capital had fled to the sidelines. I know this because the administration’s auto task force, for which I was the lead adviser, spoke diligently to all conceivable providers of funds, and not one had the slightest interest in financing those companies on any terms. If Mr. Romney disagrees, he should come forward with specific names of willing investors in place of empty rhetoric. I predict that he won’t be able to, because there aren’t any.”
Democrats rushed to hold Romney to his original position after his latest comments Monday. The Obama campaign distributed a statement from Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI), one of the strongest advocates for the auto rescue in 2009.
“Mitt Romney is on a hook of his own making because of his vocal opposition to the auto rescue, which saved General Motors and Chrysler from liquidation and prevented hundreds of thousands of job losses in a vital industry,” Levin said. “Governor Romney should have the courage and integrity to say he was wrong instead of trying to pull off another flip-flop.”
Romney will likely be asked to clarify his position further Tuesday as he returns to Michigan, the state most affected by the auto rescue. But at this point, he’s taken so many twists and turns, it’s impossible to have any clear idea what exactly he would have done.
- Romney: ‘I’ll take a lot of credit’ for auto industry success (politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com)
- Romney Adviser Now Claims Auto Rescue Was Actually Romney’s Idea (thinkprogress.org)
- Romney spokesman claims credit for Obama auto rescue Mitt repeatedly slammed (dailykos.com)
- Remember When Mitt Romney Saved the Auto Industry Single-Handedly? (slog.thestranger.com)
- Romney Advisor Wants His Boss To Get Credit For Auto Bailout Romney Opposed (alan.com)