Despite his strong opposition to the federally funded bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney insists he also deserves some of the credit for saving the domestic auto industry.
During a Rust Belt campaign swing, the Michigan native told interviewers he should get “a lot of credit” because he pushed the idea of a managed bankruptcy, the route the Obama Administration used to held shed the crushing debt that drove GM and Chrysler into seeking Chapter 11 protection.
“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 said in an interview with a Cleveland TV station during a visit to an auto parts manufacturer. “So, I’ll take a lot of credit for the fact that this industry has come back.”
The GOP candidate’s position requires at least a little flexing in logic to appreciate, however. In 2008, as the economy began to collapse and it became increasingly apparent that the two makers might fail, Romney opposed a bailout effort that was actually initiated by former Republican Pres. George W. Bush.
In fact, the Michigan native insisted in a November 2008 op-ed column for the Detroit News that if there is a bailout, the industry’s “demise will be virtually guaranteed.”
“If General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye,” wrote Romney, who had failed in his bid for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.
His opposition to the bill created strong controversy in the state where father George Romney once served as governor – and had previously headed little American Motors. Mitt Romney eventually did win the 2012 Michigan GOP presidential primary, however.
While some industry analysts say it is still too early to say whether the domestic auto industry has truly been transformed, shedding not only the heavy debt but the bad practices that got it into trouble, there are clearly plenty of encouraging signs that Romney apparently seeks to use as his halo. General Motors, for example, reported record profits in 2011, while Chrysler just reported a huge gain in net earnings for the first quarter of 2012.
“I don’t quite get how he can get away with this,” said a senior Detroit executive asking not to be pulled into the political fray by being identified. “It would be like that general during the Vietnam War who said we saved the village by burning it.”
The Romney claim also triggered a quick and sharp rebuke from the Obama Administration, which has faced consistent attack from Republicans for expanding on the Bush bailout. A statement from the White House termed Romney’s comments, “a new low in dishonesty.” It called on the GOP candidate to show “the courage and integrity” to acknowledge he was wrong.
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