The Obama administration’s decision to rescue General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler in 2008 spurred hyperbolic criticism from Republicans who viewed the financial aid as “the road to socialism” and “a war on capitalism.” However, as the Wonk Room’s Pat Garofalo reported, the companies are regaining strength and proving profitable once again. Indeed, not only is General Motors set to add 2,500 jobs at its Detroit plant, but Chrysler recently paid back $7.5 billion in government loans. In view of the auto recovery’s success, “the GOP hasn’t been advertising its previous denunciations.”
In fact, one outspoken critic is now actually trying to take credit for the auto rescue: GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Slamming Obama’s decision as “tragic” and “a very sad circumstance for this country” in 2009, Romney’s camp is now actually claiming that “Mitt Romney had the idea first”:
A Romney spokesman said on Tuesday that the president’s plan was modeled after one Mr. Romney advocated in 2008.“Mitt Romney had the idea first,” said Eric Fehrnstrom, a Romney spokesman, citing the Times opinion article. “You have to acknowledge that. He was advocating for a course of action that eventually the Obama administration adopted.”
But Mr. Fehrnstrom also accused Mr. Obama of wasting billions of dollars “propping up” the auto companies as part of the government’s restructuring plans for the industry.
“Mitt Romney argued that instead of a bailout, we should let the car companies go through a restructuring under the bankruptcy laws,” Mr. Fehrnstrom said.
The degree of amnesia necessary for such a claim is pretty stark. After all, in 2008, Romney flatly stated that if General Motors and Chrysler “get the bailout,” “you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye. It won’t go overnight, but its demise will be virtually guaranteed.” The title of his op-ed incidentally is “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt”:
A plan, Democratic officials noted, that had already occurred: “Chrysler and General Motors received the federal aid only after they entered bankruptcy — not before, as Mr. Romney’s spokesman asserted.” Because “the bankruptcy’s success depended on the federal money,” Romney’s model would have failed.
But such a 180 degree reversal seems only natural for Romney. Be it climate change, immigration, his own health care plan, or even Ronald Reagan, Romney has impressive credentials as a flip flopper. Thus, former Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s (D-MI) observation that “Mitt Romney is doing circuslike contortions to get out from under the damaging words he uttered in 2008” should come as no surprise.
Another Romney spokesperson attempted to clarify his flip flop today. She told the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent that “Mitt Romney argued that instead of a bailout, we should let the car companies go through a restructuring under the protection of the bankruptcy laws. This is the course the Obama administration eventually followed. If they had done it sooner, as Mitt Romney suggested, the taxpayers would have saved a lot of money.”