Campaigning in the backyard of America's auto industry, Mitt Romney re-ignited the bailout debate by suggesting he deserves "a lot of credit" for the recent successes of the nation's largest car companies.Okay, pick your jaw back up off the floor ... but get ready to lose it once again:
That claims comes in spite of his stance that Detroit should have been allowed to go bankrupt.
"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 inside a Cleveland-area auto parts maker. "So, I'll take a lot of credit for the fact that this industry has come back."This is pure, unadulterated bullshit. Romney repeatedly opposed the emergency loans (aka, "bailouts") that prevented the collapse of the American auto industry in late 2008 and early 2009 and he repeatedly criticized the way in which the Obama administration used managed bankruptcy to restructure GM and Chrysler.
Bailout of enterprises that are in trouble, that's not the right way to go. I know President Bush started it with the auto industry. I thought it was a mistake.That statement is an emphatic reminder that Romney opposed the emergency bailout loans that came before the managed bankruptcies of Chrysler and GM. His plan was to simply let Detroit go bankrupt. If the government stepped in to help the companies before their bankruptcy, he said, "you can kiss Detroit goodbye."
But they did get the bailouts, preventing their collapse and giving them time to restructure. And instead of kissing Detroit goodbye, Motor City doing so well that Mitt Romney is now claiming credit. Because he hasn't Etch-A-Sketched his opposition to the bailout loans, he's hanging his hat on the fact that the industry was ultimately restructured through managed bankruptcy, which he claims is his idea.
Managed bankruptcy, however, is not his idea. As diarist cc writes, President Obama himself said managed bankruptcy could be a tool in an overall restructuring plan—and he said it before Mitt Romney. The difference: for Obama, who was then president-elect, managed bankruptcy was just one part of a plan to save the auto industry. For Mitt Romney, bankruptcy was the entire plan.
But it's not just the absurdity of Mitt Romney claiming credit for the idea of using managed bankruptcy as part of the restructuring effort, it's also that Mitt Romney has repeatedly condemned the outcome of the restructuring process.
Here is what Romney said in Michigan during the November, 2011 CNBC debate:
My view with regards to the bailout was that whether it was by President Bush or by President Obama, it was the wrong way to go. I said from the very beginning they should go through a managed bankruptcy process, a private bankruptcy process.In that answer, Mitt Romney is about as clear as he could possibly be: not only did he oppose the bailouts, but he also opposed the outcome of the managed bankruptcy—and that puts him squarely against virtually everything the Obama administration did to save the auto industry.
We have capital markets and bankruptcy, it works in the U.S. The idea of billions of dollars being wasted initially then finally they adopted the managed bankruptcy, I was among others that said we ought to do that.
And then after that, they gave the company to the UAW. They gave General Motors to the UAW and they gave Chrysler to Fiat. My plan, we would have had a private sector bailout with the private sector restructuring and bankruptcy with the private sector guiding the direction as opposed to what we had with government playing its heavy hand.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the enormity of the political problem Romney created for himself with that statement. So in the February 22 Republican debate, Romney completely changed his story:
ROMNEY: Yeah, it was really interesting. Because, you know, I wrote my piece and I said look, these companies need to go through managed bankruptcy. And the head of the UAW said, we can't go through managed bankruptcy. The industry will disappear if that happens. And the politicians, Barack Obama's people, oh no, we can't go through managed bankruptcy. Six months they wrote, I think it was $17 billion in checks to the auto companies. Then they finally realized I was right. They finally put them through managed bankruptcy. That was the time they needed the help to get out of managed bankruptcy.Romney narrative is once again disconnected from reality. He claims managed bankruptcy was his idea and his idea alone, but Obama had already said managed bankruptcy could be a part of the solution. The difference is that Obama did not believe it should be the entire solution. That was Romney's position.
Those monies they put in beforehand were -- it was wasted money. And number two, because they put that money in, the president gave the companies to the UAW, they were part of the reason the companies were in trouble. Giving these companies to the UAW was wrong.
But also note that in this passage, Romney flip-flopped on his view of the outcome of managed bankruptcy. In November, he repudiated the entire rescue effort, including managed bankruptcy. But in February, he said that the managed bankruptcy was the thing that saved the day. That flip-flop is a perfect illustration of Romney's willingness to lie—and a clearly calculated effort to craft a narrative in which he can claim credit for saving the auto industry.
Perhaps if Romney were facing a field of idiots (like the GOP's 2012ers), such a stunt would work. But Romney isn't facing an idiot. And instead of convincing the country that he's the guy who saved the auto industry, Romney's words are going to convince the country that he's the guy who is willing to lie about anything to active his personal ambitions. And that's not something Americans want in a president.